A birthday letter to my 22 year old self

Well done. You made it to 42, so happy future birthday! It’s 1997 and you’re 22 years old – you think you’ll be old and decrepit in 20 years’ time but in fact you’ll feel in the prime of your life. Right now however, you have a LOT to learn…

You’ve just finished University and barely scraped a second class honours degree. Not surprising really as you’ve never been naturally academic, but you do try hard and it’s frustrating to watch others achieve higher marks with seemingly little effort. You’ll secretly blame this on being placed in the worst secondary school in Wales when your family upped sticks and moved from the drudgery of a failing Port Talbot to the bright lights of Cardiff. But don’t worry, average marks won’t make a difference in your future, and you’ll come to realise that academia is not the be-all and end-all as you currently think.

In fact, in the future, you’ll realise that the tough council estate school that you attended, where avoiding knifings and dealing with thieves and glue-sniffers on a regular basis made you sharper and more streetwise than you would have otherwise been, and you’ll find peace in that. Despite being a short-arse, you’ve never taken crap from anyone and that won’t change; you’ll be able to handle yourself in tough situations and you’ll be able to keep your head where all around you people are losing theirs. At the moment you don’t know much (despite the fact that you think you do) but you’re willing to learn and you’ll have to work hard. That’s OK with you because you’re no stranger to to hard work, you’ve earned your own money since the age of 11 delivering newspapers and milk, washing dishes, working in bars and restaurants, doing whatever it took to finance whatever your plans are at the time, and you’ve always been willing to take on more and more when others have given up so easily. You already believe that you will be as successful as you can be in whatever it is you do because you won’t have it any other way. You’ve gained 11 years of customer service experience that has put you miles ahead of most people of your age. In the future all of this customer experience will help you to build a market-leading organisation employing 100+ people. With your future business partners (your future CFO is already one of your most trusted friends) who share the same views, you will insist on providing the best service and client experiences.


You don’t have to worry about it quite yet, but in a few years your first major success will come and some people won’t like it; they will try to pull you down, they will lie to you, cheat you, throw abuse at you and some will steal from you. They will try to dissuade you from your ambitions and they will attempt to do whatever they can to tarnish your image and your reputation, but this is nothing new for you, because you’ve already spent years with such people during your much tougher school days. Your skin will become thicker than ever.

In the future you will fly in private planes, own some of the world’s fastest cars and you’ll live in a beautiful house in the country and you will treat your family to holidays in the best destinations. You will include your friends and family and your employees’ in these experiences because you remember very clearly your parents working hard for very little and struggling to make ends meet on a weekly basis (and at the same time providing a loving family home). Watching your parents struggle taught you the value of every pound and, aside of a few big spending sprees, you won’t ever forget it. In the future you will ensure your parents live the comfortable life they deserve. You’ll save and invest your money wisely, but you’ll also understand that life is for living and you will spend accordingly. You’ve never been a jealous person and you love to help people and watch them achieve and do well. That won’t change. One day you will be the catalyst for the success of many others and you’ll celebrate those successes; it will make you smile and give you a buzz knowing you made that happen, but you know that others don’t always do that of you, and you always will be wary of this. Being loyal to family, friends and business partners will always be top priority for you. You will learn that the strength of a group of loyal people is far greater than what you can achieve on your own, and you will always stand up for your inner circle and fight for them if need be; they will do the same for you.

You won’t be afraid to let others know what you think, but you will be calculated in when you let them know it, and you will pick your fights carefully and with decisiveness and not waste your energy on useless causes and people who only want to do you harm. You’ve always relied on your gut instinct and you will find that this becomes a skill that develops with time. As time goes on and you employ the services of consultants and advisers and lawyers and accountants, you’ll realise that most are only there to take your money; you already know more than them about your industry anyway. You’ve never suffered fools gladly and as time goes on you will always do away with those who try to take from you.

You already love the advent of the internet, new technology and looking to the future and you’ll keep abreast of everything that’s new. You’ll be fixated on internet entrepreneurs and you’ll read everything you can about the world’s most successful people (in the future you will design and implement a web-based finance tool that will generate millions of pounds for your companies). Having just written your university dissertation entitled ‘the feasibility of electric vehicles in the future’, and spent the summer living and driving around Paris in a concept Peugeot electric vehicle, you’ll be bemused to learn that it’ll be another twenty years before this is really possible. As I write to you now, you’ll be absolutely thrilled to know that the EV dream has finally been achieved and that you now travel around in one of the fastest electric cars available!

You will build a reputation for marketing your businesses in a unique way that others will try to emulate. You will be amused by this and encourage it. You’ll understand that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. In 10 years’ time you will be successful, but 20 years from now you will move in the circles of the very top people in your industry.

You will enjoy helping people and giving advice, and you will do what you can for charity and other good causes and be generous with your money, sometimes too generous, and that will cause people to take advantage. Right now, you never think that you’ll get married but in a few years you will meet a very special person and, like being whacked over the head with a cricket bat, you will know it straightaway. That girl will help you weed out those who take advantage of you and you will learn a lot from her. She is more frugal and way more sensible than you, and you realise that you are a team that is hard to beat. You will rely heavily on her abilities and she on yours.

I don’t want to tell you this part but you need to know: in 10 years’ time your abilities will be pushed to the very limits when you will come close to losing both your new wife and daughter during childbirth. After a week of life support and high dependency, your wife will go onto make a full recovery, but your daughter will not. She will suffer irreparable brain damage during birth through negligence and she should not survive the ordeal but she does. You will have to summon all your strength for what will come, for you will need every ounce of it to get through many, many nightmarish dark days, months and years that proceed. You and your wife will have to watch your baby daughter suffer the worst pain, you will sit beside her bed night after night after night as she squirms in agony and you will wish you could draw out all that pain and suffer it yourself. You will feel absolutely helpless. It will attempt to destroy your world completely and only the strength within both of you will prevent this from happening. You will provide the best possible life for your daughter’s limited years. You will learn to deal with disability, you will rebuild your house to adapt to it, and you will find and bring to justice those who caused the damage. It will take you years, but you will do it, and you will grow stronger than you ever have been, and you will bring your family through it too. Eventually, when life settles once again, you will feel emotionally invincible, due to your dark experience.

As the darkness fades, you will go on to have a beautiful family with two additional baby girls and you will feel like the luckiest person alive. While you are not perfect by any means, you have done well to get to this point, and you will appreciate it all. You will gain a deep understanding of the role you play in business and the requirement to do it properly so that everyone who relies on you to make the right decisions, your family, your partners, your employees, their families, will have faith in your ability. You’ll do things properly and, while you won;t be able to please all the people all the time, you’ll be as fair as you can possibly be.

This is all you need to know about your future, because this is where it really starts: you’re still 22 and you’ve got an interview at First National Bank, you’re entry into the finance industry, so make sure you impress and get the job, because you will find your calling in life and you will be meeting your future business partner, where it will all begin.

Now, off you go.