In 1968, I was down-and-out in London, when a chance meeting with two Irishmen changed the course of my life – taking me to Dublin and a fresh career as a busker on the City’s Grafton Street. Here, my confidence soared as I rose to the challenge of entertaining Irish pedestrians for a few hours a day. The applause, the compliments and the tinkling of coins offered stark contrast to the daily battle to survive and find a corner to sleep in on London’s vast network of narrowed streets. It was an exhilarating experience and the start of long journey of recovery and growth. But it was the realisation that I could hold an audience in thrall that was the real turning point. I was a performer. How lucky was I to make that discovery as a teenager? At school, I had been a lost cause and drama and music were not on my radar. Like art, they were seen as peripheral subjects – a nice add on.
That is more than fifty years ago. What followed was a succession of jobs ( too many to list) and a journey of many extraordinary twists and turns. Now, all that learning has given me a skill, a voice and a platform. I reach into people’s sense of who they are and what they can achieve at work and in life. That is a skill learned through a life of exhilarating highs and life sucking downs. What motivates me today is the knowledge that I do truly make an impact on the lives of my audience – else I would do something different.
People’s stories inspire me
Each year, through hundreds of emails, notes on scraps of paper and whispered conversations people tell me how I have inspired them to approach life differently, to rethink their value to the world, to take their personality to work and allow it to shine. I meet so many people, some as young as 12, who think their lives are in some way predestined. Every time, I disrupt that pattern of thinking I run the risk of releasing a hidden gem. I can prove what is possible. In a world of concocted theories, it matters that I am part of the story. It matters that I believe in people. It matters that I can see the same self-doubts I experienced in their eyes and their physical demeanor. It matters that I have worked in the lowest rungs of so many industries and led from the highest positions. It matters that I have made a thousand mistakes and failed at the first, second and third time of asking. But, most of all it matters that I have learned how to garner self-belief and impart it to others.
Young people leading
In a school earlier, last year I saw pupils from 10 to 17 years old begin to grasp that they are not passive consumers of what is dished out to them but have the ability to help shape their school, their community, their city and themselves. On these days, I met politicians, engineers, tradespeople, social entrepreneurs, chefs, doctors, actors, artists, inventors, industry leaders, carers, nurses, mass producers and small niche producers. Only thing was. They didn’t know it yet.
A strong economy is built by and with people. It is not built on property or money markets.
Hosting the fantastic Scottish Edge Awards at the RBS Conference Centre a year ago, I was again reminded that we have in our midst a growing entrepreneurial culture. It is thrilling to see so many fantastically inventive, courageous, talented and confident people creating businesses that can achieve global success.
Entrepreneurial public services
Imagine if that same entrepreneurial thinking can be realised across our public services. Rather than bury disruptive thinkers in cultures of burdensome bureaucracies, endless meetings and long and winding road decision making processes why not release their passions and ideas? How much could we achieve as a nation? How alert to the world possibilities that exists will our young people be? How much will we gain by averting rather than repairing persistent human tragedies? What imaginative collaborations we can create?
2019, is a year to bring our boldness and creativity to the fore and move from ‘Where’s the budget coming from?” to “What if we did it this way. Amid the mayhem of Brexit isn’t it time bring their wisdom and ideas to the top table?
One of Europe’s most authentic, exciting and persuasive speakers guaranteed to create a surge of energy that stays on peak well after he has performed. Mike has wowed audiences across the UK from Wick to High Wycombe and internationally from Ontario in Canada to Durban in South Africa. Mike’s journey from busker to multi-award-winning entrepreneur is a real tour-de-force and how he turns that learning into life-changing messages makes him a truly compelling keynote speaker, trainer or conference host.