Wherever you’ve got to professionally or personally – you must never forget that your success is not solely down to you. Think about it. Your hard work, clever choices and a bit of good luck will have had had an impact, but there is also bound to be someone in your life who has either fuelled your ambition, ignited your desire or simply shown you the way when you were feeling lost, betrayed or rudderless. Those who claim that “they did it all themselves” aren’t kidding anyone but themselves.
It might have been a member of the family: families can provide an amazing support network. But we often need direction more than support, so it might have been a teacher, a friend or an employer. In my teenage years, whilst I was far from a rebel, I eschewed parental advice, experience and guidance. Like many teenagers, I thought that I knew it all, but secretly, deep down, I craved focus and direction. And so, in my case, it was someone from outside the family, a teacher, who eventually put me on the right path.
We all have a story. Here’s mine…
I was an eager learner when I was in the mood, but I could have always tried harder (a recurrent observation on my school reports). Looking back, I realise that I lacked direction and purpose. I didn’t understand the ethos of learning for learning’s sake and I rarely pushed myself. However, in my two favourite subjects, history and geography, I came top of my class three years running. I know now that this was because I was passionate about those subjects and so learning about them didn’t seem like learning at all.
Then one day, spurred on by so-called friends, I was involved in an altercation after school. It was about whether I, or a friend from primary school, was better at rugby – a status that seemed to be hugely significant at the time! Inevitably, we settled the dispute in the traditional manner. I came out the victor, but my moment of triumph was short lived, as unbeknown to me, two teachers driving home had recognised me and, in the morning, I found myself in the deputy headmaster’s office charged with bringing the school into disrepute.
The two individuals who had put me into that position were my geography and history teachers! In my eyes, they had betrayed me. The deputy headmaster was a disciplinarian and so I paid the inevitable price. To my friends though I was a hero and, at the time, this seemed like adequate consolation.
This ‘betrayal’ had a lasting and crucial impact on me. When it came to choosing my options later that year, I was determined to get my own back. I wanted to show them that they hadn’t got the better of me. So it seemed perfect retribution to drop my favourite subjects and replace them with makeweights.
I quickly lost my eagerness to learn and simply went through the motions. I remember one exam where I handed the paper in early claiming to have finished. The adjudicator gave it back to me and told me to sit down. I just sat there for the rest of the exam doing nothing. I had clocked out. I guess I had given up on school, riven by a burning sense of injustice, conveniently overlooking the fact it was all self-inflicted.
The consequence? When I finished school I didn’t have much to show for it, especially in terms of exam results. That moment was one of the key turning points in my life. I knew I was far more able than my grades would have indicated and, because failure – or the fear of it – has always been one of my greatest motivators, I decided to stay on for another year and give it another go.
I opted for accounting, as I knew I would be able to relate it to the real world. That choice led me to a pivotal moment in my life – meeting Mr Moodley, a South African from Durban of Indian heritage. He was the strictest teacher that I had ever met with rules for everything. He didn’t tolerate talking and, most importantly, he demanded respect.
At the end of my first day he took me aside and said, “Jason, why are you here?” I replied “I don’t know Mr Moodley,” even though I knew the exact answer to his question. I craved someone to respect again and because he seemed to respect me and believe in me, my self-belief and confidence were quickly restored. That turned out to be the easiest and most enjoyable school year of all: lessons were easy, I was eager to learn again, I passed all my exams (including the ones I had spectacularly failed a year earlier) and I ended up top of the class.
Mr Moodley put me on to the career path and to where I am today. I loved accountancy, the concept of double entry and all the financial rules just made sense to me – there is nothing more satisfying than a bookkeeping system that balances! I became a Chartered Accountant, working as an auditor, and I then discovered Restructuring – something that I am passionate about to this day.
Mr Moodley believed in me. He gave me a second chance and he saw the latent talent that no one else could see. So who is that put you on the right path or shaped where you are today? Who are you grateful to?