Sunday, October 05, 2008

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”

Matthew 5:5


"I had a lousy childhood. We had nothing. Never knew my father, and my mother had a stream of boyfriends. But I made it. Today I am at the top of my business, other people listen to me when I speak; I've just bought a fourth house - in New York.

I did it: I've worked hard; I've overcome the difficulties; I've made some cracking decisions and I've earned the respect and influence that I have. I firmly believe that you make yourself what you are. If you are quality it'll show. I don't like scroungers or layabouts: I'm not saying that bad things don't happen to good people, but you get what you deserve in life. Even this credit crunch: I'm OK. I've invested wisely; I didn't stretch myself too far.

You've got to believe in yourself, in your abilities. Nobody's going to help you. They want what you've got – they'll take it if they can. And nobody stands in my way. Three years ago someone tried to defraud me. It was the biggest mistake he made. I got the police to throw the book at him, and I made sure he went down.

I learnt quite early that people don't like conflict. That means that if you are prepared to stand up to people, you can usually get what you want.

I have my faults, I admit – but hey! What's life about? The girls love me anyway, and the wife – well, she stung me for £30 million. And last year I gave £150000 to the hospice. They named the ward after me. Without people like me, this country would be nowhere.

God? Yes, I guess I believe in God. He helps those who help themselves, doesn't he? I gave a grand to the church tower appeal in the village where I live. It's alright; you don't need to convert me. I'm one of the good guys

I'm going to retire in 2 years time. I've made enough, and I can put my feet up. It's all sorted. I've got this beautiful yacht: it cost me £20 million (less than the ex, and it doesn't nag), and I'm going to sail it round the world. I'm going to look after myself, don't you worry. I deserve it and I'm worth it".



"I had a lousy childhood. We had nothing. Never knew my father, and my mother had a stream of boyfriends. She was not a great mum. It was rough, and I was screwed up. At one point I ran away from home, and ended up in a squat in Holloway.

I guess I could blame her, but she was really lonely, and she was desperate for love. I was difficult. I didn't help.

Anyway, I discovered I had a talent for business – I'm not going to tell you what I first did business in; I'm not proud of it - but I got a few amazing breaks. Do you know today we employ more than 30000 people? – and the thing that I am most proud of is that we have been able to set up a factory in one of those ghost towns after the pit closed 20 years ago. The staff there have done fantastic, the factory is flourishing and they've brought the place back to life.

God? I became a Christian many years ago. I was in a hotel in Manchester, and I picked up one of those Gideon bibles. To be honest, I was bored. I started to read, and as I read – and I don't know why apart from the fact that it was God – I understood it: it was about Jesus, a most amazing man – who loved people who were messed up and who died for me - and I wanted to find out more. Since then I made a commitment to him, got baptised and confirmed, and now he is my boss, my rescuer and my friend. I try to live in the way he wants me to live, which is not always easy. Someone tried to cheat us big time, one of the people I had trusted. I wanted the book thrown at him – but then was praying the Lord 's Prayer: 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us'. So I went round to his house and met him; we talked it through; I told him how disappointed I was: he'd let his family down, his colleagues down, himself down. I even said something about letting God down. But I said I would forgive him. We didn't press charges. I still don't know whether I should have done or not.

Biggest regret? That's easy. Seven years ago I had an affair. It was one of those stupid, stupid things. The marriage didn't recover. I hurt my wife so much, and the girl involved as well. It's not been great on the kids either. I know I said sorry to God, and although I find it very hard to believe I am forgiven, I trust him I am forgiven. But I still have to live with the consequences of what I did, and I suspect I will remain single for the rest of my life.

Yes, I may own one of the largest private companies in the country, but I'm also just the mixed up boy from Peckham to whom God gave one or two gifts, and who he reached out to in a hotel room in Manchester. I owe everything to him. I belong to him. I work for him. I depend on him. I try to see every person I deal with, employee, supplier, competitor or customer, through his eyes. They matter, as people, far more than the stuff I produce, or the profits I can make.

The future? Haven't a clue – it is in God's hands. I love what I do, but there will be a time when it is right to step back. I hope I can continue to serve - I'd love to do something back in Peckham. I'm also trying to rebuild my relationship with the kids. There are grandchildren now.

Death? I'm scared of dying. I've seen too many people die in not very nice ways, but I know Jesus will be with me when it happens. I love my life here, but he's promised he will come back, that we will be raised, there will be a new earth, and he'll be at the centre. I guess it will be a bit like this without all the rubbish – although to be honest I can't really begin to imagine it. But that's why I don't need to go everywhere now, see it all now, do it all now, or get all the stuff now. I can afford to wait. You may think I'm mad, but he said it, I trust him; it is my hope and it is my life.



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