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Dropout’s lessons on success

Graham Webb, a school dropout with a malformed spine who went on to become a successful entrepreneur, exhorted everyone to overcome challenges in a talk, presented by the British Council, at Bengal Club recently.

“My school report card read ‘bone idle’” laughed Webb, who did not let 62 job application rejections stop him from tasting success. The Briton was born with Spina bifida, which exposed him to ridicule in school and led to his dropping out. “After many rejections, I finally got a job as a barber’s apprentice,” said Webb. But his heart was in sales. For a while, he was on a ship and then worked as a rice pudding salesman before a chance meeting with the director of Wella brought him back to haircare.

“My life is full of these little chance meetings,” he said, attributing his success to enthusiasm. He opened his first salon in the late-1960s, which expanded to become a chain. He also started a beauty and wellness academy in the US and launched haircare products.

Webb’s health problems did not come in the way of his professional success. “I had my first neurosurgery at 33. It was not until 1999, my kidneys failed and I had to go for surgeries for the bladder and the limbs. So, till then, I just had to wear bigger and bigger nappies.”

Webb’s “It can be done” speeches now help everyone rise above challenges. “My book Out of a Bottle came out in 2004. The first edition was sold out, but I realised I could do better. Now the fifth edition is out,” says Webb.

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