John Lloyd was being interviewed on his career as a TV and radio producer.
One of his first shows was the News Quiz.
Then The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
Next he produced Not the Nine O’clock News.
Then Spitting Image.
He was the originator of Have I Got News For You.
Now he produces and writes QI.
That’s an incredible body of work for one person.
The presenter asked him if any of this had been a struggle.
John said obviously it had been a struggle.
Consisting of fallouts, multiple sackings, and missed opportunities.
He became depressed, wondering why he was always starting great projects, then getting fired from them by the people he worked with and respected.
John said this was his pattern in life, and depressed him.
Until he came to realise that, actually, what seemed like disaster each time was actually opportunity in disguise.
John’s mantra became ‘Disaster is a gift’.
He wouldn’t have done nearly so much with his life if he hadn’t been fired so many times.
He’d have just stayed where he was.
But each time they let him go, it meant he was forced to start something new again.
So that each disaster was actually an opportunity in disguise.
Then he told a story about his father.
He’d been a captain in the Navy in the war, in charge of three motor torpedo boats.
These were small, fragile, extremely fast boats, made out of plywood and driven by massive engines.
Their job was to use their speed to get as close as possible to bigger ships.
Then drop their torpedoes and get away fast.
Their speed was their only defence.
One day in 1942, John’s father was returning from an overnight raid against the German held coast of Europe.
Everyone was so exhausted, the lookout mistook the cliffs of Dover for a cloud formation.
All three motor torpedo boats drove at full speed up onto the beach.
John’s father thought it was a disaster and the end of his career.
In the event, it wasn’t held against him.
But if those boats had been serviceable he would have been sent on another mission immediately.
The mission was to stop the channel dash by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
The Germans had caught the British completely by surprise and sent two massive battleships up the English Channel.
They were protected by another seven warships, forty motor torpedo boats, and nearly three hundred aeroplanes.
British high command panicked and sent out whatever they had.
This consisted of six old Swordfish, fabric and wood, biplane torpedo bombers.
All six were easily shot down and thirteen men died in what was virtually a suicide attack.
If John’s father hadn’t run aground the day before, his boats would certainly have been sent out on a similar suicide attack.
John’s father would have suffered the same fate as the Swordfish crews.
And John would never have been born.
So for John, his mantra ‘Disaster is a gift’ was true even before he was born.