Thursday, 30 October 2014

Centenary Speech


In September this year we hosted old boy and our 1932 Dux Hugh Turnbull at a special assembly to celebrate his 100th birthday. He is still remarkably spry and chipper for his years. It struck me then that one life time goes by so quickly and yet Wellesley turning a 100 seems monumental.

So much has happen since Harry Amos set up Wellesley a hundred years ago..

Since its inception, Wellesley has marched on through significant historical changes and challenges. Setting up a school at the start of ww1 was a bold move  (in anyone’s language) but bigger challenges were to follow. The great depression, ww2, fire, earthquakes, storms, global financial challenges and much, much  more.

It has been said that the last 100 years has seen “more technological and scientific progress than all the other centuries combined. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common language usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the theory of relativity and quantum physics, drastically changed the worldview of scientists, causing them to realize that the universe was fantastically more complex than previously believed.
The 20thcentury started with horses, simple automobiles, and freighters but ended with high-speed rail, cruise ships, global commercial air travel and the space shuttle.
Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology particularly the Internet has made the world's knowledge instantly available. Advancements in medical technology increased life expectancy from 35 years to 75 years plus.        
(italics adapted from Wikipedia--

Change has been constant from the inkwells and blotters of 1914 to the World Wide Web of the 1990s to 3D printers of today. Wellesley has more than kept up with these changes. The early 20th century society demanded that children were to be seen but not heard and that they were vessels to be filled with knowledge to today's fostering of curiosity, self-expression and creative thinking.

Yet for all this change from those early days on the Terrace in Wellington, our founder Harry Amos would be proud to know that his aims of teaching the boys to become self-reliant, responsible and worthy citizens are still at the heart of Wellesley today.

 It was an inspired decision to move Wellesley out to Days Bay. The location is quite spectacular and provides an aesthetic and spiritual backdrop which helps make Wellesley a jewel in Wellington’s crown.

We are a young city and country and Wellesley has grown in parallel with Wellington’s development. (best little city in the world no less) and along the way, many of our old boys have made,  and continue to make a substantial contribution to the business, sporting and cultural fortunes of the city and beyond.

Croydon had operated on this special Days Bay site since 1907 and their  raison d' etre sat comfortably with the merging with Wellesley in 1940. Croydon was an excellent school and today we honour it via one of our school Houses being named Croydon.

With minimal government support, remaining an independent school has always required fortitude.

It has taken commitment and tenacity from parents and staff to build  Wellesley to what it is today. Special people who have been the glue and gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the values and goals which have impacted so positively on so many boys are embedded in the culture of the school.

Wellesley is indeed in good heart. The facilities are modern learning environments fit for the successful 21st century learning model. Wellesley continues to be the school to beat be it in the classroom, on the sports field or in the exciting world of the arts. Tonight is to celebrate and honour the past but also to look out to the future because we want Wellesley to remain in the words of Bob Dylan, 'forever young'.

Compared to the norm, a disproportionate number of famous old boy achievers have come out of Wellesley. be it on the sports field, the business landscape, science and technology, the arts and community service. Success though comes in many forms and it swells any teacher’s heart with pride when they see the reluctant reader or the shy child blossom in their own way.

However the essence of Wellesley is the connection and rapport with staff and friends and the many stories and experiences of the boys from them crawling through the pipe leading to the beach to escape to the dairy, boys getting in the ceiling of Days Bay House and lifting the tiles to get a view,  to fishing on Days Bay wharf so matron could cook their fish for dinner to playing in the creeks and bush to the  cheeky and mischevious encounters with various staff. School life is remembered more from these adventures and experiences and the simple pleasures of the amazing natural environment of the beach and the bush than the many hours in the classroom itself.
Picasso said that when he was a child he dreamt of being able to draw like Raphael but as an adult he aspired to be able to draw like a child. I get that as young children bring an honesty and freshness to not only their art but to each encounter they have. This personal voice devoid of the influence of society's conditioning process allows their thoughts to come from the heart unfiltered and their individuality shines through.

Wellesley allows boys to show their inner self and enables them to be the best they can be. Wellesley has the confidence to allow the boys to be boys where laughter is valued and grit promoted.

Like Picasso, Wellesley must also continue to aspire to see the world through the lens of a child. This honesty, freshness and vitality will keep us curious, optimistic and fearless.

Like a dog with a bone we must continue to strive to be true to our values and build on our aspirational culture. This attitude is motivational for all concerned.

Schools have a unique opportunity to be transformational or ordinary. To inspire, to excite and to create the belief that anything is possible. Kurt Hahn’s philosophy of ‘we are all better than we know’ is central to this approach. To be involved in such an environment at Wellesley is an honour and I want you to know the whole is certainly greater than all the individual parts. No single person or group can create such an energy and this evening is a great way to bring us all together to celebrate our very special school.

I have no doubt that our second hundred years will bring more challenges and change than we can imagine but I also know Wellesley's heart is strong and we are not only ready to take whatever is thrown at us but willing to step out and take control of our own destiny.

As long as we keep current and relevant, striving to be fresh, innovative and brave Wellesley will continue to launch boys into life with an open mind prepared and willing to contribute.

