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Another Fabulous Night at Street Soccer Dinner with Eric Cantona…

I was delighted to be at the Annual Street Soccer Gala dinner for Street Soccer and hear from Eric Cantona – an inspirational evening as always.  I was reminded of a great night out with David where I was able to explore with him his motivations…

Since a rather strange meeting with David Duke mbe on Lorraine Kelly’s sofa on STV in 2013, we have become friends and I have had the privilege of working with him and his business as he relentlessly works to end homelessness in Scotland.  He has become the voice of homelessness in Scotland and there are few (if any) better qualified to take on that challenge. 

David openly talks about the way he made a number of choices that initially led to him experiencing an extended period of homelessness.  Having re-kindled his love of sport by taking part in the Homeless World Cup, he learned to make more positive choices and turned his situation round.  This choice ultimately led to start a business that became Scotland’s Charity of the year in 2017 and he was recognised with an MBE in the New Year’s honours list in the same year.  Given the transformation he has achieved personally and professionally, I was interested to learn more about how David makes choices.  As always, it was an entertaining, frank and enlightening discussion.

When I asked David how he makes decisions, his answer was refreshingly simple and clear.   He explained that he simply focuses his decisions on solving real problems.  From a young age, because of his family situation, David had to learn to solve problems to survive in life.  If he wanted to go to school, he had to work out how to get a uniform and clean it.  If he was hungry, he had to work out how to get food and feed himself.  His instinct for strategy was also there at a young age and he twigged that, to create more time, he always tried fix problems sustainably so that he didn’t have to keep solving the same problem every day. 

When he mentioned how easy it would have been for him to put this skill for problem solving to use in a life of crime, I asked him why he hadn’t.  His answer was typically straightforward for David, he didn’t want to hurt anyone or, as he put it, “I didn’t want to turn my negative situation into another negative for someone else”.    ‘Robbing’ or ‘mugging’ someone leaves a victim and he never wanted to do that. 

Something I have always admired about David is his unwavering commitment and drive to help people out of a homeless situation.  When you are out and about with David, he will never walk past someone in the street who is experiencing homelessness without asking what they needed, from a word of encouragement to a cigarette, to the money for a hostel, he gives generously whenever he can and whatever he has.  His driving force in his own words, “never to leave anyone behind”.  Most of us could do with taking a leaf out of David’s book here. 

Not content with running Scotland’s Charity of the Year, David is already thinking bigger with plans well under way for the Change Centre, a multi-million pound project to create a place which will help people experiencing homelessness gain the skills to sustainably find a home, not just to survive, but to thrive.   Never leave anyone behind.

Businesses can learn a lot from David’s approach.  When we make choices, are we always fixed on what problem we are trying to solve or does doing ‘stuff’ make us feel like we are busy and therefore doing well?   And, as we build plans, do we always consider if we are sustainably fixing something or will we be back round the loop again in the near future.   Finally, are we thoughtful about consequences of our actions or are we focused on delivering at any cost.

Great businesses take the time to be clear on their purpose, like David’s ambition to never leave anyone behind, and make choices focused on solving real problems that will deliver on that purpose.     Relentlessly striving to improve something in the world that the organisation can care about. 

As we reflected on our discussion David, shared with me one of his favourite quotes:

“The purpose of life is to find your gift; the meaning of life is to give it away”.

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