Tom Smyth Is Very, Very Determined to Help You Succeed

Tom Smyth.

Growing up during the war in Northern Ireland, Tom Smyth overcame many adversities to become mega-successful and is eager to share the lessons that can apply to any entrepreneur anywhere.

Bolding Pursuing Success in the Midst of a War

Tom Smyth was an unlikely future CEO of a luxury apartment empire across the United Kingdom and other countries when he grew up in war-torn Belfast in the 1970s to the 90s.

In “Fear Less: An Antidote to Self-Doubt,” Smyth attributes his success to his fierce determination to overcome those challenging circumstances.

“I saw how limiting beliefs destroy ambition, with many of my friends who were talented in many ways denying that they could have the circumstances or mindset to succeed,” Smyth told Startup Savant. “But all my experiences then actually helped me formulate what I call the D.R.E.A.M. system for achieving goals, which stands for Determination, Regeneration, Energisation, Ambition, and Motivation.”

The conflict in Northern Ireland was not a war about religion per se, but the culmination of a millennium-long struggle about self-determination, as Britain gradually conquered the island. The mostly Catholic Irish frequently revolted, sometimes with the aid of Protestants, especially in the northeast province of Ulster. English and Scottish settlers were sent in the 17th century to help control the area. The Irish Republican Army waged a guerrilla war in 1919-1921 that resulted in the Republic of Ireland, while the part of Ulster with a Protestant majority remained in the UK.

Fearing that the higher Catholic birth rate would eventually result in a vote to rejoin Ireland, Protestants discriminated against the minority to pressure them to emigrate. When a civil rights campaign was suppressed in 1969, the IRA was resurrected to force reunification. The British army, the largely Protestant police, and “loyalist” paramilitaries responded in kind, and by the time of the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, over 3,500 had died.

Today, the Belfast metro area of 600,000 is booming with restaurants and retailers, while tourists are eager to see everything from murals painted by the one-time factions to the world’s largest “Titanic experience,” since the fated ship was built there.

Born into a working-class Catholic family in 1974, Smyth’s father was a postman who delivered to every area, no matter the risks. His mother was fearless and encouraged him to pursue his dreams even as a child (he also dedicates the book to a grandmother “who taught me everything about hard work and being resilient”).

At 10, he persuaded his sister’s friend to get him a job peeling potatoes for the fries at a fish-and-chips joint, where he was often so cold that he had to stand in warm water to keep his circulation going for hours. His goal was to be able to afford trendy clothes since his parents refused to go into debt to help him fit in with friends. With growing self-esteem and ambition, he left at 15 to manage a sports clothes shop, where he found he had a talent for sales. He also earned a degree from a technical college in managing leisure industry organizations.

With growing ambition driving him to take on more than one job at a time, he worked on construction projects, even when there were threats to bomb them and prejudice about his religion on the site. But he impressed supervisors because he outworked everyone and, at 19, started his own construction company while taking advantage of the depressed prices for houses to buy his first.

“Everyone ridiculed me, but a few months later, the seemingly impossible happened when the IRA announced its ceasefire, then the loyalist paramilitaries followed suit,” Smyth recalled. “It took another four years before the peace agreement was signed and many more years for these groups to destroy their arsenals, so the return to local government did not take place until 2007. In the past 20 years, Belfast has gone from being a place known for bullets and bombs to one of the world’s hottest destinations. I’m so proud of how our society turned its fortunes around, and this inspires me in everything I do.”

Smyth sold his first house for three times what he paid a year after he bought it and began building a real estate empire. During the transition to peace, tensions remained high, so in his mid-20s, he created a security team to protect nightclubs anywhere in the city. When his staff barred potential troublemakers, they were often threatened, but he found he could defuse things by listening and talking quietly and politely. If he still refused to let them in, he had earned their respect for his courage and fairness.

Creating the Impossible DREAM

Smyth has been an avid lifelong reader, especially of biographies of those who had achieved greatness, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla, and innovative thinkers about leadership, such as Grant Cardone and Tony Robbins. He listens to audiobooks and podcasts while traveling. From these, he learned the power of envisioning big goals, making detailed plans to get there, and pushing forward with intense dedication by every means possible.

