WHAT’S a successful personality? I am one of 11 children born in the outback of Australia. My father was an itinerant farm labourer, so sometimes we were given accommodation and sometimes we stayed in a big tent. Strong as an ox, “Dad” was a good worker but also liked a drink. He was violent towards his wife and us children. Even years later, at the age of 51, I get irresistible urges to hide. From what, I don’t know, but sometimes I have to. At the age of two, six of us children were taken away. I was child number eight; a sister had died before I was born, from drinking polluted river water, and “Mum” had given one sister away to another family. We were sent to an orphanage, then to foster homes, and I didn’t see the others for 20 years. My parents stayed together. He had supposedly rescued and protected her from her own abusive father, so her loyalty knew no bounds. They then had three more children, keeping two and giving one away.
My foster home was no refuge. I was sent for a month, till my real family sorted themselves out. They never did, and I waited heart broken. I was also traumatised, shy, and backward, and I believed I was stupid. My foster father, a cruel man, responded by giving me nicknames such as “space-age boy”. Space between the ears.
My rescue was education. Being quiet and wanting to stay out of trouble had its advantages, and the refuge of reading and playing chess somehow started up my brain. I eventually got a well-paid scholarship and graduated with a first in economics and maths. Then I got a good job and life was easy.
So, where do I start when I’m asked, “what made you successful?” For anyone, there are so many things that could have an impact: brains, education, family connections, personality, looks, financial security, memory, imagination and drive. If I am average at all of those, but could be a lot better at just one, which would I choose? Which would you choose? For me, it would be personality. People with personality fall on their feet; opportunities come their way. But maybe I favour that one because for most of my life at least, I’ve been devoid of any. Imagination, I feel, is a big one too. Business success stories often reveal a vivid imagination. I’m suspicious of my own saviour, the education system, which steals young children’s personality and imagination with time spent memorising countries’ flags and other useless junk. Let them play. Oh, and what about brains? I am impressed by people who can simplify complications, see through the mist. That definitely would come in handy. So you have my wish list of three: personality, imagination and intelligence.
But at the end of the day it’s all about one variable, happiness. Other things are inputs to that output. One thing I’m looking forward to right now is a simple boating holiday on the Murray River in Australia. Just five of us. Me and four brothers and sisters.
Since the mid-1990s Richard Farleigh has operated as a business angel, backing more early-stage companies than anyone else in the United Kingdom. www.farleigh.com