Hoping this week will be a memorable one for you. Speaking of memories: I had one of those events in my life occur last week that will never be forgotten. If you have ever heard me speak or read my books you will know that there is an extremely special teacher in my life who I will never forget. Mr Hill, my English teacher, was the one who thirty-one years ago, encouraged me to enter the public speaking competition at school, which I went on to win. Well, Mr Hill came to see me speak last weekend after making contact with me after me speak about him on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2.
It was fortuitous that I happened to be speaking at the iCan Event in Leeds, which he was able to get along to. It was an amazing feeling to have him watch me and also for him to get a massive round of applause from the audience. It was made even more special by the fact that my wife Helen and the three children were able to get there too. All in all a fantastic day and one I wont forget In a hurry.
I’m sure we all have one of those teachers, one of those bosses, one of those members of the public who did something for us which means we will never forget it. But it does raise the question of when did we do something that was so selfless, so amazing, so charitable that whoever benefitted will remember it in 30 years. Or is what we are doing going to be lost in the memories of those we crossed paths with along with all the other meaningless stuff we often found ourselves doing. I’ll leave that with you.
Well its finally happening. After months of meetings, emails and phone calls I can confirm that we are finally moving forward with the film adaption of Just a Boy. We’ve agreed the deal for Tony Klinger to write the screen play and Executive Produce the film. We have a great team involved and in coming weeks I will be announcing more about the film and the exciting community project we will have running alongside the making of it. I always had at the back of my mind when I wrote Just a Boy that one day it may be seen on the big screen around the world. 10 years after it was published it’s finally happening. I’m trying to contain my excitement for now but its certainly one of my most interesting years.
Here I am with Tony moments after signing the agreement.
To celebrate the start of the development of the film we are giving away 2 tickets to iCan The Event which takes place on the 17th May in Leeds. We have a whole day of inspiration with 7 speakers for your empowerment including myself and you will hear just how the universe intervened to make the film happen which is absolutely amazing. All you have to do is take a look at the line up and email us to tell us who you think is the youngest speaker taking part.
Then email liz with your answer. liz(at)icanevents(dot)co(dot) uk You have until Tues at 8pm to get your answer in.
We hope to see you there.
Every once in a while we come across individuals who stand out for doing something incredibly amazing. A few days ago I met one of these people. Natalia attended my recent speaker boot-camp as she has now decided that she wants the world to know her for something other than what she had been known for in the past.
In 1997 her schizophrenic father Bruno murdered her mother Elva when Natalia was just 17 years old. One can’t imagine how painful that must be and how confusing and complicated it would be for a young girl. Remarkably Natalia eventually found the courage to forgive her father before he passed away. She wrote about her journey in her incredibly inspiring book ‘Unconditional Love’ in 2008, which I have read twice now and highly recommend it.
In memory of her mother she decided that she would do something incredible. She decided to save the life of a complete stranger by donating one of her kidneys. I don’t know about you but I find this absolutely amazing. She was nominated for and won her self a Pride of Britain award recently and you can see her being presented with it here.
My English Teacher Changed My Life.
Mr Hill, my English Teacher had no idea that the seed he planted in 1983 would flower into something that would enable me, someone once terrified of speaking, with little confidence and low self esteem, to be able to speak all around the world to audiences as large as 3000.
Aged 13, attending one of the worst-performing secondary schools in Leeds, I was encouraged, by him to enter the school’s public speaking competition, after giving a 5 minute talk to the class. I ultimately won the competition, giving a talk about pigeons, as my father raced them at the time. Mr. Hill was able to see beyond the second hand clothes, the scruffy DIY hair-cut from my step-mother, and everything he may have heard in the staff room about my history. As far as the staffroom was concerned, my story began when I was 5 years old. After a night out drinking with her brothers, my mother was brutally murdered by the serial killer Peter Sutcliffe: “The Yorkshire Ripper”. What Mr. Hill was unaware of, was that life had always been tough, and the story really started long before that fateful night. Until then, I lived on the Scott Hall Council estate with mum, dad, and my three sisters, under the watchful eye of the Social Services who placed my three sisters and I on the ‘At Risk’ Register. They had good reason, and the file that I now have at home is testament to that.
