Tim Smit reveals cornerstones of his approach to life

Founder of the Eden Foundation tells forum of his rock ’n’ roll approach to life

Tim Smit: advocates a different approach

Tim Smit: advocates a different approach


Sunshine and meetings are a lethal combination. Whoever came up with an award-winning idea when the blinds are closed?

So if today the sun is shining where you are and you have endless meetings scheduled, it might be worth taking a leaf out of Tim Smit’s book. He believes that “meetings are death” and that people “waste” endless days of their lives pretending that the time they devote to a subject is in fact “equivalent to the importance of the subject”.

Smit advocates a different approach: you should only talk to smart people because, he says, they can distil very complicated ideas in five minutes if you have given them permission to accept that they are smart and you are smart.

So, in theory, if you want to see the sunlight today, all you have to do is convince the boss of two things: he/she is smart; and you are too.

Social entrepreneur
Smit is no US-styled management guru. He is in fact the social entrepreneur behind what has been hailed as the “eight wonder of the world”, the Eden Project in the UK which boasts three massive biomes and a rainforest.

Since it opened its doors in 2001, 14 million people have visited the award-winning tourist attraction, educational charity and social enterprise which Smit helped co-found in Cornwall. It is estimated to have generated £1.2 billion for the Cornish economy.

Despite initially knowing little about plants bar what he describes as “green side up”, he became involved in restoring the Lost Gardens of Heligans which ultimately led to the start of the Eden Project in 1996. But not everyone embraced his passion at the time.

“I went to see my first banker and he asked me, ‘what’s your exit strategy?’ And I said, ‘death’. Then he looked at my business plan and said if you can’t sum up what you do in one sentence you will never be successful.

“I said, then I’m f***ked in that case because if I could sum it up in one sentence I wouldn’t want to work there’.”

It is not exactly the tried and tested route to securing a loan, but then Smit is cut from the rock ’n’ roll business mould. That is why he was in such good company last week in Derry when he joined the likes of Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple at the European Business Network annual congress.

Smit’s first visit to Derry gave him the opportunity to reveal the cornerstones of his approach to life.

He told his audience he has narrowed down what he “believes” into just four things.

The first is what he describes as the “Tinkerbell Theory”. Smit says if you get three people to believe in something, it will almost certainly happen.

‘Last Man Standing’
The second is what he refers to as the “Last Man Standing”. If you have a certain amount of charm and “people know you won’t go away, they will eventually pay you large amounts of money to go away”.

Next he always accepts “every third invitation”.

“Idiots think that magic is created by meeting the people you need to meet. This is not true. Read history books. Magic is made by meeting the people you did not know that you needed to meet.”

He defends this approach by urging people to put themselves “in jeopardy. Go to places where you weren’t supposed to be”. You just never know what might come from such an experience.

Perhaps his most controversial piece of advice to business leaders and budding entrepreneurs was sometimes to be economical with the truth when the occasion demands it.

“I do a lot of lying,” he revealed. “It is a phrase that doesn’t go down well so I’ve actually come up with a different phrase to cover it. It’s called the telling of future truths.”

Smit claims this approach is justified if you are in the situation where your dream is about to die. Then the only recourse is “tell a big lie”. His approach is that it is not a real lie when you have a plan in place and firmly believe that what you say is going to happen, will happen.

“The last most serious thing you need to know, if you are going to be an entrepreneur of anything, is this: When you spot a negative person, kill them. They . . . want to kill your dreams because they can’t have their own.”

I am sure he did not mean it literally.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.