My big sister was always the tough guy in our family.
I was always sitting around reading comics while she was out winning medals, and cups, and prizes.
So she was my role model for how powerful women were.
London was too slow, too old fashioned and lazy for her.
So, when I was 15, she went to live and work in New York.
When I was 18 I decided to go to art school.
But I got turned down by 7 art schools, from all over the UK.
I wrote to my sister and told her.
She said “Screw them, come to art school in New York.”
I wrote back, that was all very well, but we could never afford it.
She said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll get you a scholarship.”
I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but next day the phone rang at home.
It was my sister calling from New York.
She said, “I’m sending you the application forms, you need to fill them in immediately, because they have to be in by the day after tomorrow.”
I told her that wasn’t possible.
It takes 4 days for airmail to get to the UK, and 4 days to get back again.
She said, “I know that. Just be at Heathrow airport tomorrow morning at 10am and ask for the captain on TWA flight 107.”
And she hung up.
So the next morning I went to Heathrow.
He was waiting for me, at the TWA counter, with a bunch of forms in his hand.
He’d just flown a Boeing 707 in from New York.
He said, “Son, I have to wait here and make sure you fill these forms in. Then I have to take them back with me on tomorrow’s return flight.”
It turned out my sister had gone to JFK airport and located a flight that was going to London.
Then she chatted up the captain into bringing the forms over for me.
And then bringing them back again.
I thanked him as I filled the forms in.
He said, “Son, your sister is a very powerful lady.”
And of course he was right.
Which is why my sister went to New York.
There, when you had a really great, outrageous, exciting idea, all the agreement was to help you make it happen.
It was a ‘can do’ culture.
I was used to the English way: great ideas that never happen.
I knew I had no chance of going to art school in New York.
Nice dream, but everyone agreed it was impossible.
I was resigned to accepting reality in London.
In which case I’d never have gone to art school.
And never have gone into advertising.
It would have stayed a nice dream.
The difference was my sister.
She made it happen.
And that’s what I learned from her.
If no one makes it happen, it doesn’t happen.