Dad left when I was aged 4, and his replacement was even worse than dad, who had a tendency to resort to alcohol and violence, back then. Mum’s new boyfriend came with even more problems, especially for my sister Sonia, who was abused by him at the age of 6. We were both given drugs by him on one occasion, which was a terrifying night where we both hallucinated. He was eventually sent to prison for beating my mother up, so the Summer of 1975 was one filled with happy memories: visiting the funfair, which visited the field at the back of the house where we lived; playing on the street with all the other children on the estate; all without the fear of mum’s boyfriend, or dad, for that matter.
Any semblance of a normal life evaporated on the 30th Oct 1975 when mum went out for a night on the town, drinking with her brothers. The babysitter left around 10 pm as she had school in the morning, and we were kept awake by our youngest sister, Angela, crying through the night. With no sign of mum, Sonia, the eldest, did her best to reassure and settle her. Finally, we all got some sleep.
At 5.30am my sister shook me awake to tell me that mum still hadn’t returned home and that we should go out to look for her. With our coats on over our pajamas, we left the house and wandered the streets looking for our mum. After a walk down the path on the field at the back of the house we arrived at the bus stop and waited for her to arrive, sure she would be on the next bus.
She never did return home, and before long the police arrived and took the four of us away from our home, never to return again. We arrived at the local children’s home, where we remained until early the following year. The only thing we were told was that our mum had been taken to heaven and that we were not going to see her again. We later discovered that mum had been murdered that night by the serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, and that she was the first of 13 women who would lose their lives at his hands.
It was a night that will be forever etched in my memory.
After mum’s funeral, which we didn’t attend, we set up home with our estranged father and his new girlfriend, and the next chapter of our lives begun.
I believe what happened to mum that night helped shape the mindset that I now have. The situation was so bleak and difficult to cope with that I found a way of telling myself that this had happened to give me a better life: a life away from the pressures of living on that estate; of having nothing. I also told myself that mum was no longer suffering.
It’s as though a survival system kicked in to find a way of making the situation easier for me to cope with, and this positive mental approach to challenges is the result. The ability for each of us to focus on the positive in any situation is one of my key messages in the presentations that I now give. It began for me almost 40 years ago, and has been with me ever since.
As the new chapter in my life started as my sisters and I moved in with our father, I was optimistic than things would turn out OK. However, life didn’t turn out to be as great as I had hoped. My father continued with his drinking, and some of the things he did were extremely cruel. The worst thing that I believe he did was to drown the pet dog in the bath because it annoyed him, but he didn’t stop there. Every one of us experienced violence from him at some time or another. My step-mother probably came off worse as he beat her one night so badly that he broke her rib and she was forced to flee the house, on her hands and knees, in the early hours of the morning. Despite the things I say about him, he did have his good side too. He was quite a funny guy, and, when he hadn’t been drinking, his heart was in the right place.
I grew up, not only in fear of my father, but also in fear of the, now-notorious, Yorkshire Ripper. The 5th person to die was a 16 year old girl called Jane MacDonald, who lived just 7 houses away from where we lived with mum. When he killed Jane, who I was told baby-sat for us, although I couldn’t remember, myself, I began to believe he was going to kill me, too. I went off the rails and began shoplifting, I broke into my primary school, and I became an incredibly angry young child. I ran away from home after arguments with my father, and on one occasion slept in a portaloo, which I came across on a local building site.
