Tony Cullingham has been running the Watford advertising course for decades.

Tony is a phenomenon.

His graduates consistently get as many jobs as all the other graduates put together.

In fact, lots of the ECDs current graduates will be asking for jobs were trained by Tony.

Everyone on Tony’s course is a post graduate.

Someone who’s taken a degree in something else and decided it was a mistake.

Economics, Politics, History, Geography, Law, Philosophy, Biology.

Tony’s course throws them a lifeline.

You’ve got one last chance.

Don’t screw it up.

The course is just 9 months long.

So the intensity is far greater than conventional 3 year courses.

That’s why the graduates are better.

They’re motivated.

And Tony knows, motivation is everything.

Motivation provides energy.

And energy beats talent.

We always agreed on that.

Which is why Tony recently bought me a copy of a book he loved: Seabiscuit.

It’s the true story of a horse in America in the 1930s.

A horse nobody wanted.

A jockey that couldn’t get a ride.

And a trainer everyone thought was an outdated hick.

The horse was too short and ungainly for a racehorse.

The jockey was partially blind and physically disabled.

The trainer was inarticulate and crippled by shyness.

But they wanted to race.

Not for anyone else, for themselves.

They suffered broken ribs, shattered legs, ruptured ligaments, ruined ankles, poverty, alcoholism.

But they wanted to race.

Not for anyone else, for themselves.

And, against all the odds, they won absolutely everything there was to win.

Every race, every prize, every trophy.

They shattered every record in horse racing.

What they did became bigger than the entire sport itself.

By ignoring everyone else, and doing it for themselves.

Tony knew I’d love that story, which is why he gave it to me.

But when I’d finished, I found an equally amazing story at the back of the book.

There was an interview with the author: Laura Hildenbrand.

This is what she said:

“I suffer from chronic ME which leaves me profoundly incapacitated. I’ve had it for twenty years and spent several years totally bedridden, unable to bathe myself, struggling to sit up, racked with fever. For the past fifteen years I have been particularly bedevilled by one particular symptom, whirling vertigo, which makes it feel as if the floor is pitching up and down, and makes things around me appear to move when they are stationary. Vertigo makes reading and writing exceptionally difficult. Working on the book left me very dizzy and nauseated every day. When my vertigo was especially bad and I couldn’t look at a screen without it spinning, I took a notebook, lay down, and wrote with my eyes closed. It was quite a struggle.”

And yet, when she finished, her book became The New York Times number one bestseller.

And it stayed there, week after week.

It had rave reviews from publications as diverse as Publishers Weekly, Sports Illustrated, The Economist, NewsWeek, even People.

It won literary prizes all over the world.

It was such a sensation that Hollywood bought the rights for the film, which was itself nominated for seven Oscars.

They asked her if she wrote the book intending it to be successful.

She said “I was very far from expecting the book to enjoy the success that it has. I had been told, over and over again, that the public was not interested in books on racing, and I was, of course, a very obscure writer. I went into the experience with the goal of telling the story the best way that I was able. So when the book did as well as it did, I was wonderfully, blissfully surprised.”

Just like Seabiscuit, the trainer, and the jockey, she didn’t do it for anyone else.

She didn’t do it with the desire for prizes, or praise, or reward.

She did it because it was inside her and she wanted to do it.

Whether anyone else cared about it or not.

She did it for herself.


As Maya Angelou says “The bird doesn’t sing because it has the right answer. It sings because it has a song.”