"I'd been in social work and education for about 10 years when a lot of people who had been very influential in my career started dying," says Jack Black from the office of Glasgow-based MindStore, nerve-centre of his Personal Development empire. "One died of a heart attack, one from cancer, another from a stroke. It made me look at that professional level and notice what a mess people were in, how there was all this long-term illness and relationship break-ups. I decided it wasn't really a place I wanted to go".
Black decided he'd rather go skiing, setting up his own package company and working a 70- to 80-hour week until he "collapsed in a hairdresser's". This second epiphany, which took place 10 years ago, was a turning point for the businessman, who realised he "was going the same way" as his late predecessors. His reaction was to get involved in American personal development and stress-management. "That was the only kind around then," explains Black, who has since filled the gap in the British market with his own company.
Cited among the 20 most influential Scots in a recent round-up by The Scotsman, Black is living proof of the success of his own personal development plan. The stress-meister attributes its success to "the fact it is grounded in the British experience" and Black is quick to decry the "offensive way in which some American personal development companies put a trademark on common sense".
Black's predictable tip for strung-out underachievers is to think positively. "There's no way you can survive in today's world being negative, no-one wants to work with negative people," he insists. Perhaps the best idea is to learn self-esteem young. The children's division of MindStore has just returned from Singapore where they wowed a 2,000-strong Conference in World Thinking. Somehow the idea of super-confident accelerated-learners is slightly chilling, but tomorrow no doubt belongs to them. Liese Spencer
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