The compass of success

I was recently very fortunate to work at St Johns Primary school in Midsommer Norton. The first hour was spent with year 6 and we discussed the next stage of their journey in life as they moved to secondary school and what they eventually wanted to do in life. I introduced them to the compass of success. I remember my first compass. It sat in my hand, an oblong of plastic, etched with numbers, a red and white needle in a dial; ancient but modern, incomprehensible but fascinating. It was a Silva compass, I’d just joined the para’s and it was almost our first lesson. Our navigation and location skills were constantly tested, and the importance of getting it right drilled into us again and again. We were taught how to break our journey down into sections, and plot the bearing of each one. We learned how to read the contours of the land; how steep a route would be, what obstacles we might meet, the type of terrain we’d have to cross, where we would rendezvous and where our targets were. And alongside this we learned about the magnetic variation and how to take it into account. There are no small decisions in map-reading. I used a compass throughout my military career, and the key lesson then, is the same as it’s always been: the compass does not lie. You may misinterpret the information, the map may be faulty, and the ground may have changed, but the compass will always point north. As long as you’ve plotted your route correctly it will guide you on your journey. That is why I now have a compass for all my journey’s. When you programme the correct information it will also point in the correct direction. The North cardinal is our Super North Star, even in pitch black the compass will always point North. Our super North Star therefore sits high above the horizon to keep drawing us forward. It is the ending of the story and most likely the beginning of a new one. What is your Super North Star and can you describe it with passion? The East cardinal is our Ethos (our values, behaviour, character and essence of who we and our team are). This is important because this needs to be aligned to our purpose. This becomes our code of conduct.  This is where we draw our strength from. The South symbol is our strategy, where we analyse all the information available from a factual perspective, we limit our emotion, we are realistic in setting milestones and we communicate them well. This is where we ensure we defend the home base (the Queen) and capture the King (the competition). The West symbol is our Warrior spirit. This is our strength of character to get to each milestone, being flexible, focussed, relentless and determined, being a leader or follower where necessary. Doing the basics really well and evolving our skills constantly. Once our Ethos, strategy and warrior spirit are connected and triangulated they become our keystone. They are then locked in to the centre of the compass. This then becomes our energy, passion and motivation to drive us towards our Purpose and follow the spear-head as the All blacks would say. The children then drew their North Start and plotted the route (some wanted to be dancers, writers, actors, in the military, police, design programmes). They then put down the behaviours they would need and used the word courage a lot. The had a plan and then they identified what they needed to do not to make the first small steps forward. It was inspirational. I then spoke to the youngest members of the school and this is what they came up with for their North Star. “I want to be a Power Ranger.” “I want to be Dinosaur Man.” “You need a plan A, a plan B, C, D…” Never ever limit children – they will rise to the level of your expectation so make that exceptionally high.

Remembering how to lose well.

I have just played my son at squash and lost.  What is disappointing is I am playing well and in good condition at this moment in time. I also thought I would be able to ambush him as he hasn’t played for over 4 months as he has been away in Australia (surfing and drinking). He has been taught well but then so was I.

“Everyone sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

Robert Louis Stevenson


Luck comes in many forms. Some people are born rich. Some people are born beautiful. I was born to a mother who wouldn’t let me win at cards. Or tiddlywinks. Or anything. A no-nonsense northern woman, and egalitarian – my mum wouldn’t have let the Queen win, let alone me but she did it with out malice. She crushed me in a good cause. Her mantra was you may lose but you must have no regrets, except if you didn’t try your best.


But she wasn’t mean. She took the time to teach me how to play a game. And enthusiastic and knowledgeable about boxing, cricket, tennis and football she always wanted me to do well. There was a mentality to winning, she was passionate and she loved to talk strategy with me. She would point out my strengths but also my weaknesses, “you are too emotional Floyd, you must be more detached when you play me or your father. You are trying too hard to win, relax and play your best game”. but once we played, despite my father’s entreaties (“let him win, just once” “No,”) the gloves were off. You either won or you didn’t even if that meant losing your pocket money. Otherwise you’d never learn. Do better next time – because as long as you don’t give up, there’s always a next time.


From her I learned the pain of losing but also the joy of success; that the pain of losing is educative. And that consequences keeps the mind focused. Above all I learned that playing your best was the key to success. There is nothing to fear from not succeeding, only from giving up.


I can remember losing my first boxing match as a senior. I was devastated and felt I had let myself and everyone else down. My father this time spoke to me and said “Floyd even the very best lose at some stage in their career, there will always be critics who point out your mistakes but the credit is always with the person in the arena and what they do to dust themselves down and get back up. I will judge you on what you learn from this and how you come back even stronger than before”.


From then on, I spent hours and hours practising sports – I loved all sports from cricket to basketball to racquet sports to football and boxing, I feel free when practicing, it allows me to clear my mind of distractions – and once I’d learned a skill, I’d repeatedly test it before I even had to compete. Strangely, once I started doing that, it stopped being about winning, it was about seeing how good I could be. I learned the more pressure I applied, the easier it became to perform well. I would test myself to hit ten perfect shots before I could leave the court or I would stay there until I had done so.



I still don’t like losing to this day but if I’ve tried my best and lose, it softens the blow enormously.