“If you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING” (Churchill)

I wrote this Blog a few years ago.  It still resonates for me, and I hope will for you too.

I’m in Sydney, and I’m inspired.  Not by the obvious – the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the beaches.  I’m inspired by something altogether more impressive – the attitude of my 21 year old son James.  He is based here, and we have the pleasure of sharing a twin room in my hotel whilst I work for a client up the road.  (The feel of a clean freshly ironed sheet and soft pillow is bringing him untold joy, he tells me.)James and dad

He has been working and travelling in Australia for the last 18 months.  He came here to find himself, and to pick himself up after an annus horribilis back home which saw him at his lowest point.  He travelled to Sydney alone with a catering qualification, some cash and a set of chef knives, and has since found a way of funding himself to keep himself fed and watered as well as make trips to see the Grand Prix in Melbourne, see Uluru at dawn, dive the Barrier Reef and sky dive over Sydney.

It hasn’t been easy – far from it.  He started off by working in a restaurant in Darling Harbour, where they bang out 500 fish meals per sitting without blinking.  12 hour shifts, relentless pace, constant screaming and pressure from the formidable head chef.  Then head home across town to a cramped, hot and noisy apartment, cook yourself a bag of $1 rice and 60 cent tomato sauce, fall into bed and try and sleep before the next gruelling shift.  Try doing that 6 days a week half way around the world from your loved ones.

He kept going.  Then decided that it was time to explore something else.  So tried his hand at selling.  Not just any old selling.  The hardest sort – the one that involves wearing out actual shoe leather, tramping the suburbs of Sydney knocking on doors in temperatures of up to 40 degrees.  No salary, commission only.  If you fail, you go hungry.  Not only that, but what he is selling is quite complex:  swapping people’s energy tariffs and tying them into contracts with a range of discount options.  James is not that good with numbers.  He found it hard.  I was with him at the time he started last year:

First day – NIL, Second day – NIL,  (KEEP GOING), Third day – 3, Fourth day – 8.


jAMES2Having got on top of it and made some very decent money, the rules changed.  They changed the procedure, making it far more complex and requiring a call centre to finalise the deal.  50% of his sales slip through the cracks at this final stage.  The competition have caught up, so people are being tied into contracts before he gets there.  His earnings are slipping away, and yet he has so much he wants to do before he gets home in October:  get back to New Zealand, do some more diving, explore the outback.


Yesterday he spent 6 hours in the hot afternoon tramping the streets, and made one sale.  $80 for 6 hours’ work.  Came back to the hotel ravenous, thirsty, hot and frustrated.  He has just headed off today to try a new part of town, determined to come back with 5 sales.  He had to borrow $10 to pay for his train ticket (today is pay day).  KEEP GOING.

Something in me is screaming “HELP HIM OUT!”  For goodness’ sake lend him some money so he can relocate to another city (he knows Sydney better than most locals) where the pickings are easier, rents are lower and he can afford not to earn for the first few weeks whilst he finds his feet.  But I know that if I do so I will be denying him something very important:  the satisfaction of coming back home after 2 years and saying “I did it.”  He is learning so much from this, and forging for himself such resilience and positive attitude, it would be wrong to weaken on his behalf.  I am finding it so hard as a parent to leave the challenge squarely with him, but I know I have to do it.  Helping him out now would make me feel better, at his expense, and I have to hold myself back.

But that won’t stop me from buying him an extra beer tonight if he makes those 5 sales!


I’m grateful to Christian Mihai’s Blog which inspired this line of thinking for me this week.

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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17 Responses to “If you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING” (Churchill)

  1. Carolann says:

    Michael, for some reason, I kept this post and reread it a few minutes ago. I’m doubly inspired!


    • I’m glad to hear it, Carolann. I wonder whether they all read better second time around?! I must read it again myself. Just watched the Wimbledon and I have to say that sure was inspiring. Talk about grit and digging dip. Churchill would have been proud of Murray!


  2. Sofia says:

    Inspirational post to say the least!


  3. Carolann says:

    Very inspirational post, Michael and your son sounds like a determined, positive guy.


  4. Karen says:

    A great blog Mike and one that, I’m sure, many parents will relate to. I think it’s so hard to not do something for our kids, especially when we see them working so hard. It’s those moments though that help both them and us to grow. Good luck to James and his continued success x


  5. Wonderful post Michael


  6. Your son seems to be made of tough stuff. I’m sure he’ll find what the success that brings him a good income, the lifestyle he enjoys, and happiness. Meanwhile it’s great that he has you for a safety net and even greater that he isn’t dropping into the net and giving up.


  7. Dominic says:

    Definitely the right decision Mike; and James will thank you for it for just the reasons you gave.


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