7 motivational tips for startups from Falklands War veteran Simon Weston

Kane Fulton, October 3, 2017 4 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Former Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston suffered severe burns when his ship was bombed during the Falklands War in 1982. After a miraculous recovery, he overcame his life-changing injuries to skydive, become an author, and start a charity (Weston Spirit), among many other achievements.

Weston also runs several businesses including a security firm in South Wales, and Zappawoo, parent company of Zap Escapes which specialises in selling holidays to those with accessibility requirements.

A well-known media personality, Weston has won awards for his motivational speaking. He recently regaled the workforce at Leeds-based tech company BigChange Apps with his life story, which was replete with motivational insights and learnings that could be applied to startup business.

From leaving behind a fear of failure to learning how to sell yourself and the team around you, here are seven motivational quotes from a man who has succeeded in the face of adversity.

Simon Weston at BigChange Apps

1. On helping yourself

“I’ve had a lot of help from people in this country who owe me absolutely nothing. I’ve always believed that nobody owes me anything or ever will; the only person who owes me anything is me.

“I’m not looking for somebody else to make my life different or change my world – the only person who can do that is me. And the only long-lasting person who will stay in my life right until the very end is me. Other people can add to my life, but nobody can change it dramatically – unless they kill me.”

2. On fearing failure

“Startup tech is uncertain by nature of what it is, but you must face your fears in the world of business – if you’re not prepared to do that then you’re going to give up at the first fight. I was simply afraid of failure, afraid of being rejected because of the way I looked. After what happened to me, I feared that I didn’t have anything to offer because I wasn’t a Welsh guardsman any more. Instead of assuming that anything was possible, I assumed that I would fail.

“If you fear failure then you will never change, take a risk or gamble on yourself. And the only gamble worth taking is an educated one. Invest in yourself, work hard, and you can move forward. But to fear failure is just to let yourself down.”

Simon Weston at BigChange Apps

3. On talking to investors

“Talking to investors is like going to an interview – they’re not just inviting their time, but their money too. And, remember, they’ve had to back themselves at some point in their life. The one thing you must do there is build your confidence.

“Whenever I’ve employed people, or worked with people who hire others, I’ve seen the grandest of people come in for interviews but not get the job; instead, it’s gone to people who haven’t got much of a formal education or academic bits of paper but have sold themselves brilliantly.

“I once had a friend in the Territorial Paratroopers who studied to be an architect. He walked into a job interview with the biggest portfolio you’ve ever seen in your life. When one of the five people sat there asked why they should give him the job, he instead asked why he should take it. They gave it to him, and that was all down to his confidence.”

4. On selling

“The difference between winning and losing comes down to the simple matter of attitude – either you believe in yourself or you don’t. Ultimately, we’re all trying to sell something, and the first thing we sell when we go anywhere is ourselves. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?

“The wonderful thing about human beings is that they will eventually see through whatever it is that others don’t believe it; somebody will see right through you.”

Simon Weston at BigChange Apps

5. On building your team

“You have to build what you have with the right people around you – if I wanted to build a wall I wouldn’t take advice from an electrician. The teams here at BigChange are diverse but work together and build different steps for one another.”

6. On trying new things

“Going into new ventures has to be done in steps – after learning to fly you wouldn’t try an aerobatic routine – you would kill yourself. Similarly, just because you can use a computer, it doesn’t mean that you can build a tech firm. Everything must come in its own micro stages and you have to build carefully and steadily, or you will face failure.

“The old adage of walking before you can run has lasted so long because it’s right. But it’s all about whether you have the right running gear on, so to speak – if you don’t have it, you can’t outpace other people.”

Simon Weston at BigChange Apps

7. On facing tragedy

“We all face tragedy, but it’s how we deal with it. You can let it drag you down or get on with things – and there are plenty of people who can help. Whether it’s in a religious context, a friend or a local barman. The fact of the matter is that somebody will give you that kernel of something that will help.”

Startup stories, Leeds, Yorkshire