As mum’s killer continued his murderous campaign it became an enormous media story, which meant I was continually being asked about mum, and back then it was something I felt ashamed about, especially when they asked if she had been a prostitute. It meant that I viewed everyone else as being better than me; I had little in the way of confidence, and my self-esteem was extremely low. Mum’s killer was finally arrested in 1981 and finally the people of Yorkshire could breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Two years later, in my first year of High School, my English teacher took me to one side and had those softly spoken words of encouragement with me. I remember feeling quite proud that he had selected me out of the whole class to encourage to take part. I decided on my talk and over the next two weeks practiced it every night so I knew the talk inside out. I was determined to make Mr. Hill proud, as well as my father.
On the day of the competition, Mr. Hill took me to one side, again, before we all entered the hall, and asked me how I thought pigeons found their way home. I was pleased that Mr. Hill was interested in my topic and I explained how I thought they did it. During my talk, which I did without notes, unlike my competitors, I brought out a pigeon which I had taken with me in a basket and had hidden in the wings. It was a great performance, and I was shaking whilst I spoke, but I got through my talk. Once I finished it was time for a question from Mr. Hill: “Richard, thanks for an illuminating talk. Can I ask you how you think pigeons find their way home?”
I could have run down off the stage and hugged him. He had primed me in the corridor for this question which allowed me to answer it confidentially. I don’t know whether Mr. Hill asked all those taking part their question before they entered the hall, but one thing I do know about Mr. Hill, is that he wanted me to do my best. He was able to see something in me that I couldn’t see for myself. I would never have dreamed of getting on that stage. I received a fantastic round of applause as I walked back to my seat. The next day in assembly was when we discovered who won. I had to fight back the tears when it was announced that it was me. I, with my background, had achieved something worthwhile, at last.
What I didn’t realize back then, and I’m sure Mr. Hill had no notion of, either, is just what he did for me that day. As I often say when speaking at events for those in the teaching profession, for them, they may never see the fruits of their labour, but one thing is for sure: they are planting seeds; they are helping shape the future lives of those they teach; and in some cases, they might just be the one who changes the whole direction of a young person who they come into contact with. I’m sure that many of those in the profession can trace back their desire to teach to a teacher who connected with them, who was able to engage them, and was able to inspire them to make a difference in the lives of others. I have spoken now in over 400 schools, both to students and staff, and one thing I am aware of is that there is always space for a few more Mr. Hill’s in the world.
For the next few years at school I became a slightly more confident teenager, but with continuing problems at home I left school and home at the age of 16. I did not return to school for my exams, and moved in with sister, Sonia, who by now had a flat of her own. I had a couple of low-level jobs initially, simply to bring some money in. My first job was working in a trouser factory, ironing. After that I was a kitchen porter in a hotel in the city center. I decided, then, to join the Army, and signed up for 9 years to make a life for myself.
I didn’t tell them about how mum died and said she died in a tragic car accident, which they believed. After my basic training I was posted out to Germany where my regiment was based, and, to begin with, life looked rosy. However, later that year a magazine was published about The Yorkshire Ripper; my secret was out. People were asking me about mum again, and it felt similar to how I felt when I was younger – I was vulnerable, lacking confidence, and feeling lost. This culminated in me going on a drunken rampage around a village in Germany. When everything came out about my past I was placed on a psychiatric ward for a number of months, firstly in Germany, and then back in Woolwich where I had carried out my basic training. I was discharged from the army on medical grounds. I then came back to Leeds, moved back in with Sonia, and got myself a job in a warehouse, stacking boxes.
Here I met another Mr. Hill although this one was called Stuart Hardy and he was the Warehouse Manager. He also decided one day to take me to one side. This time it was to tell me that they were about to move stock control from clip boards to a computer system; he had been keeping an eye on me and wanted me to be in charge of this. I was absolutely thrilled! Once again, he was able to see something in me that I hadn’t been able to see for myself.
