Interview with a childhood hero – Vincent O’Connor

When I first conceived of this idea to interview successful people about their happiness, Vincent O’Connor my former headmaster at the Newmarket boys school, Cork was first on the list. A person that I don’t think I have met his peer in the 30 odd years that have passed. His primary school 5th and 6th classes were more akin to going to a university tutorial with an enlightened lecturer. His broad based approach to education inspired his students to be inquisitive and to challenge themselves. 

In his spare time after school he was equally successful as a coach of under age football, athletics and drama for is pupils. As a football coach he brought success to many generations in a small town that has not been repeated.  In athletics, his pupils won the best school in Cork City and County School’s Championships in 1990. At drama  they reached the All Ireland Schools’ Irish Drama finals in 1965 in the Gate Theatre, Dublin. A life long educator, sports coach, Gaeilgeoir, a constant supporter of the church and the community, so I was delighted when he accepted my invitation to chat about happiness.

Frank: Do you consider yourself as having a happy life so far? Why?

Vincent: Yes. God has given me excellent health and a wonderful loving wife who gave me love, space, time and endearing support to achieve many “goals” in my life.

FrankWhat are the things you did, that have contributed most to your happiness?

Vincent: I did my utmost, working hard and dedicating myself to help my pupils to reach their full potential academically, also, trying to instil in them the true value of their role in God’s creation and love for them.

Frank: How important was your level of income/assets to your overall happiness?

Vincent: Satisfactory, reasonable, one is never going to be a billionaire in teaching but money is something you cannot take with you to the next life. However it ensured that my wife and children had some comforts in life.

Frank: Do you thinking happiness is temporal (day to day) or can you learn to develop a longer lasting happiness?

Vincent: I understand that happiness is  a sort of bedrock. It has it’s “ups” and “downs” but the bedrock remains solid. May I say that temporal happiness based solely on the acquisition of the material things of life has it foundation on quicksand.

Frank: Being able to deal with and recover from difficult events in life whether it be stress, conflict or loss is often considered key to maintaining an enduring happiness. Can you give any guidance on how you deal with periods of unhappiness in your life?

Vincent: I find this particular question very challenging to answer.

It cannot be denied that everybody gets “hard knocks” in life as part of our human nature with it virtues and vices. I trust in God’s love and the very many close and loyal friends I have. Yet, one must be fully aware and alive to our Lord’s forgiveness on Calvary to His conspirators so just try to follow His Divine example as best as one can. Though it can be quite difficult at times.

Frank: What habits or thoughts do you have, if any, do you feel reduces your happiness? How do work to minimise them?

Vincent: Try to be patient, the wheel always turns. Remember that there is a just God there that loves you. Accept difficulties just as we accept joyful news. Try and appreciate the love, goodness and friendship of your friends.

Frank: What are the daily habits, if any, that have contributed the most to your happiness?

Vincent: Early to bed and early to rise, appreciate as you get out of bed in the morning that the Lord has given you yet another day, try and make it a day worthy of Him. Going to Mass and meeting genuine friends. Then my family is very important to me, being in daily contact with my children and grandchildren is something I do appreciate vey much, the bonds of friendship are very close.

Frank: You have had an extremely successful life by any measure. What would you say to people that are looking to improve on their happiness in their lives?

Vincent: I hope that my life is not over yet! One lives in a society made up of people of so many different values and aspirations in life. Remember the old Irish proverb “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” (People live in each other’s shadows) – Cherish others, show respect for them. Be honest with yourself, above all, always try to enrich the lives of those you meet, especially those in most need of friendship, kindness and help.

Frank: As a life long educator is there anything you would say to educators today on how they can cultivate a positive/happy outlook in their pupils?

As an educator place the value of each child in your care as of prime importance. Do your best to guide them to reach their full potential in every positive facet of their lives. Be positive, truthful and genuine in praise, never ever be sarcastic or belittle or hurt a child’s feelings. Encouragement of children towards good is a duty. Cherish all children equally make them aware of God’s love.

Frank: Vincent many thanks for sharing your time and your insights, its been a real honour.

Vincent: You are very welcome.

 © Trinity Financial Management 2018

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