Why do you have no money despite working so hard? Becoming successful can be easy or hard; it all depends on how you show up in the world. The show’s guest today is Steve Sims, who from a bricklayer ends up working with ultra-successful icons of our time. Like Elton John and Elon Musk, no less! Join in this entertaining episode to know the world of luxury. Steve spills lessons you can apply to your life. For one, if you want to be successful, interact with successful people. But where do you start? Tune in to find out!
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How A Bricklayer Became Ultra-Rich: Lessons In Becoming Successful From Steve Sims
I have an amazing guest. Steve Sims has done almost everything that I’ve ever wanted to do in my life. As many of you know, I have traveled a lot. I have been very blessed to have done a lot of the things that are in my dreams, but Steve has done all the things that I couldn’t do so far. I couldn’t wait to get him on the show. More than anything, he has an amazing transformation story. I joked with him that he probably has something in common with one of my favorite singers, Tom Jones. I don’t want to date myself, but he started out as a bricklayer from London just like Tom Jones was.
He ended up working with people that are much better known than Tom Jones like Elton John and Elon Musk. You might have heard of a couple of those people. I don’t want to go through a whole bio because it’s very long and super interesting. I’d rather have him tell the story than myself. The other thing I love about Steve is he’s an amazing marketer, a humble and a fun person. With the amount of travel he’s done and the type of things that he’s been involved in, he has such grounded information of everything. Without further ado, I want to welcome Steve. Welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
You’ve done everything I wanted to have. Number one, Andrea Bocelli is one of my absolute favorite singers of all time. Talking about a transformation story. His story is heart-wrenching and uplifting. It’s something that we can all relate to. I don’t want to sound harsh but Steve said this and I’m going to say this again, if you’re sitting on a million-dollar hobby and you’re thinking, “I can’t do it because I don’t have money or time, I’m not good enough, I don’t have some unique selling proposition or some chic marketing thing,” I have to tell you, you were out of excuses. Steve, let me take you to the beginning. Give me a three-minute bio about the beginning and how did you end up doing what you’re doing now.
It’s pretty much the same as everyone else. I spent the early part of my life being aggravated. I came out of school, worked as a bricklayer, and didn’t have a lot of money. I thought to myself, “How come people have money and I can’t? I’m working from 5:00 in the morning, I’m going home at 8:00 at night, busted up and wet from the typical London weather. How come I haven’t got money?” It aggravated me. I realized that I was in the wrong environment or room. I started going to upscale wine bars and lobbies of hotels to see what rich people did. There must be something that they’re doing that I’m not. I went out to try and find it. Along the way, I became a great advocate and consumer of human psychology and body language. I noticed how successful people interact with successful people, and how fake people interact, pretending as though they’re successful. I noticed all of these things.
Along the way, I started conversations with rich people to try and find out how. Strangely, while I went into different jobs to try and surround myself with them from a stockbroker, insurance, yachts and charter sales, I got fired from all of those but the best job I ever got was a bricklayer. I was a doorman of a nightclub and it gave me a great view of what people needed. I was in Hong Kong at the time and I started realizing what people wanted. I started throwing parties, getting into parties, and it went from there. Before I knew it, I used my access as a Trojan horse to try and get to have conversations with rich people and go, “How come you’re successful and I’m not?” The Trojan horse went a bit further because of all the requests I was getting. I started working with Sir Elton John, Richard Branson, closing down museums in Florence, and sending people down at the back of the Titanic on the seabed. I became the man they came for very affluent people with dreams.
Successful people interact with successful people.
While that was so interesting, what I got was some real-life lessons. I’m going to unpack what you said because that’s amazing to me. Number one, Steve started out his life very similar to a lot of people. A lot of people come to America penniless like me when I came to America penniless in search of a dream. You wonder, you are aggravated, and you’re frustrated because you’re working so hard, you’re doing everything you can to better yourself and nothing happens. At that point, you have two choices. You can either continue to bitch about your life and think about how unfair life is and all these horrible things or the other thing you could do is figure out what are they doing right that you’re not doing right. That’s the path you took. You decided, “I’m frustrated and aggravated. I’m doing every single thing I can. Those people that are successful and have money must be doing something right.”
