From finding himself in court at age 11 due to misbehaviour, to becoming a Behaviour-Change Specialist and author. Gethin Jones, owner of Unlocking Potential, is proof that one can turn their life around whilst also helping others doing the same - making a real difference in the community.
If Only They Knew had the pleasure of speaking to Gethin and finding out more about his journey.
What is Gethin's background?
Gethin was in care from an early age, causing trauma that triggered bad behaviour. This bad behaviour led to Gethin receiving a criminal conviction at the age of 11. The trouble continued, and 14 days after his 14th birthday, he was sent to a detention centre - which at the time, were renowned for being environments built upon fear and bullying. One of the first things Gethin had to do in the centre, was to write a letter to his Mum, explaining that he was sorry and would begin behaving - naturallly, this made the 14 year old miss his mother, despite their lack of a relationship. Little did he know, that imprisonment would become the norm up until his adult years.
What was the switch that made Gethin change his life around?
Gethin explains that it was a long process of transformation, having to understand his skills and abilities in order to make them benefit him in some way as well as taking on therapeutic methods to relieve his stress. For example, he realised that he had a form of positive manipulation, as his communication and negotiation skills allowed him to create good relationships with those in power in order to get by and get him what he needed. He likens himself to Fletcher from the popular BBC sitcom, Porridge, due to his persuasive qualities.
After realising that he naturally had transferable skills, it allowed him to better himself. He gained a Leadership and Management NVQ level 5 qualification due to the fact that he was a natural leader. His leadership skills were shown at a young age as he used to lead his friends into trouble, causing him to be kicked out of multiple care homes.
It is these transferable skills that allowed him to take advantage of many new opportunities.
"Leadership is leadership, whether you can lead them left or lead them right"
Gethin also found the therapeutic nature of writing and expressing himself when listening to an external speaker whilst in prison in 2001. He connected with the speaker's history and was inspired by the speakers transformation to success. This gave Gethin hope that life can be different. After this moment, Gethin began writing poems to express himself, of which he says have never been seen by anybody else but himself.
Gethin's process of rehabiliation
After many years of transforming himself and some time volunteering with a charity, he found his first work opportunity. Gethin was open and honest about his past to the interviewer (a lady named Cecil) as he wanted to express his past but wanted people to know him as Gethin, rather than focusing too much on his past. Cecil appreciated Gethin's honesty and background - giving the opportunity to work in her team. This particular stage of Gethin's life is summed up by a phrase that stems from Buddhism:
"When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear."
What challenges did Gethin face?
Gethin struggled to make that change within himself as he was worried about what his friends may think, he did not want them to think that he somehow sold out.
"Negative behaviour stops people reaching their full potential."
As well as this, he was worried about the stigma that the new people in his life would attach to his past, as he believes that this would have hindered his career progression. When leaving his workplace to go into public speaking, he explained to his coworkers about his past - to which, their jaws dropped in shock.
"The reason why my career progressed as it did, was because not everybody knew about my past. If people would have known it, I may not have gone through the ranks as quickly as I had"
What does Gethin do today?
Today, Gethin continues to write in the form of blogs to articulate his thoughts and feelings, whilst sharing his story. He also has written a personal development book, called "Unconscious Incarceration" - which is available here.
Gethin states that the media tend to overstate his background, always labelling him as an ex-offender, which he understands, but also wants to stress the fact that he is now not only a changed man, but is also now an entrepreneur - changing lives across the UK (my words, not his ;D).
Gethin owns a group called Unlocking Potential, where he trains and develops prisoners, social workers and anybody involved with vulnerable groups. Gethin trains them how to develop human relationships in order to rehabilitate and change their lives. Gethin explains that the people he works with, often see situations as an 'us versus them' situation, causing conflict in many areas of their lives.
"It's not the system that rehabilitates, its individuals that work within it."
What is the plan for Gethin and Unlocking Potential?
The plan is to have Unlocking potential running sufficiently without Gethin at the forefront so he can go on to embed himself in the political world - making even more of a difference across Britain. He feels there should be more pressure on the government and organisations to help the society that work within, and that people should live their lives by example.
"There's no i in team, but there are 3 i's in personal responsibility".
I asked Gethin what he would want his legacy to be, to which he described a workshop he was in previously where a gentleman called Harry stated that he wanted his tombstone to be engraved with the words "He made a difference". Gethin carries the same mindset, stating that he just wants to make a difference.
If you would like to find out more about Gethin and Unlocking Potential, you can connect with him via the following pages: