The Significance Of Influential People In Your Life

Have a think about the people in your life who you trust and who you can depend on. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself this: how many people would pick you up from the airport?

I’d just come back from a trip, and I remember four people offered to collect me from the airport: four truly genuine people.

I realised then that without having to reach out to my network to ask, these four people were there for me readily and without question, willing to give me their time at a moment’s notice as nothing more than an altruistic gesture.

I don’t call on many favours, but I do know that if a day came that I needed help, then I have the assurance that there are people in my life who would be there for me unconditionally, as I would always be there for them. We’ll be there for each other for the thrill-seeking adventures, through ill health, through the mundane days as well as the glorious.

How Do People Shape the Person You Become?

It got me thinking about the people I’ve met throughout my life; the type of people that leave an infinite impression and who, when you even so much as think of their name, a multitude of memories flood through your body and spill out of your eyes.

I’ve always been lucky to meet and be surrounded by people who have shaped and influenced my life, even when I’ve least expected it.

There are times in your life when you meet amazing, wonderful people. People who take you under their wing, people who would give you the shirt off their back; people who genuinely care When you no longer have those people around you, and hindsight comes into play, you often find yourself thinking whether you could have done more for them.

As time passes, you come to realise that the kindness they bestowed upon you was reciprocated by you, and they understood just what they meant to you.

Mr Gillen

I’m so fortunate to have met multiple people like this in my life. There are, of course, some who stand out.
Mr Gillen was my art teacher.

School wasn’t for me; it took me from what I enjoyed and thrived on. My entrepreneurial spirit was strong by now and I dreamed of where it could take me. I didn’t see the point of following a typical career path, forced by education, when I was already earning more money than my Headteacher. The sky was the limit for me, even as I returned to school on my first day of 2nd year of secondary school, at the age of 12. It was also my first day in Mr Gillen’s classroom.

I can remember how I was sitting in my chair, carefree and condescending towards the lesson. I didn’t want to be constrained, I wanted to have fun. I had a reputation of being a jack-the-lad of sorts.

I screwed up my paper and launched it across the room. My peers of course laughed and expected nothing less. Mr Gillen, however, had had enough.

“MR O’NEILL!” he shouted, in a way I’d grown accustomed to from my other teachers, “My office! NOW!”

Mr Gillen left the classroom, the door left open for me to follow him. I reluctantly stood and dragged my feet sullenly to his office, expecting to receive the bollocking I was used to receiving from my teachers.

He told me to take a seat, and as I sat, he offered me tea and biscuits! Can you believe that?! I’d just been told to leave his classroom because of my insolence and here I was, being rewarded with biscuits.

He made the tea and I sat, wide-eyed and shocked. He sat opposite, took a sip of his tea and as he sat it down, he looked me dead in the eye and said the following words:
“Sean. Would you just give me a chance?”

I felt my lip tremble and my eyes fill with tears. I felt humbled and equal at the same time. Here was this man, fed up with my behaviour, with every right to punish me as I had expected to be punished. Instead he was asking me to trust him and to let him in and I’d never experienced that before.

That was the start of a beautiful teacher-pupil friendship, built on mutual respect. He encouraged and developed me. He turned a failing student into an artist.

I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do have one. I wish I’d have been able to tell him of the profound effect he had on me, and how he influenced how I view people and form relationships even today. I wish he had been able to see the successful life I have lived. If you are lucky enough to have a Mr Gillen in your life, don’t leave it too late to say thank you.


Another person who made an incredible impression on me was Patsy.

Patsy lived back home in Northern Ireland, and as the manager of the local snooker club, he set up a Saturday League for the kids in our area. I had started playing there when I was just 11 years old.

Patsy became my coach and led me as I won more than a dozen Irish Snooker titles.

There isn’t a singular world I can use to describe Patsy, but if I had to choose just one, I’d say he was altruistic. He travelled the world with me; he was by my side as I competed in finals and represented my country on the world stage.

He prepped me for each game, he drove me to the tournaments, he’d wait around all day and drive me home again. And for everything he did, he didn’t receive a single penny for payment. He did it all entirely selflessly.

When I look back, especially at the time I quit my snooker career, I often think of Patsy. I didn’t consult with him before I made my decision and I wonder how that may have affected him on a personal level. I fear I only came to realise too late in my life exactly what Patsy had done for me and the sacrifices he had made.

