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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

Building Momentum in Schools: A Lesson from Simon Sinek

The question of how we know we are successful, says Simon Sinek, is a question worth thinking about.

Traditionally, he explains, we think about success in terms of reaching a particular goal or target. The problem, however, is that even if we do at a certain moment in time reach the mark, the route that we have taken to get there means that we don’t always feel successful.

A photograph of a man looking happy in a red sweater against a blue wall
What we achieve and what we feel about what we achieve, says Sinek, are two very different things.

Let’s take an example from the world of sport. A high ranking soccer team in the English Premier League might end their season with one hundred points and the Premier League title. And yet, somewhat ironically, the players in a team way down in lower division may feel more successful because of the way in which they managed to win enough games to avoid relegation.

Sinek’s point is that, if we focus solely on reaching a particular mark, we are missing a critical element of success: momentum. Even when we think of our own personal sense of success, he suggests:

This is my measurement: momentum. That’s what I want to track and measure. Money and the people I meet are stepping stones, indicators that momentum is building - but it is the momentum that makes me feel good.

An individual or team with momentum will sooner or later eventually hit any target or reach any milestone. But when this sense of infinite forward motion stops, Sinek concludes, we will quickly lose our way.

Shifting our focus to the world of education, schools have traditionally defined student success as a multi-year journey that, however you get there, is about hitting a very specific set of targets just around your 18th birthday.

And as much as we say we value the distance covered to reach this point, school in this view is ultimately (and wrongly) regarded as a game of winners and losers; literally, those who make the grade and those who don’t.

But imagine for a moment if we were to change our perspective and reward momentum instead. I find myself wondering how this would alter our definition of student success and the way our students feel about their learning journey.

It is one thing to congratulate a graduating class for making the grade. It is quite another to send out that class into the world feeling like they have enough momentum and are now ready to make a difference.

Thanks to Rob Dimartino for connecting me to this idea. So often the source of all ideas lies in the networks that we are all fortunate enough to be a part of.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash


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