As I sat with our cover star, Jamie Oliver, in hair and make-up before our photoshoot, waiting for the cameras to start rolling and our ‘official’ interview to begin, we chatted about all the things we have in common – entrepreneurship, disruption and the print magazines we both created. “I never started a magazine to make money,” said Jamie. “I just love that it’s a tangible thing – having something to put through your letterbox once a month or a quarter.” In that moment, I just knew that our paths were meant to cross.
Have you ever admired someone from a distance, and then met them and been disappointed? Have you followed someone closely on social media, only for their real-life character to not quite match their online ‘persona’? Since well before I started Collective Hub, I’ve watched and admired Jamie’s career from afar, particularly as both of our entrepreneurial journeys have heightened and widened in unison. But I can hand on heart say that when I met the man himself, he matched my expectations perfectly – and even exceeded them.
Working in the media, I attend a lot of incredible events, launches and shows, but occasionally you see some people caught up in their own worlds, hardly engaging with the event around them and missing out on countless opportunities for conversation and connection.
When we were given the chance for an exclusive two-hour interview with Jamie, I told my team to pull out all the stops and we tried to make a fuss of him – but he wouldn’t let us. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a household name who was so humble, so down to earth, honest, grounded and real. Every time one of my team asked if there was anything we could do to make him comfortable, his response over and over again was “do whatever you like”. He was unquestionably there to “serve” us, to help us to get the best of whatever we needed – even though he was our special guest of honour.
Over the course of our interview and photoshoot there were tiny delays, we ran a little over time, and we had to rush towards the end (because #reallife) but throughout Jamie was calm, composed, patient and absolutely unflappable. He told me that, although he can’t possibly meet all the staff that work for him around the world, he likes to think they feel like they know him, because his brand is so authentic and his on-screen persona is so true to his personality.
By the end of our morning together (and, what a morning!) I felt like I’d known Jamie for a lifetime, because the Jamie I’ve seen on TV, on his website, in his books, on YouTube and in splashes across his magazine, is exactly the same Jamie I met in a photographic studio in Sydney – how amazing is that?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time. Since I started my first business on October 22, 2001, there have been a number of entrepreneurs and great people I have admired – particularly for their ability to see opportunities, keep evolving and have a massive social conscience. There’s Martha Stewart who toured me around her amazing headquarters and Sir Richard Branson who propped his bare, sandy feet on his coffee table when I visited Necker Island, and Jack Dorsey who laughed when I asked what his evening routine was (“I close my eyes…”).
Just like Jamie, they are go-getting, ambitious, risk-taking visionaries – but also some of the most modest and genuine people I’ve ever met. To me, this humility is one of the most important attributes of successful people. If you’re not yourself then your mission is unsustainable. If you’re not yourself, then how can you ask people to believe in you? If you’re not yourself then, eventually, people will realise that fact and then everything you’ve built will be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Read More: How to Be the Director of Your Own Mindset
As a founder, at any level, it can be very easy to get caught up in the world of social media, publicity and online presence. I get it! I have an entire section in my book, Life & Love, about perception versus reality in the start-up world. In the past, I’ve posted and deleted Instagram images because, for a brief moment, I’ve found myself acting in a way that wasn’t me, just to get traction.
Don’t fall into the trap that you need to change, or portray yourself differently, as your idea or business grows. In fact, as you get more successful, as you have more people working for you, and more people following you, it’s more important than ever to be authentic, to be the same person you are at home as you are at the office and online.
You may not have reached the heights of Jamie Oliver (yet!) but I urge you today to check your self-projection – what message are you putting out in the world, who are you pretending to be, what version of yourself do your staff know, your clients know, your customers know? If I met you at an event tomorrow, would I meet the real you or an exaggerated caricature you feel like you need to pretend to be to impress someone?
I get asked a lot who I look up to and my answer is always the same – I don’t count someone as a role
model until I’ve met them, physically. I can admire the image that someone portrays to the public but until I’ve met them in the flesh and looked into their eyes, I can’t energetically know if that is truly who they are.
Meeting Jamie was a wake-up call, reminding me to stay genuine and humble, to keep it real and not get caught up in other people’s expectations because you can be ambitious and authentic, you can be go-getting and grounded. At the end of our interview when I thanked Jamie and hugged him goodbye, I felt like I’d just met Jamie Oliver the businessman, Jamie Oliver the chef, Jamie Oliver the TV star, the entrepreneur, the husband and father – because all of those men are the same.
So, who will you be tomorrow?