October marks Black History Month in the U.K. To celebrate, we’re looking back at some of the most inspirational stories we’ve had the privilege to record as part of our Expert Interview series.
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones AKA “The Black Farmer”
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, self-titled “The Black Farmer,” was born in Jamaica, but he and his family moved to the U.K. when he was three years old. Growing up in a family of 11, in one of the most deprived areas of Britain, Emmanuel-Jones remembers his early life as being “poor and hungry.”
But, working on his father’s allotments planted a dream in young Emmanuel-Jones’ mind – that of owning his own farm.
After leaving school, Emmanuel-Jones joined the army, before going on to work in kitchens, and eventually for the BBC, where he produced and directed documentaries for 15 years. After leaving the BBC, he entered the world of PR, where he promoted brands that went on to become household names, such as Kettle chips and Plymouth Gin.
But his biggest and most enduring dream was to become a farmer. In this clip from our Expert Interview, he relates how he achieved that ambition by buying a farm in the beautiful English county of Devon, and building his successful company on the back of it.
The Danger of Playing it Safe
Since then, Emmanuel-Jones has been awarded an MBE for his services to British farming and written a book, “Jeopardy: The Danger of Playing it Safe on the Path to Success,” which delivers a series of inspiring tips to guide people toward realizing their own dream.
Some of his chapters have provocative titles, such as “Get an Attitude Problem” and “Stop Surviving.” The first chapter, “Embrace Jeopardy,” sets out Emmanuel-Jones’ motivation for writing the book.
He said, “In our society, we spend a lot of time in search of certainty. Any time there’s some change, or something different, it brings up a most violent fear that our lives will be destroyed. And I say, look, the only guarantee in life is that life is uncertain. It’s your attitude to uncertainty that will determine how and what you achieve in your life.”
His book aims to “give people ideas and examples of what they need to do to overcome uncertainty.” It does this by sharing what he’s learned through his own life’s journey, which saw him transform from “a boy from society’s dustbin heap” to the founder of the successful “The Black Farmer” food brand.
“Making a friend of fear” is central to Emmanuel-Jones’ approach. He recognizes that, at times, fear can be helpful. For example, when it makes you run from life-threatening situations. But it can also undermine our attempts to take a leap into the unknown and, conceivably, into a better future.
Emmanuel-Jones shares a vivid personal example to illustrate the importance of making a friend of fear. He said, “I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The doctors did not think that I was going to survive, and I ended up in hospital for a whole year.”
Facing death brought a new kind of fear for Emmanuel-Jones, and consequently a new opportunity to reflect and learn.
He said, “You either can be consumed by [the fear of death] or you can make a friend of it by saying, ‘Actually, I have no control over this. If it happens it happens.’ You have to decide what you have and don’t have control over, and then embrace this sort of experience, because from that experience great learning comes.”
Have a Dream
Above all, it taught him the power of hope, because “when you have hope it lifts the spirit and, by lifting the spirit, it helps you to endure and to go on.”
Which brings us to some final words of wisdom from Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones:
“If you’ve got something to look to, you can see there is a possibility of something else. It’s amazing how that energizes our being and, in my case, it brought me back to the land of the living.
“So one of the things I say to people is, ‘Have a dream.’ Don’t try and work out how you will get there, because you’ll get there, but you won’t get there by the way you think you’ll get there. It will take you on all different curves, but keep looking ahead.”
Listen to the Full Interview With Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
You can learn more about Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones’ journey to success, as well as tips on how you can follow your dreams, by joining the Mind Tools’ Club and listening to our full range of Expert Interviews.
How much do you embrace jeopardy in your life and work? Join the discussion, below.