You had that curiosity and then you went ahead. The other thing I love about what you said too is a lot of times, it’s not what people say. It’s what’s unsaid, the body language and how they communicate. You’ve observed all of this stuff and figured out you want to move yourself to a better environment where you have the opportunity and to become one of those rich people. A lot of people would say, “I’ve been working all my life and all I could get is a doorman job?” You embrace and made the best out of that. That was your beginning. It’s that little thing.
What Steve is talking about is he’s worked with people like Elton John, Elon Musk and all these people when you think about the impossible thing like having a museum in Florence open privately for you. There are a lot of these private museums. I actually toured the Forbidden City. I had a client in China that was pretty influential with the Chinese Communist Party and I was able to tour it privately. I had no idea that there was a whole private section of the museum. I’m sure in many cities like in Florence, they have these and they rarely opened them for anybody.
What do you do if you’re Elton John or Elon Musk? You’re not going to go pick up the phone and order pasta. You’re going to call somebody. Steve is that person. He’s done the impossible. I dream of doing something like this. He had Elton John, Elon Musk and all these people in a Florence private dinner party and have someone like Andrei Bocelli sing just for that private party, and you’re witnessing all this stuff. It’s one thing to have access, but the next thing is how do you make all this stuff happen? Did you call up somebody and say, “I want that museum open for a party of seven people?”
To be accurate, Elon and Elton weren’t at that particular party. This was for a different client. The client wanted to have a dine-in experience in Florence. That’s why I did that event. I took over the museum, set up a table of six at the feet of Michelangelo’s David, and I had Andrea Bocelli come and sing while they were eating pasta. I do reach out to people without the fear of reaching out. A lot of people will want to do something but before they even try, they’ll sit there and go, “I couldn’t do that.” They get scared and fear themselves out. Fear is terrible. Once it gets hold of you, there’s nothing you can do about it.
I’m too stupid for that. If I want something, I go and ask. It’s amazing the more times I ask for something, the more times I get it. One of the things I also do, which is one of my benefits, is I constantly have people who are revered more to do the asking for me or do the introduction. If I wanted to get hold of someone powerful and I went to try and talk to them, they’d be like, “Who are you? Why should I talk to you?” What I’ll do is I’ll go and find someone as equally powerful that I know and get them to introduce me. That way, I come in on credibility. I’m constantly trying to find out, “Before I contact you, who do you know that you respect that I know that I can get to introduce me?” I try never to make the introduction in the first approach myself. I always try to get one of my connections to do it for me.
Right now, the buzzword is collaboration and networking. You were networking way back before it was fashionable.
I’m terrible at networking. I’ve got to tell you that. You stick me in a room and you go, “Enjoy this networking event.” I’m going to find the ball and sit there. I don’t like networking. People use networking events like it’s a game to collect as many business cards as they can and form no conversations or relationships. For me, I need to form a relationship. I’m from the original version and standpoint of what networking was about.
To be fair, a lot of these networking events are put together just so people can meet and pick up business cards. I don’t consider them to be networking. It’s a room where you’re pretty much pitching to everybody. You would never go up to somebody and say, “I’m Steve. Will you buy something from me?” It’s what they’re doing in these networking events. The other thing I love about what you said is you talk about how you bring back the communication skills, all of these mannerisms and everything from the ‘80s onto nowaday’s world. I would agree with you because I remember in the ‘80s where people had manners. I’m not saying people now don’t have manners, but we are living in a very fast-paced environment now.
Back in the ‘80s, when you didn’t have internet and cell phones, and you had to get up and go meet somebody in person, and you got to know that person or you got to know a little bit about their family or whoever, you build a little relationship before you ask for an introduction or anything. What you’re saying is relationships are very important and also, that authenticity of asking for something in a way that makes real sense, not taking advantage of that relationship or abusing it. Those are all valuable. When I look at your bio, look at all the things you’ve done, and you break it down to those very basics, it is uplifting. Don’t you think?
I never went out to be uplifted and motivated.
What you’ve done is uplifting. What you’re saying is that’s what you did. It’s uplifting because we just all need to get back to the basics?
Move yourself to a better environment where you have the opportunity to become rich.
