Thursday, 22 December 2016

Not A Bad Tribute . . .

A Hard Act to Follow

The former Prime Minister of New Zealand resigned this week--not because he had to, but because he chose to do so.  He left the recital on a very high note.

No doubt there will be many encomiums.  Here is one that helps explain why Key will go down as one of the greater Prime Minister's of this country--an ordinary, decent bloke.  It has been published on LinkedIn by Jake Millar:

It was C.S. Lewis who once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”  This is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learnt from our outgoing Prime Minister, John Key, a man who changed my life by doing just that.

When I was 15-years-old, on Saturday the 4th of September in 2010, my father, Rod Miller, died in a skydiving plane crash in Fox Glacier, which killed nine people.  It was the worst plane crash New Zealand had experienced in 17 years, and it tore many people apart.

It was a rough time for New Zealand. The very same day Christchurch experienced its first major earthquake, destroying the city. And just over one month later, the West Coast was hit with another tragedy, after 29 men died in the Pike River mine disaster.

It was how Prime Minister John Key reacted to these terrible tragedies, particularly the one closest to my heart, where I first began to truly respect him, and appreciate him as a remarkable leader.
Following the plane crash, John Key took the four-hour return drive from Hokitika to Fox Glacier to visit the crash site, and pay his respects to the victims.

John Key’s humanness and kindness inspired me during this difficult time, so I wrote to him as a 15-year-old, thanking him for caring, while asking him for some advice in regards to my own future.  I was amazed to receive a very personal letter back directly from the Prime Minister.

Not only did he address all of my points issue by issue in an extremely kind and personal way, but he also enclosed a card, saying he wanted to meet me.

The card Jake Millar received from John Key, following his letter to the Prime Minister.

Several months later, John Key, while visiting the West Coast to see the victims’ families of the Pike River mine disaster, came to our family home in Greymouth for whitebait sandwiches, a cup of tea and a chat about my future.  He didn’t publicise the visit for political profit. No media were invited. He did it out of the goodness of his heart, because he wanted to help, and because he cared.

It was the goodness of John Key’s heart that inspired me to try my hardest in life, and strive to be the best version of me that I could be.  I vividly remember being inspired by the fact that John Key had lost his father as a young kid, before achieving his childhood dream. I remember thinking, ‘if he could, why couldn’t I?’

From left: Robyn Jacobs (Jake’s Mum); John Key; Jake Millar; Flynn Miller (Jake’s brother) in Greymouth, 2011
Inspired by John Key’s story, I worked with hunger and a sense of purpose to achieve my goal of becoming Head Boy of Christchurch Boys’ High School, and Head Boy of Adams House, the School’s boarding house, becoming the first student in 11 years to hold both roles.

I then made the decision to turn down a $40,000 law scholarship and start my first startup OOMPHER, which was acquired by Careers New Zealand, a Crown Entity of the New Zealand Government, in May 2015, only 10 months after I launched it.

Today, as the Co-Founder of Unfiltered, I have the great honour of travelling all over the world, interviewing the biggest names in global business, growing my second startup, Unfiltered, living a dream life between Auckland and New York City.  The point to all of this is not that I’m something great, but that it’s all been inspired by that early spark of inspiration: when John Key wrote to me.

I remember running into John Key at a National Party function years after our first meeting, and he asked how my Mum’s art business was going. He had only met her once, years earlier. This showed how much he truly cared.

Whether you loved or hated his politics, as Prime Minister, John Key was a good man. He had integrity. He cared about the people he represented. He did the right thing, even when no one was watching.

When I interviewed John for Unfiltered in December 2014, I asked him what his advice would be for his 16-year-old self.  “Pin your ears back and go for it. Most people under-shoot because they’re scared of failure.  It’s not ability that’s going to define how successful you are, it’s attitude.”

“She (John’s Mum) believed you could shape your own life. You’re the master of your own destiny.”

These are the lessons he taught me, and they have served me very well.  I am unsure how many lives John Key has changed over the years, but I know that mine was one of them. For that, I will be forever grateful.

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