I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and contacted someone I found in the Yellow Pages who wrote a basic stock control system for the company. Having this responsibility did something to me. I wanted to prove Stuart was right to choose me over others who had been there longer. The new role came with a pay increase, and over the next couple of years I was earning enough to save for a deposit on a house which I bought in 1994. I remember feeling the proudest person on the planet at this achievement. Until them I had always imagined people that owned their own homes were from a world I would never be part of.
My joy was short-lived. Others in the warehouse were in the habit of going out and taking drugs and, foolishly, I went along with them. What I could never have imagined was that eventually I would lose my job, two friends would die, and finally I would be arrested and sent to prison on a drug dealing charge. It was one of the lowest points in my life, and the way I got through this difficult time was to tell myself that it was supposed to happen for me to be given an opportunity to turn my life around.
And that’s what I did.
I stayed out of trouble, got my head down, and got through my prison sentence. One of the weirdest things was knowing that this was the same prison that mum’s killer was sent to, when he was first arrested. I walked out of prison, eventually, and got myself a job, once again working in a warehouse. This enabled me to keep my house, which I was so thankful for as it looked like no one was going to give me a second chance. Within a month of working in the warehouse the Production Manager asked me to come in to his office which worried me slightly as I needed to keep this job to pay off my arrears.
It turned out that Adrian was another Mr. Hill character. The company was growing rapidly and he needed someone to work alongside him in the Production Office and he wanted me to fill the role, over all the others who worked in the warehouse. I will never forget the way I ran from work up to Sonia’s to tell her what had happened. One thing I have always tried to do, no matter what I put my mind to, is be the best that I can be, and it’s another one of my simple but key lessons in life, which have served me well on my journey.
The company continued to grow, and me with it. Within 3 years I had my own small department and the increase in salary meant that I was able to pay off my mortgage arrears early. I changed my circle of friends by taking up salsa, and received some counseling for my insecurities. Then, just when life was going well, my sister Sonia was arrested for stabbing her boyfriend, albeit in self-defense. I decided that I simply had to do something drastic to help her, although what I did was, perhaps, a little naïve: I wrote a book to tell the world what we had all been through. I thought that somehow this might stop Sonia going to prison.
My English was poor so I got someone to help with it. I had no idea that the book would sell over 400,000 copies and be published in many languages. It was a No1 Bestselling book, and in some ways liberated me from the feelings of shame that I had about my past. I no longer had to look over my shoulder and worry about what people did or didn’t know about me.
After appearing on TV and radio during the publicity for the book, I was asked by a local authority if I would come and speak at a conference that they were hosting for those that work with them to reach families. I was terrified but I knew that if I did it, it may help with my lack of confidence.
Back then I was still a nervous wreck when meeting people, let along speaking to a crowd. I did hear that one publisher turned me down after meeting me, because they thought I would not be very good on TV speaking about the book. I spoke with a psychologist around this time and was told that I should accept that ‘I was as good as I was going to get’, and that I may never overcome my fear of public speaking. I guess he wasn’t a Mr. Hill character and I decided to put his well-intended comments to one side, and accepted the invitation to speak.
Although I did a terrible job at my first attempt, I’m grateful that I persevered and got some help with my speaking as I have now become one of the busiest speakers in the UK. I have spoken almost 1500 times since that first presentation in 2005, as far and wide as South Africa, Switzerland, Malaysia, and I will be speaking in both Germany and Canada later in the year. I am now a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and last year was President in the Yorkshire Region. I have also coached two Premiership Footballers with their presentation skills, and regularly host speaker bootcamps around the UK and within organisations.
I may have left school with no qualifications but I left with something else. Mr. Hill was an incredible teacher; able to see what many others couldn’t; able to connect with me; able to inspire me to raise my game, and to do something I could never imagine myself doing. What will never be known is how far reaching his actions will be, or for how long the impact of those actions will be felt.
To every teacher on the planet I say this: Never underestimate the potential that lies within each and every young person you come into contact with, and, possibly more importantly, never underestimate the difference that your words of encouragement may have in their lives.