That’s true. I always joke that we need to bring the ‘80s back. Not all the music but some of it. I believe that in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, we spoke more. If you wanted to talk to someone, you knocked on their door or you phoned them up. Those were the options. Now, if you want to talk to someone, you DM them, text them or send them a private message. There are a million ways for you to reach out to someone, which means there are a million ways for you to be overlooked. I believe you’ve got to go back to the basics. Phone people, send them a letter, knock on that door and go, “I’d love to have a chat with you. Let’s go and have a coffee.” You’ve got to do that. The good thing is back in the ‘80s, this wasn’t unusual and creative. Imagine if you got a phone call saying, “I’m in town and I wanted to talk to you about a project. Can I buy you dinner? Can I buy you lunch? Can I bring the coffee and croissant?” You’ll be like, “That’s different and refreshing,” because people don’t do it now.
They’ll think you’re nuts like “How dare you? This guy must be ancient.”
Look at the phone. If you had your phone ring, how aggravating did you feel that the phone rang? From the first time I bought my first iPhone, I’ve had it on vibrate. I turned the sound off. When someone is in an environment, no matter what the environment is, when the phone rings and you’re not with the person, you look at the person as though they’re intruding. Your like, “His phone is ringing.” Everyone looks hatred at them. If it’s your phone and it rings, even before you’ve answered it, you’re aggravated because you’ve been interrupted. Even if it’s your mom, you’re in a bad mood before you answer the phone call because we don’t like that interruption, noise or alarm. Even when you phoned someone with good intentions, you’ve got to get over that. Let’s be completely blunt, the bad thing is we’ve gone through a year where people have not been able to communicate with each other.
The truth is we were getting bad in any case and all of a sudden, it stopped. I know a lot of people now who don’t want to go back to the office. You’ve seen it on the news. They don’t want to be around people. It’s gone the other way. Not only were we bad at communicating, but we’re also going to be bad at socializing. If I’m going out to dinner Friday night and it’s the first time I’ve gone out with dinner with a whole bunch of people, it’s a Wednesday and I’m starting to get a picture of what am I going to wear. It’s weird but that’s what happens now.
We get concerned and cautious. I heard on a British radio station that they’re coining something like a social hangover. You haven’t been with people for so long and now you’re all excited and tense. Afterwards, you are all tired. You’ve got a social hangover from interacting with people. It’s like all muscles. Any muscle you don’t use becomes weak and sometimes goes away. Social skills are a muscle that we need to focus on, get pushing and help with.
The world was already going toward antisocial behavior, especially with the younger kids. In Los Angeles, especially in the city, there are a lot of people who don’t even know who their neighbors are because they’ve got to work first thing in the morning and come back home at night, but they’ll talk to somebody in Russia, Korea or Latin America on their email or on their chats. That is unfortunate. Wouldn’t you say that a lot of the things that you’ve done such as having these doors open for you, having this incredible event where you made the event possible, calling up Andrea Bocelli or whoever, do you think you could’ve done all of that by Zooming people?
Absolutely not. It would have been a no starter. I remember being stood next to Elton John at a party. Someone came up to him and said, “How much will it cost me to have you at my barbecue party?” He turned around and he said, “I’m busy.” He moved off and walked away. People don’t know how to communicate properly. Zoom has lost the energy that you find when you are person-to-person. It’s been a good substitute, alternative, and it’s not going away but it’s also not in the placement. It’s like saying, “A horse can get you to work like your car can. It’s a good alternative and you haven’t got to fuel it but it is not going to replace the car.” You’ve got to understand what the priority is. There will be nothing that will ever be a face-to-face in-person conversation. Nothing will but the trouble is we’re getting bad at doing it.
Were you really a James Bond for the weekend?
I had a client contact me and they wanted to do something for her husband. We interviewed the wife to find out what the husband liked and he was a big James Bond fan. We got a Hollywood scriptwriter to write this whole script and this storyline. We made him Double 08 for the weekend where he was coming back from retirement. He was going back into active service. He had to go through these. We set this entire weekend up for him where he was Double 08 going back in. If any of you out there were James Bond fans, he always has a martini. If you think about it, everyone knows his name and what he has to drink. He’s the worst spy on the planet. We found out that this client had a whiskey cocktail that was his favorite drink. What we would do was every time he walked into a restaurant or a bar, the barman would be, “Good afternoon, Mister. Here is your drink.” They would automatically make his drink just as they do for James Bond.
