From 30 Schools to One Villa

This is my villa in the Algarve in Portugal. As impressive as it is, I want you to know this was not an overnight success and you should be sceptical of such stories.

BHAG / BFG

All my life, I have wanted more. This is no surprise, really, and as you can tell from the title and as I will explain a little later, I started without a lot to begin with.

You have likely heard of the importance of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a phrase coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in the book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.” I have never liked the acronym BHAG; instead, I prefer to use BFG, Big F****** Goal, as it seems more genuine and authentic.

For a long time now, my BFG has been to buy a large villa in Portugal for my family and I to enjoy, something achieved this year. I will include some photos and details later in the article as it’s something people ask about when I share my story, but there is more to this post than just me showing off my success. Yes, I want to inspire others and let them know that if they set their minds to it, they can, with a lot of hard work, achieve their ambitions, but there is more to it than that and I want to give a little context. My hope is you will learn something, not only about me and my story but about yourself.

In fact, this is more than just a blog post from me. This is a deeply personal sharing of who I am, my history, and some of the pain I went through the get here.

I do so because I think it is important that people know the truth about success and the lies that often surround the sale of it.

Success Sells

Success sells, the gurus out there promising to tell you their secret to success know this. Videos from their garage showing you their sports cars, or photos from a yacht and a call to action to sign up for their webinar to learn the various hacks needed to get your own Lamborghini or boat. And, on some level, I understand that. My mentees often buy into me because, in part, I’ve carved out a level of success that they aspire to achieve themselves.

I certainly doubt I’d be working with so many talented people right now had I not at least worked some of these things out and been able to demonstrate a degree of achievement. But I’m no guru, and I can’t guarantee success with a few hacks. Even with the sharing of the knowledge I picked up, my mentees have to work hard to see real results, just like I did.

These gurus, whoever they are, all worked hard to get success. They had to fight to get where they are today, sometimes literally. But as a narrative that doesn’t sell $59 signups to a Hustlers Academy – no one wants to lose their money and have to work. No, we effectively want good, fast, and cheap.

Fear Motivates

Whilst success sells, fear is often the real driver behind success.

I know that with me, it has always been the case. Even today, as I write this from my villa, thoughts invade my mind about losing it all: the cost of the children’s school fees, payroll, the rising cost of living, what would happen if I got seriously ill etc.

Fear is always there, rearing its ugly but welcome head, reminding me to never let up, to never stop pushing and pushing. Complacency is probably my biggest risk right now, so I welcome that fear. I need it, and it has served me so very well. If you can relate to this at all, I encourage you to embrace fear as a motivator for positive action.

Rags to…comfortable?

The old adage and cliché rags to riches comes to mind when I think of my journey, except for the fact I’m not rich. I certainly don’t feel rich anyway, although it’s true I’ve built a life many do not achieve. Perhaps a better title would be Rags to Comfortable, but again, I don’t feel comfortable. My very being is driven by being uncomfortable, restless, on the move, and always seeking out new and exciting things. Again, driven by fear, I’m never truly comfortable.

This restlessness is so much a core part of who I am, that a few years ago, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD, something that came as no real surprise to anyone that knew me. I’m both grateful and annoyed at having ADHD, because on the one hand it is part of my psychological makeup that drives me, but on the other hand it means I can never be still, happy and complacent.

Rags

As a child, I was mostly raised by my single mother, a paranoid schizophrenic drug taker, and occasional alcoholic. I’ll spare the gruesome details, but it wasn’t a nice upbringing, and there was plenty of trauma that I had to unpack later as an adult. I think looking back, the biggest issue for me was I didn’t eat every day. I certainly didn’t think I would achieve anything at all with my life and I always, for some weird reason, thought I’d die at 23. I wasn’t sad about the prospect, I didn’t really have anything to live for anyway.

My father was never around, he was a heroin addict, and he died when I was 17, something that impacted me deeply for decades. My mother spent most of her adult life on the run from my phantom father, someone she was convinced was domestically abusive, even though we never saw him, so my siblings and I spent most of our childhoods in women’s refuge shelters. My siblings and I also spent time in care homes and foster care, caravans and poor housing estates, and we moved all around the country, never staying in one place more than a few months at a time. In total, I attended between 25-30 schools; I’ve honestly lost count. I was bullied and beaten and psychologically abused pretty much everywhere I went.

