Despite his literacy and communication skills being impaired by Dyslexia, Richard Branson’s road to success actually began through the publication of a magazine. At age 15 Branson became involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement as he felt passionate towards giving young students a voice about “issues we felt strongly about.” With no start-up capital, Branson attracted advertisers by working out of a telephone box at school, until he could raise enough funds to grow the magazine and drop out of school.

One of Branson’s other passions was music. Not long after his magazine became popular, one of his readers came to him with a demo tape that no record companies were interested in. Again, Branson felt so passionate about getting the world to experience this particular musician’s work that he decided to start his own small record company, despite not knowing a thing about music production or the entertainment industry. Despite enjoying the creative process, Branson admits these early activities were not driven by any kind of desire to be a businessman, but instead fuelled by his desire to change the world and express the views and music that he felt passionate about

As the example above demonstrates, human beings are capable of just about anything if their drive is fuelled with enough passion. Human history is littered with examples of people who have excelled in something despite having weaknesses which should have otherwise held them back. There are even many instances of people who may have had a severe impairment, but made use of their strengths whilst pursuing their passions to achieve greatness. Asperger’s Syndrome (an Autism Spectrum disorder) did not hold back Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) or Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) from being among the world’s top IT geniuses.

Some of the world’s most influential artists, scientists and thinkers did very poorly at school and are now thought to have ADHD (such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart, Thomas Edison and even Albert Einstein). Others such as Helen Keller and Steven Hawking became world leaders in their field, despite severe physical handicaps. The reoccurring behavioural trait is that all these people and more made full use of their strengths and were driven by their passions.

Whilst we might not be passionate about everything we do, the extent to how hard we drive ourself towards it is determined by how much we like or dislike it. Burning passions may be found up the extreme end of the scale, apathy in the middle, whilst hatred and intense fear would sit down the opposite end at the bottom. Regardless of where a particular activity might be found on the scale, the further it slides up towards the passionate end, the greater the momentum that person will be driven towards it.

It then stands to reason that one of the most powerful motivational strategies that a tutor, teacher or any role model can apply is to improve their student’s attitudes towards school work by improving their enjoyment of it as far up the scale as possible.

The thing about passions, likes, dislikes and even phobias is that they tend to develop 'accidentally' throughout life depending on our experiences. The result of our experiences and the way in which we interpret those experiences from a young age, essentially 'program' how our brain will feel, think and therefore act towards something. If our experiences with something are positive and make us feel good or confident, then our brains will associate good feelings towards that thing. If this experience repeats, then eventually a cycle begins and drives momentum forward in a positive direction.

This is the exact opposite of the negative or demotivating 'cycle of fear' described in our article about the emotional impact on learning. Despite these cycles often developing accidentally, they can be prevented, developed or changed; especially at a young age. As parents, we have a certain amount of control over what experiences our children go through. Just as we know that punishing a child when they have done something wrong is designed to condition them away from that behaviour, we can also adjust the circumstances to creative a positive conditioning effect as well.

One of the first steps your tutor will take is to assess how your child feels towards various aspects of learning. They will identify what things they are interested in, what things they feel confident about, what things they enjoy, what forms of learning they feel more familiar with, and other areas of personal strength. They will also identify where your child’s weaknesses lay, and what hurdles have caused them to develop anxieties or dislikes towards them.

As explained in the previous article about turning weaknesses into strengths, your tutor will devise strategies to overcome barriers to develop new strengths and interests. One of the most common examples and areas of importance is by tailoring the lesson to relate to something the child is already interested in.

Have you ever found yourself searching the internet for one thing only to find yourself watching youtube videos or reading Wikipedia articles about something different? At some point along the way your attention was diverted by something you happened to find more personally interesting to you than the original topic, which may have lead you to ‘accidental learning’.

No matter what subject or what learning area, we can always adjust the way it is taught so that it revolves around something which the student finds more interesting, fun or at least personally relevant. One of the most important pieces of information you can provide your tutor with is advice about what your child enjoys and has personal interest in.

For example, a young primary school boy may be struggling with maths and finds it difficult to be motivated towards doing mathematics homework. He may however be interested in cars and is good at playing computer games. One strategy our tutors might apply is to provide him with a car racing computer game which requires mathematical calculations as part of the game. (We actually have extensive lists of computer software and online resources which are designed to make school work more fun and engaging. We keep our tutors and parents up to date with new resources as they come out as well.)

In the process, the child dislike of maths becomes camouflaged by their engagement in the computer game, meanwhile their numeracy skills begin improving as an almost accidental side effect. When we know how to apply these strategies however, the motivation of students becomes no accident at all but a deliberate intervention.

If your child already has a negative attitude towards something, we must realise that this has developed due to unpleasant experiences. The only way we can reverse this cycle is by ensuring that the child begins to associate positive experiences with that particular thing. Whilst the first step is to ensure that their exposure to that thing happens in the presence of other stimuli they already have positive associations with, it is important that they develop confidence towards that thing as well.

Especially during childhood and adolescence, there is a direct link between how much we like (or dislike) something, and how good (or bad) we are at it. If the child believes they are 'good' at something, they will form a natural tendency towards liking it, which in turn will make them more likely to become better at it.

How to change your child's beliefs about how good or bad they are at something and how to engage students in learning is covered in the next step to understanding the emotional impact on learning: driving motivation by building confidence.


If you don’t love it and you’re not really having fun doing it, you’re going to give up
Steve Jobs

You never achieve anything unless you like what you’re doing.
Dale Carnegie

I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message.
Steve Irwin

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
Albert Einstein


Discover the 3 most important skills that young learner will need to thrive throughout the next industrial revolution. A must watch for every student, teacher and parent!

More and more people are starting to realise that the current school system is failing to prepare young graduates with the skills they really need to be successful in an ever changing world. Cheap outsourcing, automation and robotics is creating a shift in the workplace, making it more competitive than ever before. On top of that we are seeing record rates of mental illness (such as anxiety and depression) afflicting more and more young people during their schooling years. In this presentation, you will learn what the 3 most important cognitive skills which students should be learning in order to not only grow up with good mental health, but the skills they will need to be successful as the world continues to change. This presentation explains our mission to change the way the that leaders, educators and parents think about learning so as to equip our next generation with the strengths they will need to survive, to thrive and to ultimately - change the world.