Month: October 2010

Stevie Kidd: An Exemplary Man

In the last few years I’ve had the privilege of meeting some extraordinarily gifted and brilliant individuals. From millionaires, to artists and singers, through to individuals who are just kind and wholesome, the mix has been inspiring, bewildering, challenging and uplifting.  Some of these people I have come to admire, learn from and marvel at.  Such a man is Stevie Kidd.

Stevie Kidd, an examplary man.

Picture him now.  A towering figure with a bald head, keen eyes and a mind that moves as fast as light and has been formed from hard experience, pure determination and powerful emotions.  He has in his eyes a hint of genius and maybe a look that some who don’t “get” him might call madness, but which I know is pure inspiration.  When Stevie is in the room, you know about it.  And when Stevie is in the room, he knows you know.

I cannot go into the details of everything that he does, nor the incredible and confident way that he generates a new idea and then puts his heart and soul into pursuing it.  Suffice to say that in 6 short years he has turned a £500 loan from his mother and a burning idea into a multi-million pound business, with divisions in training, distribution, care and personal development.  By the time I have written this piece, I am sure he will have added yet more elements to his business, and will have made further friends at high levels.  Stevie is the original unstoppable force who is making changes in people all around him.  One of his businesses gets the long-term unemployed back to work.  For him and his dedicated staff, this isn’t about figures, numbers or statistics.  In every case, and in every business interaction he has, it is the people that he cares about, and the people that he will push and challenge to make their lives better.

So let me give you three snapshots of the man.

Snapshot 1:

Midnight on a street in Earl’s Court, standing outside a Thai restaurant.  I have just noticed Stevie respond to some gossip around the table by standing up and walking out for a cigarette.  I read it straight away in his eyes: he wasn’t going to get drawn into showing anyone any disrespect.  So, instead, he walked out the door, his phone in his hand, and started to think about his next business venture. This is Stevie all over: he never stops or rests to bask in the glory of a moment, or to fritter a moment unproductively.

I join him on the sodium-light-flooded pavement, and we stand and talk a moment while he lights a cigarette.  He is thinking about the new things he has to do, about the new projects he is going to get involved in.  He tells me about the things that motivate him – about his role models – about his drive to want to help others.

And then, as we talk, two lads come down the road, one with a bicycle, the other on foot.  The smaller of the two is a skinny black kid of 14 or so, with thick NHS glasses on, all scratched up.  He squints through them at Stevie, and tries to get a cigarette off him, and then to get money from him to buy some cola.  He doesn’t appear to hold his attention on anything for any amount of time, staring around  him, and not listening when Stevie talks – but still hovers and flits around, somehow pulled in by Stevie’s manner.  The other kid is a taller, heavier white guy with freckles – about 15 years old, with  a quiet inward-looking presence, and looking a little lost, too.

Stevie holds firm about giving the pair of them money.  And then he starts on something that I begin to realise he does all the time.  He launches in at the two of them, engaging them in conversation, finding out what makes them tick, what floats their boats.  He drops ideas into their heads when one of them tells him he likes cars.  There are training courses for mechanics that young people can get on to, there are great things that he could do with his life.  But he does it in a roundabout way – holding their interest at the same time as putting ideas into their minds.  They talk together, these three, in a low-key way for 15 minutes, and then he lets them go.

He didn’t have to do it, but when they leave he turns to me and says: “I got the white kid thinking. Out here, now, that’s all you can do.  Plant a seed.  The other one, well, he had a lot of problems, I could see that. I hope something has got through.”

Snapshot 2:

Standing in the training room of the KDS Group, Glasgow, where Stevie Kidd has helped hundreds of long-term unemployed get back to work by putting them through his training programme, he is showing a group of us his offices.  We are standing around him as he goes through the photos on the wall of the different academies his company has trained.

He points out individuals one by one in the groups, relating their unique stories to us:  “This one, he had a really shitty childhood, and he didn’t know what to do with himself.  This one, she just had no self confidence.  This one, he was a kid without a sense of direction, and I shook him up big time.  All of these people are in work, thanks to us.”

He pauses a moment as his finger hovers over another photograph.  “This one, she…” he trails off and his story break offs.  I can hear his voice breaking, and I see him bend his  head, inhaling through his nose and then his mouth, to calm himself.  The emotion in him is so strong, and he takes a full minute to master his emotions, running techniques of self-composure on himself to stop being overwhelmed by his feelings.

After a while he says: “She had so much go wrong.”  He won’t reveal any more than that, merely telling us: “It was a terrible story.  But she is in work now.  She is working.  She’s okay. And she’s happy, at last.”

And as he says this, a renewed note of hope enters his voice and he wipes a tear from his eyes with the back of his hand.

