Episode #32: Tim Smit – Inspiring the self-belief of others

07 May 2019

Tim Smit

In this episode, I talk to Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project and executive chairman of Eden Project International. The Eden Project transformed a sterile pit into a fabulous enclosed garden with rainforest and Mediterranean environments.  

Tim is also known for having, along with John Nelson, restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan where he remains a director. In 2002 he was awarded a CBE and in 2012 a KBE.

In this interview, we talk about how he got to where he is, and some of the lessons he learned along the way. Tim is a thoughtful commentator on the current state of our society, and we touch on some real solid gold insights. I think you’ll get a huge amount from this interview.

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young Tim Smit when he left school and looked ahead to adult life? (1:44)

How Tim got into the music industry, and learned about business in the process (3:45)

The factors that lead to success that don’t depend on talent (7:15)

The unromantic version of why the music business wasn’t all Tim had imagined it to be (8:50)

How Tim ended up moving to Cornwall and how this reflected a settled decision to embrace the accidental (12:14)

Why a lot of the advice you get is rubbish, and what is some of the better advice that Tim has received (13:40)

How Tim ended up taking on the Lost Gardens of Heligan (16:57)

Where the Eden Project came from, and why we shouldn’t let people get away with mediocrity (24:05)

How have we ended up with the era of mediocre leadership? And what role did the media play in this process? (29:03)

Do we spend too much time blaming the nameless other rather than taking responsibility? (35:00)

What lessons has Tim learned by running a business where he was aiming to find ways to run businesses better? (39:20)

Now Eden is focused on multiple projects across the world – what’s driving that? (43:06)

The often-missed opportunity to mobilise the most powerful people on the planet (46:17)

What book or books have inspired Tim and changed his life? (47:48)




The Eden Project https://www.edenproject.com




If this is a man, Primo Levi – https://www.amazon.co.uk/If-This-Man-Primo-Levi/dp/B001126VL8/

Pandaemonium, Humphrey Jennings https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pandaemonium-1660-1886-Contemporary-Observers-Oct-04-2012/dp/B00BOOZ5A6/

The Songs of Trees, David George Haskell https://www.amazon.co.uk/Songs-Trees-George-David-Haskell/dp/0143111302/

Sum, David Eagleman https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sum-Tales-Afterlives-David-Eagleman/dp/1847674275/

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invisible-Cities-Vintage-Classics-Calvino/dp/0099429837/

Ishmael, Daniel Quinn https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ishmael-Daniel-Quinn/dp/0553375407/