I have to begin with a slight moan. I’m totally shattered. But its for a fantastic reason. A few weeks ago one of the dads at the school our children go to suggested that we got our bikes out and went for a ride. I found a few excuses for a few weeks before finally taking the bull by the horns and taking some action rather than speaking about it.
We looked a sight. It was obvious that we were not training for the Tour De France not only because of our slightly dated yet safe and bright clothing but also that Den was on a road bike and In was on my mountain bike. We looked a right pair.
So off we went on the quiet Sunday morning roads heading from Leeds to Otley. We had not got very far before Den experienced a puncture. “Lets enjoy it’ I told him as he felt a tad guilty at it being him and not me. To be honest my 43 year old body was secretly happy at the rest and the ability to pop over to the service station for a Marathon….sorry the Snickers was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.
(You dont think for a minute that I’m showing you a picture of myself half dying do you)
Be prepared for things to go slightly awry.
And off we went within around 20 minutes and me breathing slightly steadier. You can imagine Den’s embarrassment when no more than two minutes later he suffered yet another puncture. He had not retrieved the small piece of glass out of his wheel to the glass had simply punctured a brand new inner tube.
We had a choice to make and we could have stood there becoming cold and miserable at the situation or we could simply ‘Deal with It’. So we dealt with it. Den called his wife who came to our rescue (not on a bike) with a new tyre and inner tube. The two punctures probably cost us around an hour and 15mins in delays but It added to the adventure as far as I was concerned. Not only that we were able to enjoy a cup of tea at a local hotel whilst we waited for his rescuer of a wife whose Sunday morning lie in was cut short.
Why do I write this?
Firstly. The 20 mile bike ride was one of the most enjoyable things that I have done for ME in many years. We need to do things for us from time to time. I was messaged recently from a teacher who was in the audience where I spoke and after I got her up to dance for only 30 seconds she was reminded how much she enjoyed it. She has now sought out local dance classes in her area.
And secondly: It didn’t quite go as planned but we should not let these things deter us or stop us enjoying them. Embrace them as part of the human experience. Have you ever enjoyed receiving a parking ticket? I decided to and I swear the pain of paying was definitely eased. We have a choice in how we respond.
Now does anyone know where iCan buy some slick tires for a mountain bike?
Richard McCann Launches Pioneering Yorkshire Job Creation Foundation
In a week that’s seen the Princes Trust survey revealing that one in six youngsters fear they’ll end up on benefits after leaving school – coupled the news that youth unemployment among 16-24 year olds has increased by 15,000 to reach 973,000 – an enterprising Yorkshire business has launched its own job creation foundation to fuel its sales pipeline.
Guest speaker was author and motivational speaker, Richard McCann, the son of the Yorkshire Ripper’s first victim, who inspired the 13 recruits to make the most of the opportunity the Foundation is giving them and to never give up – no matter what life throws at them.
Believed to be a UK first, the Foundation is offering recruits a ground breaking 12-week boot camp training programme in Hunslet, South Leeds – investing up to £5,000 to support each recruit on the programme – and paying them a salary for their duration.
The trainees heard the powerful story of how Richard turned his life around after the brutal murder of his mother Wilma McCann sparked a spiral of abuse, pain, drugs and prison, sharing poignant insights, including how a failed suicide pact with his eldest sister Sonia was the wake-up call he needed to save her and transform his life.
Sharing valuable lessons on how the recruits can aspire to achieve things they’ve previously only dreamt about – regardless of their personal background or postcode – Richard said: “I’m truly inspired by the aim of the Bayford Foundation to give the trainees, all of whom were previously out of work, a once in a lifetime chance to overcome adversity and be the best that they can be.
“I have experienced the pain and anguish of how your roots can count against you, and have learnt that persistence, inner strength and willingness to learn from others who do things better than you – can turn lives around. The Foundation is building a legacy for the future by investing in local people, developing them to fulfil their potential – and teaching them to be proud of their achievements.”
