How Your First Memory Shapes Your Future
My first memory involves our family farm, and specifically our small Massey 35 Tractor. I can remember sitting on the back of the tractor on the way to the concrete yard, some five or six miles away. Based on the tractor’s speed, it would take around an hour there and an hour back. My granddad was driving, with my Nan and I in the scope, which they had made as comfortable as possible.
It isn’t a fancy memory, but it is mine; I often think back to that day and use it as reminder to myself when I complain about the things I find frustrating or take for granted when in reality they are just a minor inconvenience, like being annoyed at having to drop the keys off with the decorators who are refurbishing my penthouse.
My grandparents didn’t complain about a two hour round trip on a bumpy tractor to fetch concrete; it was just part of their life in what was a beautifully simple existence.
The farm has no soul now. With my grandparents gone and no animals to care for, it makes my heart sad. What was once a bustling farm lies empty, the happy times of my childhood hanging heavy in the air. The farm lies lifeless, and it’s difficult to see and process it when I visit home. It’s like the lights have gone out, metaphorically as well as physically, and it now represents death.
Our family farm was in the small town of Warrenpoint in County Down. Money was scarce then, and I was raised on stories of years gone by, stories of war and tales of poverty and grief. My family had seen – and at that point continued to see – its fair share of grief. By four years old, my grandfather – a true patriarch and the key figure in my earliest memory – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his deterioration was rapid.
Despite having a good relationship with both of my parents, I always aligned myself to my Nan. She was my rock and my constant. She forever ensured I had food in my belly (with the background threat of not knowing when my next meal may be), and she continuously reminded me to close the doors to keep the heat in.
We were the only family I knew that didn’t have any form of central heating! I decided that when I was older, I’d make so much money that I could open all the windows and have the heating on all day just because I could.
I – naïve as a young boy often is – thought that if we needed more things, we could just get more things. If the farm needed more cows, why couldn’t we just buy more cows? I suppose I thought that life was tough, and I was forever being told what I could and couldn’t do. Close the door, Sean! Clear your plate, Sean!
Yet underneath that, I knew that with every meal placed in front of me, I was being fed with love, with nutrition and with knowledge, as well as with the fear that I may grow up to know such hardship.
To this day, it is ingrained in me that I will always do my utmost to avoid such adversity and to live a life free from fear and negativity. And so, I live my life with optimism; I approach everything with a positive spin and you will never hear me moan or complain.
Negativity is counterproductive; what’s the point of putting a negative spin on something, even if the subject matter itself is negative? I vowed then to be the good, positive man I am today and to always find a way.
My breakthrough from hardship came as I moved into secondary school. My Dad had collected me to take me out for the day, as he did every weekend. On this occasion, he took me to buy £10 worth of fireworks from his friend’s garage so that we could let them off.
It dawned on me that my friends didn’t have access to such a commodity; I began to wonder what £20 worth of fireworks could turn into if only I could sell them to my friends, who I was certain would be eager customers.
I didn’t want to tell my parents about my plan, and so I stashed the £5 pocket money I received from my Dad, as well as the £5 lunch money I received from my Mum. I basically starved for the 4 weeks of September 1992…no mean feat for a pre-pubescent boy!
At the end of the 4 weeks, I got the school bus, went to my Dad’s friend and purchased £39 worth of fireworks; it would have been the full £40 only I had to pay my bus fare! For the first time, I used the Scarcity Tactic with my mates; “don’t tell your parents, lads, but I’ll have fireworks in the morning, and this is my pricelist”.
By breaktime the following morning, I had doubled my money. I made more money that day than my parents did going out to work. What a lightbulb moment!
Following this revelation, I told my parents what I had done and I learnt my first valuable life lesson. I learnt that no matter the faults I found as a kid, faults we all find in our parents and grandparents when we’re not mature enough to appreciate exactly what they do for us, the one thing I will always be eternally grateful for is their support.
My Dad’s support for my fireworks venture was immediate; he instantly became my taxi driver! My Dad would collect me when he had finished work and take me to purchase more fireworks. I was the recipient of all the unconditional help and support I needed, plus my family could see that I was making real money.
Although my Mum and my Nan were straight and righteous, with religion added into the mix, they still supported me even though money was involved. Throughout October 1992, I made £2000. I was 11 years old.
My successful foray into fireworks dealing triggered a revelation in me; this could be my escape! I could get out of this hellhole (as I saw it then) and make real money. I owned the market; I was the only boy in my school who had the ability to get products and sell them on.
I began to branch out. I had clothing available to me, branded clothing, CD’s, DVD’s…I slowly became the guy who could buy and sell anything. Buying and selling, buying and selling. This became my life over the course of the next year. My earnings triggered my financial independence from my parents. Although they would offer to pay for things, I did not take their money. I did not need it.
Over the course of the next few years, I went from being a Grade A student in English and Maths to losing all interest in school. I thought – well, knew – that I had my break. Fast forward 3 years and I’d made a small fortune, well into the hundreds of thousands. I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I’d developed an ethos, which was “leave me alone, I make more money than you”.
If I was making more money than my headteacher, why would I want to go to school?! It didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t want to be told what to do with my life when I was already more successful than my superiors. And so, I continued with my enterprise, continued with my success.
In the same year I finally left school, I was also displaying great success in my other passion: I became Irish Under 14s Snooker Champion, which was the start of my next chapter, and the beginning of the rest of my life.