Connecting the Dots

Our theme for assemblies this term is ‘learning from experience’. We will be hearing stories of lessons learned through failure, as well as those that spring from success. Miss McColl’s address on Monday encouraged us to acknowledge that the most powerful learning opportunities can arise, not when we have had an experience imposed upon us – like a test or an assignment – but rather when we put ourselves in a position to learn; when we take a risk or try something new. At Wellington, students are offered almost limitless opportunities to pursue their interests or to find new passions – we only need to look at Dr Gardner’s emails about academic enrichment, or the huge range of clubs and societies available, or the brilliant networking and careers events organised by the Wellington Community to appreciate this.  Here, at Wellington, it’s very easy to find something to do. It’s all on a plate. All that is required is the appetite.

But what is it that gives people the appetite to try something new? Later in life, there are obvious reasons: the motivation could stem from the desire for promotion, for greater challenge, a chance to make a difference in the world. But, for our students, who have deadlines to meet and practices to attend, the justification can be hard to find, while the excuses are all too easy. The simple message to students on Monday was not to over-think it – sometimes, simply being curious is enough. If you have curiosity (and perhaps a bit of courage) you often don’t need another excuse. Students were encouraged to seize the opportunities that are available here. After all, you never know where they might lead.

There are countless Old Wellingtonians, in all sorts of fields – entrepreneurs, actresses and actors, sportsmen and women – whose future success can be traced back to something they experienced at school, to a connection that was made, or a passion that was ignited. Take Jamie MacDonald (OW, A, 97), for example, TV travel host and co-founder of The Brampton, an adventurer’s paradise in upstate New York. He cites ‘bravery’ as the quality needed to be a successful entrepreneur – a quality he possessed ‘while facing Tonbridge opening bowlers’ when a student at Wellington. Or Claudia Lambeth (OW, Ap, 08), who made a chance phone call to Chris Potter in the Community office, looking for business advice. She gained a contact and a mentor, and went on to found Luna Mae London, one of the world’s most exclusive lingerie brands and was named Amazon Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017.

Miss McColl concluded her address with the words of Steve Jobs, who summed up the message perfectly in a speech to students at Stanford University. Jobs made the point that much of what he stumbled into by following his curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on, and he called this ‘connecting the dots’ – something you can’t do ‘looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward’.

And so, as Steve Jobs said, “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”. You have to be adventurous. I am delighted when I hear of students turning up to ‘Inspire’ lectures, or auditioning for a play, or launching a business idea through Disrupt, the College’s entrepreneurship society.

Wellington is a place for the curious.

It is an adventurer’s paradise.

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