FAQ – With a little help from our friends

Whatever we’ve achieved in life, it’s not been on our own, however ‘self-made’ we think we are…

It’s good to pause every now and again and recognise all the people who have helped us be who we are today, and who’ve helped us do whatever we’ve accomplished. 

Not only is it worthwhile to reflect and appreciate others, but it can really help us identify what we need to do to move forward in life, in business, and whose help we might need. 

Of course, there’s another side to that coin. Over our lives we will have influenced and helped many people in our personal and work lives. Part of our legacy is how that ripples across time – whether it’s with our peers, or friends and family. 

Arnie: Not a self-made man

I don’t know whether you’ve ever watched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s University of Houston Commencement Speech? It’s well worth 20 minutes of your time. 

It’s very ‘Arnie’ – talking about his incredible achievements, with a touch of humour, but it’s also deeply humble and appreciative. He says that many people hold him up to be a shining example of a ‘self-made man’. He arrived in the USA from Austria with little but a gym bag and a hungry attitude. He became wealthy in property before he became famous as Mr Universe, an actor, a politician. 

But despite all his fame and fortune, he deeply recognises that he’s had help with every single one of his accomplishments – people who’ve inspired him, who gave him a sofa to sleep on, who gave him an acting break in the movies…

Reflection and learning

Arnie’s speech has made me reflect several times over the past few years about all the people who have helped me. Teachers at school who sparked my interest in nature, science, and art. Managers at Brighton Council who encouraged me to learn technical skills and writing.
Lee, my first decorating boss, who taught me so much about all the fundamentals of painting and decorating.

Customers who gave me the chance to stretch my skills on bigger and bigger projects. And now, video producers and photographers who have worked with me, inspired me, and swapped skills. My accountant, my business coach, my employees… Over time I’ve learned so much from books, blogs, courses, YouTube videos. I’m sure you have too. 

It’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come, how much we’ve learned – whether it’s life lessons, skills, business experience, and learning about relationships. 

Thank you lists

Like Arnie, I’ve started a list of some of the people who’ve helped me. It’s made me think about what I’ve learned in my 50-something years. Some of the memories bring up emotions of difficult times – but it’s often those times that make us resilient and stronger. I encourage you to do the same – to recognise those who have inspired you, guided you, given you a hand up, fixed you, supported you. It can be family, friends, work colleagues, complete strangers, well-known people… The point of the list is to recognise how far we’ve come, and who’s helped us to get to where we are now. 

Now start a second list, a list of people who you’ve helped in life and work. How often do we recognise our own contributions to people’s lives, and to society? 

Thank you lists

The point of all this is to realise how interconnected we are, how much we depend on each other. However strong and independent
we might be, like Arnie, we depend on each other. So where do we want to go from here? What do we want to achieve in work and life? What do we want our contribution to be? Who’s help might we need? And who can we help?

Do we want to build a bigger business, or create a secure and purposeful retirement? Do we want to have trained some young people in how to be skilled and honourable tradespeople? 

As part of society, as part of the world of decorating, our legacy in life is not just ours alone – it’s woven into dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other lives. We may never get to be a Mr Universe, a Hollywood actor, or multi-millionaire, but we can still make our legacy a good one.

We can do it with a little help from our friends.