He began developing an extremely disciplined program that now includes getting up at 4 a.m., sometimes with the help of a triple espresso, and doing an intense cardio workout. He then writes two pages of things he is grateful for (to family, friends, customers, mentors, “God and the Universe”), goes over his plans for the day, and studies his Dream Board (filled with quotes from his heroes and images related to what he wants to achieve). He eats a healthy breakfast, hits the gym at 7:30 a.m., and arrives at the office overlooking Belfast’s famous shipyard at 8:45 a.m. “after almost four hours of working on my physical, mental, and spiritual resilience,” he wrote.

How does he carve out so much time in his typical 12- to 18-hour workdays? He doesn’t watch the news (a habit from wartime) and wastes no time on social media except to post on Instagram. “I stay laser-focused on positivity and growth,” he explained.

Today, Smyth and his partners have luxury apartments available for visitors who are usually in the process of corporate relocation or need a few weeks in a central business location (30% are now travelers who want to enjoy a staycation), with full housekeeping and a concierge. There are now nearly 500 of his Dream Luxury Serviced Apartments, not only in Ireland and the UK, but in places like Sao Paulo, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, and Amsterdam (he has plans to expand to nearly 600 in 2022, including some in the US).

He got the idea for these on a 2017 business trip to Dubai, where he learned about the sector. He saw an opportunity to bring this back to Belfast as a starting point, but “everyone thought I was mad, the hotels felt threatened, and the tourism organizations were anxious about change.”

After making numerous phone calls, he found a few who shared his vision. They were soon winning awards, as the advantages of their high-end, fully serviced apartments became more appealing and cost-effective than traditional options. When the pandemic hit, the company saw this as an opportunity, while the rest of the accommodation industry pulled back, announcing in December 2020 an investment of $700,000 to fund growth.

They have since added the Bellamina cruelty-free cosmetic line that he says has a cult following through the 5,000 stores where it is sold worldwide (so far).

Smyth also offers one-on-one and group mentoring to share what he has learned on the way up.

Using Adversity to Power the Next Climb Up

Those lessons include some there were due to big bumps in the road on the way to this mega-success. Although he had made his first million by 2004, after a separation from his first wife and inability to spend much time with their daughter, he began to “drink properly for the first time at age 30,” he said in a TEDx talk. He never lost his business, sobered up thanks to a 12-step program, became more active in church, and remarried.

His wife, Dolores, gave him the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, which “introduced me to the Law of Attraction.” He says she and his two daughters, Farrah and Rheanna, fully support his commitment to achieving his business goals, but he shuts off his phone for part of Sunday and keeps it off on vacations.

In 2012, he had another shock when his real estate company was the victim of internal theft by an individual involved in criminal activities, resulting in 19 properties being seized. “I took responsibility for having not fully vetted him,” he says about the experience that gave him a nervous breakdown. “I had two options: I could give up and get stuck in the rut of failure or work 100 times harder to not just get back to where I was, but actually to exceed it,” he wrote.

His unique book, a bestseller in Ireland and the UK, is like a stream-of-conscious “Bible for Business” that you can flip through to read hundreds of inspired ways to think about the key issues daily. For example:

  • “Obsession is what lazy people call dedication. Being obsessed will make you brave and allow you to learn from success and failure, owning the outcome. It will make you continue to look for solutions when everyone else has given up.”
  • “Challenges are like weeds; they don’t go away by themselves and if you ignore them, the more they take root and spread.”
  • “FEAR can stand for Frustration, Ego, Anxiety, Resentment, or False Evidence. Or you can conquer it by defining it as Face Everything And Receive.”
  • “Don’t be held back by past mistakes and don’t waste your energy on regret. Use previous challenges to help you avoid future mistakes.”
  • “The architecture of your inner world is created by the words you use to explain and interpret every situation you experience. You have the power to change the conversation in your mind. Choose your words carefully and control your inner voice.”
  • “Disconnect from negative people, even family members, friends, and partners.”
  • “When you complete a task successfully, share it by praising and rewarding your team, offer to mentor someone else, donate to a charity, and use your rewards to do good for others.”

In short, fear less and be bold — lessons Smyth is helping clients to implement daily.

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Scott S. Smith

Scott S. Smith has had over 2,000 articles and interviews published in nearly 200 media, including Los Angeles Magazine, American Airlines’ American Way, and Investor’s Business Daily. His interview subjects have included Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Meg Whitman, Reed Hastings, Howard Schultz, Larry Ellison, Kathy Ireland, and Quincy Jones.

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