I have recently returned from a period of study at the end of last term and over the holidays. I did a range of courses in the School of Business at Oxford University looking at a range of topics including project management, risk assessment and human resources theory and practice. These were all aimed at adding to my skills in these areas, all presented by lecturers who had both a PhD and worked in industry, and who could present the theory and demonstrate the practice from experience.
One of the lecturers was a man, Dominic, who worked in industry as a consultant focusing on strategic planning. However, the most interesting contribution to my thinking about the work of St Francis Xavier College came from his own story of how he and a friend planned a tandem bicycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. It is the longest travel distance in the United Kingdom and many people walk or ride it as an endurance challenge.
He, on the other hand, was attempting to break the fastest time record for the ride, a record which had stood for 50 years and withstood many attempts by a range of cyclists including Olympians.
He did so, not as an ex-Olympian or even as a person with some elite athletic background. Instead, he was just an ordinary fellow with a smart plan.
You see, instead of trying to focus on being able to ride faster than the previous riders, he planned to just take fewer breaks. To have a Formula 1-style pit crew who could make sure any stop they did have to make was efficient, that any stop was in fact as brief as possible. Now many of you will have seen how fast pit stops are in those races, and if you are like me will have marvelled at the teamwork and co-operation of the pit crew – blindingly fast, faultlessly smooth.
And so they broke the record. Unsurprisingly, their actual riding time was longer than the ex-Olympians who failed. But their stops were so much briefer, so much shorter, that they broke the record.
Their team included dieticians who designed their food intake to make sure their energy levels could be maintained. Exercise experts who made sure their training prepared them to then ride at a sustainable pace. Physiotherapists to keep them in shape and road crew to keep them safe and the road clear.
Why am I telling you this?
Because this is an example of how each and every student and family can think of the challenge of being successful at school, and can think of the resource people that the College puts at your disposal and how to best utilise them.
Most importantly though, of how success comes not to those with the most natural talent, but to those who make the best plan and the most use of their opportunities and the resources at hand.
At home and at school.