Snapshot 3:

Interviewing Stevie Kidd in a London hotel for an article I am writing, and hearing him talk about his day. The passion with which he starts to talk about the lives he has touched that day, beginning at 5 a.m. by sitting with the staff in the hotel he is staying at and helping them to sort out the newspapers for the guests.  Heading out and inspiring his driver to do more with his life – even stopping at a bookshop to buy him the books he needs to take his career further.  In between meetings with politicians and businessmen, stopping at a newsagent and just getting the shopkeeper to smile.  In the evening, heading out for dinner and getting the staff in the Chinese restaurant to have fun and laugh.

And then, he leans closer to me as he grows more intense and his face and voice become more passionate now, he tells me of seeking out the homeless in parks in London, helping them to find a place to stay, before getting back to the hotel at 3 a.m.

It almost seems too much to believe, until I log in to his facebook account and see photos of each of the stories he has told me about.  I think about the sheer energy and passion in this man, and marvel at it…

Above are three snapshots, all tied together by a single theme.  Some people might call it philanthropy, some might call it care and respect.  But the theme is more neatly summed up in another way: People.

Whenever Stevie Kidd engages with a person, he expects them to engage back with a thousand per cent of their being.  He is a man driven by passion, and by extraordinarily strong emotions which flow through a body that has to be strong enough and powerful enough to contain them.

Some have described him as a “force of nature”.  I don’t think that.  I think he is an extraordinary individual, who cares about others from the bottom of his heart – and understands that business, like the rest of life – is made up of relationships.

And I believe that if you choose to learn that lesson, which lives at the heart of it all, it will make you not just rich – but also wealthy in the true sense of the word.

A Provincial Snob

Tonight I have just got back from one of those great moments that happen from time to time in the Banana Republic.

It was a fireworks show over the water, fired from ships lying straight off from the Wharf, and boy it was great stuff. We got to The Point in the rain, and stood for half an hour on the shingle, with the smell of the water and seaweed in our noses, and the shingle scrunching beneath our feet. And despite the rain and the chill, it was neither damp nor cold enough to dull my enthusiasm. You know, I have come to love the Island. I love the Banana Republic and all its foibles. Yes, I get frustrated and annoyed by it, but overall, it’s an honest sort of a city.

The Spinnaker Tower, at night
The signature of the city, in concrete

Waiting for the fireworks, I played on the shingle with Toby, a close friend’s son – cracking open glow sticks and pretending in the October night to be Darth Vader – swinging our light sabres and laughing as we duelled.

Then, as the time grew closer I fell into conversation with a pair of women – one of whom lived in Old Portsmouth. And it was then that I encountered the Provincial Snob.

I guess I should have known her from her aloof air as she stood beneath her brolly, frowning at us playing, rigid in her light blue jacket in the rain.  The Provincial Snob of this type is a very particular beast. Look at her now, with her mousey bobbed hair and the slight curl of the lip, so nearly a sneer. Notice the way that she looks around her with an expression of discontent on her face. But most importantly, listen to what she says.

This Provincial Snob says things like: “Yes, I live here, unfortunately,” and doesn’t have the self knowledge to know that she is creating her own unhappiness. A little moaner, always looking to find something bad to say about the surroundings that are simply not good enough for her, the Provincial Snob will not hear that the place where she lives has anything to recommend it. She is in her twenties and yet sounds like a long decommissioned battleship would talk. Living by the side of the sea, she is a sad old hulk, caught in the backwater and stuck in the mud. What a shame on her.

And of course, the thing that is so stupid about the Snob is that she lives in a lovely, picturesque part of Pompey.  A place where the old buildings were saved after the War.  A place where King Harry watched his ships from the ramparts, where “heroes innumerable” as the brass plaque tells it, sallied forth from the Sally Port, and where the body of General Wolfe was landed in a barrel of brandy after he was killed scaling the Heights of Abraham.

“I didn’t use to like Portsmouth when I was younger,” I told her. “I used to live in the country. But now I’ve moved here, it’s great. The characters are amazing. Some of them are nutters.”

“Yes, well that’s part of the problem, the people,” she says, the light in her eye the optical equivalent of chokedamp.

Aha! So, it would be a better city if it didn’t have people in it… Another part of the Provincial Snob’s mindset is that she doesn’t really know how to be comfortable around people.

And then there is the Tower. As the firework show starts up, the Spinnaker Tower begins to flash with all sorts of different lights. Looking at its pointy shape and the way it stand on two legs, I say: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Tower took off!? That would be one heck of a rocket!”

“That would be the best thing that could happen to it,” the Snob sneers back, that cynical look in her eyes, that flush of colour darkening her face more. This is something that she has wound herself up about, that’s for sure. “That shocking waste of money. And I paid for it with my taxes. It’s disgusting. I see it everywhere I go in this city, and it is the ugliest thing I have seen.”