Thank you for your unstinting support and it is my pleasure to raise a glass to you and to our very special school. To Wellesley!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Silver Bullet?

It’s difficult to find life’s calm balance where you feel in control and at peace with the world. As you get older and take on more responsibility getting this calm balance is even more challenging. I don’t know about you but I am expert at not taking enough time out to ‘smell the roses’. I haven’t quite figured it out though because when I do take the time, damn those roses smell good. But would they smell so good if I was out there smelling them all the time! Getting the right ‘life balance’ equilibrium is one of life’s mysteries to me but I do see its immense value and importance. For this reason, I believe this concept needs to be fostered in schools. In that way I know all learning would be enhanced and the world would be a better place. I also believe that if this teaching took place in schools, combined with an enlightened and aspirational learning culture, a number of society’s problems would be reduced---simplistic maybe, but a goal worth pursuing.
From time to time I receive email from friends, colleagues or parents from our school community recommending I read some book or article. Often in life’s rush I don’t have time to follow up but mostly when I do find the time, it is worth the effort .
This was the case with a recent email from a parent who has an interest in ‘mindfulness’. She alerted me to Arianna Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’ and gave me a few links and background to Arianna  (which I shamelessly share with you below) who is the President and Editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, Arianna is a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of fourteen books.  Since her 2005 launch of The Huffington Post, it has become one of the most widely-read, linked to, and cited media brands online.  In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and Arianna has been named on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. In Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world. 
According to Arianna  ‘as more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success -- money and power -- has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we're losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is, as Thrive shows, literally killing us. We need a new way forward. ‘       
In a commencement address Arianna gave at Smith College in the spring of 2013, she likened our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we're going to topple over. We need a third leg -- a third metric for defining success -- to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna points out, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don't commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes -- they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.
From (
In Gordon Ching’s blog (Chief Digital Officer of AIESEC International) he quotes the fundamental lessons From Arianna Huffington's Thrive.
"Life is shaped from the inside out not the outside in." -- Arianna Huffington
Here are ten practical ways to bring more well-being to your life:
1.       Finish things: Reduce your baggage and the mental weight you carry. Arianna: "Did you know you can complete a project by dropping it?"
2.       Experience wonder: We grew up loving moments of magic and wonder, the magic of exploration and discovery -- bring it back to your life by enabling yourself to discover and dream.
3.       Remove poison If there is somebody toxic in your life, kindly remove them from your life. Don't ever hold grudges. "Resentment is like drinking poison, waiting for the other person to die." -- Carrie Fisher
4.       Natural hours of sleep: Try sleeping for eight hours at minimum as a start. You'll soon find what your natural sleeping hours are and soon begin to wake up naturally and feel refreshed.
5.       Practice mindfulness: Start taking breaks out of your day where you just become mindful. To feel your hands, your feet, to pay attention to your breathing -- just be 100 percent present.
6.       Digital disconnect: Experience digital-free hours to see things differently and experience deeper connections with people. You'll notice and realize things you didn't before because you were too busy starring at that screen. The world is full of wonders, you just have to look up.
7.       Meditate: Meditation isn't just for old people. Try a deep breathing exercise right before you sleep or the next time you're stressed. Start with a minute and eventually dedicate 15-20 minutes to meditate and be at peace.
8.       Give: Generosity is huge to unlocking happiness. How great does it feel when you help or give to others, asking for nothing back? Do something nice for somebody every day -- whether it is a compliment or a small gift.
9.       Learn to say no: Saying yes to anybody means saying no to everybody. Ask yourself, "Is it that important that you need to do that?" Don't overwhelm yourself with responsibilities that you cannot meet.
10.   Personal time: Devote time to yourself. A time of sanctuary where you can rediscover and recharge at your own pace. Take a warm bath, practice deep breathing, banish LCD screens temporarily, take the longer walk and just be in the comfortable in your own skin. Many of life's wonders are discovered when we are alone.

When you don't sleep enough, you bring out the worst version of yourself to the world. In my experience you: become more impulsive and make horrible decisions, feel more lonely than usual, have heightened impatience, get frustrated and upset more easily and have lower control of emotions and self-esteem.

Eight sleep tips from Thrive:
1.       Get a new pillow and a new pillowcase
2.       Make your bedroom darker and keep it cool
3.       Practice deep breathing before bed
4.       Take a warm bath before bed
5.       Exercise or at least walk every day
6.       Banish all LCD screens at night
7.       Cut down on coffee after 2 p.m and avoid alcohol right before bedtime to give the body time to metabolize it
8.       Prevent stress from building up throughout the day -- it makes it harder to fall asleep -- every few hours take 60 seconds of recovery time -- simply stop what you are doing and bring awareness to the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, or both.

In the age of hyper-connectivity, we need to know how to disconnect and reconnect with ourselves. Because if we are looking to improve and change this world--we need to be functioning at our best to lead the change we wish to see and thrive.
Don't just go out there and climb the ladder of success. Instead, redefine success. Because the world desperately needs it. -- Arianna Huffington
Sound like a Tui ad on one hand (YEAH RIGHT) but even if we took some of the advice and became more conscious about the core themes of Arianna we would be all better off.
I think I might go out and buy ‘Thrive’!