Remy Blumenfeld is an entrepreneur, coach, and business adviser to the creative industries. He’s been named by Broadcast Magazine as one of the world’s top 5 Format Kings and by The Independent as one of the Top 20 most influential Gay People in the UK. He works primarily with the founders of content companies who want to build, grow and sell. He is the former director of formats for ITVS, and the founder of two TV Production companies. He also has written extensively for Forbes, Inc. and Thrive Global. Blumenfeld is the creator of a nine-part online course, Standout For Media Founders.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Cambridge in the 1970s and felt like a fish out of water. Cambridge back then was less diverse than it is even today and I felt different and looked different from the other boys at school. I looked ‘foreign’, didn’t like team sports, was not Church of England and my parents were artists. I also knew, from the age of eight, that I was gay. At a time when I desperately wanted to fit in, I didn’t.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wished I realized back then that life is a game and it’s up to each of us how we play it. I wish I’d known I didn’t have to take myself SO seriously.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
As a coach and business adviser to founders of media companies, I see my role as helping clients get clear about what they want and how to get it. I like my clients to have tangible measurable goals and a clear road map. When coaches offer vague unmeasurable promises to have you “Live Your Dream Life” Upgrade your life” “Be your best self” or “Get In Touch With Your Purpose” I feel they’re doing themselves, their potential clients, and the coaching profession a disservice.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
That’s a big one. Before COVID, most of us already understood that who we love is more important than any achievements or possessions. Rationally this made sense to me too. But I didn’t feel it in my gut until I was told by doctors that I had just days to live. I was so unwell that the matron in a public (NHS) hospital in London allowed my partner to bring my dog into the ward. That’s how certain medics were that I would be dead by the morning. Both my partner and my dog, an Irish Terrier, Sam, slept with me for what everyone, including me, thought would be my last night.
I got lucky, and here I am, still alive. But the real gift to me was that being forced to face my own mortality helped me understand with life-changing clarity that what matters most in life is being alive and healthy, and then of course who you love and who loves you. I emerged with my values permanently re-arranged.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I not only accept my many failures, I embrace and learn from them.
Without the confidence bestowed by success, failure can be very hard for most of us to concede. I have failed many times. I have launched businesses that floundered; I have produced TV series that flopped. I have failed, in small things, several times just this past week. Should I feel ashamed, embarrassed even? Should I feel embarrassed, or ashamed?
The thing is, when you don’t fail, you don’t allow yourself to become stronger in that process, resulting in the kind of resilience which is universally understood to be core to being a successful leader
A life without failure is a life without striving. Of course, no one knowingly aims for failure. We hope for success. But, unless what we’re striving for is so easily within our grasp that reaching for it wouldn’t qualify as striving, we inevitably need to fail multiple times in order to succeed. This is true of every area of endeavor, from learning a new skill to launching a new company; from committing to being a good friend to becoming an inspiring leader.
Even if you haven’t yet ‘made it,’ I recommend proudly owning your failures. Not only will sharing with others what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown to make you seem more relatable, but you will also occur as a stronger and more effective leader.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at around 8 am and I do my affirmations.
Without proper maintenance, your brain gets clogged up by malware. So here’s how to reboot your brain.
The most common virus is the voice in your brain, which we’ll call your saboteur. If you’re asking yourself ‘what voice?’ – that’s who. Typical advice you get from the voice in your head includes What makes you think YOU can do That? You’ll make a fool of yourself!
Because our saboteur virus is so focused on steering us away from failure, rejection, or pain, it invariably stops us from taking risks necessary for growth, connection, and success. This voice will always re-emerge to try to stop us from realizing our dreams.
You can’t erase the saboteur virus forever, but if you’re tired of being alone in your head with this often critical and blaming voice, it’s time to re-boot and install some new programming software, through daily affirmations.
If your saboteur virus is saying ‘I am stupid,’ you need to say aloud to yourself, ‘I am smart.’ Every morning. Three times.
If you wake up each morning feeling all over the place, try saying aloud to yourself, three times, ‘I am grounded.’
If your saboteur’s voice is saying ‘I am ugly,’ you need to say aloud to yourself, ‘I am gorgeous.’
Combat the programming of ‘I am a failure’ by re-stating ‘I am successful.’