Successful candidates completing the 12-week boot camp will be awarded a recognised qualification from the University of Derby and go on to earn a minimum £16k annual salary with the BE Fuel Cards sales team – with the potential to ramp up their earnings as they progress.
It was wonderful to see David Hirst and Sarah Clark from Calendar TV cover the story – thanks masses guys – you made everyone’s day more perfect than it was already.
What the Recruits Took Away
Recruit, Shaun Wilkinson said: “Richard’s story was touching and at some points, even tear-jerking. It’s good to be reminded that there’s always someone out there who is worse-off than you and if you have an end goal, it’s never too late to try. The Foundation has found a way to teach people whilst having fun meaning that I am taking on board more information – it is interactive and I love it – it feels too good to be true!”
Rebecca Lawrence added: “It was quite emotional to see someone with a similar background to me and so inspiring to see how positive he is and how he doesn’t let anyone bring him down. He has spurred me on to do my best at the Foundation – I am loving it so far – we are working and learning at the same time and everything that is happening is so engaging. If I can do it, then you can too!”
Fawwad Atiq said: “Richard was very inspirational and I can personally relate to some of his experiences within my own life, His story makes me believe that, if he can come from a background like that, and go on to do motivational talks like this, then why can I? He has empowered me to go on and make my future for myself. The Foundation is great – I feel self-sufficient and able to stand on own two feet – After hearing all the people who told me I would amount to nothing, this is my chance to prove them wrong.”
Foundation Leader, June Forsyth, added: “Richard was truly amazing and empowering – reinforcing the power of looking forwards not backwards, staying positive, and believing in yourself – even when your world is falling apart. We could not have wished for a more inspirational way to get the Foundation off the ground.”
The holistic boot camp programme features upbeat guest speakers and fun challenges – including an Apprentice-style competition with recruits selling goods on market stalls. There will also be lifestyle and personal development sessions, including yoga, vocal theatrics and how to manage money. The second round of ‘auditions with a difference’ is being planned in advance of the next boot camp.
To find out more about the opportunities available, call us on 0113 202 5129 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can’t tell you much pleasure it gives me to tell you about this. Recently my wife bought a present for me, the likes of which I have never come across before. As I opened the beautiful box my eyes lit as I was greeted with the most elegant set of hand made wooden spoons all of which were bursting with character. Each delicious spoon had its own tag fastened to it describing which type of tree it was made from and which of local woods the tree stood in. Amazing.
Each of the spoons also had the names of our three children and for my wife and myself we had Mummy & Daddy. This was the stuff of fairy tales.
Dan the Spoon man was a local guy who was able to see an opportunity where everyone else saw dead trees. I have since discovered that he chooses his trees as he takes walks around many of the local woods and takes a piece home and with love and dedication he crafts the spoons which he now sells through his website.
I write this as an example of someone able to see opportunities where others don’t. I highly recommend his spoons which we have gone on to buy for friends too. And I absolutely love his business card. Aptly made form the very same trees as the spoons.
Check out his wordpress blog here and go on treat someone you love to a very special gift that they will never forget.
How are you today? Probably feeling a little bit got at what with the recent focus on your apparent failings. Apparently young people are getting a little too picky in respect of what jobs they are prepared to do. I can understand that. Who wants to work in a kitchen washing dishes. a warehouse stacking boxes or even a factory doing something as mundane as ironing trousers. Surely you didn’t go through at least 14 years of education for something as menial as that. Well it may surprise you to know that those were the jobs I began doing when I first left school. I’m not sure what start in life you have had but maybe like you I was brought up in quite a poor estate. Benefits, alcohol, drugs, violence were the norm in a lot of cases and although being brought up in this kind of environment can condition someone to think that this is the only way to be it can also serve as spark within you to become a fire in your belly to fight for a better life….should you actually want one. I now run two companies of my own and employ people to work for me.