I regret that I didn’t get to spend more time with him away from the snooker world, although of course he would have said that he was happy I’d stayed in touch. Every time I flew home, I’d pop in to see him and his family; I’d call him each Christmas. But as I get older, I regret that it wasn’t enough, and I wish I’d have done more.

He went to bed one night and didn’t wake up. Unfortunately i feel the same regret towards Pasty as i did to Mr Gillen – I wish i’d had the opportunity to thank him.

Moving to Liverpool and Meeting New People

I first arrived in Liverpool in August 2003, fresh faced and trying to find my feet. In my first week, I found a pub called The White Star, which was being run by a couple named Alfie and Jackie. Jackie remains the Landlady today.

Alfie loved snooker, and we bonded over the sport. We quickly began to play together. Once or twice a week, Alfie would take me to a snooker club, and he’d stand and watch me play for hours, resetting the balls the balls for me and telling me if there was anything I needed help with, he’d be there to help.

Alfie did so much for me. There was nothing that was too much for him, nothing he couldn’t help with.

There is no doubt in my mind that without people like him, I would not be where I am today.

It goes deeper than the help they gave to me personally: they taught me what it really meant to be able to help others. I learnt from Alfie how to help people when the time would come for me to be able to do so.

Unfortunately, our adventures together were cut short when Alfie became ill in his 50s and passed away, way before his time.

Are Younger People Less Open to Taking Advice?

When I think of times I’ve spent with people, particularly younger people, and they don’t seem to appreciate any help or guidance I’ve offered, I have to remind myself that maybe they just haven’t realised yet what that help may have done for them.

I hope as time passes, and the people I help throughout life get older and realise what is and isn’t important, that they can sit back and remember me with love and a sense of fondness in their hearts.

Meeting new people really is one of the greatest gifts that life can give us. It’s no secret that surrounding myself with the right people has played a huge part in my success. From a young age, there are certain people I’ve met who have not only influenced my life, but their impact has also influenced how I treat and respect others.

They’ve taught me how to be a good man, they’ve educated me on how altruism is a value we should all aspire to have, and above all, they’ve taught me that by being there for others, without agenda, they’ll be there for me in return.

How to Choose Who You Surround Yourself with In Business

In the world of business, surrounding yourself with the right people can be difficult. You need to find a team you can trust, a team you can depend on without worrying about your reputation and a team that you know will make the right decisions, for you and your business, with no ulterior motives. If you find your perfect team, you’re on to a willing formula.

When I arrived in Liverpool, I knew that for me to find my feet and set out my path in the city, I’d need to get to know people.

I decided that for my first 5 months after I arrived, I would go out each and every night in an attempt to meet people. I consciously didn’t drink any alcohol; I would just get ready and go out with an aim of meeting influential people who could perhaps help me and get me established in the city.

Getting Established In A New City

I introduced myself countless times and learnt hundreds of names over those few months, saving them in my little Nokia phone as I’d go. The first name I remember learning back then was Charlie.

Charlie was a doorman, a huge brick of a man. He worked the door of a bar – The Tea Factory – that was just across the road from my apartment, and I could see the sway he had over the clientele. I wanted to know who he was.

I went to the bar this particular night and after being waved through by Charlie, I found the manager and asked him the name of his colossal doorman. “Oh that’s Charlie,” he told me, and I promptly saved his name – just his name, no number attached – in my phone as a contact: Charlie – Tea Factory

The next evening, as I was getting ready to go out, I pulled my phone from my pocket and searched “tea factory” and there it was, Charlie’s name. I approached the doors and confidently said, “Hello Charlie!”.

Charlie assessed me under a raised eyebrow, either wracking his brains to see if he knew who I was or thinking, “who is this little twat and how does he know my name?!”. Whatever he was thinking, he just responded with, “Oh hello mate, go straight in.” He waved me straight past the hefty queue. Success!

Over the next 5 months, I successfully made over 100 acquaintances with bar owners, restauranteurs, and businessmen. My confidence in asking for a name, and the manners I demonstrated by remembering those names, resulted in me being whisked off to Mediterranean countries and world class event.

I wrote down each name so I wouldn’t forget it, and now here I am writing down my stories, so they too won’t be forgotten.

Fast forward 20 years and I still take the time to ask for names and have an exceptional recall for them. I suppose that’s the result of practicing it as a skill for over two decades!

And as for Charlie? We’re still in touch and good friends to this day.

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