Forget the Year of the Dragon. 2012 looks like being the Year of the Whiner. This year’s bonus season seems to be characterised by a greater degree of self-pity than even this beaten up industry has grown used to.
The industry has been through the wringer, it is still shrinking, facing unprecedented challenges on many fronts at once, and politicians and the media show no sign of letting up. In fact as we head into the New Year things seem to be getting worse on a number of fronts.
So it was refreshing for me, and quite humbling, to meet someone who really has had a hard time, and has not only bounced back in the most remarkable way, but is out there talking about it and inspiring others.
Mark Ormrod was a young Royal Marine serving in Afghanistan. On Christmas Eve 2007 he became a victim of an IED – an improvised explosive device – that blew off both his legs above the knee and his right arm above the elbow. He was lucky to survive at all, such was the force of the explosion. Hearing him talk about it, I was struck by the random nature of the event. It is not a question of how fit or strong or brave or well trained you are. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, that is it.
People in the City often complain about the random nature of fate in the Square Mile. Good people, successful, talented, hard working, get fired as part of some corporate restructuring and it seems terribly unfair. But they don’t lose arms and legs.
When Mark Ormrod’s life changed forever he would probably have been earning something in the low twenties. Presumably we pay these young men so little not because we think that is what they are worth, but because that is what we can get away with.
Mark is cheerful, positive, articulate, with a great sense of humour and an extraordinary perspective on life. Since returning from Afghanistan he has got married, had a son, written a book about his experiences – ‘Man Down’, which I thoroughly recommend – and embarked on a new career working for the Royal Marines Association, speaking and fundraising and helping others who have suffered similar injuries. His target is to raise £1 million.
He spoke to us, a group of well heeled suits from business and the City, for about twenty minutes on the subject of setting objectives, followed by Q & A. Afterwards we stood to applaud him, something I have probably only done half a dozen times in my life, and never so spontaneously.
What did we take away from the session? My guess is we’ll be whining less this year, counting our blessings a little more, and not being shy of setting very ambitious goals. Sadly there are many examples of people suffering tremendous setbacks of many different types. Most of us know someone. But not everyone makes a comeback that is quite so remarkable.