“Here he comes – the man with the big kidneys.” said my mother. At first I thought she was talking about someone else and I was tempted to look behind to see who was following, and from what sort of disfiguration the poor soul was suffering? But she was talking to me about me. Confused I asked her what she meant and she explained that when she was growing up in Rialto and then Coolock, the term big kidneys was used to describe someone who thought above his station, someone with big dreams. So instead of being offended, I chose to accept the compliment. I am the man with the big kidneys. I always ask why can’t life be bigger, better, brighter today than it was yesterday? And bigger, better, brighter again tomorrow? No reason.
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There is perhaps a more sinister side to the phrase, the Man with the Big Kidneys. We Irish are great craic (fun) in the main. We are known the world over for many things including our laissez-faire attitude to life, the “sure it’ll be grand” philosophy. But the Man with the Big Kidneys, the man with dreams, the man (or woman) who believes he can get ahead, that same “sure it’ll be grand” way of thinking can all too often be replaced by “Who does he think he is?” ‘Sure it’ll be grand’ only works when we all subscribe to it – when we all stay in the same pool, respect the same pecking order. Get above your station and all of a sudden you can be labelled: “Sure he’s not the same as he used to be. He’s changed.” Often said like it’s a bad thing!
There is a saying, perhaps a truism, that when our American cousins see the man or woman getting ahead, living in the big house on the hill, they say “Some day, I’m going to live like that.” In Ireland we can be known to say “Some day, I’m going to get that guy!”
My dad, the best salesman in Ireland worked hard all his life to put bread on the table. He felt privileged to have a job and a company car – he always had a company car – and he had reason to. When he grew up in Portmarnock he never knew wealth of any kind. His own dad, my grandfather, was a ‘traveller’ not in the sense as part of the Travelling Community, but rather a ‘traveller’ for a company, hawking wares the length and breadth of the country for ‘the company’ and so was gone Monday to Friday. So, in relative terms Dad had ‘made it’: we had a nice roof over our head, food on the table, love in the cupboards – all the important stuff.
So, here I am, by my own mother’s admission, the Man with the Big Kidneys. I am not happy to settle for ‘my station’ in life. But, because getting a job and being grateful for it was all I knew based on my genealogy, anything beyond that would have to be learned elsewhere. So that’s what I did. I realised at age thirty that I wasn’t getting ahead, I was still working for somebody else, yes I was grateful, but there had to be more. There had to be a way to look at life differently.
I began to ask why did some people get ahead and others not?
And then why did some get further ahead and some only went so far?
And what made a Richard Branson a Richard Branson?
What was a Business Owner anyway?
And could I be one?
I finally realized I never wanted to be self-employed, but I’d love to own a business.
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Thanks for thinking with me.