Time to let the pendulum swing your way, says Frankie Sheahan

Richard Branson, Norma and Frankie Sheahan and Michelle Mone from Ultimo Lingerie at last year's summit

For today and tomorrow, Frankie Sheahan has gathered some of the best business thinkers for his self-improvement summit in Dublin, says Marie Toft.

FRANKIE Sheahan listens to the seven thousand delegates who attend his Pendulum Summit, which starts today in Dublin’s Convention Centre. It’s the reason Brexiteer Boris Johnson is one of the speakers.

“We’re always determined to get the best value for our delegates,” says the former Munster and Ireland rugby star. “And many of our delegates are obsessed with Brexit, so we’ve invited the former British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, to share his thoughts on what lies ahead.”

“Boris made the point to me that 82% of the cheddar eaten in the UK comes from Ireland and UK exports to Ireland are more than China, India, and Brazil combined. He’s said if they get Brexit right, he has no doubt that trade will continue to grow.” It will be a controversial address and Sheahan is conscious not everyone will agree with Johnson.

“I’m very aware of that, but he is standing up for something he believes in and I admire him for that.”

But Frankie Sheahan has never been afraid of risk-taking. He emerged from bankruptcy last April, and, despite this, he and his wife, Norma, have built Pendulum into the world’s leading business and self-empowerment summit.

Starting in 2013 with 600 delegates, it’s now in its seventh year and Sheahan expects over 7,000 people to attend over the next two days. As well as Johnson, this year’s speakers include John Cleese, Colin Farrell, and Karren Brady. Previous Pendulum Summit speakers have included entrepreneur Richard Branson and self-improvement guru Tony Robbins.

For a young boy who listened to Tony Robbins cassette tapes in his bedroom, it must have been a dream come true for Sheahan to book his childhood hero.

“I’ll never forget when I signed Tony Robbins,” he admits. “At the time, he was the most expensive speaker in the world. I was absolutely thrilled.”

So how did it all start?

“Well, I’ve been reading self-help books since I was ten,” he says.

“Norma and I were working with a company called Front Row Speakers and we were getting real insights from CEOs and HR managers and seeing the changing trends in leadership and training. Setting up Pendulum was a real light-bulb moment for us. Ireland was so full of negativity at the time. We actually needed it for ourselves.”

Frankie and Norma had spotted a gap in the market.

“Back in 2013, there were lots of industry events for specific sectors, which were insightful and good for networking, but could be lethargic and boring. Then, there were what I call ‘Kumbaya events’ about self-improvement, which often weren’t very practical. We realised it would be fantastic to have one event which invited the best people in the world to impart their wisdom and game-changing insights.”

Frankie also claims his rugby career — which was cut short due to injury in 2009 — qualified him to set up Pendulum.

“They may have been inadvertent qualifications, but I got to play alongside the best in the world and I learned perseverance, self-belief, and resilience. I actually learned far more from our losses than our wins.”

Ah, yes, losses. After five years of negotiating, in April 2017, Sheahan was forced into bankruptcy, after Bank of Ireland turned down a personal insolvency arrangement he had offered to address debts of €1m. Sheahan had invested heavily in property and incurred big losses following the economic crash. He emerged from bankruptcy last April.

“It’s important to learn from your mistakes and I take full responsibility for what happened,” he says. “It’s important not to get into the blame game. It’s actually refreshing to be able to sit back and blame yourself.” In Ireland, we’re not great at seeing failure as an opportunity, as opposed to America, where every successful entrepreneur speaks openly about their set-backs.

He agrees. “There’s a famous clip from Steve Jobs, on YouTube, where he’s talking about dropping out of college and he says you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” American optimism is something the Sheahans have experienced, now they’ve set up their first New York Pendulum Summit, which started last September.

“There was a lot of can-do in New York. But it was very reinforcing for me, as an Irish entrepreneur. It made me realise Irish people really can compete with the best. And we learned a lot from New York that we’ve been able to apply to the Dublin summit.”

And he’s very passionate about this week’s event. “There are two speakers, in particular, who aren’t very well-known here, but are huge worldwide,” he reveals. “Nic Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs, has spoken in Davos and Oprah Winfrey is a massive fan. And Eric Wahl, who’s going to speak on disruption, is a TED speaker and bestselling author. And we have Ruby Wax, who has taken the most taboo subject of mental health and is presenting it in a really powerful, human, and funny way.”

He’s also determined that delegates will take the learnings from the two-day summit and apply them in their lives. So he’s developed a Pendulum app and will be encouraging attendees to find an accountability partner to ensure they follow through.

Pendulum is certainly different and combines entertainment — Hudson Taylor will perform today, while tomorrow’s event will kick off with The Riptide Movement — with business and self-help advice. Sheahan admits there is some cynicism in Ireland around the self-empowerment summit. But he’s adamant he’s seen the event transform the sceptical. And it’s hard to argue with 7,000 delegates.

“People regularly come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t think I was into this thing’, but things are changing on a daily basis,” he says. “We’re CPD-accredited, which has made a big difference, because the whole dynamic of learning has changed completely.”

He and Norma have also worked with professional development associations, institutes, and Pendulum speakers to help create the five pillars of the summit, which Sheahan says, if mastered, will lead to limitless possibilities.

They are self-empowerment, authentic relationships, leadership and team performance, business excellence, and professional and wealth elevation.

“Our delegates come from completely different sectors, but the principals of self-empowerment transcend all business,” he says. “You can become institutionalised in your industry and Pendulum allows you to hear very different things. There is still a bit of cynicism, but, ultimately, we’re all striving for happiness. I really believe a small recalibration and a slight change of direction have the potential to change everything.”

Pendulum Summit takes place in Dublin’s Convention Centre today, January 9, and tomorrow, January 10. See www.pendulumsummit.com

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