That was in Monte Carlo?
We started off in Monte Carlo, went over to Santa Fe, and then finished off in Russia. His cover got blown in Santa Fe so he had to take a midnight flight into Russia. It was all part of the script.
I love all the things you’ve done. Since then, you’ve written a book called Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen. I love the cover too. It’s so simple and it stands out. I’m a designer so I have to chime in on that stuff. What’s your favorite city of all the cities that you’ve been to?
The more times you ask for something, the more times you get it.
What a lot of people don’t know about me is I’m boring and curious, which is a funny double trait to have. I love riding the motorcycle on my own through the hills and not talking to anyone. At the same time, I’m very curious about what is the underground look like for these buildings in Prague. I’m always curious to get into places that I shouldn’t get into but I constantly love going to different cities. I’ve repeated the cities that I like going back and it’s always Florence but I love going anywhere different. I was chatting with my wife and she was talking about heading over to Iceland, and we haven’t been to Iceland. We’re not the kind of people that want to sit on a beach or walk through the snowy streets of Amsterdam or the manic West End of London. We love traveling but there’s nothing bad about coming home.
You’re a lot like me because I’m pretty boring. I live a boring life here. When I’m home, my life will be simple. I almost go to the same place for lunch every day. It’s the same six places I go to because that’s trusted. I do have that incredible curiosity about how other people live and the history of other places. One of my favorite places is Hong Kong, and the other one that’s interesting is Venice because there’s no other place like that where you got to take a boat and stuff. The history of both places is amazing like in Monte Carlo. It’s one of those places that has a very unique history as well. I was wondering if you can pick one.
Who could? Anyone that travels. I remember sitting in a bar in Rome, I was at the Hotel De Russie and this guy just wanted to have a conversation. I was on my own and I wanted to drink alone. He started talking to me at the bar and he said something about travel. I said to him, “Where have you been that you liked?” He turned around to me dead serious, then he said, “I’ve been everywhere.” I went, “Everywhere?” He’s like, “There’s nowhere I haven’t been.” I thought to myself, how sad is that? You mentioned Hong Kong. I lived in Hong Kong from ‘94 to ‘97 and I’ve been back a few times. Every 2 to 3 years, it changes. I went to Bangkok and I lived in Bangkok for 2.5 to 3 years as well. I went back to Bangkok a couple of years ago and I couldn’t recognize the place. Everything changes. The idea that you’ve been everywhere is probably the saddest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
I meet a lot of people here that don’t want to go see anything.
I got American citizenship a couple of months ago. The first thing I did was applied for an American passport, which I got. At the passport office, there were a few people in the lineup that had got the immigration papers and the citizenship papers to get the passport. I was talking to the lady in the passport office. I said, “This is fantastic. You must get tons of people.” The government building was across the road. I said, “You must get a lot of people who get that certificate and come running over here to get that passport.” She said, “No. We don’t get a lot of passports. The funny thing is we get more people applying for passports that have gained citizenship than actual Americans that were born here because they don’t think they need to travel.” If they want the beach, they’d go to Miami. If they want the mountains, they’d go to Utah. If they want something tropical, they’d go to Hawaii. Why do they need to leave America? That to me is mind-numbing.
Part of it is that America is such a diverse country. If you go from Alaska, Hawaii, East and West Coast, and mountains, you do have almost a little continent within the country. Britain is a much smaller country. In Europe, everybody has to travel all the time just to get around. I pretty much read a lot of books because that’s how I saw the world. When I was able to travel to the Middle East, to Eastern and Western Europe, it was amazing that you’re soaking in the things that are foreign to you all the time. You feel like you’re never getting old. In your Bluefishing, do you teach that in the book? I haven’t read it and I’m going to because you’re one of the most fascinating people with incredible backgrounds.
I don’t want many people to get the idea that you are at the right place at the right time and everything just happens. It’s hard because you have to earn that respect with every client, every event, and continued to evolve. More than anything, you also have to have that curiosity and open-mindedness because only when you have that, you’re unafraid to pick up the phone and go, “Let me see what happens when I pick up the phone and call person X.” You’re not like, “I can’t call that person because the phone might blow up. I don’t know why I’d call them up.” In the book, do you teach the art of communication? What’s in there?
