The question I’ve been answering a lot at the minute, “how are you funding yourself, how are you earning?”
I get the impression that people feel a little cheeky asking, but as it’s come up so many times, I wanted to share something with you.
Some of you may know that I’ve used my own savings through all my adventures. You also might remember that I ended up in Canada (having never done any public speaking before!), almost accidentally, talking at schools, businesses and even pubs to help boost fundraising (mmm… the pubs were always very generous for some reason whilst sharing my story!).
Anyway, every dollar went to the children’s hospitals during these talks, making the quarter of a million pounds possible. Looking back, it was one of the most memorable and inspiring parts of the adventure, not only was I being fulfilled by huge donations, but I REALLY loved the part of being cheeky on stage, making people laugh, and possibly planting a seed of motivation and inspiration to help change lives. It was a place where I could ultimately share my passion.
When I finished the adventure and flew home to Gloucester, the requests of speaking continued and I said yes (cycling on my Bangkok to Gloucester bike!) to almost everything: school talks, presentation evenings, after dinner speeches, charity events, rotary clubs, and more – all for donations to the children’s hospitals.
Until, the inevitable happened. I ran out of money. And I could no longer fundraise.
I used all my money that I saved up for the house that I didn’t buy. My Mum and Dad agreed that I could stay with them rent free. Most parents would probably do this, but it meant a lot, because when I got my first job at Asda, at 16 years old, stacking shelves on the fruit and veg department (and shooting customers between the aisles with a water pistol!), my parents rightly made me pay rent to stay with them. At the time I remember their way of thinking ‘you’re in the big wide world now, this is how it is, you need to learn to be independent’ – which has been a very valuable lesson as I’m becoming (sort of) a man. Anyhow, my very understanding parents are supporting me as they always do.
Over the last couple of years and without a secure job, I’ve had meltdowns from time to time, where I’ve thought: ‘I need to get a job, how will I survive?’.
With little left in my bank a few months back, I looked for wisdom from my Dad. “Dad, I’m nearly all out. I have no money left, I don’t have the money to even get to this place I’ve been asked to talk at. Shall I get a job? Shall I go back to teaching tennis?”.
My Dad turned to me and said “son, you know, it looks to me that you’ve found what you love. Just keep doing what you love, and it will all work out.” I said “thanks Dad”. But I couldn’t help notice that the problem was still there.
Two weeks later, I got a phone call from Nigel Purveur, he’s a director at Capita – an enormous business for life and pensions services.
“Jamie, would you like to come in, and do a talk for us?” Of course, I said yes, it seemed like a great opportunity. I also heard that Nigel is someone that’s very charitable. With this in mind, I felt more nervous than I normally did for previous talks, and most importantly, I couldn’t help but think I knew nothing about business. Days before, I went a little crazy, literally, crazy – ‘what do I know about BUSINESS?’
After some thought, thinking ‘what will I wear?’ And ‘what will I say?’ – in the end I calmed myself down about the experience, and thought ‘I can’t be anyone else but myself’. So, I went in there, with everyone in suits and ties, dressed in my board shorts, an average jumper, and my fanciest pair of flip flops.
I started my talk, looking at the audience, and said “I feel a million miles away from the business world, and the people in it”, I then looked down at myself (and everyone laughed). I continued, “all I’m going to do is share my story with you, talk about my adventures, and focus on the topic of embracing adversity, never giving up, and always moving forward. Feel free to take whatever you like from this…” From here, I simply told stories about my experiences, and the lessons I learned on the way.
I’m happy to say that Capita have now sent me to different regions across the country as a motivational speaker, to share my story at leadership events. I’m putting 20% to our soon-to-be launched charity. The rest of the money goes towards keeping my head above water, and also helps towards saving for the next adventure. For that, I’m truly grateful to Nigel, and Capita.
This is also the part, of accepting money instead of putting it to charity, which is very difficult as I feel giving is more natural.
I sent an invoice to someone the other day, and explained that it wouldn’t be a charitable donation, for the talk I did, and that I was really worried about what they would think. This lady replied along the lines of “your work – planning for the adventure and the way you are generating interest to raise charitable donations – means the money we have given to you is as if it was giving to a cause!” I thought about the moment when I literally had no money, when I couldn’t even afford the fare to get to a talk I was giving for free, and what she said really, really touched me.
A month ago, Capita even flew me to Ireland, and Scotland! It’s ridiculous… I feel like a rock star. Apart from it’s WAY BETTER than that. I get to do what I love – and believe me, you don’t want to hear me sing.
Fortunately, other speaking opportunities, and friendships like Nigel have formed, as a result of people hearing me talk.
Penny Mallory, also a motivational speaker, with an incredible story and as one of the top UK racing drivers, has kind of, taken me under her mentoring wing, which I’m very grateful for.
Dr Kate Goodger (also an amazing motivational speaker!) from Chimp Management has opened up opportunities speaking to teachers and pupils – which is an area and platform that I truly love.
Kate has also, helped me tell a better story. The other week I spent time with her husband Russ and family, and for the first time EVER – I read a bedtime story – to her kids. Mental. I think that was all part of the training to be a better speaker, it was quite nerve wracking!
Anyhow, to get more to the point, speaking is an aspect of life as a fundraiser, and adventurer (although I always feel ridiculous calling myself an adventurer!) I could never have imagined myself doing – though me and my bank balance are certainly grateful to not constantly be in my overdraft!
I have to say, in terms of inspiring people, it feels almost as important as getting out on the road.