If I were 16-24 and in your position I would want to know just how do you go from ironing trousers and washing dishes on minimum wage to being the owner of two successful businesses which have taken you all around the world? Well my friend it’s been quite simple and although back in 1986 I had no idea where I would end almost 30 years later I did know this. As long as I did something rather than waiting for the dream job to arrive then I would be doing something. DO SOME THING
And once I did something as long as I gave it everything then it stands to reason that, even if it was only 1%, life would be slightly better for me. I would be earning a living rather than claiming it. And as long as I did that job to the best of my ability then it would eventually take me somewhere and hopefully slightly further away from the life I had as a child. BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE.
And then always keep one eye on the distant future. I worked in a ware house stacking boxes when I was 20 but by going in every day with enthusiasm and by standing out, grabbing the overtime, working my socks off I was given a promotion to run the new computer stock control system in the warehouse. This came with a pay rise and after a couple of years I was able to buy my first home. BE ENTHUSIASTIC
I’m not going to pretend it was all plain sailing as I ended up in prison on a drugs charge but on my release I applied for a job at a company where the MD knew the MD of the warehouse I worked at a few years earlier and I was given a job, once again, in the warehouse. By being prepared to start at the bottom and applying all of the above with 3 and ½ years I had been promoted, I had my own department in charge of all the imports from the Far East and my salary had almost trebled. I was only able to do this by being sent on courses to learn about excise duty and such like. NEVER STOP LEARNING
I am now a motivational speaker, trainer and coach and I am one of the most successful in the UK speaking at over 200 events a year. But that too didn’t happen overnight. I accepted my first speaking opportunity in 2005 despite being petrified. I did what most aren’t prepared to do and I set off once more applying all of the above. It took me over 2 years to get anywhere but I’m so glad that I started the Journey. 1500 talks later as well as running my own events company I can tell you now its all been achieved by using the same mindset and approach I had at the age of 16. SUCCESS WON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
Sometimes you have to make some sacrifices to get to where you want to be although you may have no idea where it is that you want to be right now. It doesn’t matter. Do Something, be the best at it that you can be, Be enthusiastic and be prepared to be a life long learner and accept that success will not be given on a plate. As an employer myself now if I met you and you could demonstrate the above especially if you come from a background like myself then you my friend would stand out. You would be remembered and you will give yourself a far greater chance of being employed than the typical 16-24 year old. I wish you well and remember: YES YOU CAN.
Today, sat in the garden I noticed how out of shape one of our trees is. It’s not the kind of tree you would pay money for if you needed one for a promo picture or a marketing campaign at all. I asked my son Ellis who was sat beside me on the swinging seat we have dangling from the imperfect tree which tree he thought was the best: This skewed one or the one outside of the garden looking perfect, upright and with no bulges like the one we were underneath. “They are both good ones Dad. I was relieved with his answer. Why as humans do week seek perfection? I believe it’s one of the reasons I as a young child felt so low. I was the out of shape tree. Others seemed perfect and had fantastic lives, or so I thought. I’m OK now with my imperfections, my lack of academic qualifications and even my prison sentence. I finally understand that it’s OK to have one nostril bigger than the other due to a broken nose. It’s OK that the end of one of my fingers is missing due to an accident when I was 8 and it really is OK that I have ginger hair. Being a father now I know I don’t have to ALWAYS iron a shirt either. We are human and they have yet to find a perfect one yet. Don’t try and be the very first one
Today the 7th June 2013 on the cover of ‘i’ (the newspaper formerly known as ‘The Independent) it states that Half of Britons alive in 2020 will get cancer’. I find that quite shocking and its timely as last night I decided to send out this very personal email. It’s not supposed to inspire or motivate you. I send this email with the resounding belief that it may save your life. Or if not you then your wife, your husband, your mother, father, your sister, your daughter or anyone you may know for that matter.