Why am I sharing this with you? After all, it might even put off a few people from working with me, and let’s be honest, that is my ultimate aim here – to help more mentees build a successful life. I am sharing this because it cannot be understated that success takes hard work, but all we see is the end result. We don’t see the journey and the pain people go through to achieve success.

This is by design since the journey to success is far less appealing and sellable than the prize at the end. If these gurus are so rich and successful, why are they so heavily marketing their courses and books? I have been honest and said the reason I produce content like this is part of an overall marketing strategy I have in order to reach out and help more people. As relatively successful as I am, I cannot work with my mentees for free, although I do a considerable amount of free work with those that cannot afford my services. My point is, be wary of anyone that seems excessively successful, but at the same time invests heavily in selling the path to success.

Riches (someone else’s)

At the age of 15, the police and social services put my mother in another mental hospital, and I was forced to go to a foster home. But this one was different. It was a huge manor house out in the countryside owned by a kind Englishman and his Filipino wife. I spent a few happy years with a kind family of Filipino and Afro-Caribbean siblings. The house itself was like nothing I ever experienced, a huge garden, outer buildings, vast rooms, and amazing countryside views.

I wanted something like this for myself one day, perhaps with a family of my own. My foster dad in particular, coached and mentored me, showing me that if I could dream it, with a lot of hard work, I could achieve it. The rest that happened over the following couple of decades was exactly that, and the home I have now was a dream inspired from that time. To me, it’s nice to think that a lot of my success actually stems from my troubled childhood and disadvantaged background. Somehow, this kind of makes it more tolerable.

The Villa

So, with that out of the way, this is my place. It’s based in the Algarve, the westernmost tip of Southern Europe and is one of the sunniest places in the world with over 300 days of 10-hour back-to-back sunshine.

The villa itself looks old, but it’s actually only 15 years old, being traditionally styled and custom-built to very specific requirements optimised for its particular location. It’s a huge 3-story building, and whilst my family and I are only using 3 bedrooms at the moment, the building itself has many rooms that could be repurposed into more or even potentially turned into two or three apartments. I’ve just counted, and there are actually 26 rooms throughout the villa, including the outer building and pool room. It’s even got a panic room, not that we ever expect to use it. We have planning permission to extend it further and plan to build a large master suite on the top floor once we have fully settled in.

One of the things that attracted us to this house was the garden, which is 1 acre in size, big enough but also manageable and we have so far resisted the urge to get a gardener, largely because its good exercise and my wife and I now easily hit our daily targets of 10,000 steps. We have lots of plants, palm, olive and carob trees, and a few lime, lemon, and orange trees, something we are planning on expanding. We have distant sea views and can get to the beach in just over 20 minutes. I can get to the airport in about the same time, handy for my UK business trips, which I tend to do about once a month or so.

My favourite rooms in the house are my studio, office, and gym. My wife also has an amazing art studio where she does her illustration work, and the best view of all of the house.

Your BFG

There are 3 things I want you to take away from this article.

Firstly, please don’t buy into the gurus out there that constantly brag about their swag. Personally, I feel a bit uncomfortable even sharing my story here, but it helps me make a valid point. Whilst we gravitate to success, as it evidences an ability to achieve it, not only can it be faked, the journey itself is hidden – only the end result is shown and packed up to sell.

The people I know that are incredibly successful, volunteer their time, they don’t sell it, certainly not for peanuts. I’m personally not at a point in my life where I can just give all of my time away for free, but it is something I’m working on and I currently have 3 unpaid roles with charitable organisations and often help mentees without charging that cannot afford my services. Do the gurus releasing videos of their Lamborghini in their garage do this? No, but you know who does? People like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson – real success stories and people with time and money to spare. Bill Gates doesn’t want or need your $59 to buy into a pyramid scheme.

Secondly, I think it’s important to set goals. Small ones yes, but a nice big goal too, a BFG. This will act as your North Star and remind you why you are working so hard, something so very important in the long run. Do you have your own big goal? If not, it might be worth thinking about what that might be. What could you achieve that would give you a sense of having finally made it?

Finally, if I can achieve my goals, given where I started out (and I omitted a lot), then what is stopping you? One thing I see time and time again with my mentees is self-limiting beliefs and imposter syndrome. These are real things but sometimes you just need to get out there and start working on your dream. As the saying and famous book title goes, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.

I know that for me, now that I have achieved my BFG, I need to find a new one. I look forward to the next adventure!