Advice From The Big Guy

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


Hi Everyone,

It’s been a fair while since I’ve written a blog, must have been writer’s block or something, but I’ve lately received some encouragement to keep at it. So on the basis that there may be a few people still out there, I thought I’d give it a go.

In fact, I have this clever idea for a restart: A little zen wisdom from the most ‘non zen’ person you’d ever meet – my dad. I actually told him way back in the nineties that some of his comments had some zen in them, and for a minute I thought he was going to punch me out. I don’t think that enlightenment through meditation was exactly part of his self image.

Don Smith Sr. founded EllisDon on April 1, 1951, so we are coming up to our seventieth birthday. He died in 2013 (so I am probably safer now using ‘zen’ and ‘Don Smith’ in the same sentence), but a few years before that he did a favour for me. Around the end of 2008, I was struggling to come up with a ‘Year End’ message for everyone at ED. I didn’t want to do the usual corporate crap, and had no ideas for anything original. So I called ‘DJ’ up, and asked him if he’d do it for me. Just some advice after a long career and life – he would have been around 85 at this point – that he thought might be helpful, especially for the younger people at ED. He replied “How fast do you need it?” I said “No rush, a week would be fine.” I had it in less than two hours. It was unadorned, straight to the point and profound, pretty much like the man himself.

Here it is, in full. Try to imagine a tough construction veteran giving you this advice:

1: Do not try to impress people, because that is the way you will appear to them. The only person you have to impress is yourself.

2: Be careful. If you ever think you are doing well, you could become complacent. I personally have fallen flat on my face several times when I became overconfident.

3: Do not take your work home with you. Worrying about work at home can never help or change anything, besides you don’t get paid to worry.

4: Remember when you are dealing with people how you would like to be treated if you were in their place.

5: I try to think of myself as equal to other people, not inferior or superior.

6: Don’t worry, it may never happen.

7: Don’t be afraid to try new and different methods; it has always paid off for me.

8: Be sure to have a good sense of humour.

9: Get involved in your community.”

To be honest, I had pretty much forgotten about this. But I walked into one of the senior people’s offices in our London office a while ago, and he had a copy taped to his wall – still after all this time. And now I know that he uses it in his training sessions. So my dad is still helping out, almost eight years after his passing.

How cool is that?

Thanks for reading.