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This is a strange episode of The Art of Making Things Happen podcast because I’m quite aggravated. I’m actually quite pissed-off. I’ve been watching the world of influencers, like we all have. Whether or not we wanted to, people have come into our attention, names have come into our households that we’d never heard of before, but now are just regular names of conversation and regular topics. And something’s been happening that’s been bothering me, but I want to give you the framework of why I’m so bothered. And I’m going to tell a story that I’ve actually spoken about before, which takes me back to my teenage years. You see, way back in east London, or just outside London, I took up kickboxing and I took up something called Wu Shu Kwan which was a style of Chinese kickboxing. And I took it up quite simply because as a young teenager, like every kid that takes up martial arts, I wanted to be able to walk into a bar, act like Bruce Lee, come out with a tiny little scratch over my cheek and I’ve demolished an entire room. That never happens.
Now, I was getting beaten-up as a kid. I took up martial arts to become a better fighter only to realize that the more I learned how to fight the less I actually fought. Now, I became pretty good. Once every month, couple of months, I went into a local or national competition and I would do the Chinese kickboxing. I never won. Got a second place, got a few thirds so I would say I wasn’t too bad. And I remember a friend of mine once said, “Hey, we’re pretty good in this room. Let’s see how good we are by entering into another room.” Now this is a technique and a tactic that all entrepreneurs do now. They always say, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room.” This guy wanted to test how good he was with martial arts by getting into another style, another room, another dojo, and seeing if what we really had was the ability to demolish anyone that stood in front of us.
And he mentioned this to me and I thought, “That’s a great idea. Let’s do it.” We actually went along to another club, another dojo, and I’ll name the gentleman because he was a great mentor. And I still today hold him in a great deal of respect, a gentlemen by the name of Juan Pablo. And I remember turning up with my buddy, walking into his training center and everyone in there was not in Gis. Now, if anyone knows about it, a Gi martial arts is where you’re wearing the full outfit. It’s like a crossover thick, canvassy karate kind of set-up. These guys were in shorts, tracksuit bottoms, t-shirts and they were moving fast and very well, but it was a different style to what I’d been used to. And I remember walking in and like any playground you walk into, everyone stares, “Who’s the new kid?”
You could be walking into a gymnasium, you could be walking into a boxing club, but it’s all the same. There’s always the cool kids, the tough kids… Could be walking into your office. Everyone knows what the temperature and the style of walking into a new arena is like, and we were in it. Two guys, we thought that we were tough, had a bit of a name about ourselves. And we now walked into this guy’s terf. I remember him coming over to us and we were very polite, very cordial. But of course we had the posture. We had the puffy chest. We were like, “Yeah, this is who we are. We’ve trained over there. We want to come here.” And I remember him looking at me and going, “What are you after? What’s the point? What’s the goal here?” And I remember saying to him, “Yeah, I’m here. I’m already a black belt in Wu Shu Kwan. I want another black belt.”
And he went, “Great. Hang on a second.” And he walked off. Couple of minutes later, we’re stood there thinking, “Where the bloody hell has he gone?” And he came back to me a couple of minutes later and he had this black belt on his hand. He went, “There you go.” And he gave me this black belt. And he went, “Now you’ve got your second black belt. Now you’ve got it. Would you like to learn how to fight?” That hit me. I remember, at the time I was so fixated on getting a black belt that I wasn’t as fixated on actually learning the technique. My goal was over here when really what I should be doing was focusing over here on my ability. I was focused on what you could see.
If I had a black belt, you would assume I was tough. Now that was 1990 or late 1980s. And today it’s pissing me off because recently I’ve been hearing the names of two influencers. And both of those influencers are being humiliated publicly because of the fake followers they’re getting and how they’re putting themselves out. And they’re buying all these likes and they’re buying all of this attention. But we are allowing it. While we are humiliating them, we are now focusing on the wrong thing. I don’t remember the person, I’m not going to even mention that name. I’m not here to call out anybody, but I remember them turning around and going, “In today’s economy, you check two things to work out if they’re credible. You check out whether they’ve got a blue tick and how many followers they got.”
Sadly, you don’t check out their content. You don’t check out their credibility. You don’t check out their past. You don’t check out their substance. You see, I’m still amazed, and you can tell I’m angry about this, I’m still amazed today that an influencer can be an influencer without actually having ever achieved anything. If I’m a doctor, I’ve got to do this. If I’m a bricklayer, I’ve got to have finished off my apprenticeship. If I’m a mechanic, I’ve got to have gone to school to know how to do it. If I’m an influencer, shit, just put me bikini on, bang! I’m an influencer. In today’s world, we are too fixated on what we can see, not we can relate to. We should be asking ourselves, “Great, okay. You stood there, you’re doing this, you’re [inaudible 00:06:16] these little terms that you got from a Hallmark card, but how do you know what you know? What do you know that can actually help me? How can what you say, what you know, what you do make me a better person?”
Why don’t we start getting a little bit more selfish? Why don’t we start focusing on how does this help me? “Hey, I woke up this morning. I made a million dollars before I went to the toilet.” Good for you, sonny. But how does that help me? If we started asking that question more, guarantee you most of these influences in air quotes would go by the sidelines. They would disappear. Like they’d been born on the house of cards that they’ve been raised on. We need to start focusing on the substance. We need to start asking those difficult questions. How come you are in a position to answer my question. Hey, you may look good in a bikini. That’s good over there. You may look fantastic leaning up against a car. Good for you, but stop being sold by what your eyeballs are seeing and start focusing on your gut.
Back then, I was fixated on getting a second black belt because I thought that would do it. And I thought that would do it before I learned how to fight. Juan Pablo, thank you sir, taught how to fight. Also taught me how not to fight. And I’ll always, at the age of 55, never forget that man for what impact he had on my life. And I will, at the same time, shout out Dave Carver and Chris Bruce for the impact they had in steering me into the man that I am now and the guy that quieted my quite angry little young years. But if it wasn’t for those people teaching me that I needed to learn the ability before I got the visual of the belt, then I’d have a problem.
In today’s world of influences, let’s be serious, it’s so annoying that you ask a kid in a school, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And instead of saying an astronaut, a doctor, an attorney, I don’t know whoever wants to be an attorney, but instead of saying one of these professions, they say influencers, because that’s another word for freeloader. All right. So I’m going to say it loud and clearly, if you’ve got someone to call out, call them out, do it quietly. Don’t be an a-hole and rip someone apart. They’re trying to make a buck just like you. But I would like to see the world cleaned up and freed up of some of the bullshit that is rife over all the social platforms that we’re seeing it. And the only way we can do it is for you to start asking the uncomfortable questions of what can you do for me rather than what you look like.
I said it was a slightly strange one, but I do want people to be better. I do want people to grow. I’ve done some stuff. I’ve made loads of mistakes, and I’m hoping they’re going to save you for making the same mistakes. And the first one is going to be looking at people that shouldn’t be stared at and listening to people that shouldn’t be listened to. All the best, this is Steve Sims. If you like this, share it. If you hate it, send me an email. If you really hate it, turn it off and delete it. Who gives a shit, it’s up to you. It’s your world, I’m not there to rule it. I’m just hopefully there to help you make it a better one.