Welcome to my regular series entitled "My Light Bulb Moment". This column highlights a "blinding flash of insight", business, cultural and sports leaders have experienced, and how this changed their lives forever.

Sir Richard Hadlee MBE.

Sir Richard is regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers and all-rounders in cricketing history. By the time he retired from international cricket in 1990, he had become the first bowler to pass 400 wickets and had made 3124 test runs, including two centuries and 15 fifties.

Born in Christchurch, Sir Richard made his first class debut for Canterbury in 1971/72 and his test match debut in 1973. On both occasions he had an inauspicious start, with his first delivery on both occasions being dispatched to the boundary. Eighteen years later in his last test match against England, he took a wicket with the final ball of his test career.

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Lightbulb moment - Assume nothing and work hard!

"While at school, sport always seemed to interfere with my studies and exams, but school did teach me a valuable lesson that I have never forgotten" Sir Richard remembers. "That lesson has helped me throughout both my life and cricket career.

"In 1967 I sat my School Certificate exams at Christchurch Boys' High School. My way of preparing was to write and rewrite my notes hoping to remember the key points. I sat five exam papers and felt confident that I had passed." The results arrived in the mail and his mother appeared with the envelope on a silver tray.

Sir Richard opened the letter, and to his immense disappointment found he had got close, but failed. "This was embarrassing, disappointing, degrading and frustrating, especially as I was the only boy in the family [four brothers] to have failed School Certificate."

Lesson learned

"Realising that I had automatically expected to pass, I now came to terms with the fact that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to work harder, prepare better and be smarter in the way I did things. The following year I sat six subjects and passed them all [easily]. Lesson learned."

Taking those lessons into his cricket career, Sir Richard's attention to detail in preparation and planning was essential. "I got into good habits, disciplines and routines, and the harder I worked the more successful I became on the sporting field. The rest is history. I guess I have done quite well for being an early failure!!"

If you have had a blinding moment of insight (a light bulb moment), please email me as I would love to hear about it.

• Tom O'Neil is an award winning business speaker and MD of both www.CV.co.nz and www.TomONeil.com . Sign up to Tom's newsletter on his website or contact him at tom@tomoneil.com