Wow. She is so dark now. “Oh, I really love it,” I tell her. “It’s a great signature building. Like the Blackpool Tower it is instantly recognisable. It put Pompey on the map.”

That put Pompey on the map?! You don’t think that anyone knew that it was here before?”

Oh, such stupidity. “Of course they did. But it now has an icon – a brand. It’s great fun. And people come here to see it, and enjoy it…”

But now the real fireworks start in earnest. A little dinghy is puttering around the harbour, and is firing a barrage of rockets into the sky. Screaming in pinks and whites and gold and blue from a big mortar on the boat. And this is just the prelude.

There it is. An amazing spectacle. Bright colours, explosions, the crackling of fireflowers burning for an instant in the sky, the gold explosion of the fire that bursts and rains. Then the embers hanging like stars in the rainy sky.

The fireworks burst over the Island.

Oh, wonderful city. Oh little Banana Republic that sparkles in the night, and fizzes and whooshes. This is the joy of the winter night, and little 4 year-old Toby sits on his father’s shoulders with his mouth agape. He’s never seen anything like it.

Behind it all, that remarkable Tower, lit up, drawing people to it, like a beacon.

And one Provincial Snob, not knowing that those little everyday decisions that she’s made about what to love and what to hate, she’s got the wrong way round.

Because if you choose to hate a firework, then it lasts for two seconds. But you choose to hate a building, or a town, and overlook what it has to offer… well, then you’re going to have to carry on hating it for a long time. It ain’t going anywhere.  And that little loop of reinforced emotion is going to carry on growing, under the skilled guidance of someone who really knows how to do misery.  Filling up your life with petty and useless distinctions which might well reinforce your sense of who you are but which, in the end make you this: a person less able to enjoy yourself.

Remember that, each time you are tempted to turn your nose up at whatever you choose to belittle; and when you are tempted to judge without first wanting to know and understand.  Remember this too: that knowing how to use your judgement skills to improve and delight in a thing can make you a person who can improve every day – and into a person in whom others can take true, pleasure – for the world expands as your love of it expands.

Why would you choose to do otherwise?

Signs and Wonders, 1: Rodent Racers

Red Squirrels: the shocking truth revealed in this investigative article by Matthew Wingett.

While driving in the Lake District last year, this little beauty of a sign caught my eye.

Although clearly not addressed to me, I did marvel at the intelligence of the Lakeland red squirrel; firstly at its ability to read, and then at its paw/eye co-ordination.

I decided to make further investigations, and contacted the Office for National Statistics regarding the number of red squirrels killed on the road in traffic accidents.

The results are shocking.

It turns out that a large proportion of red squirrel road traffic accidents are alchohol related, with dangerously high levels of blood-alcohol being detected in 45.8 per cent of red squirrel road deaths.

It is disturbing for nature lovers like myself to realise that the bucolic idyll of country life has such a dark underbelly.

Along with high levels of alcoholism in the red squirrel community are other addictions, mainly to nuts and acorns.  Squirrels have a tendency to hoard their nuts in all manner of places.  In fact, a recent survey revealed stashes of nuts in a field near Worthing, up a pig’s anus and in a cumulo-nimbus cloud.

The Red Squirrel Road Safety Action Forum, the Penge-based group of militant socialist squirrel-fanciers and road users also point out that the British red squirrel is in decline due to heavier traffic volumes in the last few years.

“The red squirrel has not adjusted to the new road conditions, and still imagines that we live in the England of the 1920s, when other furry British mammals, such as Ratty, Mole and Badger did not drive, leaving the roads open only to aristocratic, non-hopping amphibians, and squirrels,” he informed me, while fixing me with a slightly intense stare.  “But since rats, shrews and even immigrant gerbils have taken to the road, the high speed antics of the British red have led to just one tragic result: car-nage.”

In a secret location at the Dog and Duck in Penge, the spokesman also hinted at more sinister reasons for the shocking decline of the British red.

“Let’s be clear about this, apart from not being able to see over the dashboard and press the pedals at the same time, which makes driving inherently dangerous for the British red, we have to bear in mind that most squirrel mechanics are greys,” he hinted darkly.

“The American grey has the body mass needed to replace wheels, lift engines out of engine bays and service vehicles.  And…” he supped on his Babycham and checked over his shoulder to see if any rodents were listening before continuing. “They like to gnaw.  On brake pipes.  I bet that’s a statistic not held by the ONS,” he slurred as I plied him with more fizzy alcoholic drinks once fashionable in the 1970s.  “You know why?  Because the ONS is run by greys, too.  It’s a conspiracy.”

I was distracted from our interview for a moment by the sound of feet scurrying away from a table nearby.  Whoever had been sitting there had left behind no clue as to whom they were, except for an empty bag of peanuts and a copy of The New York Times, from behind which, the Penger assured me, “they” had been listening.

