From Daydreams to Purpose: How Environment and Resilience Drive Performance

Your environment dictates your performance.

Daniel Priestly, the author of the internationally bestselling book, “Key Person of Influence”, firmly believes this declaration. Initially obsessed with the notion that success is determined by attitude, skills and personal development, his journey to understanding what makes a person successful led him to the remarkable realization, “anyone can become successful if they have the right environment to succeed”.

Like, Daniel Priestly, Trinidad and Tobago’s sole Chartered Business Valuator, Founder and Host of The Value podcast and St. Mary’s College  (CIC) Alumnus, Kevin Valley, also believes that your environment dictates your performance. It was one of the points he made during a visit to his alma mater to deliver a speech about life after college, to the current cohort of students.

In his speech, Kevin detailed how his own career was forged from a familial love for and legacy in finance. Despite this familial legacy, Kevin was enthralled with the field of psychology and applied to the University of the West Indies hoping to pursue his studies and career in this vein. As fate would have it, he was instead admitted to the bachelor’s degree programme in Banking and Finance. Though disappointed, his gut told him to stay the course assigned. So, believing it to be a sign from God, he dove headfirst into his finance studies.

During his three years at university, Kevin would often reminisce about how he ended up where he did. As a young boy, he was frequently bewildered by the dinner table discussions on stocks and bonds. It all seemed so alien to him but ever since then, his desire to understand the world of finance was sparked by his home environment. It was in the daydreams of this confused little boy that he found his purpose.


The Importance of Alumni Career Talks in Expanding Student Possibilities

While Kevin’s family modelled business and career success, many students are not as lucky to have this type of access to information on high-powered careers or the guidance needed to reach for and attain such heights. As such, career talks and life guidance from past students play an important role in shaping their knowledge and confidence to pursue such dreams. Seeing someone who looks like and attended the same school as they did, teaches them that if someone with similar life experiences as them can go on to achieve career success, then their grand dreams are certainly within reach.

Alumni programmes such as this one help to fill this gap in information and allow them to expand their worldview and dream of bigger possibilities for themselves.

According to Kutlu & Bedel (2021), a person’s career choice shapes their identity, affects their thoughts, as well as the environment they end up working in, relationships formed, lifestyle lived, social status and their entire position in life. It is based on one’s professional activities, that they can use their capacity to create certain outcomes that lead to pleasure and career satisfaction or uneasiness and dissatisfaction. Whatever the outcome of their career, it is reflected in the general life of the person.

The researchers also found that a lack of career and field knowledge as well as negative feelings about their inner world can cause the inability to adequately distinguish information, or recognize their own interests, abilities or personal characteristics which can lead to career indecision.


Lessons Learnt:

Like many other schools, St. Mary’s College designed this alumni programme to engage young men in conversations with past students on key lessons they have learnt after leaving the school. The speeches take on a well-rounded perspective on life not limited simply to everyday career advice. Kevin shared three compelling lessons he learnt during his time after leaving the college.

Lesson 1: Daydreams are Powerful

Those unconscious and conscious thoughts we have are the key to unlocking our purpose.

Perhaps you remember the day you found out you passed for the secondary school of your choice; or when you received your admissions letter into university? Maybe you recall the feeling when Human Resources called to say you got the job of your dreams or the thrill you felt after bagging your first sale/client as an entrepreneur?

Each of those moments likely began as a thought or idea you imagined and hoped for.

A daydream.

For Kevin, he recalled the pure excitement felt preparing for his Common Entrance exams. At the time, his older brother and cousin both attended CIC, so he envisioned the same for himself.

The school initials were scribbled on all his copybooks and on any scrap of paper he could find. He KNEW he would attend that school someday and worked hard to bring that vision to life.

The day he learnt he passed for St. Mary’s College was surreal.

The excitement of hearing his first choice and name ring through the school hall together rocked him with excitement. It was a moment of pure joy and exhilaration.

Kevin spent the rest of his life chasing highs like that.

Win after win.

All of that began with a daydream.

Caribbean people are often dismayed by the seemingly limited opportunities available to us or may fool ourselves into believing that we aren’t good enough to compete on the world stage – that our dreams are too large and we should dim our light to fit into the wattage of our small islands.

But Kevin shared that the talent on our shores, and certainly the talent in the room of young men on that day, can match the talent of anyone in the world.

What’s important is that you trust yourself and the dreams you have been given, continuously making steps in the right direction.

Your daydreams are your subconscious telling you what you’re made to do.

Everyone has their own path, follow yours.


Lesson 2: Your purpose is to serve

While choosing a career path is based on your skills, capabilities and network, your purpose is not centred around you. Your purpose is found in service to others and creating value for the people impacted by your work.

Kevin’s father taught him that “life is a loan that you repay through your service to others”. He further explained that what makes a star successful or famous is the fact that they have an audience and provide value to them. In their specific case, their value comes from the quality of the entertainment they provide. No one can deny the impact of entertainers on the lives of millions of people globally. Through their messages and influence, they have impressed and inspired us all in different ways.

Similarly, in whatever path you choose, the quality of work you produce impacts the lives of others.

Once you accept that your purpose is to serve, life becomes easier.

Kevin also shared that fulfilling some parts of our purpose may be terrifying.

He described how scary public speaking was to him and that despite podcasting, he still gets nervous when he must do it. But he understands clearly that your success in whichever path chosen is determined by the impact you have on the people around you. So, part of his journey has been honouring his purpose despite his fears.


Lesson 3: Resilience wins the long game

Oxford defines resilience as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

Two months before his university graduation in 2009, Kevin’s girlfriend passed away in a tragic accident.

A year later, both his grandmothers passed.

In 2011, he lost his father.

The continued deaths of loved ones made him question God, but it also gave him perspective: life is long but also short. Long because it’s the longest event you’ll ever experience and short because it’s limited.

With this in mind, you should aim to make the best of the life you have by going after what you want. Always keep in mind the greater purpose of what you’re doing.

In the midst of these losses, Kevin decided to pursue the CFA certification in finance. His sister had already completed this rigorous programme and passed all three exams on her first attempt.

His story was different.

He attempted level 1 in June 2010 and failed. He tried again in December 2010 and passed.

Level 2 was attempted in June 2011- one month after his dad had passed.

He failed.

A second attempt was made in June 2012.

Another failure.

These continued defeats made him reconsider his entire career in finance.

Forced to stop and truly think about what he always wanted for himself, he remembered his childhood dream was always to be a star.

Recognizing the importance of this outcome to him, he revisited his options.

He noticed that thousands of people seek and have the CFA qualification that seemed to evade him.

He turned his attention to the certification for CBV - Chartered Business Valuator and realized there were none in Trinidad and Tobago in 2012.

So instead of chasing the CFA just to become one of the boys, he changed course and pursued the CBV qualification in its place.

That journey was also tough and riddled with failures. But each time he failed, his inner voice would say, “don’t worry we gonna keep doing this”.

Through painful losses and multiple failures, Kevin was able to succeed by trusting his inner voice and refusing to be distracted by others’ successes. As a result, he became the first Chartered Business Valuator in Trinidad and Tobago.



The road to success is an individual journey we must all take. While guidance from those who have done it before is necessary for us to benefit from the lessons they have learnt, it is ultimately of paramount importance that we learn to listen to and trust our inner voices about purpose. Deep inside, we have all envisioned dreams for ourselves, these daydreams are powerful signposts of the paths we can take in service to others to fulfil our true purpose. Ultimately, true success is earned and sweetened by developing a resilient spirit in the face of various challenges we may face on the road to manifesting our dreams.