My daughter, Debbie, suggested that I should write a book. I asked her what the book should be about.
“Me! ” she said, just as enthusiastically as she might have done 20 years ago when she was five. Some things don’t change.
So Debbie, here you are. Except that it’s not really about you, it’s about me, and my experiences. But it is for you. It’s also for your other brothers and sisters, the people who you love and their extended families. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to share it with the wider world. Hope that’s okay.
What’s the point of a business?
You might tell me that our business has occupied a lot of my attention whilst you were growing up. What’s the point of having a successful business? Is it just to make a living, is it for self-glorification, is it about personal power seeking, or is it to be able to help other people? Or could it be about changing the world?
I guess, in my case, the truth is it’s some of all of these. Our business has enabled us to scrape a living for the seven of us in our family over the last 30 years, and in recent years we’ve started to make some surpluses as all of our previous learnings have come together. I have enjoyed the kudos of being my own boss, and the freedom that it entails. But most of all, I have enjoyed helping others.
And the first people that I want to help are my family. In the early years I wanted to provide for you, put food on the table, and enable you to have experiences that wouldn’t have been possible without money in your pocket. As you have all grown and matured, my wish for you is that you understand how to organise your lives, make a living, and be happy.
These aren’t all mutually exclusive objectives. Making a living requires a certain level of personal organisation and self-discipline. One of my strongest personal values is freedom, and being able to make my own decisions and follow my own path in life has been a huge driver for me throughout my life. The paradox is, however, that true freedom only arises when there is a proper structure in place. Total freedom from rules is anarchy, and in a state of anarchy we are ruled by fear, and there is no freedom.
Take, for example, the rules of the road. We live in a society where people can hop into their car, onto their cycle, motorcycle or horse, or onto the next passing bus and travel almost anywhere in the world that they desire. They can do this with a high degree of safety because of a sophisticated set of rules that govern the way that we use our roads. White lines, traffic lights, signposts, warning signs, rights of way, dual carriageways and all of the other paraphernalia of road travel don’t detract from our freedom, they increase it.
I read that the world’s most creative people are highly disciplined in their lives. We might think of creatives as long-haired, bearded hippies wearing tie-dye togas and sandals (or at least we do if we grew up in the 60’s) but the reality is that truly creative people are much more likely to wear pinstripe suits and wear shiny shoes.
Having said this, I have met very few people who have been able to exercise their personal creativity in a way that generates high income for themselves and delivers the personal freedom that has been my primary goal for most of my working life. I still have plenty to do, but I like to think that I’ve made a few inroads into achieving this goal, and as my children you are probably in the best places to judge whether I’m right.
In my desire to see you all develop as truly independent, free thinking, creative and productive people in your own right, I am not under any illusion that you would wish to take into account anything that I, your father, might wish to tell you. After all, I never listened to much that my dad said, as I am sure he will confirm.
Or did I? I used to think that was the case, but as I have reflected on my life, I realise that I actually learned a great deal from my father that I had never really acknowledged. Mostly what I learned was an attitude to life, a willingness to experiment and a desire to be great at what you do that hasn’t done me any harm.
My coach, John Dashfield, pointed out that we cannot not influence people around us. Everything we do and say rubs off on others to a greater or lesser degree. We can either choose to use this influence to help ourselves and others to improve, or we can try to ignore our influence and diminish our power, inevitably diminishing those around us in the process.
As you read through the following chapters I hope that you garner some ideas that help you to achieve your own goals in life, and ultimately to have the peace of mind and sense of connection to the universe which I believe is the ultimate goal of all of us in the final analysis.
And don’t forget that, whilst these words make sense to me now, the chances are that when I read them again in 20 years time (or even next week) I probably won’t agree with very much. So if you disagree with them now, that’s fine! Let’s sit down and discuss it. I’d love to hear your view and be persuaded by it. That’s how we learn.
With all my love,