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5th May 2022

‘Within our dreams and aspirations we find our opportunities’.

(Sugar Ray Leonard)

HOM: Taking responsible risks.

Drive, work ethic and wealth may make the pathway to success easier for some, but what is rarely mentioned is the importance of imagination. It is imagination which gives a person the hope or ambition to achieve something, and having that sense of the possible that is a crucial determinant to success.

James Marriot a Times journalist, explored this idea in one of his recent columns. He recounts that he only became a journalist in his mid- twenties (he’s not much older now!) having bumped into an old university acquaintance who mentioned having written a book review for a newspaper. Before that he had never considered that writing for a newspaper was in the sphere of his possible experience. He has since gone on to become the Times deputy books editor and one of its most talented columnists.

So often our life aspirations and understanding about what is possible are shaped by our circumstances. James Marriott writes that ‘humans are creatures of limited imagination and we take cues from our environment. The professions of our parents and siblings are hugely influential.’ Apparently the children of nurses are almost four times as likely to become nurses than the average person. The children of lawyers are seven times more likely to become lawyers.

‘Success’, writes Marriott, ‘can depend on closing mental distance’. He goes on to illustrate this with the example of novelist Thomas Hardy, considered one of the most socially mobile men of the 20th Century. Hardy was son of a stonemason in Dorset but was befriended by a literary, middle-class man called Horace Moule. This friendship transformed his sense of the possible and gave him the aspiration to write, which he may otherwise never have imagined was within the realm of possibility.

At school we frequently encourage our students to think about their dreams and aspirations. We introduce them to people past and present who might inspire their imaginations. We also seek to provide an environment of experience to expand the realms of possibility for their lives. That surely is what education should aim to do. And then as Sugar Ray Leonard says in the quotation, we seek to help them ‘find their opportunities’.


Christine Crossley