A call to the ONS asking for details on the amount of red squirrel road accidents caused by gnawed brake pipes received only a stunned silence at the other end of the line.  A query as to the species balance in the government-run organisation was followed by a high-pitched Texan rodent voice aggressively asking me for my name and address.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Grey Squirrel Mechanics Alliance was unavailable for comment.


Last night, I was awakened by the sound of the clinking of tools outside, and I looked down from my bedroom window to see small, furry movements underneath my car. It was clearly a dream.  I will be taking a drive in the country later today.

Paul McKenna and Me 9: Constellation

The day went a darn sight better after that encounter with Roy. But I still felt as if I wasn’t quite in my body. Later in the day, I was sitting in the audience when Paul was discussing a particular NLP technique, and he came over to me and asked how I felt.

“I feel like my head is fucked,” I commented in front of the 400 or so people on the course, into his microphone.

He looked at me with a steady gaze, and then instead of interviewing me began to basically future pace me: that is to set out how it was going to be for me over the next few days. How I was going to learn this and do this, how I was going to feel better. He only pointed the microphone in my direction in order for me to agree with him… which was a good idea because I didn’t have anything coherent to say.

We pushed on, through the day. I was in this little whirl, inside myself – doing the NLP exercises, calmer now than I was before, but still confused, and still with that strange sense of not really knowing where I was or who I was. It was extraordinary.

Then, later on in the day, something unusual happened.

Michael Neill was on stage in the morning, teaching us about a type of hypnotic metaphoric approach called “constellation hypnosis”.

The constellation.
Constellation hypnosis: how to create a new picture of the future by joining the configuration of situations, events and desires in the client's life in a different way...

Essentially, in constellation hypnosis, the hypnotist finds out what the client’s current situation is, and then what result the client wants.  Then he asks what  things are getting in the way of the client getting those things and are preventing them from achieving their wishes, and finally asks what resources the client might have to help them get to what they want. This is the constellation of the client’s life – the inter-relationship between the different elements of their personal story.  It is the hypnotist’s job to take this information and distill these various elements down and convert them into a fairytale.  The purpose of the fairytale is to help the client realise that by drawing the relationships between the different elements in the story in a different way to the one currently experienced, that the client will begin to see a different picture – one of overcoming and empowerment, rather than helplessness. Thus the power of the story.

It was the strangest thing. As we were told what we were to do, I began to feel a sudden sense of panic rising inside me. Here I was, on this course, on which I had hoped to rediscover my writing ability, my sense of play in creativity – and now my bluff was being called.

I interviewed the woman I was working with, and then completely lost my nerve. We were working in threes, and when we sent Hazel out of the room to discuss what we were going to do next, I said the guy that I was going to work the ideas of the story out with: “James, I’m sorry, you do it. I just don’t think I can do this.”

James looked at me in surprise, and then began to sketch out some ideas. But even as he did so, I began to feel a sort of spin of excitement in my body. A completely new feeling, as something light began to move in my head. Hazel walked back into the room, and sat down. And then James moved to do the hypnotic induction.

I couldn’t help myself.

“James,” I said. “Let me do this…”

I’m back.

It’s been a little while since I wrote my blog, for a pretty good reason.

I’ve been away. I’ve got a lot to tell you about the things that I’ve been doing, but as a starting point, let me give you an overview of some of the great things that have been going on in my life.

Firstly, discovering France.

Okay, so I didn’t discover France; there are tens of million people there already. But really I discovered that France is okay. In fact, better than okay, it’s stupendous. I have become a Frogophile.

Then there was going up mountains, and jumping off them, and jumping into glacial meltwater and bobbing down rapids without any boat, and avoiding the rocks, and swirling in eddies and feeling the delicious joy of just cutting loose and finding out where the current takes me.

Cooking breakfast at the top of Monte Rose
Breakfast in high places

I found out more about the joyous sunshine that is caught in bottles of wine – and seeing how the genies that live in them grow on mountain slopes, on hills, in valleys – fattening in the summer sun, before that sunshine is trapped in a bottle and stoppered up with wood.

I ate snails before a thunderstorm and the next day watched others  promenade with their shells in the rain, and I stood eye to eye with oxen so big and so beautiful that they looked like drawings of animals; as if a cartoonist had thought: “Now, how do I make this creature look big, soft, huggable – and powerful all at once?”

I climbed into a volcano, and watched a silent sea of ice in its frozen flow down a mountainside. I saw the specks of mountain climbers and walkers moving beneath me on the ice as I hung from a cable above them.

I saw the palace a postman built straight out of his imagination, and the palace a river built from rain and lime, hidden in the darkest, clearest caves.

I have got so much to tell you about how life is amazing. And in due time I will do, now I’m back from my travels.

Thanks for bearing with me!