That’s a good and funny little story. I first got approached because more people were starting to know who I am and the things I was doing. Forbes called me and the real-life Wizard of Oz. I’ve been in everything from the South China Morning Post to everything. I’ve been all over the place, on all the TV shows, and breakfast shows. I got approached to write this book naming all of the rich and powerful people that I have dealt with and what I had done for them. I said to them, “I can’t do that. If I told you these stories, I’d be dead before cocktail hour.” They came back to me two weeks later and it was funny because I thought that was the end of it, and they said, “We’ve been looking into you. How does a bricklayer ended up working with the Vatican? How does a baker end up working with Sir Elton John? Can you write the book on that?” I thought to myself, “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” so I started writing the book.
Writing a book is always like self-psychology. You start questioning yourself. It can be quite disturbing. I remember a few nights thinking to myself, ”Did I do that?” I never thought about that. It was quite revealing to write a book. It’s like standing in front of a mirror with all the lights on and taking all your clothes off going, “Let’s have a look.” It’s strange when you start analyzing what you’ve done over your life. The book is about how to communicate, the importance of relationships, how to create impact, and how to focus on the solution and not the sale. It’s got stories of me, Bocelli, and all these different little things that I’ve got up to show that this isn’t a book about, “I can do this.” It’s about, “I did this because I followed these steps that you can do as well.” I didn’t expect the book to be anything special. I didn’t expect the book to even sell. This is the truth. I got paid that almost an illegal amount to write these books. I didn’t care if it sold a copy because I know I would have been paid.
When the book came out, I didn’t even do a website. I was told that I had to. SteveDSims.com has a video of my book launch where quite simply, I took over a whiskey bottle in Hollywood and got drunk with a bunch of my friends. They filmed a video on it and I didn’t know they were filming it. It starts off with everyone is sober and polite. As the video gets on, it gets a little bit coarse and crass. I didn’t expect the book to do well until people started reading it and going, “I ignore and I’m scared to try these things but you tried them, and now you’re working with the Vatican.” People have started grasping. That’s why now I’m talking on stages, training and coaching. I talk all over the planet. I have my inner circle, Sims Distillery. It’s gone crazy. The funny thing about the book is it’s been translated and been a number one bestseller in Korea, Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Poland. It got released to Poland and Russia. It’s hilarious how it’s taken over the planet.
First of all, when a publisher decides to back a book in advance, they usually know what they’re doing. They know what to back and it’s not a real accident. They do up the game and know which stories will sell. They got the whole marketing departments people who do book covers and all that stuff. If you self-publish it, that’s a whole different thing. I’m not surprised that the book sold specifically in those countries where people are naturally so curious. Believe it or not, the idea of the American dream where you could be anybody and try to dream of becoming someone, and you have a reasonable chance of achieving that dream if you’re willing to work for it, that concept of the American dream is so alive in all those countries, much more so than countries where it’s possible. I’m happy for you that you’ve done that.
Going back to what Steve said about what’s in the book, what he’s saying is the names like Elton John and all these people, there were secondary to the core message, which is all the steps that he took to transform himself from a bricklayer to somebody recognizable, trusted and respected for some of the most memorable and meaningful events in their lives. That means you have to gain their trust, he has to be likable, seen as somebody or known as somebody who is a can-do guy who can keep things under the wraps. It’s an incredible transformation story. It’s an American dream story because I don’t know about you, but if you’re stuck in a corporate job right now or you’re dreading going back to work, you know the life you deserve and what makes you happy but you’re still stuck at this job because you think you have no other option, and the only thing you can do is pay your bills for now and that now is forever. Take a page out of state.
Social skill is a muscle we need to focus on.
That’s what this whole show is all about. People like Steve are going out there to achieve his dream. If he said to himself like, “I was born a bricklayer and all I’m going to be is a bricklayer. This is my world and I’m not going to ever see anything. I’m aggravated but there’s nothing I can do.” Most likely, things aren’t going to change but being curious, open-minded and willing to learn are the other things we talk about in the show. I have people that I work with that we buy trips to Hong Kong. I’m not from Hong Kong but to me, the city is built like London. They drive on the left side of the road, they’ve got great rail systems. They speak great English because English was their first language until 1997.
