29 September 2020
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Bob Geldof's best advice: "f**k off"

Peter Switzer
29 January 2016

From the Weekend Switzer archives

A few years back a colleague, who was struggling with her business challenges, cynically asked why business conferences will ask non-business types – sports stars, rock stars, former heroin addicts, paraplegics, mountain climbers, and so on – to address a group of business owners or executives.

Once upon a time here in Australia, a business group had the former lead singer of the Boomtown Rats – Sir Bob Geldof – address them. These guys and girls were mortgage brokers and real estate agents and Sir Bob, who has not really run a business, gave one of the best bits of business advice I have ever heard. In fact, on reflection, it was advice that has powered me along in my business and other endeavours of my whole life.

At the conference Sir Bob was asked by a young journalist, who actually worked for my company, what was the best bit of advice he was ever given, that could help the business people at the conference? His answer was: “F-ck off!”

The answer quite shocked the young woman and she failed to understand that his reply was not an insulting reaction to her question but in fact was his considered answer.

Some weeks later, another journalist (who wasn’t quite so phased by Sir Bob’s rude reply) recounted the story in a newspaper article and pointed out that the old rock singer and humanitarian campaigner had argued that every time someone told him to “f-ck off” it made him determined to succeed.

We all need prompts, kicks in the pants or words of wisdom that jolt us out of our complacency, if we want to succeed in our careers, grow a great business, create a nice pile of wealth or be a great role model for our kids or employees.

An insult or a kick in the pants could be the jolt that wills you to change your story, as Tony Robbins recommends. Of course, this kind of inspiration doesn’t suit all personality types, though it has been useful to me as someone who likes to get even with anyone who doles out total injustice to Peter Switzer!

When I’m asked to speak to business groups, I often refer to Edward de Bono, whom I interviewed years ago who said the high achievers of the world in business, the arts or sport, even politics, are people who think outside the square. They look at their rivals and make sure they’re able to out-compete them.

Undoubtedly, our former PM, Julia Gillard made that assessment when she made a run for Kevin Rudd’s job.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of the best business builders this country has produced and just listening to these high achievers always have made me go back to my own business and simply try harder and work smarter.

In 2010, I took my TV show to the Shanghai Expo where we broadcasted from the wonderful Australian pavilion. Upon entering, the 30,000 visitors a day were exposed to the icons of Australia and one of the more prominent was a huge photo of our world surfing champ – Layne Beachley.

The so appropriately-named Beachley won the world championship seven times and no woman had ever come close to this and she did it from a very challenged childhood, which could have seen lesser-types go off the rails or at least under-achieve.

And as a retired champion, she tried to inspire others with her Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation, which sought to inspire girls and women around the country.

Sometimes former sporting champions have a crack at business and aren’t able to  achieve the same success as they had in sport. However, that’s not to say they don’t have a great story to inspire others. Their business under-achievements could be because they don’t have the passion for business that drove them to the top of the tree in their chosen sport but it doesn’t mean that their story can’t inspire others in business.

And this is the critical message that I’ve discovered over the years of talking to high-achievers in business and sport and after reflecting on my own successes and failures.

You have to have passion for what you’re doing to push yourself through the pain barriers to get outside your comfort zone to rack up results that make you stand out from the crowd.

The best performers in the world get the best help from experts, who know more than them. They use personal trainers to look good and feel good. They use business coaches or executive coaches to get the edge in business. They employ financial advisers to invest wisely to make sure that the hard work in business results in peace of mind for their wealth in the future.

They have the best accountants to minimise their tax legally and they have the best lawyers to ensure they get good advice when it’s critically important.

These people have the guts to spend on getting an edge but they’re diligent with their cash flow management.

And most of all, they have the desire to win. That’s the value of inspirational people – they can make you dream of success and can sometimes actually change people forever.

An inspirational man on fire!

I want to give you some advice I received from an exceptional man I MC'd a few years ago at a business conference, once again in Shanghai. His name is John O’Leary and he regularly emails me with inspirational takes on life and he always ends it with “the best is yet to come”.

Now I know when things aren’t going the way you’d like them to go in your business, your career, with your wealth-building and even your personal life, it’s understandable that you might read these words and say: “Sure Switzer, you don’t know what I’m going through, so blow it up your butt!”

Now note I said this reaction can be understandable but I’d advise that it’s neither wise nor productive.

If you don’t like your results or output, look at your inputs. Clearly, if you’re getting the same despicable outputs, you need to change the inputs. Having a belief that you can turn around your success rate has to be a smart starting point.

Let me sum up John O’Leary’s life to try and win you over to my point of view.

When I met him, he looked like he’d been through a butcher’s mincemeat machine yet he absolutely sparkled with self-belief and exuded a willingness to help everyone who entered his space.

As a nine-year-old, a garage experiment went terribly wrong and his family not only lost their house, their wonderful little boy, who was filled with so much promise, was burnt to a crisp!

After 18 weeks in hospital and after losing his fingers to amputation and being covered from head to toes in bandages, as well as being tied down to a hospital bed and unable to walk, he admitted that he didn't really feel like he could do anything with his life.

Enter his doctor, Dr Vitale, who had a better vision for young John and this is what he said and his young patient has never forgotten it: "John, you may not be able to be a court reporter, but you can be a lawyer or a judge. You may not be able to play baseball again, but you can be a manager or own the team. You may not be able to be a carpenter, but you can be a general contractor and build incredible things. John, if you want to get married and raise kids and have an incredible life: you can! You are a remarkable little boy, you can still live an amazing life, and the best is yet to come for you!"

You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to work out that this is an inspirational story worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. More importantly, it underlines two important things.

First, we all need to seek out inspirational experts in our lives, be it your accountant, your financial planner, your life coach, your business mentor, your personal trainer or whoever you need to help you be the best you can be.

Second, you have to be open to the advice and the visions they can share with you. It means you have to be able to beat the negativity that holds so many of us back and be open to the possibilities that are always there if you are positively-inclined to see it.

John O’Leary was a lucky young man to have had a Dr Vitale in his life but it is a powerful message to all of us is that you need to put yourself in the best of company – even if it costs you money to do so.

Too many people dismiss the power of positive thinking but John O’Leary is not just an highly paid, internationally sought after inspirational speaker but he is married, he has kids and he is living the dream that most of us would love to live.

And where did it come from? That’s easy – he believed Dr Vitale’s advice that “the best is yet to come for you”.

As the movie Field of Dreams told us: “If you build it, they will come.”

Build a positive approach to life and a collection of good influences and good things will come. Yeah, and even a well-timed f..k off can be useful!

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