Sunday, 19 May 2013

Fame Fades But Class Lasts Forever

Striding up towards me with an entourage in tail is a guy most of us have heard of before, he goes by the name of Sir Richard Branson. I shake his hand, then give him a quick brief of what’s to come. “Mate we’ve got an hour, the Vice Chancellor will introduce us, I’ll then talk for about 15-20, then I’ll do a Q&A with you before we open it up to the crowd. The audience is a mixture of high school kids and uni students, and some other Uni peeps.” We’d cleared all of this with his staff before the event, but in 6 words the whole landscape changes as our session gets cut in half when Richard responds simply, “okay sounds like 30 minutes will suffice.” Righto Jacky Boy 30 minutes it is, roll with the punches, let’s cut the speech back and get this show on the road.

We walk in and there is a rock star style round of applause when the crowd sees Branson. We hit the stage and away we go (I was just hoping that I didn’t have any snot in my nose, that happens sometimes). To view the AIME TV 20 minute exclusive Q&A click through here (

Then as quick as it kicked off we were done, we wrapped up, snapped a quick pic together, he was whisked away and then the final play of the game was Richard published an amazingly flattering piece on his blog about the event ( That was that, and I had a plane to get onto to get to Perth, the show must roll on.

Kickin it with Sir Richo
The reaction of people to fame has always puzzled me. I find myself looking at people, respecting what they’ve done, often being inspired, but never do I drift into the land of adoration. I think in that moment, you suddenly lose a little bit inside of yourself that says, I can be as good as anyone out there.

And it’s also not fair on the people we cast our dream narratives around. For example a few people said that Richard was not that inspiring in the session… and I couldn’t help but think maybe the lad was a bit tired after 40 years of travelling the world telling his story to all and sundry, and then becoming a symbol that people attach themselves too.

If you want to be inspired by Richard Branson, look at what he does when the cameras aren’t on, look at the 15 year old who just started writing, and will now help lead civilisation into space. That’s the inspiration. Is he perfect? Nope. Are any of us? Nope. But all we can do is wake up each day and try and be that little bit better. We can also try to give those people we adore or look up to the same chances we wish for, the chance to be human, to be flawed, the chance to make mistakes, and the inspiration and support to get back up off the canvas.

At the end of the day, the cocktail for success is a mixture of timing, luck, and a serious amount of hard work, drive and desire, and most importantly a willingness to make mistakes, and to learn from them. I often say to our team, it’s only a mistake if you make it twice, and I love the way Rocky Balboa captures this when he says in a scene with his son outside a diner in Philadelphia, “kid, in life it’s not about how hard you can hit, its about how hard you can get hit and keep going.”

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve met a seemingly endless supply of classy people, I went to see our new team kick off the program in Western and South Australia, shared a stage with the global popstar of business, received funding from the Minister for Higher Education, Sharon Bird, who was really impressive. I’ve checked in for the launch of MayDate, a new online dating service trying to raise money for charity. This is a really interesting business model, and the founder Dan Joyce is a seriously talented dude who also set up RedRoom DVD ( What I love about Dan, and people like him that have impressed me so much over the last few weeks, has been their willingness to think creatively, to explore the full gamut of options life has on the menu, and to do it all with a serious dose of integrity, honesty, humbleness and determination.

Uni SA Vice Chancellor, David Lloyd, Sir Richard Branson and me :)

Like David Lloyd, the Irish Vice Chancellor of University of South Australia, who in his late 30s is the youngest Vice Chancellor in Australia, and as one of his 1st moves he’s bringing people from all over the world together for an online UniJam facilitated by Microsoft to take in all the feedback, ideas, and views of everyone connected with the Uni… ( Innovative, visionary, funny and also he does the little things right, like replying to every email I flicked him last week within the hour, including on weekends, and he also followed through on every offer to connect me with someone he made. Often it’s the little things that add up.

I also saw success in the form of Tomzarni Dann and Marlee Hutton, two Indigenous Uni students in Western Australia who are working for AIME as casual national presenters. After the Branson mayhem, I found myself in a room at Curtin University for our 1st ever mentor training for AIME… AIME in Western Australia… When did that happen!

 With the Curtin Crew for Mentor Training One!
I looked around and saw the shirts everywhere, the hoodies ready to be handed out, the great bunch of young people streaming through the door. And then watched as these uni students were captivated by the stories of Tomzarni and Marlee who were reaching out to bring these uni kids with them. I couldn’t help but smile. If we can do this in Perth, we can do this anywhere in the world. Two other team members over there connected with the Curtin Program, Reece Harley and Lauren Cramb are also seriously impressive operators and a great example of the future this country can have when young, smart, driven and balanced people commit to working and creating a world that’s better for everyone around them. A world that’s left in better shape after they leave it, then when they arrived.

Branson is in a class of his own in terms of what he’s done, but I think the lesson I’m learning is that fame fades and class lasts forever. The world will always have impressive individuals who rise to the top and become beacons of what we think we can be, the popularised images of Oprah, Obama and Mandela spring to mind. We can learn from these people, but their messages are spread so thinly across the world that when we look at their posters on our walls, we almost forget they are human. We can’t seem to be able to fathom where to find the ladder that will help us be able to climb our way to a point where we can even imagine the lives they live. So we search, we reach, we tweet, but in the Tomzarni’s, the David Lloyds, the Marly’s, Reece’s, Lauren’s, and Dan’s of the world, we have our heroes on our doorstep. We have greatness in front of us every day.

You just have to look around you. Search for those diamonds in the rough. Search for those people who cling pigheadedly to hope and steadfastly to their integrity. Search for the people who within an instant of meeting them you want to be around them. And know that it is these people that can help you shine the light on the person you want to be.

They can help you take off the face paint you feel obliged to adorn every time you leave the house so you can reach for that person you think your meant to be. Put positive, honest and driven people around you, and you will find that the greatness that you are reaching for, the fame that seems so tantalising, the magic aura that the Branson’s of the world deal in spades. All of this starts with you being yourself, and loving the chance you have to tell the world a story no one has ever heard. Because the only thing that you have that is unique in this world, in this whole universe, is your story.

So don’t try and replicate the Branson’s, don’t feel intimidated by the greats, be yourself, write your own story, and put people around you that love you for that, and then watch the magic unfold.


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  2. Enjoyed the read Jack and I appreciated your honest appraisal. Keep up the great work you and the AIME team are about and achieving! Hoodie Day must be around the corner - wondering what colour will be this year!