And there is some standard software that I highly recommend everyone installs. I am alive, I am healthy, I am free, I am capable, I am resourceful, I am creative, I am whole. I am powerful, I am vital. I am love-able, I am loving, I am loved.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
As the son of Jewish artists/intellectuals, I was raised with the belief that “the chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.” As a family, we hugged, but I was certainly never encouraged to play a sport of any kind. Excercise was positively discouraged.
My habits and behaviour around diet and exercise have been transformed in later life by my partner who is a former athlete and gymnast. We have a cross-trainer and multigym at home which I use most days, and I swim every day in summer. While I’m certainly no athlete myself, I have found the whole of my life (not only my fitness) has been greatly improved by higher levels of dopamine and serotonin.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
For me, success simply means living up to an intention, honouring a commitment, or achieving a personal goal. It’s also about balance. If you’re wondering which area of your life has been the most out of balance in 2020, take three minutes to fill out your personalised Wheel of Life.
I encourage all my clients to make five separate lists for the year ahead. And, of course, I do it too. I’ve been seeing amazing results.
Each list covers a different area of life:
• Career and Finances
• Health and Personal Growth
• Family and Friends
• Romance and Home
• Travel, Adventure and Fun
Pick one area at a time – let’s start with Career and Finances. Imagine what it will feel like, a year from now when you’re looking back at the success you’ve had in this area. What milestones, achievements, and events would make you feel, a year from now, that you’d enjoyed real, staggering success in the area of Career and Finances? Now write down a list of specific measurable targets, complete with numbers and dates.
Next, take on a new area. Let’s say it’s Travel, Adventure, and Fun. What would great fun in 2021 look like to you? Twelve months from now, having had a fun-filled year, what adventures will you have had? What trips will you have taken? Go ahead and list them out.
If your list feels easy, you haven’t been ambitious enough. At the other extreme, if you’re thinking ‘Help! I’m NEVER going to achieve any of that,’ then the list you’ve made isn’t right for you either. Everything you write down has to come from a place of pleasure and pride for you.
Each of your five lists needs to be specific, measurable, and a real stretch. And don’t hedge your bets by being vague.
When you’re done, read all five of your lists aloud to a good friend and to your partner if you have one. Don’t skip this part, it’s important.
Now, file away the lists under ‘2021 Wish Lists’ or if you’ve written them by hand, put them away in a drawer, where you can find them later. In one year from now, you can look at your lists again and see how much of what you listed has been achieved.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
As a child, I was inspired by Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, the Swallows and Amazon series by Arthur Ransome, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – all of which explore the power of young people to imagine and project exciting alternative realities. Come to think about it, C.S.Lewis’s Narnia Books and Five Children And It, by Edith Nesbitt, which I loved as a child, also revolve around fantasy worlds.
As an adolescent, I was very taken by The Magus by John Fowles, which uncovers the psychological illusions of a master manipulator, which become increasingly dark and serious. As a teenager coming to terms with my sexual identity, I was also fascinated by the biographies of openly gay writers such as Christopher Isherwood (Goodbye To Berlin) dramatists such as Noel Coward (Present Indicative, and Future Indefinite), and artists such as Cecil Beaton (Beaton Diaries.)
As an adult, it’s much harder to pinpoint the books that have influenced my life the most, but I’ll pick just two:
An all-time favourite is The Art Of Possibility written by two extraordinary authors: the Psychologist, Rosamund Stone Zander, and her husband Benjamin, who is one of world’s preeminent orchestral conductors. It’s all about how to live a fuller, more creative, generous and playful life. A big part of my job as a coach is supporting clients to play the game of life with a sense of purpose, grace, and ease. Seeing life as a game isn’t always easy. However, in an age when robots will soon be able to do almost every job better than humans, being playful remains a uniquely human quality. Seeing life as a game will also make your life (and the lives of those around you) a whole lot lighter and more fun.
Recently, I’ve found my understanding of race expanded by Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Lies That Divide Us, which, amongst other things, discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against. I found it pretty mind-blowing to consider, for instance, that people in Africa don’t think of themselves as black, just as immigrants arriving in America from all over Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries never considered themselves white.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
I love the Henry Ford quote: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you’re right.” It speaks so concisely of the power of self-belief, from a great inventor, writing many years before coaching was a profession.
Likewise U.S. President, Harry S. Truman’s immortal line that “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” sums up the power of delegation, without attachment.