6 March 2016
It’s very rare to get all our family under one roof these days, but a day like mothers day certainly brings everyone together.
It’s been a tough week for my mum and the family, with my father having a stroke a week ago. I’d been in Switzerland when I had the call and headed home immediately.
It’s a stark reminder that we are not getting any younger. To see my father, a strong character, a massive conversationalist and a man who loves a debate, lying in a hospital bed struggling to speak, it hit me harder than I could have ever imagined.
I’d left home at 16 and I always cite “to seek my fortune” as the reason, but the reality was that my father and I couldn’t live under the same roof. He had very definite views on my career and we clashed so much from as early as I can remember, so much so I had to make a home elsewhere for myself.
We all get old and we all wonder how we will deal with the difficult moments life throws our way. I’d always assumed that my upbringing and my determination and independence would make me immune to being affected too much by one of these dreaded phone calls. How wrong I was.
However I look at it, however tough he was on me, however hard he made my life as a kid, I only have one dad and there is clearly more to the saying “blood is thicker than water.”
There’s no doubt my extreme personality is directly related to the abnormalities of my upbringing, although I’d like to think I’d be the same person regardless of my childhood, but I believe we are “made” not born. We are a product of our surroundings.
My father reminds me, “Diamonds are created from pressure, and so are great people born out of adversity.”
For better or worse my upbringing, particularly my father gave me a point to prove and maybe he is one of the reasons why I try so hard.
As you grow up though, you see through your differences you might have with a person, and in our case we developed a friendship. He became my biggest fan; finally he was proud. Although I think shock probably came in there somewhere first with some of my achievements.
So a week on from receiving the news, I am heading back up the same motorway away from Wales after spending time with him again.
The great news is he’s on the mend and whilst I am not sure things will ever quite be the same again as we will always live in fear of the next phone call, he’s definitely making progress.
He might be struggling to talk properly, but he had no problem entertaining my daughters on the piano with “pass the parcel” and “musical statues.”
Sometimes it takes a shakeup, one that rocks you to the core, to remind you of the importance of family and just how precious life and time is.
What remains the same for us all is the race against time, the race to complete and accomplish as much as we can on this wonderful planet. Whilst many people may focus on the accumulation of money in the pursuit of happiness, eventually everyone learns that it is the accumulation of special moments that ultimately defines our success. Sadly most people learn the lesson very late on in life (Steve Jobs is a world famous example). This may sound strange coming from someone who clearly is obsessed by business and yes I make no apology, I am.
But don’t confuse my obsession and commitment to business, with the pursuit of financial gain; this is not what inspires me. People often reflect their own view of life on others and it’s easy to label people incorrectly. In my early life, I most certainly was one of these people. I thought the way to escape the financial problems I witnessed my parents falling foul of, was to make huge amounts of money.
Actually, that was not the answer and I quickly learned the more money I earned, the more problems I seemed to encounter. My father called it the snakes and ladders principal. As fast as I climbed the ladder, just like in the game, down I’d slip; always from something self inflicted. The quest did however set me off in the direction of becoming a businessman, where I eventually learned that the simplest answer to my family’s financial problems and the ones I was beginning to create for myself, was to spend less. It amazes me how many people in business struggle with this simplest discipline.
It took many years but after meeting large numbers of ‘rich, successful’ people as they are classified in society, I realised that money has nothing to do with being content. There were both unhappy and happy rich people and again both unhappy and happy poorer folk.
Success is about experiences. Moments you share with others. Memories you collect from friends past and present. I’d define success as the accumulation of memories and moments that can never be taken away from you.
With the harsh reminder this week, it helps me better understand why I came to Manchester all those years ago. It was to stand on my own two feet and build something special, something of meaning. I am so much further on than I could have ever dreamed back then and so far off where I need to get to, but I am on the right track.
If you are on a similar journey to me, its worth remember that success is not worn on the outside, its something you experience on the inside, a feeling and it cannot be bought or measured. It’s an emotion that remains when everything else subsides; a contentment you might get from hard work or doing the right thing and helping others, from being a great parent or from giving of your time to a noble cause.
Thank you to my friends this week who figured out that there was something wrong and who stood by me through a tough few days, especially the Theodore Roosevelt quote. These are exactly the memories I am talking about.