HelloMonaco : You left school at an early age and have publicly criticised the university system . Why are you against university ? Simon Dolan : Well , the same thing I always say , which is that I ’ m not against university or against education , because I believe it ’ s really important . We ’ re all learning , you know ? But the problem , in England , anyway , and it ’ s mirrored in a lot of western countries , is that governments have basically sold university as the dream and the only way to get a job . And that was ok when university was free . What ’ s happened is that university has become more and more expensive . You get these kids who are 18 , and not particularly academic , and they have been told that if they want a good job , they have to go and get a degree . They go off to some university and they get into £ 50 – 60,000 of debt , they study for three years and come out with a 2:2 in psychology or something and then they wonder why they can ’ t get a job at the end of it . So now they ’ re three years down the line , without any work experience , £ 60,000 in debt and no nearer getting a job than they would have been if they started when they were 18 . So , I ’ m absolutely not against university , and I ’ m absolutely not against education , but I am against the lie , which is , that in order to achieve anything in life , you have to have a degree . Because with the exception of a few professions , that ’ s just not the case . If you want to be a lawyer or a doctor , yeah , you ’ ve got to go to university . But most other professions start off like in the old days , with an apprenticeship . In the old days , if you wanted to be a painter or a carpenter , or an electrician or something , you did an apprenticeship . You turned up at 18 , you didn ’ t know anything ; you watched somebody else do it , and then you learned and learned and then after a year , two or three , you had an applicable skill .
HM : Do you really think 18-year-olds know what to do with their life ? SD : No . But how many of us do ? I ’ m 48 and I ’ ve done loads of things but I still don ’ t know what I really want to do . I certainly never wanted to do accountancy , which is one of my first businesses . I hated it . I still don ’ t find it interesting , but I made a lot of money at it . So no , you don ’ t know what you ’ re going to do when you ’ re 18 . All the more reason not to go to university and narrow your choices . Because I ’ ve seen it a lot . You get some kid who is good in sciences , he goes to university and does a chemistry degree , and he does very well in that , and then he goes and does a masters ; then he does a PhD . Then he ’ s 27 and the only thing he ’ s ever done is chemistry . What ’ s he going to do with the rest of his life ? He ’ s actually pigeonholed himself into only ever doing chemistry . Whereas , if he didn ’ t go to university in the first place , he would have done lots of different things . I see it as university actually narrows your choices .
HM : What is success for Simon Dolan ? SD : It ’ s an interesting question . It ’ s not like you wake up every day and think , « I ’ m successful ». Because you don ’ t think about it , you just live life . But I think success means that you don ’ t have to do anything you don ’ t want to do . If anyone gets to that point in their life , then they ’ re successful .
HM : How important is money to success ? SD : Money is obviously a by-product of success . Depending on what profession you ’ re in , but in any kind of commercial transaction , then money is a by-product of success . Money just puts you in a position where you don ’ t have to do anything that you don ’ t want to do . That was a big one for me . All the nice watches and nice cars , and houses and trinkets and stuff are all nice , but it doesn ’ t make any difference really . If you ’ ve got a 60m boat , then having a 70m boat doesn ’ t really change your life , does it ? So , there ’ s a point beyond which money doesn ’ t really matter . But I think freedom and being able to have whatever experience you want to have — are probably the two most important things .
I am absolutely not against university or education , but I am against the lie , which is , that in order to achieve anything in life , you have to have a degree .
HM : Do you need to be in harmony ? SD : No . Your feelings and emotions come from within you . And there ’ s really nothing , short of pain , that you can do anything about . Whether you feel happy or sad or whatever , it all comes from stories you tell yourself in your head — about what things mean . So you could quite happily now , think of something like children starving and genocide and you can make yourself depressed just by thinking of it . Equally , if you thought about having really great sex , it changes and you ’ d feel completely different . Nothing in the external world has changed , it ’ s just what you ’ ve told yourself in your head . So no , I don ’ t need everything to be harmonious . If you rely on everything on the outside to be harmonious , I don ’ t think you ’ ll ever be happy . Better to rely on yourself .
HM : What makes you happy ? SD : Lots of things , really . Achieving ; winning ; that really drives me . And then simple things like family . Getting the boys off to school in the morning and picking them up . Or I go to the gym now with my eldest son and he ’ s fitter than I am now , and that ’ s really cool . Racing , or discussing business with my younger son ; he ’ s twelve and all he wants to talk about is business . And obviously , there ’ s my wife . So pretty much everything in general . I ’ m a reasonably happy person , so it takes a bit to knock me off . Yeah , you can find happiness in most things , if you look close enough .
HM : What is love for you ? SD : There ’ s a big difference for me . The love you feel for your children is so much more than the love that you feel for anything else . I don ’ t think you could give it the same name , even . You have partners , but before children , 99.99 % of people are the centre of their own universe . And you ’ re the most important person in the world . If someone came along and said they ’ ve got a gun to your head and says : « it ’ s you or them », whoever the « them » is , they can have it and you wouldn ’ t feel bad about it . You would think about it , but … But when you have children , if someone came along with the same question , you wouldn ’ t even think about it , you ’ d go yourself . You would sacrifice your own life without hesitation , without thought , without anything . So that ’ s love , for me .
HM : What ’ s your most successful achievement in your life ? SD : Winning Le Mans was a big thing . That was hard and it took a long time . You can ’ t go and buy it , you just have to do it . And if you set your mind to do it , there are a million things that can conspire against you , which are outside of your control . So that was a very big thing . But the most important thing in my life , and should be in most people ’ s life , is having my two boys , the way they are . That ’ s a really proud achievement .