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Growing up in a council estate in Peckham, South London, football superstar and entrepreneur Rio Ferdinand learned the value of hard work from his parents, something that informs his drive to do his best in everything he does. 


In a fireside chat with TV and radio journalist Peter Stefanovic, titled Building a Brand That Sits on the Right Side of History, Ferdinand told the RESET audience that his mother in particular also gave him the courage to step out of his comfort zone and try new things from a young age. 


As a result, Ferdinand developed a sense of courage and fearlessness that has encouraged him to pursue anything - including learning ballet before going on to become one of the most decorated English footballers of all time and being described as “a Rolls Royce defender”.


“Without ballet, I don’t think I could have got to where I did with football,” Ferdinand said. “It’s a strong discipline and it gave me so much in terms of balance, poise and strength.”


Even at the height of his football career, Ferdinand stretched himself into other areas, including opening a restaurant – which at the time sparked the ire of then-Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who thought the venture would distract Ferdinand from his football discipline. Ferdinand assured Sir Alex he would let go of the restaurant if his game suffered. 


“I’ve been pigeonholed as a football player, but I always had other interests – in business, fashion, my foundation,” Ferdinand said.


The Rio Ferdinand Foundation, established in 2012, supports and empowers young people from working class communities to tackle racism and inequality, and provides opportunities for youth to achieve their personal potential and drive social change. 


Since retiring from football seven years ago, Ferdinand has continued to leverage his growing social media fan base of over 20 million followers to inspire social change and make the world a better place. His current focus is as a partner at hate-free social media platform WeAre8, which aims to address the negative societal impacts of social media.


“My aim is for WeAre8 to eclipse what I’ve done in football,” he said, adding that he was in complete agreement with former AFL player Adam Goodes who has said: “If people only remember me for my football, then I’ve failed in life.”


Being a father to four young children, with another on the way, is what drove Ferdinand to invest in Weare8, he said. Created by Australian Sue Fennessy, WeAre8 pays users to watch ads, allowing them to pass on the money to charity. The app launched in Australia in August last year with 10 commercial partners, including ​​Suncorp, SBS, Dove, Rexona, Omo, Virgin Australia, Nature’s Own, Coles and Telstra.


In sport and in business, Ferdinand values bravery and audacity. “When I back people in business, I need to believe in that person,” he said. 


“To be successful and win big trophies, there’s gotta be an element of bravery to take risks.”

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