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You can make it if you really try

There I was, sweating away with the lawn mower and the garden shears in the front garden, when our cheery window cleaner turns up.

‘Doing a spot of gardening?’ he suggests, rather stating the obvious, with a shade of disapproval. ‘I’d rather do this than clean windows,’ I retort. ‘Nah’ comes the reply, ‘it’s the ‘ay fever I don’t like,’ as his squeegee brushes the geraniums in the window box.

I take his point. Each to his own. We all make our choices in life. We are entering the season of A levels and GCSEs when supposedly a young person’s future is decided and choices are made. I look forward to the TV images of young people receiving exam results and, according to the script, whooping for joy. There will be some students ‘over the moon’ with their results. Three straight ‘A’s. ‘Oxbridge here I come. Statistics tell me that I will earn far more than the average and I can pick my job. BBC or Civil Service? The world is my oyster.’ I have yet to see a student opening their envelope on camera and saying.’ Oh s**t! There are many students who are not bowled over with joy at their results which show a dispiriting mixture of ‘D’s and ‘E’s.

A recent news item caught my eye - of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Sir John Gurdon, who received a disastrous school report. ‘I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist,’ his biology teacher wrote. ‘On the present showing this is quite ridiculous.’ Shakespeare, a grammar school boy, was a very bad speller. Mark Twain, possibly one of the greatest of American authors had little or no education. You can’t teach wit.

Now I would never like to discourage young people from going on to uni - especially Oxbridge, the crème de la crème. Many people consider further education one of the happiest time of their lives and say it laid an educational foundation which bore rich fruit but I am just making the point that perceived failure at this point in life can actually be an opportunity. Most successful entrepreneurs are in the low twenties age-range. Famous examples are Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple. They often have nothing to lose (a comfy home, a posh car…) and every thing to gain from a little risk taking.

So if your offspring get into Oxbridge or the equivalent, congratulations. If, on the other hand, you fear that straight ‘A’s are not a likelihood, take heart from the list above and set your sights on an exciting entrepreneurial - or scientific - career.

Tony Kane is founder of Time & Leisure Media Group