**The last line here has been amended from the original post as I sent this post out to my mailing list and was inundated with people as I aimed it at women only. Of course men do get breast cancer too albeit far less and we too have to be vigilant. There are far too many men dying unnecessarily because they ignore the ‘feelings’ they get because they are too proud or they simply ignore what their body is trying to tell them. That tingling feeling in their fingers, the lump on their testicle, the shortness of breath. The time has passed where we should worry about what people may think if its innocent, how they may think of you should you get testicular cancer. Personally I have had two checks at hospital for what I thought may be small lumps down there (turns out they are called testicles) (that was a joke: but I did have two cysts) .
In February I hosted the iCan Conference which you may have heard about and one of our incredible speakers Nina Joy who was diagnosed last August with terminal cancer. During her speech she asked the 130 people in the room to break into groups of 3. I did wonder what she was up to at that point but all became clear when she told the audience that one person in each group of three would get cancer in their lifetime. Wow. That’s a lot of people I thought.
Sat at the side of the conference room was my wife Helen. Of course she didn’t get into a group of three but she heard the facts like everyone else there that day.
Little did any of us know that my wife Helen in fact did have cancer as she sat there that day. What no one apart from Nina knew was that the previous week Helen ‘had a feeling’. She couldn’t actually feel a lump in her breast but something within in her suggested all wasn’t what it should be. This may have been influenced by the fact I had spoken with Helen numerous times about Nina’s situation and also that in December a very close friend of ours had a small lumpectomy due a small tumor being found in her left breast. Whatever the case, after a couple of complains from Helen I urged he to go tot the doctors to get herself checked. The doctor advised that she couldn’t feel any lumps at all but to give her peace of mind she arranged for an appointment at the breast clinic of our local hospital.
Little did we know that only days after Nina had asked delegates to get into groups of three that we would receive some devastating news. I’m not going to go into the detail of the many hospital visits and checks we have now had but suffice to say Helen has had breast cancer and three weeks ago she had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. The cancer was invasive although not formed into a tumor just yet. We have been extremely lucky. Nina has been told that ‘they are no longer looking for a cure for her’.
In the UK mammograms on the NHS begin at the age of 50 whilst in the NCI (National Cancer Institute) in the US recommend that all women over the age of 40 have a mammogram every 2 years. Both myself and Nina firmly believe that if she had taken the time to have a mammogram, paid privately, at the age of 40 and every few years thereafter then her cancer would have been discovered much earlier.
I have debated for some time whether or not to allow people who read my blog or receive my newsletters this personal information regarding my wife especially when there are some out there who, maybe quite rightly, warn of the sometimes over diagnosis of cancer but with headlines like the ones we have read this morning about the increased occurrence of cancer we have both decided to go ahead.
If my wife had waited another 5 years to have her first mammogram she undoubtedly would have been in a far more serious position and may not have been here to watch the children grow into adults. Our journey is far from over and there is more treatment to come but we feel so blessed that she had the check up when she did. I’m not suggesting that you need to rush out and pay for a private mammogram or have a full body scan as I want you to do your own research, read up about how to check for lumps if you are a woman, or your testicles if you are a man, look at the upsides and down sides of this preventative approach and make your own mind up. Look into your diet and look at the research that’s being carried out including what people are saying about how this modern living we have is influencing cancers. Lets face it, with around 3000 people receiving my newsletter, if the figures we keep hearing about are to be believed then there will be many of you who will develop one cancer or another.
Helen is now the envy of a couple of her friends because, as she puts it, “I’ve now got the boobs of a 25 year old”. In the week that Helen had her operation Anjelina Jolie announced that she had recently had had a double mastectomy which helped Helen who was terrified of the 10 hour operation she was about to have and although it’s not quite been as easy as Anjelina might be suggesting it hasn’t quite been as horrendous as we both imagined.
I urge you to pass this onto anyone you feel may benefit from reading it.