It’s a cultural crossroads. I happened to love it but I know a lot of Americans who fear going to places like that because they think that it’s unsophisticated, unhealthy, they might get sick or something. They don’t want to travel. I’ve traveled to a lot of countries. The only two countries I got sick in and this has nothing to do with the country. It’s probably had to do with my fatigue. I was coming back from Cannes one year. I had done Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, and drove all the way up to Paris. On my way back home, I got sick probably from exhaustion but I never got sick from food poisoning or anything like that from any of these countries that I’ve been to. It’s sad that sometimes, you have these little things that are blocking your mind and blocks you from moving forward in life. Steve, it says on your bio that you have spoken at Harvard University as well as the Pentagon. Those are two pretty big names.
I’ve lost track of how many stages I’ve spoken on, which is probably a strange thing to say. Three of my most memorable was I spoke at the graduation party in Kern, Level-4, Maximum Security Prison. I’ve spoken at Harvard twice and the Pentagon. I’ve managed to speak to some pretty abstract and amazing places. I don’t know which one is my favorite, Harvard or Kern Prison. The funny thing is I sometimes say that the difference between Kern and some of the other events is the tailoring is better. It’s interesting. I would say Kern because in Kern, everyone had done some stupid, ridiculous, bad stuff but they wanted to be better and have fun. They weren’t trying to sugarcoat themselves. They were like, “This doesn’t have to be me. I did this and I’m aware of it. I’ll always pay for it but I need to be better.”
This is a very rude statement but if you’re in Harvard, the probability is that some of those people got helped to be in Harvard financially and connectivity. Those kinds of things. They had a leg up the ladder. They started going to private schools. There are a lot of people who got scholarships and have gotten there through hard work but there’s also a lot of feeder systems that people have used to get them into the right school. You start at the right basic school, the right intermediate, the right college, and you worked your way up. When you’re in Kern and you are in a 6 x 8-foot cell, twenty hours a day, for you to be that focused, upbeat, determined, driven, even though your rest of the day is full of fear and scare, that was quite something and intimidating. A big shout out to the Five Ventures for helping me be there. It’s a fantastic thing and I’m very proud to have done it.
At Harvard and Kern, what was your speech about? What is the same or different speech? I’m just wondering.
How could they be? I did Harvard twice. It was all around the psychology of an affluent client and the world of luxury. I remember it was those two things. At Kern, it was about refinement, focus and energy. They were very different topics to a very different crowd.
It is an absolutely beautiful campus with the river running through it and all these people rowing boats and stuff. My husband went to Harvard. He wasn’t one of the favored kids. He had to work pretty hard. He went to school with many that you’re talking about, the ones that were privileged and came into their classic classrooms with their jets and stuff. I enjoyed this interview. If you’re reading this, go ahead and check out my YouTube channel because we have a lot of stuff that we’re loading up like real-life lessons.
A lot of times, when we are learning real-life lessons, they’re not always fun. Steve somehow managed to entertain us a lot. I love his British accent. All Americans love that. We’re very fascinated. We speak the same language but you guys have a real handle on the mastery of the language, the same language that we speak. I love everything that you share and I also like that you delivered it in a way that’s not so classroom lecture-like. It’s very real-life lessons because a lot of times, coaches and people that want to be on the show, they’ve never lived the life. They’ve never done the things that that they preach.
Thank you so much. For all of you who are reading, I hope this was helpful and entertaining. If you want somebody to be a James Bond over the weekend or you want it to be a Martha Stewart or whoever you want them to be, maybe even become a Pope, who knows? He could make it happen. If he can dream it, he can make it happen. Where can they check you out, Steve?
SteveDSims.com, you can find out about my training, my events, my coaching and anything. Even follow me on @SteveDSims on Instagram or An Entrepreneur’s Advantage with Steve Sims which is my Facebook page.
If you haven’t subscribed to this channel or show already, please do so. I would love an honest review. You don’t even have to make it a good review. Just tell us what you like about us so we can continue improving. Thank you so much, Steve. Until next time, please stay healthy and well. Remember what I always sign off with, which is happiness is a choice and I hope you make great choices. Bye-bye.
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