A guest post by Anjida Sripongworakul, MSc Management Science (Decision Sciences) student

Innocent Foundation’s Richard Reed shares nine lessons on life.

Imagine that a stranger steps up to you and asks, “In all that you have learned, if you could tell me the one most important thing, what is it?”

And so went the story Richard Reed retold at his LSE evening lecture, of how he gathered the lessons from the prominent people he had met throughout his life, in the arts, politics, charities, sports, and various fields into his book, If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…. Reed co-founded the Innocent Foundation and Jam Jar investments, the venture capital from which companies such as Deliveroo was funded. Richard’s lecture highlighted the nine features his collected advice have in common.


1. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Successful people are clear about their one main objective, the goal they are working toward. It is about saying “yes” to the most important thing and “no” to fifty other less important things. As Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive revealed to Reed, “It’s about…hav[ing] the audacity and ambition to be better at the world at one thing.”

2. Fake it till you make it.

Life is about doing it anyway despite not feeling confident. Instead, doing what you do in the long term builds confidence. You have to stretch your own comfort zone. If you are not feeling uncomfortable, you are not pushing yourself hard enough.

3. Start.

Start whatever you want to do and don’t stop. The fundamental importance is to get going. Baronness Martha Lane Fox advised Reed to be bold, since the only thing you have to lose is reputation. Do not hold yourself back. Go for it. The personal motto of critically acclaimed British director, Richard Curtis, is “If you want something to happen, you have to make something.”

4. Sharpening your sword.

After starting, practice is crucial. It is the practice of the skill that counts, not being born with the innate gift. Of course, a skill at the start is never good enough. British tennis champion Andy Murray believes, “When you apply yourself, you can achieve anything…Don’t forget, natural ability will only get you so far, there is no substitute for practice.” The people that keep going the hardest, the longest, will win in the long term.

5. Work it.

Marina Abramovic, the number one performance artist in the world, said that 100 percent is not good enough. 150 percent is just good enough. Working it means being ambitious, going beyond the 100 percent, or, in Stephen Fry’s very British way, “Work[ing] your bloody bollocks off.”

6. Listen to Yourself.

The answer lies within. Life is an inside job. You have to get comfortable sitting in a dark room by yourself. At the end of the day, only you know deep down what is going to serve you best. Tune into yourself. Become the authentic self that you long to be. Do not be defined by your past or your future. Irish novelist Edna O’Brien reminded Reed, “Never forget what befits you.”

7. Be Unreasonable.

Reject the choice architecture. You do not have to take your choices as they are. Ask, “Why?” and “Why not?” Stand up to bad things. Do not let setbacks define you, just as perfumer Jo Malone decided, “I’ll tell you when I’m going to die,” and successfully battled her cancer. Famous restaurant owner Heston Blumental said, “Question everything.” If you do not question, you do not learn. Learning is where imagination comes from.

8. Success = (idea + people + execution) x luck, where luck is a number between 0 and 10,000.

Kitchen Confidential’s Anthony Bourdain told Reed, “If you’re 44 years old like I was, and you’ve f*cked up your life in every way like I had, then make sure you recognise a lucky break when you get one.” If you have found your moment, if you know that this is it, then go all in.

9. Life is a team sport.

Business. Community. Relationships. Life is built around teams. Bill Clinton identified one of the most important things to him as people, from “the person who opens the door for you, to the person who pours your coffee. Acknowledge them. Show them respect.” World renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel affirmed the quality of life as dependent on the quality of the relationships we have around us.

Being in a team is how you maintain that motivation after you have started something. Despite working with people different from you, a shared vision in a little group is more powerful than you think.

During the Q&A session after the lecture, Reed shared his own most important advice: Contribute. Life gets more positive if you are proactive and contribute. “By contributing,” he said, “I enjoy life more.”

Photo of Anjida Sripongworakul
About the Author, Anjida Sripongworakul

Originally from Thailand, I am a graduate student in Management Science (Decision Sciences Stream). My passions lie in creative writing, behavioral science, and its influences on decision making.