5 Things Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship

With a drive that is unmatched, the leader TV character has proved that self-belief and determination is what it takes to make our endeavours work.
5 Things Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship
Image credit: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Guest Writer
Founder of Let's Talk Coaching
7 min read
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For avid watchers of Peaky Blinders like myself, you will know that Tommy Shelby is a war veteran that grips the nation with his cutthroat yet intriguing ways. Despite the violent and aggressive characteristics that are typically portrayed throughout the series, there is no denying that the criminal entrepreneur is a smart and cunning businessman with a few gems that can certainly inspire the likes of you and I in our business endeavours.

Although there are many, my favourite definition of entrepreneurship is coined by Howard H. Stevenson, a Harvard Business School professor. He states entrepreneurialism as ‘the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control’, a mindset where the entrepreneur can see the potential in an opportunity and find a way to make it happen. This almost always requires a creative, passionate and witty approach, a side reflected in the Peaky Blinder’s main character Tommy Shelby throughout the brilliant series.

Here are five Shelby quotes we can apply to our own business strategies and attitude.

1. “Lies travel faster than the truth.”

Starting your own venture will inevitably involve countless challenges where you may be encouraged to tell a white lie here and there. Business can be threaded with lies, typically during negotiations, marketing ploys and even to yourself. There is often a conception that entrepreneurs bluff all the time in the name of self-promotion, and many have admitted to twisting the truth, pushing boundaries or exaggerating in order to get the ball rolling with new customers, funding and publicity.

Lying can however lead you down a slippery slope as you now must consciously remember what you have told in order to keep up appearances. Today, there is certainly a noticeably higher value placed on authenticity from a customer’s perspective. Customers value authenticity, and so, being truthful is certainly a trait that will make you stand out and become far more relatable I’m sure. Contrary to the popular phrase, not all publicity is good publicity and with the age of social media that we live in today, Shelby is right, your lies will travel faster than the truth. Your best bet? Stay honest and truthful as in the end, lies do risk coming back and biting you.

2. “You can change what you do, but you can’t change what you want.”

It can be hard to discover what our passions in life are, let alone being in a position where you are able to earn money from doing what you love. However, that is the beauty of life for the most part. It’s the pursuit that is the greatest journey and once we find that one thing we want to do for the rest of our days, we just hope we can earn our money whilst doing it.

When we have a deep understanding of who we are and what we want for ourselves, we discover not only what our passions are but who we would like to become. We envision a life and lifestyle that we crave and want. As we hop from job to job or business idea one to business idea two, we will never be content until we land on an opportunity that corresponds with what we want for ourselves. We can change what we do, but we will never be satisfied until we pursue our deepest desires. If your considering jumping into a new endeavour, make sure its something you want to do and establish your motivation for its pursuit. Otherwise, you may find yourself changing in the short run due to unfulfillment.

3. "Brave is going where no man has gone before”

Stepping out of your comfort zone is something that all entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with. We often remain where we feel safe or at ease, what brings us ‘comfort’, and this can prevent us from doing things we really want to do. It is considered a brave act to step out of your comfort zone because you are taking the risk of entering the unknown, you can’t really predict what is going to happen next as you have never experienced it.

Of course, depending on what you are contemplating doing for the first time, the intensity of the risk can be somewhat guessed; but not entirely. The only way we can know something for sure is to just do it, experience it and be in it. Usually, you will find that the aftermath of taking that leap of faith is not as bad as you expected. Be brave and enter the unknown! You never know what doors may open for you.

4. “Those of you who are last will soon be first. And those of you who are downtrodden will rise up.”

I’m sure we have all heard the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, a fable in which the slow Tortoise manages to overtake and win the race against the over-confident Hare. It teaches us that we can be more successful if we are slow and steady rather than quick and impulsive. As humans, we do compare our view of success with the achievements of others. Especially as an entrepreneur, we have a template of what we think success should look like that is often influenced by a competitor in the industry and it can be hard to motivate ourselves during days where we just don’t seem to be winning at this game at all.

This is partly why most start up companies fail so early on; they lose their drive as they cannot see the results that they desire quick enough. However, if you truly believe in your idea and have the drive to power through the ebbs and flows of your entrepreneurial journey, you are likely going to see a change in results and come out on top eventually. Any falls you experience will ultimately propel you forward and help you to grow and learn. Shelby’s drive is truly unmatched, even with near-death experiences and a battle with PTSD, he finds a way to rise up and continue.

5. “There is no rest for me in this world. Perhaps in the next.”

As an entrepreneur, you are the business and if you stop, so does your business. You will have to put in more working hours than ever before to get your endeavour started and this kind of commitment is why not everyone is cut out for the entrepreneurial pathway. You must understand that to be successful as a business owner, your working days will flow into your weekends and your evenings to relax will be interrupted by creative flows and uninvited business ideas. Especially initially in your start up, you will have very little rest. Your mind will constantly be churning ideas around and around, yes even on that beach in Spain you will mentally take your business with you. Of course, extensivity in any manner is unhealthy and determining a work/life balance that suits you is necessary. But as the wizard behind the business operations, you become accountable. There is no rest for you as an entrepreneur, your mind is constantly on the go!

Being an entrepreneur is not all glitz and glamour, but if you’re passionate about what you do it is certainly worth it. Don’t underestimate the hard work that goes into any venture and as we have learned from Tommy Shelby, we can rise from any failure as long as our hope and self-belief remain intact; a vital key to the entrepreneurial mindset.

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