What is success and what is failure? And who has the right to measure it? I know, I know – bit deep for a Wednesday morning. Thing is, I am really stuck on this question after yesterday. Went to Enterprising Women Awards and heard Emma Harrison, multi-millionaire and owner of A4E, speak.Now, Emma is clearly an amazing lady – a sort of cross between a female Lord Sugar and Sheffield’s answer to Mother Theresa – and no doubt the most phenomenal success story. Her talk was natural, fascinating and funny. But that’s not what has my mind whizzing back and forth. Emma was utterly dismissive of people who haven’t got the confidence to do something. She believes one should just get on and do it, noting that she herself was very nervous about doing the speech. However, this is from someone who told – very wittily – a story about how she had been in with Gordon Brown recently and run into David Cameron in the corridor afterwards, gone straight up to him and said: “You need an hour of my time, too.” Now, I am sorry, but while Emma may get nervous about public speaking, we are not talking about someone who is lacking self-confidence. Her top tip was to have a mentor. She asked the room who had a mentor, and when about half the audience put their hands up, extracted a somewhat cheap laugh by informing the rest of us: “I am sorry, but you are going to fail and we should all feel sorry for you”.
I found this a pretty shocking comment at an Enterprising Women do – a group committed to encouraging women in business. Now, for various reasons, I have never had a mentor (though the amazing Bev Hurley of Enterprising Women – and also good friend – comes close). I run only a small company but have achieved a modicum of success, including being the current holder of the National Sales Decade of Excellence Award, of which I am incredibly proud. Not only do I not have a mentor, I also suffer from such crashingly low self-confidence that it has brought me to the edge with depression and suicidal thoughts once or twice in my life. I will never ever be in the same league as Emma Harrison – not even close. Much of the past 24 hours has been spent questioning if I even have the right to argue with her comments. I have, though, been working bloody hard on my confidence with my business coach. Every day, he asks that I read “my success book”. Every day, I struggle with it. But I know that even though I am mini-league business-wise, I have – without a mentor – made a success of things in many people’s eyes, against some odds. In doing so, I provide employment for 30-odd people. I am sorry, Emma, but if I can keep progressing on working on myself and at least ensure security for them, overall I reject your tag of failure.
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