Paul Raymond was an entrepreneur, property mogul and lifetime purveyor of pornography. He died fairly recently at the age of 82. The rights and wrongs of the pornography industry are one thing (which I have no intention of debating) but it has to be said that Raymond’s life is an example of how certain traits, certain ways of thinking about and doing things lead to success.
I am not putting Paul Raymond on a pedestal nor suggesting that we should emulate him in every respect. Indeed, Raymond was not universally successful – though he became very rich and successful in his field, his private life was a bit of a mess and from what I’ve read, he didn’t appear to be very happy, living for many years as a recluse. This just goes to underline the fact that money does not lead to happiness – these things are independent. Obviously, Raymond failed to actualize himself fully, but there are lessons we can learn from his life – he has much in common with other materially successful people.
1. Be creative and notice when opportunity knocks.
Raymond constantly sought out new niches and tried out new things, things that had never been done before. For example, when there was a big crackdown in Soho in the 70s, Raymond took the chance to buy up property at bargain basement prices – this property became the single biggest part of his financial success. When the law told him he could not put moving nudes on the stage, he devised a way of having static figures moving around wholesale. When the Revuebar was closed by authorities, he turned it into a private club and started charging people an entrance fee. Arguably this made it even more appealing!
The point is that you should look for opportunities. Don’t focus on the negatives, because the so-called negatives can end up being a blessing. Here’s a story I love (my own version):
An old man had a very fine, but rather wild thoroughbred horse. One day, the horse broke out of the paddock and ran away. The old man’s neighbor came over and, when he found out about the horse escaping, said, ‘that’s too bad – bad luck.’ But the old man said, ‘maybe, maybe not.’ The next day, the horse came back, bringing with it three fine wild horses. ‘How wonderful!’ exclaimed the neighbor. But the old man just smiled and said, ‘maybe, maybe not.’ The old man had a son, and the son went riding on one of the wild horses, but it was so wild that it kicked him and broke his leg. The old man’s neighbor found out and, again, said, ‘that’s too bad – bad luck.’ But the old man said, ‘maybe, maybe not.’ Soon, the army came knocking on the old man’s door, looking for conscripts for the war. Because the old man’s son was injured, they didn’t take him. ‘How wonderful!’ said the neighbor, but the old man said …
You get the idea. You don’t know were opportunity lies – except that it lies everywhere.
2. Don’t live in the past – it does not define who you are.
Raymond was born into poverty in 1925, was abandoned by his father and left school at 15. He claimed never to have read a book. In the end, he was worth over $1.6 billion and had changed the face of British society. Others have been similarly successful, but not many. How many people do you know that blame their past, their parents, their education (etc. etc.) for their failure to achieve anything in life? The truly successful are a tiny minority who know that the future is always new, always fresh: they are always ready to choose a different reality.
3. Don’t be afraid.
Raymond was constantly battling against the establishment, and who knows what was driving him, but he kept facing down his opponents. Most people are too comfortable where they are right now. I know so many people who spend all their time complaining, moaning, and playing the victim. They obviously feel comfortable doing this and they are afraid to get out there and try something new – they are afraid of failure and they are afraid of success: they are stuck, they can’t move, light rabbits trapped in the headlights. And we know what happens to rabbits stuck in the headlights …
The fact is that you choose. You choose to move or you choose to die. But make no mistake – you do choose. So choose to live without fear. Choose to be true to yourself. Choose to be free.
4. Believe in yourself.
While the establishment was trying every trick in the book to close him down, Raymond kept on going. No doubt he had down times, but he must have had tremendous self-belief. The average person is full of fear, self-doubt and insecurity. But successful people are fresh and undefeated. ‘Why do we fall?’ asked Michael Cane’s character in Batman Begins. ‘So that we can get up again!’
People with self belief attract opportunities and seem to lead ‘charmed lives.’ I read recently that ‘Life is a confidence trick… Real confidence is the unshakable conviction that the world is unfolding to your advantage and that you can handle anything life throws at you.’ (From Fiona Harold’s Website)
Self criticism is a terrible, poisonous thing. It will hurt you, it will impede you, it will stop you from achieving your goals, so stop doing it!
5. Don’t take the world (and yourself) too seriously.
Keeping things in perspective is terribly important. Let’s face it – the world is a pretty crazy place. I sometimes think that I’m dreaming (seriously – I don’t just mean that in some sort of metaphorical way) and that I’m going to wake up any moment in the real world, where the ‘rules’ that should work actually do work. Like ‘if you work hard you’ll be successful’ or ‘good people prosper.’
You can’t possibly understand why the world is like this – but it is, and you live in it, so stop trying to understand everything and stop making out that you’re terribly important and that the business of your life is so terribly serious. It’s not. Lighten up.
6. Keep building. Think big.
Raymond didn’t stop when he had had some moderate success – he constantly started new ventures and used his growing income to invest in new things. I read somewhere that Victoria Beckham (formerly known as ‘posh Spice’) said as a child (paraphrased) ‘when I grow up I want to be a famous as Persil Automatic’ (a brand of washing powder). That’s thinking big. And look where it leads. Again, this relates to your comfort zone – most people are too scared to think big: they’re happy with their modest life, their middle class way of living, their average achievements.
I wonder if you’ve watched the British sit-com The Office? In series two, Tim is thinking about whether to move on and take a risk or stay where he is. He compares his life to the roll of a dice. He says (paraphrased). ‘At the moment my life’s a three. I could throw a six, no problem. But then again I could throw a one.’
I’m not suggesting you quit your job and do reckless things, but if you don’t think big, you’ll never achieve big.
7. Don’t worry about what other people think or say about you.
Raymond embodied this trait absolutely; if he had cared about the establishment’s views, he would have died poor. He faced critics all this life, some of them very powerful, but he didn’t seem to notice. Elizabeth Taylor, when asked if she read what people write about her in the media, answered that she didn’t listen to or read anything written or said about her. She explained, ‘If you listen to the good things people say about you, you might end up believing them. If you listen to the bad things people say about you, you might end up believing them.’ Obviously caring little (or nothing) about his critics, in the end Raymond had built up an empire worth (probably more than) $1.6 billion.
8. Never give up.
Raymond kept going through it all – through the critics, the crackdowns, the outcries, the judgments against him. In the end, you could argue that he was instrumental in changing the face of British society. He was an ordinary, poor boy from a broken family. He became rich and immensely influential. Why? Luck? Is that what you believe?