The Last Word

By Nicolas Sinnott | Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2018

I remember the first time I heard a last word, sitting in this auditorium.

I said to myself then and there, “Someday, I’m gonna do that. I am going to get up on that stage and address the school as family.” Well, it looks like someday has come and tickle me pink if it doesn’t feel fantastic. Seeing so many faces, both familiar and new looking up at you really puts things into perspective.

The topic I wish to speak on today is a very personal one, it’s about failing again and again, about never being number one.. .. and being okay with that. This is the story of the middle man.

The middle man is a generalist, not a specialist, which means that he’s “kinda good” at lots of things instead of really good at a few. He might not be an academic, he might not be a sportsman, and he might not offer good chat. This often means that the middle man goes un-noticed and he is never realised for his talents. Maybe this is because he hasn’t discovered them yet, maybe he hasn’t had the chance to. Sometimes, I guarantee you, he feels like he’s at the bottom of the pile. So how does he cope?

The middle man survives because he sets his own standards. He doesn’t care if he came last because he finished the race. He doesn’t care if he’s last because he’s beating his personal best. No no no he doesn’t care if he’s losing, because he is pushing his hardest. And that’s all anyone can ask of him.

Gentlemen, everyone is a middle man in some field, but no one stays a middle man forever.

This schools 100% philosophy doesn’t mean winning. It’s all about you pushing yourself and making you proud. And if you can do that, then that’s all anyone can ask of you.

I will share a few personal stories. For three years I rowed and came dead last in almost every race I was entered in. Three years I competed and was not once chosen to go to the national Maadi competition. Now for you rowers you will know that that is just about unheard of in the rowing community, I mean I really sucked at this sport. And yet I still came back every year to give it a crack, at least until it became too expensive to continue just as a personal challenge. That’s probably one of the best lessons I’ve learned. To do something for yourself and to not care what people throw at you. I mean why do you think I’m involved in the Māori community. Look at me! I’m as white as they come, I don’t try to hide that. Do you think I speak the language because everyone else is doing it? Because others will think I’m cool? No. I do it for me and I’m going to continue doing it for me.

I remember in primary school I always dreaded the annual cross country race. Each year throughout my entire time at primary school I’d come last in that race. Even behind the kid with two bad knees and severe asthma attacks, yeah that was embarrassing. And then my Dad saw how upset it made me back then and he took me out running. I kept up running for a while until one year in about Year 8 I had one of my greatest achievements to date. I didn’t lose, AND I didn’t walk once during the course. Your achievements are what you make of them and so are your losses, perspective changes everything.

So boys, the main points I want you to take home from this is to set your goals against your own standards. Give yourself achievable goals, and realise that that doesn’t mean lowering the bar. Your ultimate goal may not be the ultimate goal. Challenge yourself.

Never be afraid to do something new,

do it right,

and do it for you.