10 January 2016

I started on the journey so long ago now I can’t really remember the confused young man who left Wales, it was 30 years ago. I was lost before I even set off. I had let so many people down, my parents saw me as a failure with my lack of academic ability, I’d had it drilled into me that I’d never amount to anything. I had no idea where I was going to go. I just knew I was searching for something different, something bigger than the here and now.

Everything starts from a single thought

Everything starts from a single thought

Funnily enough, that seems to be a common theme in my continued progression. And years later no matter how extraordinary  life becomes, I am still searching. But was I really lost? On reflection I am not so sure. And whilst I felt very much on my own, there were always people routing for me and deep down I’d like to think there was a spark of belief somewhere. This era was just part of my education.

We all find ourselves in tough circumstances from time to time. And when you are in one of those places its very hard to imagine how you can escape. But there is always a better place, somewhere happier to aim at. Something to look forward to. Nowadays I am a little more pragmatic and I believe the tough circumstances I find myself in are just a catalyst to inspire me, to force me to get up and do something about it.

And whilst I have grown enormously from my experiences, life hasn’t changed one bit. I still find myself outside my comfort zone, each time I grow and its “sink or swim,” suddenly I have to start developing fast!

When you set off on a journey, I am a great believer in making a MAP of where you want to get to. Tony Robbins calls his M.A.P a Massive Action Plan. He tells a brilliant story of how he travelled across Russia to meet Gorbachov the then president of Russia and the train journey was number of days, and how he drew out and scribbled down thousands of ideas and dreams, no matter how big or outrageous. Within a matter of months from then his life started to change and all the things in the list started manifesting themselves in to reality.

I can associate with this. I didn’t start goal setting and writing things down religiously until I was in my 30’s. Its safe to say whilst I was trying hard, I spent most of my 20’s going around in circles. My father called it the “Snakes and Ladder Effect.” Where I achieve something then hit a calamity, usually self inflicted and slip down to a lower position than where I started.

Life's an education, "look for the reason why?"

Life’s an education, “look for the reason why?”

I am sure most people can associate with this at some points in our lives. But after hearing Robbins and being inspired by some of his ideas, I created my MAP. In truth the MAP has changed and continues to change regularly. I have sailed past some of the most outrageous goals I’d set years ago, and I am a million miles away from others. But what the MAP does is keeps me focussed and on track reminding me of why I set off on this journey in the beginning and also reminding me the journey is far from over.

A couple of days ago, my wife read me a letter over the phone. It was from the Vice Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. There are not many times you get a pat on the back as a businessman. It can feel like a thankless task sometimes, an impossible task to keep thousands of people happy all at the same time. Yet every now and again you get a reminder of why we do it.

My MBE was such an occasion exactly this time last year. An honour I will never forget and treasure and do my utmost to live up to.

Over the phone as my wife read out the letter, I could feel a similar feeling coming over me just like the day I received the news of the MBE. When you have been labelled an academic failure, when you have been reminded time and time again that university is not an option, does that stop you from learning?

I remember at 17 going to visit my sister Julia in Birmingham University and walking across the campus with her. It felt like such an amazing place and I could feel the energy from the thousands of bustling students.

I think looking back, these things must have driven me harder. There has always been a search for information. I continue to look for better ways and answers to the conundrums I face. But never did I expect such an honour bestowed upon me from the Vice Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University.

I have been extraordinarily blessed to be so welcomed by the great people and city of Manchester and today’s honour is arguably the largest I could ever imagine from such a prestigious establishment.

Hearing the words, “it would give me enormous pleasure if you would allow us to recognise your achievements through the award of an Honary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration,” will be one of those handful of moments that I will never forget, a moment of inspiration.

So wherever you are, however hard you feel the circumstances around you are, try to believe there is a better time ahead, a better place. My journey’s been a long one, but its proof enough that anyone can achieve anything.  Create your MAP, aim high and dream big. It doesn’t matter whether you hit everything on it. Its what it makes of you on the journey that counts.

Make the most of being outside and enjoy the fresh air

Make the most of being outside and enjoy the fresh air

We need the MAP to guide us, but never lose sight of the real importance of life. It’s your feelings and your emotions that determine your success and whether you are happy and satisfied with your progress or accomplishments. But these emotions come from forging and developing relationships and helping others along the way.  There is no short cut and there is no amount of money that substitutes love, friendship, pride, honour.

If people doubt your ability or your motives, dig deeper, try harder, but never give up.  Michael Jordan said, “when people told me of my weaknesses, I made them a strength.” Turn your weaknesses into strengths. Start now.

If you can do two things today, go and get some fresh air, I don’t care whether it’s raining, snowing or you are surrounded by floods, get outside and have a look at the world around you, the colours, feel the air your breathe and start thinking. You are already successful; you already have everything you need to make all your dreams come true. Everything in your life starts from a single thought. So start thinking, start dreaming.

The second thing is, get a pen a paper and start scribbling, just like Tony Robbins did although years ago. Just like I still do today. Create your MAP, your Massive Action Plan and set destinations and goals that drive the people around you and help others, not just yourself.

There is no doubt luck plays a part in success, but there is evidence to suggest that the harder you try to make a difference to others, the luckier you seem to become.

Be lucky and make 2016 the most incredible year for the people you come into contact with.

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