Life Story – Colly Graham

I promised a number of people I would write my life story, so as part of the project here is with chapter one in my blog

Twenty-two days after D-Day 1944, I entered this world, around noon, as my Mother often remarked just in time for lunch. I was born in a little house about two miles outside of Dungannon, Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland, the place was called Stangmore. Mum and Dad were simple folks, my Mother was just twenty-one and my Father twenty-three. Dad was a handy man whilst he had never trained in any profession he was a good carpenter, car mechanic you name it he could turn his hand to anything that needed mending or needed made. Dad was a bus conductor with UTA (Ulster Transport Authority,) I’m not sure when he started in that job but I can remember as a very small child travelling on the bus with Dad being the conductor.



Where we lived was about two miles from Dungannon and Mum used to regularly wheel me into the town to do her shopping. On the way into the town there was a POW camp filled with German and Italian prisoner’s of war.

We moved a few times,I remember around the age of four we went to live with my Mum’s Grandparents on a farm at Cohannon near Tamnamore. My Grandmother, Minnie, worked at the “big house” as a maid and a cook. Around that time my Dad started to drag his leg we didn’t know but this was the onset of Multiple Sclerosis. My brother, Vaughan was born in September 1948, we were always told in the family that Dad went into hospital for the first time. We traveled to Belfast to see him in Royal Victoria Hospital, as a child I did not really appreciate what was happening. 

Christmas 1948, food rationing was still in place and we received a parcel of goodies from relatives in America. In the parcel was the juiciest plum cake I have ever tasted. I was taken by the plum cake at age four I set my first goal that one day I would visit America, this land of milk and honey. I did not realise at that time I had set my first goal. 

Tamnamore Primary School

Tamnamore Primary School

I started primary school in end of August, 1949, my fifth birthday was in June of that year. Tamnamore Primary School was small with only two classrooms. I still  remember my first days when the kids, our neighbours the Gilkinson’s brought me to school, they made me hide and jump out on the teacher and say “boo,” why  they wanted me to do that I don’t really know and I remember it didn’t work all that well! My first teacher was called Pearl Dowds whom I adored and followed  around like a lap dog. My first three years were happy there and then I moved up to the Principle’s class and things changed dramatically. He taught by the rod, intimidation and bullying and no-one questioned his behaviour. I know today I developed my fear of authority figures from the way I was and as I know today cruelly treated in the name of education. I was continually hauled out of my seat with a vice like grip on the back of my neck and slammed against the blackboard. All the kids lived in absolute fear of him except one.  My Dad’s illness was progressing, he was very unsteady on feet and used my shoulder as his second walking stick.

I talked all through my childhood how one day I was going to go to America. But there was a tragedy in our family three months before that parcel arrived my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The family was poor, my Dad couldn’t work and my Mum struggled to cloth and feed my younger brother and I. We had an abundance of love from Mum and Dad and form the greater family circle my Grandparents, love was everywhere, we didn’t even know we were power. Despite my Dad’s failing health and progressive illness, he was the most positive man I have had the good fortunate to know and love.

My parents struggled to give me a good education, I was a smart kid but too smart for my own good. I flunked High School. However, as a kid I said one day I was going to America, I loved DC comics and wished I could buy the toys in their adverts, I dreamed and visualised going to Coney Island which was advertised in the comics. When I was eleven I was asked to choose a city from an atlas and write a fictional essay on a visit to that city. I choose Seattle.

My teenage years of teddy boys and rock and roll, the child of the sixties. I suffered severely from depression in my teenage years being hospitalised three times for my mental health and receiving Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT.) In 1967 I was told I need some form of medication for the rest of my life.
(Aside note I have not had to take any form of mood altering medication either prescribed or street drugs nor alcohol since February, 1974.)
I got married at twenty-two, a marriage based on lust not love. The marriage failed after three years and I took myself to London where I lived penniless begging on the streets. I returned home after a few months and I replaced the street drugs I had been abusing with alcohol.

Alcohol abuse got out of hand and resulted in a prison sentence in 1970, when I petrol bombed (Molotov cocktail) a party I had gate-crashed because they stole my liquor and ejected me from the party. In Northern Ireland that time we were in the middle of Civil Strife and there was a mandatory sentence of two years in prison. It was a hairy time to be in prison in Northern Ireland and the prisoners were predominantly republican and loyalist terrorist. My saving grace was a short-term prisoner who shared a secret with me that was to change my life. I will reveal that later, you see there is nothing bad or good except thinking makes it so. I got out of prison and returned to my old job in sales which was still waiting for me.

In February 1973, my Dad died at the young age of fifty-two, the day he died they couldn’t find me as I was partying. He was only fifty-two when he passed. The guilt was there and I now used as a reason to drink.  Then in October 1973 I moved to a start-up company in a sales role, well that was a disaster. I crashed the company car twice, ending up in hospital. In January 1974 I was back on the mood changing drugs. January was lived in a mist, returning to work in February 1994, I get stopped by the police and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. I cannot go on living like this, my drinking got worse despite my best attempts to control my drinking!
The time came. Another night’s drinking, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon I feel so bad I cannot get out of bed. I toss and turn asking God if he has forsaken me, I want to talk to my Father but he has passed on, I then think of going to a nearby mental hospital and ask to speak to a psychiatrist but I know deep down that is not the answer. I need to speak to a man of the cloth. I am spiritually bankrupt.

