Who we're grateful for
If you want to be inspired and motivated, be grateful. Our CEO Ismail shares the most powerful lesson he’s learned.
Remember your first teacher
I went to a primary school in north London. At the time, I was a good kid. I put my hand up to answer questions. I didn’t shout in class or anything like that. I was so into science that I thought the social stuff was a waste of time. Rocks, planets, space, plants — that was my thing. Which is weird because I graduated in politics and economics, so something big happened.
Now at one point, we had a parents’ morning with Mr Skillett, my second-grade teacher. I still remember this conversation. The morning went as expected — I did well. But Mr Skillett had one piece of feedback, that I read too much non-fiction. “So what?” I thought. Mr Skillett suggested I read Harry Potter. “It’s pretty popular,” he said. “You should give it a go.”
Mr Skillett told me that I was reading too much non-fiction, that I should be reading things that evoke creativity — like Harry Potter. That moment shaped so much of my life. The funniest thing is that Mr Skillett has probably forgotten about it, but I haven’t.
The first dose of creativity in my life came from a teacher.
Reflect on who’s lifted you up
Fast-forward 10 years. I went to Woodhouse College, a college in north London. I had no network. I didn’t have uncles and aunties in banking or consultancy. I was part of the first generation to go to university. Everything was a first. The idea of success is shaped by the people around you, but the people around me hadn’t done what “successful” people had done in life.
At Woodhouse, I had a philosophy teacher called Miss Tweed. I was one of the crazy minority that chose philosophy as an A-level. Miss Tweed arranged a taster course at Oxford University, where I got to sit in tutorials for philosophy, to see what it was actually like. This was the first time I’d experienced anything like that. At 17, I could count on my hands the number of times I’d left London. That’s not an exaggeration!
This was a huge milestone in developing my understanding of what success could look like. And it wasn’t in my hands. Somebody else made that happen and I was unbelievably grateful for that.
My philosophy teacher didn’t just teach philosophy. She went out of her way to put me in places that I would never have access to.
Be grateful for the people around you
Your success is a product of the people you’ve had around you.
The inspirational people in my life don’t really exist in anyone else’s life. If it were up to me, they’d become the Kim Kardashians of the education world. Everybody would know about them. But until that happens, the least that I can do is share how impactful they’ve been in my life.
That’s the most powerful thing I can share. If you want to be inspired and motivated, be grateful.