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The most important factor in achieving success is attitude.
The housing estate I grew up on was recently dubbed one of the worst in Britain on BBC’s Panorama. Young men and women I grew up with, adorned with Adidas and chunky yellow-gold bracelets, loitered ominously in front of the cameras. “If you’re born in the gutter,” one man commented, “you stay in the gutter”.
I found this statement doubly offensive. Firstly, although it may be true that the area I grew up in can be described a concrete jungle with the occasional smattering of bogs, it is still the place where I grew up. Secondly, despite being of average intelligence, I have not found moving beyond the so-called gutter all that difficult.
The school I went to was a good school. Centred in one of the worst housing estates in Britain, it does not have the best grades in the country, or even some of them, but Government schemes which poured money into schools like mine obviously did some good. Of course, such schools attract lazy teachers too, the types who practically run the kids over to get home once the final bell has gone, but even they taught me something – not to be like them.
The best teachers in my school confirmed what I had long suspected, that with the right attitude, almost anything can be possible. Life may not be about what you know, often it can be about who you know, but this has never stopped me, nor will it.
I did everything I could at school: I was the first one there and the last one out. I helped the librarian, ran a Young Enterprise Scheme and set up a school council. Whilst on the council I successfully argued for an ‘open door’ policy which, to this day, prevents the routine eviction of a thousand pupils into the rain on stormy days. In my final year I convinced the headmaster to employ an Italian teacher so that interested pupils had a broader choice than French or Spanish. This initiative also lives on.
Whilst at school and six-form I built up a collection of role models, men and women who have triumphed in the face of adversity but who have done so with some humility. I never tire of watching archive clips of the late, great Peter Ustinov, with his remarkable intelligence and tireless wisdom, or Peter Sellers, as troubled as he was brilliant. Harold Pinter, although I disagree with his politics, is an oddly loveable curmudgeon, much like Dr David Starkey who, despite often being misunderstood, is obviously a man of deep integrity.
It sounds a little trite, perhaps, but life is short. I have the right attitude to make the best out of life: I think I would be an asset to your University and I hope, therefore, that you will be able to consider my application.