My mum, the entrepreneur
I had a brief-but-memorable interaction in the gym locker room recently.
I was in a good mood after a workout/spa session, and I noticed this guy wearing a Chiacgo Bulls shirt.
We talked about NBA and The Last Dance, and it turns out that he was a business owner. His dad before him was, too.
I have a good friend of mine, whose dad has sadly now passed, who is also an entrepreneur. His dad was, too.
We aren't completely the product of our experiences, but I believe they play a part. My own dad is very passionate about what he does, and he is very skilled at it, but I know he wouldn't be offended if I said he doesn't have much of an interest when it comes to business.
I remember as a kid growing up, I wanted to make my dad proud.
I remember trying really hard at math (what we call maths here in England). I understood it, I was okay at it, but I never had the same logically-inclined brain my Dad and my brother have. I was good enough at it... I remember my dad would sometimes get frustrated when I didn't grasp mathematical concepts too well. Looking back, I think he just wanted what was best for me and was perhaps a little surprised as to why I didn't grasp these black-n-white concepts.
I don't think either of us knew then that I wasn't naturally wired to be a black-n-white guy.
I remember getting into Chess, even getting to Board 1 at primary school, and eventually going to a Saturday chess club where the standard got higher, it felt more competitive, and I lost the joy of just doing chess for fun.
I look back and I think I see that a part of my dad was wanting to be to have – and grasp – the opportunities that he didn't have. Though he got into a good grammar school for secondary, he wasn't afforded the privilege of a private primary school like I was.
I think if my dad had gotten into chess when he was a kid, he would be really fricking good at it. And I think a part of him wanted me to lean into that, his first-born who looked so much like him, and be really fricking good at chess.
He's very skilled at logical and motor functioning pursuits. Whether it's intricate clinical work, or playing tennis or golf, my dad has a natural knack for it. My dad would play with a wooden racket and make me and my brother look like novices with our graphite rackets. This was well into our teens, and into early adulthood when – apparently – a man is in his sporting prime. It was quite embarrassing, really. Whereas I had tennis lessons for a time, my dad's youth practice would involve hitting a ball against a wall out in the street where he lived. Self-taught.
For a time I felt like I was letting my dad down a little, but looking back I realise he was just a father wanting to see his son fulfil his potential and make the most of the opportunities I had which he didn't. Each being complex human beings, it just turned out that our brain wiring was a little different.
I think, as boys, we look up to our fathers whether we realise it or not. Naturally, our experience – and perhaps even what we aim for – is shaped by our fathers. I feel like I got my smarts and my academia from my dad.
As I've stepped into my creative, entrepreneurial side in the last few years, I hadn't realised that there was a natural entrepreneur there with me all along.
My mum's father arrived as an immigrant from India in the 60s, and walked for miles to the nearest factory to sign up for a job. He didn't speak a word of English when he arrived and shared a room with a bunch of people. He ended up working in a shop, before going on to buy his own shop.
My mum, his first-born child, would come home from primary school and help out with household chores that included bathing her siblings. She would also help out in the shop, observe everything that was going on, and perform reconnaissance on competitors' shops and their prices. She learned negotiation not from self-help books or YouTube channels, but simply by observing, learning, and doing.
Shortly after she and my dad got married, they managed to knock together the money to buy a space for my dad's practice. They've worked together for more than 30 years, both crucial pieces of the family business; my dad being a skilled and caring surgeon, and my mother responsible for all things business-related.
In bringing me up and sending me to the schools I went to, my parents wanted me to have all the things they never had. Having an education was extremely important, and it was very important to have something to fall back on.
I don't think I even knew what entrepreneurship was when I left secondary school. There was this thing for sixth formers (year 12 and 13s) called Young Enterprise, but it sure as heck wasn't for Jas. Jas was brainy, academic, destined for university and a job in science, so he thought.
It would take a little while longer for the creative and the entrepreneur in me to emerge.
It was there with me all along, both inside of me (in my being), and outside of me in my lived environment... as my mum would diligently go about her day's activities, effortlessly switching between family life and business life.
Over more than three decades, my mum and my dad have made a phenomenal team. I'm not sure each of them would ever have found a more worthy co-pilot.