Awesome comes to Barnes

By Genevieve Ferris

Matthew Syed on sports, studying and success.

Matthew Syed introduced by William.

The queue to Matthew Syed’s event stretches way across Barnes Green. There’s clearly a lot of people who want to hear what the author of bestselling book, ‘You Are Awesome’, has to say. A fact that seems surprising to the author himself.

‘You might have noticed as you walked in, I was stood in the corner of the room. To be honest, I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of people  – I always think it will just be my family at events – so I went off and tried one of my exercises. I told myself; “Whatever happens now, good or bad, my parents will still love me.” Try it if you’re anxious.’

Syed is full of positive tips and advice on the growth mindset he so passionately promotes, and pitches them perfectly for the school-aged members of his audience.

‘I went through school not asking questions. I wanted to look smart, but that meant I didn’t learn and had to teach myself. That’s the crazy way. Putting your hand up to ask questions in class is good! After all, your teacher is paid to make you learn. Take advantage.’

In fact, he credits a particularly inspirational English teacher with igniting his passion for writing. ‘He read us The Hobbit and it felt like we were in that world. It came alive. His passion lit the fuse of writing in my soul. A great teacher can do that.’

The advice isn’t just for children. He has all generations in the audience transfixed with his tales of how David Beckham is one of the original growth mindset sportspeople; ‘He knew talent wasn’t everything – he worked hard and learnt from his mistakes’, and how his own Olympic table tennis dreams were smashed in a matter of minutes after he crumbled under pressure.

The Olympic disaster was a pivotal point for his own growth mindset journey; ‘The first thing I thought was, I’m never going to risk failing like that again. But I knew that was the wrong approach.’ He went on to win a Gold at the Commonwealth Games.

He applies the same mindset to his writing. ’You know what, writing ‘You Are Awesome’ was a big risk for me. It turned out well but might have flopped. And you know, that’s what life’s about. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks.’

Matthew Syed teaching us how to be awesome.

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