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Enthusiasm: the nourishment of invention

Published on 01/06/20

Nine years have passed since Nasa launched America’s last manned trip to the international space station and this weekend it was a private company that filled the void in America’s space ambitions with SpaceX’s successful launch. Many people will look at opportunities around them and say “just imagine if we did this” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could do that”, but far fewer will invest their time, capital and expertise into such opportunities, and far fewer still will succeed.

And there lies one of the key factors in success, an enthusiasm that masters the failures on the way, the lessons to learn that could so easily be overlooked, the moments when one wishes we could just stop. I wonder how many of the successes of the future will have had their seeds planted at this moment of lockdown. Perhaps the teacher or even pupil who is journeying through remote teaching and learning right now who wants to improve the experience further, and who identifies and works through the opportunity to do so, the retailer who has started delivering through circumstance and concludes they really don’t need a premises in the middle of town to let their business succeed, but who plans the change rather than simply lets fortune take its turn, or the scientist who may not be the one to identify the miracle vaccine for Covid-19, but who is so inspired by the challenge of having tried that they become the leader of the future in pandemic elimination. My point here is that, while necessity may be the mother of invention, enthusiasm is its nourishment.

What is it that generates enthusiasm?  Perhaps some of us simply have it, and others don’t – I doubt that – and perhaps someone who is able to set aside enough time from their day to day tasks to immerse themselves in the opportunities they see. But perhaps most important of all is a love for what they do. When we enjoy something, it is amazing how much time we can create to make more of it. That can be superficial joy for gaming or social media – though the person who looks beyond playing the game to creating it is surely the successful enthusiast – or reading books by an author or learning about the detail of an historic era when one’s appetite has been wetted by one’s first experience.

To you all, whether parent or child, I urge you to identify those experiences, take on those obstacles and, most of all, allow your imagination to make the most of the opportunities before us all. This week many pupils in our Prep and Pre-Prep Schools will be permitted to make a controlled return to on-site learning and, while there will be plenty of apprehension, I know the enthusiasm for reuniting will be the source of success that overcomes the challenges of needing to be self-disciplined to maintain safety. I know too there are pupils in other years, and of course all the pupils in my Senior School, who may look with jealousy on those who are permitted to return. However, with such access to learning technologies, such commitment from our teachers and such knowledge to be learned, there will never be a moment in our lives where there is more to gain from using our enthusiasm to make progress. It is easy to excuse oneself at moments like this with what is not working for you right now, whether it is emerging habits, where you are working within your home, or that complicated bit of trigonometry that doesn’t quite make sense or even that household device that doesn’t quite work as well as it should, but the real art is to devote your enthusiasm, and effort, to how you can make it better.

Mr William Brierly