Home Spotlight James Dyson’s advice to the class of 2022: Make it a world of ‘doers’ not ‘grandstanders’

James Dyson’s advice to the class of 2022: Make it a world of ‘doers’ not ‘grandstanders’

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 Sir James Dyson, a Gresham’s School Alumnus, addressed the Class of 2022 at Gresham’s Speech Day saying, “Be different, embrace failure, discover your mojo, believe in your ideas, ignore the naysayers.” Sir James, the British billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Dyson Ltd,  was at the school’s official opening of the Dyson STEAM Building, a new centre that combines the teaching and practice of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics in one space. The building brings together Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths in one space – to inspire future engineers.

The building was funded by an £18.75m donation from Sir James and Lady Deirdre Dyson, reflecting the gratitude Sir James has for Gresham’s, after the support he received after his father’s death when he was nine

Speaking at the opening of the new Dyson STEAM Building and Gresham’s School Speech Day, Sir James Dyson offered some highly personal reflections for the class of 2022 saying, “this is not advice, it’s encouragement!”.

Some highlights include: 

To those of you moving on to the next chapter – I urge you to throw yourself into everything. Be a ‘doer’, rather than one of those ‘far too many’, attention seeking ‘grandstanders’. Who solve nothing.

When I sat where you are, I thought experience was important, a necessity in fact, I now know the opposite to be true. Surprisingly naivety is an advantage. Experience can be cage, inhibiting, and hard to escape from. Today the world changes so quickly that freedom from experience can be an asset!

I am a Maker. I have always wanted to engineer and create things. But I fear that making things might look complex from the outside, and put people off. I want to challenge that. When you open one of our robots – for example – they do look impossibly complex. But most complex things can be broken down into a series of problems to be solved. By breaking down complex assemblies, into a number of separate tasks, the complexity becomes manageable. The same is true of your journey through life.  Don’t let anyone tell you that something is impossible. Break down the challenge into simple objectives.

Logie – my late, great headmaster – was a fan of the individual. He believed that exam results were important, but so were other skills. He saw potential in unusual places.


Speaking directly to the graduating class of 2022 he offered five pieces of “encouragement”: 

  1. Be curious! throw yourself… into everything… (except Tik-Tok!). Try out everything, seize opportunities. Discover what it is you love.
  2. Be countercultural. Look at things from different angles. Maybe by starting the ‘wrong way’? Your view is as good as anybody else’s and if it’s different, it’s almost certainly more interesting.
  3. Look out for guardian angels. Spend time with the people who encourage you. Be inquisitive and always wanting to learn. Inspiration will follow. Watch out for the experts, the boring know-it-all’s’ and ignore the naysayers and the doubting Thomases (All of whom say it can’t be done).
  4. Embrace failure. People like to portray brilliance as effortless. But that is seldom the reality. Success demands determination to overcome problems, concentration and stamina. My life has been one littered with failures. Of course, you can learn many things from a textbook or through others, however, you learn more – and viscerally – from constantly experimenting and failing. Failure, causes you to examine and overcome the problem.
  5. Do something you love. I’ve always pursued things that interest me and which I enjoy, everything else follows.
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