Shed Simove’s new book “Success… Or Your Money Back” is a unique accumulation of observations on creativity, the nature of success and just getting out there and doing it for yourself. The Best You decided to find out what’s important to Shed, and the thinking that shaped his latest book.
With a background in bringing some of the biggest hits of the past 10 years to a UK tv screen somewhere near you (Shed headed up “The Big Breakfast”, “Space Cadets” and “Big Brother”) as well as million-selling lines of adult and novelty gifts and toys, Shed Simove knows a thing or two about success.
But the thing that strikes you the moment you speak with Shed is something else: he has an infectious laugh that reveals a childlike curiosity and delight with the world.
Asked to describe himself he says only half-glibly: “I am physically a 41-year-old, with the mental age of an 8-year-old!”
His answer belies an extraordinary original talent to make people laugh. So what makes him happy?
“What brings me joy is doing something no-one else has done before, seeing one of my achievements blow big and engage with lots of people, and seeing a loved one’s triumphs or a special occasion that they’ve either created for themselves or for me. Notice that none of those involve money!”
Indeed, Shed is all about connections and communication and not about the stuff you can quantify in traditional terms. That’s why he says of modern education:
“It’s really strange that how to make a living, how to attract a partner and how to be good parents are not actively taught in school. I think it’s just bonkers. Instead you learn a lot of facts that you can find easily online, without learning any of the skills to tie them together.
“We should prepare our kids for the real challenges of life, like dealing with people, presenting well, negotiating and making connections with people. Oh, bringing up kids would be useful, too!” Shed didn’t conform to the mould of traditional education. As he explains in Success… Or Your Money Back, with no track record he decided to just pitch his ideas for novelty gifts to the industry. But with no history of success and with some terrible pitching skills, he made no inroads into the industry. Instead, he scraped together his pennies and started producing his own novelty gift. By the time the first consignment had sold out, the people who had once laughed him out of the office were calling him to do business.
This is another of the lessons that Shed reveals in his book: Persistence is important, but doing the same thing repeatedly isn’t enough. You need to change what you do till you get it right. Feedback, as the saying goes, is the breakfast of champions.
So, where did his original approach to the world come from?
“I owe a lot to my mother and father. My mother is a wildly creative woman with a huge attention to detail. She used to throw parties and the invites would look like an airline ticket. Guests would turn up and sit in rows and my dad would be dressed as a pilot and we’d all be stewardesses.
“My dad was an entrepreneur and he had bingo clubs in Wales. There’s no doubt that their examples, one wildly creative, the other entrepreneurial have fed into what I do.”
But Shed is very clear that creativity is not about genetics.
“I think we can all be creative. Our brains have evolved to solve problems – and that’s a lot of what creativity is: creating a new solution. I fundamentally believe that we all have the ability to be wildly creative, it’s just about training the brain to do that.”
Shed’s creativity has been pretty wild. From the big-selling “Sergeant Peppermill” – a peppermill in the shape of a soldier, through his classic novelty gift book What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex that contained 200 blank pages, to his outrageous “Flying F**k”, Shed has stepped outside the bounds of convention to come up with something funny, memorable… and saleable.
That last one, by the way, was a remote control toy helicopter in the shape of the word “F**k” with the classic gift strapline: “Now you really can give a Flying F**k!”
The success Shed has enjoyed with his unique take on the world is something he is glad to share with others in his book. But what is success to Shed?
“Lots of people define success as huge wealth. I think that’s very dangerous. It is one measure – but it’s not the be all and end all. I would say that success is really a relative absence of worry, and when you wake up in the morning, or the afternoon, if that’s how you arrange your life, you are wildly excited in your heart about what the day will bring.
“Of course, a relative absence of worry comes from being healthy and having enough money so you’re not worrying how you’re going to eat. I do think money is important, but the accumulation of cash just for the sake of it is a bit bizarre! For me, the route to happiness is really seeing things I’ve created come to realisation, engaging with people – and laughter.
That’s what I’d call success!”