Thursday, February 12, 2009

Living Abroad Matters 14 - Spotlight Mike Harris

Innovative, Creative, Amazing People
I can’t even imagine one billion. That’s a thousand million, isn’t it? So understandably I was nervous and awe-struck at the prospect of interviewing a famous business leader who has built four companies from nothing into empires worth billions of pounds (not even Aussie dollars, we’re talking strong English pounds here!) This is beyond my comprehension!

Son Daniel had arranged the interview with Mike Harris, a really lovely, gentle and modest man, despite his remarkable achievements, and I was to write up a feature for the XL magazine and other UK business publications. It was such an honour and privilege and yet I felt way out of my league.

So the first thing I did was prepare REALLY well. Okay I probably OVERDID it! I studied Mike’s bio and website in depth, read all his blogs and took myself off to my favourite spot by the fountain at Hyde Park to swat up on his book, Find Your Lightbulb. Big confession: I usually find business books dull and boring but I was surprised to discover that Mike’s book is full of delightful anecdotes and metaphors and makes for really captivating reading.

It is an unselfish and generous book that shares wisdom gained through his astonishing career. His innovative internet banking company with the quirky name, Egg was floated on the London Stock Exchange for £1.3 billion just two and half years after he started it!

Now I might not be able to get my head around these lofty figures or the complexities of the corporate world but I recognise an opportunity for corny puns when I see it! So I rose to the punning challenge like it’s an Olympic sport and discovered Mike has heard them all countless times. Believe me he was not eggxactly cracking up with the yolk, nor was his brain scrambled or fried. He just wanted to hatch a great idea!

But back to that afternoon in the park; I appreciate Mike’s book because it’s all about helping people explore their goals and dreams. He says imagine your life story as the script of a soap opera; a real drama! Write the last chapter first so that no matter what twists and turns and complications you experience along the way, you ultimately get to the happy conclusion. He also suggests you cast yourself as the Star in your own movie, rather than an Extra!

I really enjoyed writing my own script and asked myself who would play me in my life story! Meg Ryan of course! She is warm, cute and loveable (a human Labrador puppy). She is flawed, genuine and expressive but she gets her guy in the end, the adorable Tom Hanks. So from today I am starring in my own version of You’ve Got Mail wearing Meg Ryan’s funky cardigans and baggy pants!

When I asked Mike which Hollywood actor would play him in the story of his life, he sheepishly admitted it used to be Harrison Ford, the understated hero, but these days he’s leaning towards that debonair heart throb George Clooney! His wife, Sue certainly sees him that way after 37 years of happy marriage and no doubt he is a hero to his two adult children.

So why don’t you write the script of your life story? Who would play you? What kind of qualities does this actor have? So how does your story end? I wrote a long list of goals that afternoon in the park and I have gained clarity and direction. It is also a fun approach to life too.

Mike is an internet enthusiast and he believes the World Wide Web is in its infancy. He says: “What we are seeing now is only child’s play but in the next 10 years we will see a massive transformation.” This is good news for those of us who embrace the internet as a means of communication and the ultimate means to market and distribute products and services globally.

The revolutionary innovations of our times are created by visionaries who can see a future no-one else can. Creative inventors dream big dreams beyond the imagination of most of us. Mike recalls back in 1975 when Bill Gates’ big dream was to see a PC on every office desk and one in every home. Everyone thought ‘What a load of rubbish. That’s never going to happen!’

Bill Gates was ahead of his time. In the same way, Mike was a visionary in 1997 when he set an outlandish goal for Egg to have 10 million internet banking customers in the UK. At the time there were only half a million people connected to the internet! Needless to say Mike achieved his impossible goal.

So yes, I was indeed privileged to chat with a brilliant business leader and write a colourful feature and Triumphant Events will host a series of seminars with Mike for budding entrepreneurs who dream of achieving great innovations.

Living in London, we are surrounded by the creativity of talented people. Thanks to Mike’s recommendation in his Blog, we found ourselves at Jersey Boys on Saturday night. We turned up at the Prince Edward Theatre in bustling Soho just half an hour before the start and managed to land tickets! Having been starved of culture on the Sunshine Coast (with apologies to the Caloundra RSL!), Andrew and I are devouring the cultural feast this city offers.

The fast-paced musical tells the riveting story of a bunch of Italian lads from the wrong side of the tracks of ‘Noo Joisey’ who become the legendary 60s band Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. What a voice! The actor who plays Frankie sings like an angel in that unmistakable soprano unleashing a torrent of feel-good songs such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Earth Angel, Rag Doll, Oh What A Night. The songs are so contagious it is impossible not to sing along.
You know you loved a show when you could see it again and again. I try to imagine what it must be like to perform in such a demanding musical night after night, giving your very best to thrill an audience. It must be exhausting but also deeply fulfilling to be part of such a massive team of creative people who work closely together to stage such amazing productions; the pinnacle of human creativity. How blessed we are to be soaking it up!

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