A whole book. An autobiography of two hundred and twenty seven pages written on a hand held Blackberry phone !!! That in itself, I believe is an achievement in an age where laptops or desktops make life easier rather than crippling our fingers on small hand held devices for lengthy emails. Does John Sellens own a laptop? Last time I saw him in 2017, he did. Oh, how he hated it. Used to be amused to find him offended with "the stupid box". Yet, a teen-weeny palm sized Blackberry phone is what he happily chose to write his autobiography on. I plan to reach out to Blackberry and Guinness.
"Reels & Deals - Angling for Business", is an eye opener for me into the person who I thought knew all about. My arrogance of that "knowledge" has been cleanly tossed out of the proverbial window. Reading about his life, his adventures, his experiences has just about humbled me like nothing else before in my life of nearly five decades.
Achievements are simply best friends with John is what I realised from his book. Having only heard tidbits in passing about his time in Defence and the export market he tackled selling defence products, reading about its inception and that at a very young age, is a revelation. I like to believe am an avid reader but have never come across a first hand description of behind the scenes mechanism of war artillery, its handlers, problems that comes with it, diplomacy it demands, like in this book.
Shakespeare's play about the Celtic king Cymbaline may or may not be amongst the most heard, read or seen but UK's Cymbaline radar seems to have gone places, accompanied by John and how !!
Just days back, read a news that headlined "UK military successfully test fires high powered laser beam". My first thought was, it would be brilliant if UK used John Sellens presently to sell this technology to the export market like he did the Cymbaline. He would have a ball and we would get another book sharing his interactions with the current political powers that be.
He not only successfully marketed EMI developments to countries most fear to visit even now, he made life long friends out of them. Reminds me of a company owner close to both John and I. Having signed an agreement with a friendly Iraq to supply safety products as well as setup manufacturing facility in the country, he refused to step into Baghdad out of sheer fear of the place and it's people. He even got the authorities to produce visa into the country about four times within a year. Even after that whole year of polite invitations from the Iraqi authorities he wouldn't budge and kept coming up with new excuses. Sadly time passed and the agreement fell through. It was a great disadvantage that John Sellens the driving force behind our export division had retired by then. With him involved I know it for a fact, we would have made millions from the exports to Iraq.
Our former employer used to introduce John as 'The man who knows everybody'. He does know EVERYBODY. Both John and I being responsible for the export business, he was the one who taught me about the foreign market, mainly the GCC and how to deal with them. He shared his knowledge and experiences about not only the respective business scenario in the various countries but also the contacts and his reach has stunned me many a times. I find he is being humble in depicting that part of him in the book.
John always came across as a kind, soft-spoken intellectual, discerning personality with a sharp wit, firm in his dealings, which reflects in the book. His autobiography also reveals an entirely different side of him. How he has stood up to power everytime he had to say "no", adventures he has had and that too at times during war in the region, high level people he has met in life and troubles he got himself into, are absolutely unbelievable. Scary and hilarious at times. Flying with 2 Mig 21s as escort to do export business. What an exciting life. To think this kind jovial man has been into such dangerous and unkind places on the planet that we commoners conceive as war zones, survived and lives to tell the tale.
Taken into a war zone amidst the firing, escaping it, being lined up against a wall to be shot at, thrown death threats at, facing police raids, being arrested, keeping his integrity while being pursued by media for information in return for money, surviving murder attempts, going into the deep Amazon jungles, staying in a blood spattered room, being friends with highly placed and dangerous people, being provided with twenty four hour guards by a local whilst he slept in a foreign country, hobnobing with movie personalities, flying first class on the concorde, having clandestine meetings with security services in his country, he might as well be describing a normal Tuesday in the life of a super spy at MI6 instead of selling war technologies developed by UK to almost all countries on the planet (blames to my perceptions of the MI6 completely and totally lies at the feet of the movie makers)
However, interesting and fast paced as the book is, found it lacking that many details could not be shared due to security reasons. Makes one feel frustrated, wanting to know more. There is definitely material enough for a part two of the book. However, from my experience of having John as my mentor for export business in the Fire Protection Industry, he is one of the very few, who is successfull at bringing in great business and still have his dignity and integrity intact after having to deal with people of unscrupulous methods and corruption.
His take on mechanisms of doing business with a particular country, its growth or lack of it, its people, is refreshingly candid.
We started out as colleagues and within days unknown to both of us, he automatically turned into being my mentor and the best one at that in my twenty eight years of corporate life. His integrity, wisdom, vision, business acumen has taught me lifelong lessons and he continues to inspire and motivate me. Today I am honoured that John considers me a friend and we keep in touch regularly.
Impatient to read the next book from "Captain" John Sellens, of which he is already into few chapters I note from his email.