Principal's assembly 7th May 2019


Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Brad Pitt, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Stormzy, Olly Murs, Jim Carrey and Robert Pattinson. Famous, even iconic in some cases, and certainly rich. But not happy.
As the author of Paradise Lost, John Donne, put it: “The mind … can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven.”
After last week’s assembly, I caught up with many of you before lunch and asked which step on that ladder you thought you were on. The average answer was 7, which I was quite happy with given the potential for hanger by that time. I asked what 7 meant in words: “life’s pretty good, but there’s always room for improvement.” That’s seems very reasonable to me. One of you asked me which step I’m on – I’ll answer that right at the end of assembly.
Today, I want to address and define the kinds of happiness that should be important to us and explore the question, as promised last week, of whether money makes you happy.
Firstly, happiness in School. Learning should be fun. Not all the time – the Year 11s and Sixth Formers will tell you that revision is not fun but brings its own reward in mid-August. In fact, I am convinced that what we achieve through hard-work and determination is much more satisfying than what comes easily to us.
What happens in lessons is serious and requires your permanent engagement. Please don’t confuse your teachers with entertainers; we are here to help you build knowledge and develop skills that will help you succeed in later life.
I don’t expect all of you to be perfect all of the time. We’re here to learn what is right and what is wrong, and sometimes that means learning from a mistake. That’s fine – schools are for sinners as well as saints. However, I’ve always liked the Einstein definition of insanity: someone who does the same thing over and over again and expects different results. If you don’t learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them, your chances of success in life are significantly reduced.
And, so onto the question of whether financial success makes us happy. Given what I’ve always said about the importance of service to others, you are no doubt expecting me to say that money doesn’t matter. Not at all. Lack of money is likely to make you unhappy.
In a recent survey of 2000 Brits, more than half said that financial worries had affected their mental or physical health. 35% said that they regularly suffered from money-related anxiety. 82% said that financial well-being was equally important to healthy eating and exercise in its impact on their overall health.
On the other hand, money helps but is no guarantee of happiness. Take the notorious curse of the lottery or the list of the celebrities I read out at the beginning. Part of the issue might be how people choose to spend their cash.
If I were to give you £100 and tell you to spend it, you’ve effectively got two choices: buy something to keep or use, or spend it on an experience. My advice is to spend it on an experience.
Buy tickets for that match or concert. Later in life, when you have significantly more money, go and see the Northern Lights. Walk the Great Wall of China. Scuba on the Great Barrier Reef. Visit the Kruger safari park. Perhaps you’ll be able to literally reach the Moon! Create yourself some happy memories.
Investing in experiences will bring you greater happiness than a new car. If you have to buy “stuff”, buy it for someone else, also proven to make you happier by the end of the day.
To finish today, and answer the question of where I stand on the ladder, I want to quote the great German philosopher Jurgen Klopp when asked about Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League:
“I’m healthy, my family is healthy and I do the job I love. That already makes me a very fortunate person.”

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