9 March 2014
When I spoke to the second year students at Clare College as Alumnus of the Year 2014, I gave them five pieces of advice. The last of those was a sobering one, based upon memories of a friend at Clare who I have never forgotten.
It was a reminder of the importance of taking care of your health, and being conscious of your personal safety.
I used this as the theme for my seventeenth Thought for the Week on BBC Radio Manchester which is reproduced below. As always, I was introduced as Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester because I want to promote the organisation and what it does.
The importance of health and longevity is illustrated by the fact that many great people had their most important accomplishments late in life. At the age of 65, Winston Churchill was a washed up politician widely regarded as a failure. If Konrad Adenauer had died at the age of 70, none of us would ever have heard of him. Ray Kroc was in his early fifties when he joined McDonalds which he proceeded to take over and build into a global company. That is one reason why I always look forward to the future with optimism.
Last month I gave a speech to the second year students at Clare College Cambridge, at a dinner they call "Halfway Hall". It’s called "Halfway Hall" because it is exactly half way through the academic year. With three-year degrees, it is also exactly half way through their time at Cambridge.
I was speaking because Clare College has chosen me as their "Alumnus of the Year" for 2014. That is the greatest honour I have ever received.
So what did I talk about? After briefly covering my career and what I do now, I could not resist giving the students some advice.
There were five pieces of advice:
An occasion like that makes you look back at your life. Each of my recommendations was based upon experiences I have had. The message of the final point, “Take care of yourself” was that you can achieve nothing without your health, or if your life is cut short.
Accidents can happen to anyone. However all of us can improve the odds by taking good decisions such as not smoking, not taking drugs and not drinking too much alcohol.
I chose this point because I have never forgotten somebody who was in the year below me at Clare. Like me, he came to Clare to read mathematics and went into accountancy after graduating. He came first nationally in the chartered accountancy exams and in the Institute of Taxation exams.He had a glittering career ahead of him.
Tragically he was killed mountaineering at the age of 28.
Because we chose the same careers, I have never forgotten him. When I was preparing my speech for the Clare College students, I kept thinking about what he might have achieved for himself and for other people if he had lived.
Our lives don’t just matter to us.Our lives also matter to other people.They matter to our families, and also to all the people that we might help one day.
That is why taking care of your health is so desperately important.