I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented … where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic

25 Nov 2015

Our thought for this week comes from Will Smith.

WS

Will Smith is a hugely successful and well respected actor, rapper and producer, ranked in 2014 by Forbes magazine as the world’s most bankable movie star. He has been Oscar nominated twice – for his performance as Muhammed Ali in Michael Mann’s biopic ‘Ali’, and for ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ [purposefully misspelled] – and he is very vocal about methods for success. The quote chosen for this week is one of many concerning reaching your full potential, through single mindedness and drive, that are attributed to him.

Our thought for the week says that success is less about how naturally talented someone may be, but more about how much effort and time they put into what they’re trying to achieve.

There is a joke in which a duck watches her fellow ducks gliding gracefully passed in the pond and wonders to herself ‘how is it so easy for everybody else, when I’m having to paddle like crazy?’. I think that’s what it can be like for people, especially young people, when they see someone as successful and seemingly effortless as Will Smith, and to think to themselves “he is so talented, I can never compete with someone like him”. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily matter how good you are at something, if you have a great work ethic and try very hard then there are few limits to what you can achieve.

At Hammersmith Academy we have high standards and high aspirations for all our students, who we expect to make outstanding progress during their time with us. We develop a growth mindset, which means understanding that capability can be developed and it is not based on how ‘clever’ or able you are to start with. Everybody has skills and abilities in different areas, but through practise and encouragement, almost anything is possible. We also ensure our teachers develop in this way and progress. Regardless of their experience or how long they stay with us, we want all our staff to flourish in their careers.

Will Smith’s attitude is very closely aligned to the American dream and I think a part of Mr Smith’s popularity in America stems from the audience’s appreciation of him as an embodiment of that dream – that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you started, you can be as successful as anyone as long as you’re prepared to do what it takes. Where I feel this is problematic is that it perhaps glosses over the more extreme hardships and boundaries that some people can face and puts the responsibility of failure squarely on the shoulders of that person, when there may be valid reasons for falling short that are beyond their control. Will Smith’s vision can also come across as quite singular and inflexible. He says “There’s no reason to have Plan B because it’ll distract your Plan A”. I think it’s reasonable and healthy to have a realistic and adaptable attitude towards achievement. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may not achieve everything. It is also important to manage your expectations; how reasonable and achievable are your goals? How much are you willing to sacrifice to get there? And, most importantly, is your goal as important and worthy as you think it is? These are important questions that need to be addressed and for every Will Smith, there are many others who have not succeeded as he has done, though they tried every bit as hard. Failure should not discourage from succeeding at different things, or in different ways, to how you set out.

However, the positivity of this message is clear. The world is a big place with a lot of fierce competition. We look up to those who have succeeded as though they have always been this way, that they were somehow born successful. This is a fallacy and, as Mr Smith has pointed out, hard work and effort is a big – perhaps the biggest – part of success.

Gary Kynaston, Headteacher

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