There is a massive misconception in the world and it’s having a devastating effect on the lives of many people, and, the things they are achieving. It is the result of a limiting mindset that has been perpetuated and reinforced over many generations, and, it’s holding people back from reaching the incredible potential that lies inside of them. I have to write this blog after a session I had with a group of year 7 students this week. I need you to understand this message, apply in your life and then spread it. Are you okay with that?

I was at a private school this week and talking to about 100 year seven students. It was the third session I had done with them this year, and they were coming to the time of the year for exams. This is the first experience of exams for these students and so it is less about the results and more about getting comfortable with the examination process. However, as this is an exclusive private school in Melbourne, and, parents pay more than $30,000 per year to send their students… they want to see results.

This is the start of the problem. Many parents erroneously see results only reflected in grades and scores, when for most students the most life-changing results will come through experiences, effort, trying new things, making mistakes and learning from them. They need to be encouraged to try and fail. Thirteen-year-old students don’t need the pressure and stress of performance anxiety placed on them for exams that hardly count towards the year’s results anyway. You either are, were or will be a teenager and therefore are, have or will probably experience this at some stage.

In the session I was trying to give them some ideas to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes in the lead up to exams. I asked them to raise their hand if they were anxious about the exams, and many put their hands up. I then thought it would be a good idea to write some of their concerns on the whiteboard to help give them some perspective. I wanted them to see what they could control, and what they couldn’t, then, just focus on what was in their control. So, I asked for people to share what their stress and anxiety was about.

The typical answers came through. They were worried about; not having enough time, not knowing what was on the exam and getting poor results. Then I asked one Asian boy what his concern was, and he said, ‘I’m worried that I won’t average a B+ in all my subjects. My parents said, if I don’t, they will send me back to China.’ I have to admit, I was speechless for a short time. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or serious, but it didn’t take too long to realise that he was absolutely serious. At that moment, I felt a little helpless. I could stand up and tell these teenagers that to worry about grades was a mistake, that it was more important to focus on behaviours, effort and improvement. However, my greatest challenge was, what was being said to them at home was going to have the greatest impact on their schooling, their attitudes and their lives.

Success is about the right attitudes and behaviours…

On Friday night, just gone, Laura and I attended a past players event at the St Kilda Football Club. I have resisted these events for many years, but finally decided to go to this one. I am so glad I did. It was wonderful to catch up with some great guys I played and associated with more than thirty years ago. At one stage, I was chatting to another former teammate, who, like me, was far from the most talented, yet enjoyed some success in his football career. We were talking about how some of the most talented players didn’t really kick-on to success, yet we were able to achieve more than we ever thought we could. I have to admit, even today, I pinch myself and wonder how I was able to play at the club for seven years. It is simple… we had to work harder than most if we were to survive. Many of the very talented ones believed that their ability was enough to carry them through, and so didn’t have the right attitude nor work ethic required to survive in professional sport.

I am living proof that ability, talent, intelligence and grades are not the most important when it comes to achievement in life. I didn’t play professional football because of my talent, far from it. I played because I focussed on the things I could control; desire, determination, hard work, persistence and improvement. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes, it’s just what I did, and in the process, I got better. We can all make mistakes, therefore we can all improve. Having a go, doing the best you can, making mistakes and failing is the most important part of success, as long as you learn from these experiences and strive to improve.

I am not a best-selling author, with seven published books to date, because I am a great writer, excelled at English in school, am an avid reader or a literary genius. I’m an author today because of; desire, focus, effort, daily habits, willingness to try, fail and learn from those failures. I only focussed on the things I could and can control, and, you can do that also. I hope I am making my point loud enough and clear enough.

If you are a parent, I want to urge you to focus less on the grades, natural abilities and intelligence (or lack of) of your children and encourage them to just do the best and be the best they can. The moment you can remove that performance pressure and anxiety from them, they will feel free to try, fail, learn and improve. This is the key to success in life. If you are a person who has been conditioned to believe that it is your ability, talent or intelligence that determines what you should do and what you can achieve, I want to ask you to challenge that thinking. It won’t be easy, but trust me, it will be worth it.

I hope my year 7 friend gets his B+ average. But more than that, I hope his parents will be proud of him and recognise him for his efforts, even if he doesn’t. I hope he is able to stay in Australia, because that is what he wants to do. I hope you are truly getting my message this week, because it is one that will totally transform your enjoyment of life and the things you will achieve from it.

Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs don’t have a tertiary education, yet look what they achieved. J.K Rowling was rejected by 40 publishers and told she couldn’t write, yet she believed, persisted and changed the world. Elvis Presley was told he couldn’t sing, Marilyn Monroe that she couldn’t act and Michael Jordan that he would never make it in basketball. So, how did all these people create such astronomical success? Simple, they knew, understood and believed that success was not about talent, grades or intelligence, instead, all about desire, effort, work, failure, learning, improvement and persistence. You can do that, so I urge you to go on and do it!