No. 14 – Two Non School Related Topics During My Final Year At School

Before I start on my early days at work, let me tell you about two other life-changing events, outside of school, that happened between my 17th birthday and the day I started work on August 12th, 1968, 3 weeks short of my 18th birthday. These two monumental events were when I learned to drive, and I “discovered” alcohol.

We didn’t have a car before we moved to Longriggend, the small village in the countryside. It wasn’t only that we couldn’t really afford one, but the bus service in Coatbridge was so good, that we didn’t need a car. All that changed though, after we moved to Longriggend. Not so much me, but Mum and Dad, were isolated in our small village, and a car was essential both for shopping and recreational purposes.

So, soon after moving to the country, we were proud owners of a small second-hand Ford, and Dad, followed closely by Mum, learned to drive, mainly on their own in the schoolyard, where I later taught myself to ride a bicycle.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and the first thing I did the day after my 17th birthday was to apply for a learner’s driving permit. In those days, before automatic cars were common, 95% of cars had what Yanks call a “stick shift” and there were three pedals beside the driver’s feet. The average kid took around 3 months to learn to drive. It took me 10 months. I passed my driving test, at the first attempt (both Dad and Mum needed 2 goes LOL) on 1st July 1968, 10 months after my 17th birthday.

Why did it take me so long? It wasn’t my trembling hands, as holding the wheel was enough to steady them, so steering wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t my right foot, which could easily operate the accelerator and brake, and move between the 2 pedals with speed and ease. The big problem was operating the clutch smoothly when moving off and changing gear. Younger readers, especially those from the States may not have ever used a clutch, but, in my day, its smooth operation was of the utmost importance.

Dad, who was my main long-suffering teacher used to call me the “Kangaroo Kid”, as I tried again and again to pull smoothly away from the curb. The car would hop along for a few yards before I got it going properly and often, I’d stall the engine altogether, which was very dangerous when in traffic.

After 6 months, I seemed to be getting better and one Saturday Dad invited me to drive him into Glasgow. I can’t remember why he wanted to go there, but that doesn’t matter. We got to Coatbridge, the adjoining town without much difficulty, but there I kangaroo jumped away from a set of lights we had been stopped at. There was much angry tooting from vehicles behind, but I finally got going and the tooting died down. “Pull over, son,” Dad ordered. So, I signaled and stopped when it was safe to do so.

“Phil,” he said sternly. “I’ll give you one last chance. If you kangaroo hop or stall the car one more time today, I am going to finish the drive into and back from Glasgow. In fact, I’ll seriously consider if I’ll ever go out with you at the wheel again.”

He was obviously serious, and I took a deep breath. “Understood,” I mumbled. I signaled, glanced over my shoulder, and pulled away like the Queen’s chauffeur. The short lecture had triggered a switch in that part of my brain that controlled the smoothness of movement of my left foot and I drove into the busy city, around the busy city, and home from the busy city, like a swan floating along a calm pond.

I was soon ready to start practicing the maneuvers I would be required to perform during my test, including a start facing up an incline, which involved incorporating releasing the handbrake in conjunction with releasing the clutch. If the car moved backwards even for an inch it meant instant failure, and I would have been asked to drive straight back to the test center. When the day finally came, that didn’t happen, and to my amazement, I passed the first time.

So, again I want to emphasize to all my Internet Marketing friends, the importance of never giving up, when you hit a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. With me and my inability to control the clutch properly the “light-bulb moment” was triggered by a severe warning from my mentor, who happened to also be my father. After that moment I never had any problems controlling the clutch again. In later life, I drove in many countries of the world and I was involved in only one serious accident, after which I was found to be completely blameless. I now haven’t driven a car with a clutch for almost ten years but, I am confident that, if an emergency demanded it today, I could safely and smoothly drive a non-automatic car through the chaotic streets of Bangkok.

Similarly, if you are being held back in your I.M. endeavors in any area, the day will come, when you too get a “light-bulb moment”. Somebody may make a passing reference in a Webinar, video, or podcast you are listening to, and a brain cell will suddenly trigger the realization that what you have just heard is the solution to the problem that has been holding you back. You will never forget that solution and you will have taken another giant leap forward towards your goals. There MUST be a solution to every problem. If there weren’t there would be no millionaire Internet Marketers, yet there are many of them.

They may be a very small percentage of the ever-growing number of people who try to base their business on the Internet Marketing model, but the fact that there are some very successful people proves that there are no insurmountable problems.

The second topic that I want to touch on as having a profound effect on my life, which also started during that momentous year of my life, was that I “discovered” alcohol. Strictly beer, not spirits. Earlier in my secondary school days I had, along with most of my classmates, experimented with cigarettes. But I did not enjoy the sensation one little bit, and together with the fact that my unsteady hands put my nose in danger of being burned on the few occasions I tried to light one, meant that I gave up after trying to smoke about 4 cigarettes over. I doubt if I ever finished one, or ever inhaled the smelly stuff properly. I’ve never had one since, and have never imbibed in illegal drugs of any kind.

Beer, however, was a different matter. From soon after my 17th birthday, although the legal drinking age was 18, I started to enjoy the occasional pint of lager with a reasonably large splash of lime in it. The first time I got properly drunk was on New Year’s Eve 1968 at a friend’s house. To this day, I can still remember the toilet bowl going around in circles before my eyes, with me thinking, “I don’t believe this, I don’t believe this.” From then on, I would regularly have a couple of pints on Saturday evenings, and from the mid-1970s to the present, there have been very few days when I did not have at least one alcoholic drink, normally beer, during the evening.

I stated earlier that I “discovered” beer. By putting inverted commas around the word “discovered” I mean that I discovered that drinking alcohol temporarily steadies my trembling hands. The only time I have ever been able to carry two glasses with any liquid in them, one in each hand, is after “I’ve had a few”. For all my life, doctors from several countries have been giving me drugs to try to steady my hands. But, as I’ve told them all after I was 17, and I am telling you now, “nothing beats alcohol.” I honestly don’t think I’d still be around today, without it.

There’s no real comparison I can make between this story and Internet Marketing. Except, perhaps, that no matter how busy your schedule is, you must leave a little time for relaxation.

In the next blog, I’ll really start relating the story of my hectic work life in Glasgow to you.

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