“If I have seen further it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants” – John Salisbury [translation: D.D. McGarry 1985] (made popular by Issac Newton).
I had a flash back the other day to a time when I was 16. Unruly at school and bored in lessons because they did not inspire me; I had a high quantity and intensity of passion which had no direction.
Through luck, persistence and networking I have managed to attract several mentors to aid me in my journey. Some people are fortunate to have 1 or 2 mentors – I have more. “I don’t say this to impress you – I say this to impress upon you” (Les Brown) the fact that I have gone further than most would in my position. And if you do too, it will be worth your while.
From the ages of 16 to 21, I worked in a solicitors firm as a Civil Cost Clerk for a while, I decided to go back to college, I started off with A*AB in AS, I ruined all my progress in the second year due to many bad things I ALLOWED to get in the way of my studies, which was stupid of me. Luckily for me, I had enough UCAS points to get into a (now) top 25 university: the University of Kent.
Yet I did something which Confucius and the Deli Lama repeatedly imply is stupid, which is to dwell in the past. It’s something I’m still working and something I’ve nearly conquered.
1st year was hard for me mentally because I was still living in the past about what happened in my A-levels; refusing to be happy with being at a good university. 1st year was also very hard for me because that was when my Grandmother died; my last relationship was falling to bits. In 2nd year I started the Bright Futures society university; I had a new attitude to life in terms of positivity and things were going well. Then I was overstretched, overworked, doing too many things – burnt out. I found out my girlfriend was unfaithful on a serial scale. I felt that literally everything was crumbling around me – I had no value, I was worthless. These events combined lead to approximately 6 months of clinical depression.
Last summer I decided to google “famous people who failed” – to my surprise there were so many iconic names that appeared on my screen. In the West it seems (to me at least) that we always praise people who reach without recognizing the struggle they had to go through in order to become successful. After all, it takes an intense amount of pressure to change carbon into diamonds. They gave me hope – only a little – but enough to get me through my second year exams which I happened to do very well on.
In the end, I got better mentally, by valuing who I am and my mentors noticed the difference. I then started to see exponential growth in my progress in terms of how my relationships were going with my mentors and what I learned from them. I won’t go through the names of those famous people who failed at first but succeeded in the end – as you are likely to know many of them – and if you don’t – well… google is your friend!
I will now go on to the profiles of my mentors in the order I met them:
My first mentor – DVC (as he is known in the City) is an inspiring man. I met him at an event hosted by a friend who works at Barclays Wealth. He was impressed by my enthusiasm and tenacity (he said it – not me) because first, I researched who were the speakers at this event before the event took place and messaged him stating that I was very interested to hear his talk and asked if we could speak after his presentation. Fast-forward to the event… I wish you were there! His speaking style was flawless. He’d had many personal tribulations as a young man: being a black man in a not yet well-diversified and open society; losing his sister to leukemia; not going to university etc. Personal note: I don’t think there is anything wrong with not going to university – it’s not necessarily a great measure of intelligence or excellence – look at Richard Branson. He handed out CVs around the City; got his lucky break and has never left the industry since.
After his speech, I did indeed talk to him, and he stated that he was impressed that I followed up with my LinkedIn message and said I should come to his offices in the City in a few weeks. I did – I was unprepared – depression was all over me – he was not impressed but still gave me a chance since I was young. Harsh words – but I needed to hear them. I had the potential – with his help – to reach Championship level; but it’s up to me if I’m going to go the extra mile to reach the Premiership. Trust me ladies and gentlemen; I will make Premiership one day! Overall he is a great man, very inspiring, great motivational speaker and very wise indeed. You can check his TED Talk in TEDxSquare Mile on YouTube.
The one thing I must mention about the Barclays scheme I was on was that they had excellent speakers at their disposal who delivered excellent presentations. Paul was one of these speakers. He has worked in many beautiful cities all over the world and has a strange but wonderful fascination for Geography – especially clouds. He sat on my table after he spoke and was a real down to earth guy and quite hilarious with all his stories – but that doesn’t take away from his high-flying career and the senior position he holds at the bank. He’s invited me to his office several times and continues to mentor me.
This man is phenomenal. An Oxford Graduate who is a VP in Wealth Management after only entering the industry 4 years ago – it usually takes at least double that time for the majority of bankers to reach that level. You can imagine how much of a surprise it was to me when he messaged me on LinkedIn. We conversed – he invited me to his office. I couldn’t believe my luck! He’s very patient; a great listener; always gives invaluable advice and always tries to help. Most of all I love his etiquette and decorum. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess why he has made it to such a high level in such a relatively short amount of time.
When I first met Zaheer I thought he was a very serious man. After knowing him for a few months I realised that he is very serious about business but is quite humorous in down-time. Zaheer writes for the Huffington Post in regards to Trading; founded and runs a Trend Trading Company which teachers students how to trade called The Trader’s Cosmos. He’s been a full-time trader for over 5 years and started trading 8 years ago. The person who taught him how to trade was mentored by one of the original Turtles from the Turtle Traders Experiment in the late 1900’s. *I recommend you google this experiment if you do not know what I’m talking about – it’s a fantastic story.*
I have spoken to over 50 people about mentorships/internships/advice in my last academic year. Many said no; many gave excuses such as they don’t have time; many acted as sign-posts which frankly the internet was better at providing than they were. I write this because you will always be rejected. Everyone who was ever great has been rejected; but it is the perseverance to keep on going till they get what they want which separates the winners from the losers.
To end: will you be winner? Will you be a mentored or average?
Brown, L., 1998. It’s Not over till you Win. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc.
Salisbury, J., 1159. Metalogicon. Translated by D.D. McGarry., 1985. Massachusetts: Peter Smith Publication Inc.