Address to Griffith University Mentoring Program, Brisbane and Gold Coast, Queensland

The Power of Varied Role Models

Well, thank you Michael and Brooke.

And thank you for the opportunity to very briefly reach out. My name is Sean Jacobs – the author of Winners Don’t Cheat: Advice for young Australians from a young Australian, which was released a few months ago.

While the title of my book is “Winners Don’t Cheat” it is not a biography of the Australian cricket team! This is something I do get asked a lot.

But the book covers topics on education versus employability, building skills, resilience, finding your aptitude, setting goals, how to properly look at role models – all of the skills and ideas to confront the challenges of the modern world.

I wrote it because I didn’t have a great start out of high school. I failed to get into uni thirteen times. I can remember this was a time when friends and others were skating effortlessly ahead into all kinds of degrees and apprenticeships.

But I finally got into a BA in International Relations at Griffith University’s Nathan Campus and, from there, worked for the Australian aid program in the South Pacific, for the United Nations, for three prime ministers at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and for the National Security Adviser on important projects like Brisbane’s G20 Leaders’ Summit. Mostly recently, I had the pleasure of leading security planning for the Athletes’ Village for the Commonwealth Games.

But, looking back to when it all began, I’ll never forget Griffith’s slogan during my first year of study – and that was ‘Get Smarter’. It sounds cheesy but that’s exactly what I did.

And a great way to do this was looking at role models. They can be a great guide and a blueprint that helps you get to where you want to go.

While I have a lot of ‘famous’ role models I didn’t just study world beaters in international affairs – the Condoleezza Rices or Colin Powells of the world (people in vogue at the time) – I studied the students who got into the best graduate programs, and read the biographies of the notable young professionals working across community, private, military and government sectors.

All of these people, I observed, never wasted their time at university. They clearly got good grades but also studied hard, contributed to their communities and were solid all-rounders in a range of disciplines. Importantly, they brought skills and ‘value add’. So, while not being the best student, I simply thought I’d better do the same.

And if there’s a key takeaway in my book for young professionals, or anyone, it’s not to find role models that only look like yourself.

My key observation after looking back on my 20s is to seek role models from a variety of sectors, which enables you to cast your net of motivation a lot wider.

From working with a lot of young people over the years I’ve heard many immediately disqualify themselves by saying that university or various careers are ‘not for us’ – a view based entirely on complexion and current capability over any desire or will. They don’t see anyone that looks like them in a certain profession and sense ‘I can’t do that’. I know it because I’ve been there.

But as I write in my book – “Never does a role model have to look like you to inspire you to your own path to success.”

So Winners Don’t Cheat is full of lessons like this. And ultimately it’s a book that is very similar to the themes of the Griffith University Mentoring Program – about being able to ‘do better’ because you ‘know better’.

So thank you very much for your time. I encourage you to get online and grab a copy at Connor Court Publishing. Or please come and see me after.

Thank you and ‘Get Smarter’!

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