While your Elon Musks, Gary Vees, and Jeff Bezoses (Bezosi?) of the world seem to be a regular fixture of the stage and spotlight, there’s one entrepreneur who I feel doesn’t get enough attention. A Birmingham gypsy of humble birth that rolled up his sleeves, and took what he considered to be rightfully his — by both force and finesse. The man in question is one Thomas ‘Tommy’ Shelby OBE of Shelby Company Limited (and the Peaky Blinders).
Here are a few life lessons to be learned from the titan of industry and cutthroat businessman.
Walk past the devil, but shake his hand first.
Now I’m not saying being morally ambiguous is the secret to success, nor am I exactly encouraging moral ambiguity. But it does help to remain flexible. Leave you personal hang-ups at the front door, bite the bullet, and work with people even if they might turn around to try and kill you the next day — just have contingencies in place to protect yourself. Remember… big fucks small.
Paranoia will keep you alive.
The “edge” successful individuals often have over ordinary people is essentially a form of paranoia. And it’ll keep you alive. Never get too comfortable. Stay on your toes, do your due diligence, undertake some rigorous research, and think about every conceivable angle. The repetition endemic to compulsiveness may just save you one day.
“Enough” is never “enough”, think bigger.
Racetracks? Not enough. Production factories? Not enough. The entirety of Birmingham? Not fookin’ enough. You don’t want small-town bars, a few coppers on your payroll, and half a guarantee that no one will run up on you. You want military defence contracts. The protection of Winston Churchill. You want to take London by force. You want to take the US with crates of gin. You want to be completely untouchable through a political position. You want to command every hired gun, knife, and wire in the land. You want to be richer than God. “Enough” should be reserved for when you’re lowered to the ground in an ivory casket. Or, if you so choose, exiting as a billow of smoke through the mortuary chimney. Always think bigger.
Never lose sight of what it’s really about, never apologise for your success.
At the end of the day, this all means nothing unless you have someone to share it with. Stand by the ones dear to you, and form a close family wherever you find yourself. Close enough to be in punching distance, even. But more importantly, never apologise for all that you have achieved. It’s yours by right. In the words of Tommy Shelby himself:
“I’m not a traitor to my class. I am just an extreme example of what a working man can achieve.”