I dress and drive to a church and write down the minister’s name from the notice board in the grounds. I go to a hotel to make the phone call. In the foyer of the hotel a thought comes into my head from the guy I met in prison.
“Colly, your problem is alcohol and there is a place where people like you and me can get help” I opened the phone book and found my answer and that day on that afternoon on February 21st. 1974 I entered recovery. Forty years later still clean and sober a day at a time I have had one hell of a journey. Now the journey wasn’t always easy as it is to-day. However, in those early day although still suffering from depression I was told a simple truth, “Be Ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

I started on the road to self-development – I began to know that the truth would set me free. I discovered Maxwell Maltz and Psycho-Cybernetics, I was led to Napoleon Hill and Think and Grow Rich. The company I was working was growing and I was promoted to the senior sales supervisor. I discovered the works of Tom Hopkins and employed his sales techniques. I read Zig Ziglar’s “See You at The Top.” And took a short sojourn into selling life assurance and discovered “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success” by Frank Bettger. On my first sale I earned more commission than a month’s salary in my previous job plus I qualified for a company conference in Bermuda, (my first trip aboard and I was promoted to assistant Branch Manager)

Then I was asked to return to my previous company to head up the job as sales manager, managing twelve on the road sales and a team of four telephone sales people. I discovered I really enjoyed training, coaching and leading my sales team. I explored the field of sales training, I discovered the works of Brain Tracey.
However, whilst still living clean and sober I continued to suffer from depression. In the mid-eighties, I discovered Jack Canfield’s Self Esteem cassette tape program. This helped although I was in a very volatile marriage, my role of sales manager was taking up the hours and my wife at that time found it difficult. I went on a spiritual retreat to Findhorn in Scotland. I found this opened my mind to a world of possibilities, I discovered The Course in Miracles and books written by David Spangler on manifestation. My wife of that time had difficulties with my spiritual search and finally my wife and I parted ways in 1990.

In 1990, I finally realised my goal of visiting USA and the city I visited was ………. Seattle. I was forty-six years old it took me forty-two years to realise my goal which I made when I was four, then I remembered the essay I wrote when I was eleven. I visited five USA cities in seventeen days. I explored, made friends and discovered a book by John Bradshaw, Homecoming and Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins.

John Bradshaw’s book impressed so much I returned to Miami in 1992 to do a John Bradshaw workshop and “heal my inner child.” That had a profound effect on me and I especially examined my inner self around relationships. I returned to USA a number of times.

In 1993, I always wanted to do a fire-walk and discovered that one was being offered in Wicklow in the South of Ireland. I set off in my car on a beautiful spring morning but a few miles from home I skidded on an oil spill and hit a brick wall head on, ending up in hospital for five days.

In 1995 I visited USA again, this time going to San Diego, LA and a friend’s family in Portland, Oregon where I had the privilege of meeting and listening to Mary Morrissey.
On a connecting flight from Portland to LA to catch my flight home, I wrote a goal in a notebook I had purchased in Portland, my goal was this: “to start my own sales training company and travel the world delivering sales training”

Early June I received a settlement from the insurance company for my accident in Two weeks before my fifty-second birthday I decided to start my sales training business and on 1st July 1996 I launched my business. Remember I told you earlier that my Dad died at the age of fifty-two and in mid-June I heard my Dad telling me to go for it.

In the first few months, I struggled to get Graham Associates off the ground. Depression came back big time and I fought to overcome it. Many days I could not get out of bed to face the day, I hid my depression from my friends. It got so bad I had to reach out and ask for help. I was guided to find a Higher Power in my life. A friend suggested that I find a place that was both secret and sacred to me and go and sit there in silence till I knew I had a Power in my life.

I don’t know how long I sat with the wind howling and my anorak pulled tight around me. Then I had this thought in my head:

“I am with you and I have always been with you!”

Now I thought I am imagining this, or it was something I had read somewhere, sometime. But the thought got stronger and stronger, coming from around my heart. And I knew, I knew at that very moment I had a Power in my life. What was this Power, God, my subconscious mind, Universal Mind? I knew not to question this Power It just was and still is.

It seemed as if a great weight was lifted from off my body, I felt a lightness and a realisation that a Power within me was guiding and directing my life. From that moment my life took on new meaning. I traveled the world with my business and made a number of discoveries about myself and my life.

And Graham Associates evolved into salesxcellence, and as a result I have been fortunate enough to travel the world, I have been to Kuala Lumpur on five occasions, to the island of Mauritius twice, Bangkok, Thailand, Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne Australia and of course UL, Ireland and Europe. Life has become a wonderful experience and today I still work with companies helping them grow their sales.

Now you can learn too transform your life.