In my early twenties, being well-off simply meant having enough money to buy fish and chips on the way home after a night out. But that all changed one summer evening when I was drinking with a friend outside a cocktail bar (it was 1987), and saw a brand-new Mercedes cabriolet pull up in the car park. I watched as a tall, handsome, perma-tanned man got out, carrying what I first thought to be a briefcase but was actually an enormous battery pack, on top of which sat the first cellular telephone I had ever seen.
As I observed him, I became transfixed as he simultaneously enjoyed an aperitif with a beautiful woman and controlled his business empire over the phone, albeit having to heave the battery pack around the car park in search of a better signal, but you can’t have everything, right?
I learned that this man was an entrepreneur and, although I had no idea what an entrepreneur did, decided that I wanted to become one too. The late 80s was an era when we were told by J.R. Ewing, Gordon Gekko and Margaret Thatcher that greed was good, so I set out on my journey toward untold wealth by pursuing a career in sales. Over the next few years, I successfully demonstrated how much I sucked at selling cars, conservatories, water filters, knitting machines, ridiculously expensive vacuum cleaners, mobile phones and, rather ironically, financial services. When I had to borrow £5 for petrol to be able to visit a potential client to tell him how to invest his millions, I finally realised that something wasn't right.
It was then that my father sat me down and told me that, since I was not a hustler by nature, I should stop trying to hustle my way to success. His advice was to find something I loved doing, that I could become proficient at, and that, above all, would be of service to others. I thought long and hard about this and began to realise that what I really loved was telling stories. I reckoned that I could become pretty good at it, but whether it might be of service to others remained to be seen. In any case, it was all I had to work with, so I was willing to give it a go.
I went to college to study media production and fancied myself as the next Scorsese until, quite by accident, I fell into the world of corporate films. Helping multinationals in their quest for world domination wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but it provided me with the channel through which my creative juices could easily flow. I got my head down and, for the next three decades, built a successful career as a writer / producer, winning many prestigious awards and working for some of the world’s largest organisations along the way.
Through the films that my colleagues and I have made, we’ve been able to change the attitudes and behaviours of millions of people all over the world, building brands, developing better leaders, improving health and safety, reducing environmental impact, tackling discrimination, eliminating inequality, fostering collaboration, developing a culture of service, and, broadly speaking, making the world a better place. I cared passionately about what I did because I got to see the difference it made, and so I really studied my craft, focusing on the three core areas - soft skills, neurocognition and storytelling, but the most important thing I learned was just how important stories are in starting the conversations that shape the world.