Last week saw 28 year-old Swiss tennis player Stanislas Wawrinka win his first Open championship in Australia. Ranked 20th in the world only last year, his victory over Rafa Nadal was both unexpected and widely-reported so that even someone who isn’t a tennis enthusiast such as myself was drawn to the story.
What I wanted to share was Wawrinka’s philosophy that led to his success. He knew that he was playing in an era with some of the most amazing tennis stars of all time. He explained: “It is how I see my life and my tennis life. Except for Novak [Djokovic], Rafa [Nadal], Andy [Murray] and Roger [Federer], you always lose at the end of a tournament so you have to be positive and come back and continue and fight.”
He reminds himself of this every time he hits a tennis ball, via the words of the Irish poet Samuel Beckett which he has tattooed on his left forearm:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
We know that at John Taylor we have many exceptionally gifted and talented students. But we also know that, by definition, we cannot all be exceptional. It was wonderful to be able to comment in the local press on the publication of the 2013 school performance tables last week that students who join the school – irrespective of their ability – leave us with qualifications that are better than they would be expected to achieve against national average. In short, we add value. If you feel, as I do, that education is more than qualifications and that skills and personal qualities are important, then I firmly believe we add great value to our young people in this way also.
By encouraging our young people to see failure as learning, and that by learning, we improve, it is possible for us all to aspire to be the best we can be. To “fail better.” And maybe, just maybe, we’ll end up champions.
Well done, Stan!
Thanks for reading.