“How pride, stupidity and weakness have made me successful”

Uncategorized Feb 28, 2021

It’s interesting how our weaknesses are also our strengths. (Though if you’re asked at an interview for your biggest fault I wouldn’t use any of what follows…!)

I’m being interviewed for a podcast about successful local business people, and it has got me thinking about what’s made me successful as a trainer ~ because I have happily survived, prospered really, doing it for 20 years. My diary has been nicely full every year, I get plenty of repeat work and recommendations, and I’ve gradually put my prices up over the years, so I think that constitutes success. But how did I do it? Why me?

And I think there are four things that have been key

  • really excellent customer service
  • honesty – being myself
  • accepting challenges which have forced me to learn and grow
  • hard work: no slacking in 20 years!

Nothing very earth shattering, I know – I wish I could claim “clever strategic planning”, and “charisma” or something, but it’s really not been that.

…and what’s really terrible is that these basic successful behaviours have come from my faults rather than my strengths! Details as follows:

Customer Service

This hasn’t come from my being naturally caring or conscientious or efficient or thorough with detail, but from PRIDE. “If it’s got my name on it, it’s got to be right”. Even sticking a stamp on an envelope, it’s got to be neatly vertical, because if it’s shoddy it reflects on ME. “ME ME ME”, I know, it’s all about me – but still, at least the customers benefit from my pride!


Being myself, saying what I really think and believe: I think people really like authenticity, both when they are hiring a trainer and when they are participating in a course. In fact honesty has been what led me to training in the first place – the relentless search for the right job for me, passing through engineering and management on the way.

I think it was honesty which led me to realise that I wasn’t a great engineer, and to realise that management wasn’t making me happy – the politics never agreed with me! And this honesty hasn’t come from courage, no, it’s come from stupidity! Perhaps ‘stupidity’ is a bit of a strong word, I don’t mean low IQ, but just a lack of tact and awareness. The number of times I’ve thought “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that!” or even “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to anyway…!” It’s made me a trainer that people trust, just as it made me unpopular with the bosses I used to argue with, and the meetings where I was the only one who piped up with the truth.

But I do feel that although it’s got me into short-term difficulties every now and then, it’s also benefitted me in the long run, forcing me to keep looking for the right profession for me.

Coming out of my comfort zone – accepting challenges and HAVING to learn and adapt

I wish I could claim bravery for this one, but really I think it’s come from a mixture of weakness and stupidity.

Two examples:

  1. Covering more and more subjects – when asked “Could you do a day on Negotiating / Strategy / Quality?” it’s so easy to say yes, and then worry about it later. And of course, the more subjects you cover the better, both for selling more and for staying sane as you deliver training every day.
  2. Filming videos – can you come to LA and make a video course? Again, only someone reckless would say yes and worry about it later, but that’s what I did, And in the end it’s been great to have made all those videos for Linkedin Learning.

Working hard

This has also come weakness and stupidity! I’ve worked nearly every day because I’ve been bad at saying No.   “Yes I’ll do a course in Scotland in January”, “Yes I’ll go to LA to make some online videos” – and then you’re committed, you HAVE to deliver, even though it means a lot of work. As you sit there at Edinburgh airport, wondering what on earth your’e doing there as they de-ice your plane at midnight…. Weakness has led to working hard later.  

The easy option is to say Yes and to commit my future self to a load of work. And then I have to keep my promises.  …back to pride!

And finally, working hard has been easy because I enjoy it, it doesn’t really feel like work. Which is more luck than dedication.

So what’s the conclusion of all this?

Maybe it’s good news that you don’t need to have all the usual success qualities.

And maybe the game is to find a job where your weaknesses will act as strengths. Keep looking – there’s one out there for you somewhere!


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