Ode to a hero

A tawdry headline really got my goat this weekend: “Keith Floyd leaves paltry £7,500 legacy”.

Some four years after his death, legendary chef, TV personality and raconteur left a very ‘normal’ looking legacy to his two children. The subtext was that this was a poor tribute to his life and works.

And yet, to me Keith was a giant. But stupid little headlines like this can make one a little reflective. Here at The Right Side, we talk a lot about money and financial well-being. But if the life of Floyd can be pared back to something so simple as seven and a half grand, then where does that leave the rest of us?

I’d like to run his life through the wringer of my favourite management and lifestyle guru – Steven Covey. You may be familiar with Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If not, I think you should be. So we’ll run through every one of them today.

By viewing the life of Floyd through the lens of Covey’s seven habits, we’ll see how he could have done better. More importantly, there are life lessons here for all of us. As we near the end of another year, perhaps it’s a good time to take stock.

The seven habits

One: Be proactive. Keith certainly was. Keith’s old man was an electricity meter engineer and brought up his family on a council estate in Somerset. Despite humble beginnings, Floyd was about to go out and get noticed.

Keith grew up in the post-war era of austerity and yet had a gung-ho energy that was to set him up for life. It’s always worth remembering that social mobility is as much about attitude as it is aptitude.

For all those that assumed Floyd was of aristocratic heritage and had been born into a world of fine dining and living, forget it. This was a self made man whose family started with nothing but ambition.

Two: Begin with the end in mind. It seems so obvious, yet many of us forget this obvious springboard into the game of life. Always imagine where you want to be, before you go about getting there.

This is true whether you’re planning a career or planning a retirement fund. You should have a mental image of where you want to be. Floyd had a plan – to become a restaurateur… and he did.

Three: Map out a plan. Without a plan, you are lost. It doesn’t have to be a great plan, but a plan is required. By the time he was in his early 20s, Floyd was already well into his plan. He’d learned French and spent time in French kitchens. At the time, that was pretty much all that was required on a chef’s CV.

At a young age, Floyd was, therefore, well on his way to becoming what Steven Covey would call a ‘highly effective person’. After he returned to the UK, it wasn’t long before he had three restaurants.


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And that’s when things went wrong…

Four: Think ‘win-win’. Highly effective people rarely make it alone. Think of all the greats: Carnegie, Ford, Gates, Jobs – all of them had the ability to get other talented players on board.

Effective people are able to harness the energies of others by finding a way to make them winners too. Think win-win… that is a win for you and a win for your partner.

Alas, for Floyd this is where things started to fall apart. Personal relationships (four marriages) and the ability to delegate responsibility didn’t come naturally.

It is unlikely that you can achieve greatness without the ability to empower and help others achieve their own greatness. It’s a lesson we’d all do well to remember.

Five: Understand, then be understood. Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. As a try-hard French speaker, I just love watching footage of Floyd in the Floyd on France series. His French was beautiful – his understanding of this difficult bunch of people, superb.

Floyd never got hung up on his own opinions, nor hemmed in by his own knowledge. As the first televised globetrotting chef he was thirsty for knowledge – eager to learn and understand. If more of us would seek to understand before we try to get understood, this world would tick along so much better.

Six: Synergise. What does that mean? Well, essentially, synergy talks of co-operation in order to get more out of the whole than each individual puts in.

Floyd put so much into life, but he seemed incapable of bringing together people and teams that really synergised.

You would have thought that with his talent and undoubted fame, he would be able to establish restaurants coining it in. But he didn’t. His first three restaurants in Bristol were sold to get cash to pay the creditors. He later lost millions on other failed gastronomic enterprises.

Seven: Sharpen the saw. Covey’s last insight into the habits of effective people is that they never stop assessing their lives. Effective people always take a step back and make sure they’re treading the right path.

When the saw ain’t working, you take time out and sharpen it. Then get back to work.
It’s such a simple lesson. But it’s one that’s all too often missed. And very sadly, I suspect it was missed by my personal hero, Floyd.

Taking time out to assess where you’re going is the key to ensuring that you get where you want to go. That is true for personal relationships, a business, or an investment portfolio. Sharpen the saw.

I know that this all sounds like trite hogwash. But it’s still true. If you have never read Covey’s 7 Habits, it’s worth doing so. There’s a reason why this text has been top of the management text charts for years.

And if, like me, you enjoyed the life and works of Floyd, then you will know that this man leaves a legacy of much more than £7,500.

Let’s raise a glass to that, fellow gastronauts.

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4 Responses

  1. 16/12/2013, osprey wrote

    hear hear! well said bengt! (floyd was/is my hero too!)

  2. 16/12/2013, MikeH54 wrote

    Inspired reading and so true. It’s not what we leave behind in material terms its what difference we make and the value we add to the lives of others while we are here. Applying the 7 Habits can really help to find our niche to apply this. You only have to reflect on the people who have had made a significant input to our own lives to realise this.

  3. 16/12/2013, lentos wrote

    Well said Bengt, Very true, I think he was lots of peoples hero and quite the best televised cook by a country mile. Always good fun.

  4. 28/12/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

    I agree Bengt. Floyd was a hero who popularised cooking for ordinary folk by taking the snobbery out of it.
    He was bankrupted in the late 90′s so not likely to leave much money to his kids. The real legacy was his joie e vivre and his pricking of the bubble of pomposity.

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