There is something very relaxing for me about reading the Sunday Times. When I get up on a Sunday, I turn on my tablet, download the News, Sport and Business sections and eat my breakfast whilst reading. It takes me just over 2 hours in total to read them and connects me with the world again. I’ve found it even more important over the last 8 months as I’ve got used to a new country. The Sunday Times has kept me up to date with the old one, whilst the Chicago Tribune teaches me about the new.

I enjoy the business section. I always find more important lessons in an interview with a businessman, or a review of his work, than many hours of classroom teaching. Too much time can be spent strategizing rather than studying how things really work. However, too often the stories over-emphasize the concept of the self-made man. There is no such thing.

Richard Branson may have done amazing things with his career. As has Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and many others over the years. But, none were self-made. Even someone coming from a poor background wasn’t self-made. He was helped by the country he grew up in, his parents, his friends, the tax system. If Richard Branson had been born into a poor family in Somalia, his career trajectory would have been different.

It is the same thing with me. It would suit a great narrative to say that I was self-made. I don’t come from a family with a lot of money. I was the first in my family (direct, indirect) to pass the Eleven Plus and go to grammar school, the first to go to university, to move away from Northern Ireland etc. It could be a tale of a guy who came from humble beginnings and pulled himself up on his own. But, it just wouldn’t be true at all.

As with all of us, my story started before I was born. My parents were born to much humbler backgrounds than I was. They both left school at 16, but got jobs soon after, my mum as a clerk and my dad as a baker. They saved all they could and bought a house and raised 3 children. Due to the terrorism in Belfast, the police were recruiting and my dad managed to become a policeman and improve our situation. My mum continued to work in numerous roles through our childhood, with a number of years when one would get home and the other would head off to work.

School was seen as very important and my dad pushed us all hard, especially me as the first born. I was taught the importance of hard work and always trying. I was a gifted child and unusually adult for my age, but they kept me focused and entertained. They over-extended themselves financially to buy us presents for Xmas and for my ice skating, at one point getting into financial difficulties. However, it was never less than the way they wanted it.

I could claim that I got where I am because of my own hard work, but it would only be half the story. The other half was that my parents helped get me there as well because of their support and love. In reality, I’m only where I am today because of all the sacrifices they’ve made through the years.

Even now, they spend their time helping look after my sister’s child Chloe, or assisting her financially when they can. My dad is still driving around in his car picking up my brother or sister when they need it. I know my dad and mum are proud of me and I just wanted to let them know I’m proud of them too.

Lots of love, your son Will.

 

“If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.