I recently had one of the greatest opportunities of my life. I was asked to go in and speak to a bunch of 11/12year olds at St Paul's school about 'success'. I know, I had a chuckle too.
Anyway here is my speech in full AND my 12 things I know to be true - enjoy:
"Thank you, Mr Page.
Gentleman, teaching staff, I am honoured to be with you with morning here at St Pauls - one of the finest institutions in the country to kick off this series of talks.
I wanted to share two stories with you this morning – no big deal – just two stories. The first is about me, my education and my career ...if you could call it that. The second is simply 12 things I have learnt along the way.
I went to school just down the road at Epsom College and had a great five years there – so much so that I now have to restrain myself sometimes when telling people about it. I met my greatest friends there, developed the values I hold dear today and on a very basic level- laughed. A lot.
I loved sport – particularly rugby and cricket but struggled in the classroom – of that there’s absolutely no doubt. My housemaster Mr Conway summed it up perfectly when in my final end of year report when he said, ‘Justin is a basic individual with little, if any god given talent’ – and you know what – looking back, he was spot. I was basically blessed to have had a group of inspirational teachers – for the most part - and a great bunch of great guys around me.
I left Epsom to go to Loughborough University where I studies management and logistics ..and spent three years playing a lot of rugby …I graduated by the skin of my teeth. – this bit is short.
I then left and took a job at McDonald’s ..not the perfect start I know…and to make things worse they only let me flip the quarter pounders – I don’t think they trusted me with the big Mac’s or Mcflurry’s. I also worked as an overnight labourer, at call centres, at a tobacco company and a beer company – and I don’t even drink or smoke! While these jobs came, and went, I was relentlessly trying to start a business on the side, initially an online dating platform called Yearbook Dating, a corporate branding business and even a butler in the buff service made up of broke university students.
As you can image, none of this made me feel great about myself, particularly when reflecting on the efforts that had been poured into me growing up by my teachers and parents. However, it was a vital period of trying and failing and trying and failing.
A quote from the late Steve Jobs of Apple in his now infamous commencement speech at Stanford University kept me going in the dark times, when he said “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever’.
While I knew I would never be the brightest guy in the room – I knew I could always be the hardest working. I was and still am hungrier than ever to build something meaningful – to, make my own dent in the universe.
I now run a digital marketing business from my single bedroom (yup gents that’s right a single – you can image how my girlfriend feels about that) – I work with some of the world’s great luxury brands. And while I am some way off making millions, my mission when I left my desk job was to see if there was another way to live – to be time wealthy and operate outside of the predetermined system we are told to funnel into.
I wanted to set myself the challenge of having to fight for myself, and know what that felt like and crucially to reduce my working week by half and double my income – within one year - which is exactly what I’ve done.
It all began when my dad gave me my grandfather’s watch for my 21st birthday. Having never met my grandfather I quickly fell in love with it. Knowing little about watches and having absolutely nothing to lose I began thinking of ways I could add value to the brands I liked without asking for their permission.
I could see how social media was evolving and felt by going into their boutiques, arriving randomly, developing relationships with their sales teams and taking photos of their products – then sending these images to their marketing teams free of change and allowing them to use them as they wished would be a good way to add value.
A good example of this would be IWC or International Watch Company on Bond St, where for weeks on end I would come in relentlessly – and I was and still not a trained photographer in any shape or form! IWC are now biggest client. Now, with basic English skills, no IT or photography training I’ve been published in the Gentleman’s Journal, HODINKEE, The Rake, Revolution and others.
But gentleman I am no god. It’s been a great few years – I am just scratching the surface - the only thing worth celebrating is the fact that I said I would do something – and I’ve do it. Nothing more. What you will learn is that people say a lot and often do very little.
For some clients, I simply photograph their product, for others I host events at their boutiques, and for other I write and manage their digital content.
On my journey thus far I have formulated 12 Things I know to be true. I hope you gentleman find them as useful as I have."
1. Make your bed in the morning - start the day with a small win
2. Practice gratitude - always write ‘thank you’ cards
3. Concern yourself with character and NOT reputation
4. Never, ever stop learning
5. You ARE the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with
6. ‘Stuff’ won’t make you happy. Meaningful relationships and meaningful work WILL
7. Focuses on controlling what you can control what you can control - live with discipline
8. Deepen your connection with your body – it’s one of the most beautiful experiences in life
9. Embrace suffering – it’s how you perceive difficulties that really matters
10. Go out there and fail - and fail often
11. No ego. Don’t be afraid to sweep the floor
12. And finally, always…always put in more than you take out