An interview with Simon Weston
Simon was aboard RFA Sir Galahad when it was bombed by Argentine jets in 1982. Aged just 20, he suffered 46 per cent burns. Thirty years later I spoke to Simon following his recent return to the British islands in the South Atlantic for the filming of an ITV documentary ‘Return to the Falklands’. It’s clear that Simon’s determination has inspired courage and the will to excel in countless others. It’s understandable how his irrepressible humour and infectious enthusiasm have made him the number one choice of many companies who invite Simon back to speak at their events time and again.
1. Who or what was your motivation to keep going?
It’s quite straightforward really I just didn’t want to die. There was so much more I wanted to do. I admit it was a hard road, it wasn’t easy.
I am quite ambitious and competitive and there are so many motivators. I don’t have a huge ego, but with just one feeling of achievement, it makes you feel so much better and with each bit of success you thrive.
2. What was is like returning to the Falklands recently?
Well I’ve been back many times and each time it’s been different. I returned in December for the filming of the documentary ‘Return to the Falklands’ and then again in April. . The first time I went back it was very emotional, but one of the best times was in December. It’s all about the legacy and success and the way The Falklanders are coping now. It’s fantastic to see what they have achieved, it proves that it was all worth it – that they did something with the investment. The Falklands had a stroke of luck with discovering oil, and they are doing so much with protecting the wildlife and ecology. It now has a huge tourism industry. They have invested in this enormously with gift shops, fast food outlets and accommodation and on the back of this they have invested in learning about the battles and the history of where it all took place.
3. Why is it important for businesses and organisations to motivate staff in a recession?
When you’re at the bottom you need to find a way to re-energise. Change always happens and if you’re not ready for change then it takes you by surprise and you have to play catch up. It’s about preparing and investing in yourself. People need to feel valued.
4. What was the turning point of your experience?
There were lots of turning points, they were all just staging points along the way. A turning point was the first time I did something for nothing because I just felt valued, carrying 3 poppy wreaths in London meant something to me. It meant they valued my input and it was lovely to be able to do something for others. Purchasing my own house, doing all the things around the 30th anniversary. All of these things were big marks in my recovery.
5. Were there times you thought you would not survive?
There weren’t many times but just one time when I thought it was all too much, I closed my eyes and thought I wouldn’t wake up. This was on the ship. I contemplated suicide following this whilst suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). There was a lack of investment by the Government in this. It was only in 1987 following various court cases that the Government recognised this as a disorder. It was about the money and people were treated appallingly. I don’t feel bitter about this however. Physically I was given the best possible care but mentally given no care at all.
6. What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
There are no ends to this; I’m creating an engineering consultancy at the moment. It’s starting to grow rapidly. I’m also working with young people in prisons, it’s an organisation called Quantum performance, it helps people to find their way with their lives after leaving prison. This takes over from Weston Spirit which was about helping young people. My children’s book ‘Nelson at Sea’ is one of the top selling children’s books. I’m also working on a campaign to help raise funds for service personnel. When one avenue closes down it’s all about opening up another one. Future is all about reinvesting to find a way forward. I am still investing.
7. Can you delegate?
Yes as long as I trust the person. For me, it’s all about trust, these people have to make themselves trustworthy. If I delegate I don’t expect excuses, if the task is beyond that person then I expect them to speak up.
8. What makes a good manager or leader?
This amounts to the same thing. You have to have the trust of your staff and be honest to be a good leader. You need to get to know your people and don’t over trust them, never become too arrogant.
9. Why do you think it is important to book an external speaker?
Certain types of speakers have a lot more to offer and can benefit an organisation massively. My talk is all about overcoming adversity and my message is one of single-minded determination, to not only accept what is, but to turn that to your advantage. I feel that my own experiences demonstrate clearly that such a positive mental attitude can achieve great goals.