The people who have influenced me may surprise you but when I think of them it makes me smile

Published by tim-isherwood on

I was listening to the speaker, John, talking about the books he had read on how to be happy. All written by people who had been at Google or some other major global company. The speaker seemed to be heavily influenced by these authors and it made me think. He also mentioned he was from Glossop, this was interesting because I am from Hayfield just the other side of the hill from Glossop.

Whilst listening to stories about the “wunderkind” from big international companies I thought about the people through my life that have truly influenced me. Whenever I think about them it brings a smile to my face. These were the people that taught me the lessons in life very simply and very quietly. These are people that I think about regularly and remember with deep affection. It is these types of people that we fail to remember as we click on the more successful, important and latest celebrity business person.

Let me tell you a couple of stories to illustrate my point but let me warn you in advance if you are committed to the modern view of Health & Safety you had probably better look away now.

I had an extremely privileged upbringing. I am part of a family that from the late 1800s ran paper mills in Lancashire. Anyone who has experienced growing up in a family manufacturing business will immediately recognise the situation, as from a very early age all my spare time was spent at the Mill. Paper Mills are fantastic places, I still love the smell and activity and I find it depressing that despite us using more paper than ever before, this country now has only 40 Paper Mills left in operation. When I started work in the mid 1970’s there were nearly 400.

Early on I was fascinated by the vehicles that operated in the Mill. Jack was the man who moved the coal that feed the two massive Lancashire Boilers that powered the Mill, this was done with a Fordson Dexta Tractor which had a bucket on the front. I spent a lot of my time sitting on the mudguards of the tractor but by the age of ten I was driving with Jack alongside (probably very nervous) on the mudguards. By the age of twelve I was competently driving and reversing the tractor with the trailer that seemed to be permanently attached.

To successfully reverse a tractor and trailer requires good attention, spatial awareness and at first a huge amount of “if you at first don’t succeed try again – again – and again” It’s called perseverance – one of the best lessons you can learn in life.

By the age of 16 I had progressed to working school holidays at the Mill and during the Wakes week of 1972 my elder brother, Simon, and I were painting the sprinkler system. This was to earn the money to buy our InterRail tickets, 1972 was their first year of issue which was to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the European Federation of Railways and were costing a massive £27.50 for four weeks unlimited rail travel in Europe, anyway back to the sprinklers.

As we dragged planks across the girders high above the paper machine I suggested to Simon that perhaps we should be getting danger money for working so high, he suggested talking to Abby, the Mill’s company secretary. So at the next tea break I wandered across to the office to see Abby. He didn’t know the height at which danger money was paid but he told me he would look into it and he asked me to call in at the end of the shift.

Just after the end of the shift I was again in the office with Abby. “What height are you working at?” I had come prepared “27 feet 6 inches” I said.

Abby looked me straight in the eye. “That’s a shame. Danger money starts at 30 feet.”

I am still not very good at negotiating but I do now recognise that sometimes it is better to answer a question with another question.

At the end of the talk I asked the speaker if he remembered the heated seats around the edge at Glossop baths, as a child my brother and I used to catch the bus to Glossop to go swimming. John turned to me with a smile and said “I do. Do you remember the swimming coach?” It proves my point really.

You should try and think about who your true influencers were, the people who really taught you the lessons in life. I can assure you it will bring a smile to your face and those who have read about the work of William James will know that a smile is the place to start.


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