Changes, (Turn and face the strange)

First time in writing the circulating ideas within my head, for how I now understand my situation and want to change my career pathway. It’s not reflective of a rambling rant more akin to a conversation and trying to sort different themes and ideas in my head.

A ship doesn’t sail on yesterday’s wind and its a comment that I seem to drift back to, as I recall my previous corporate success and the lifestyle I had. In so many ways, I know and realise that I was on an automatic pilot setting. We all know the familiar guidance, “go to school, do well and go to University and get a job”, yet with the benefit of two Master degrees, I now disagree with that.

Far better, to go to school, get a education and work for yourself. That’s where I am in my thinking and have been for possibly the last five years. It’s most definitely one of the core reasons why I continue to volunteer with two national youth organisations. Yet in reality, all I have to show for such new thinking, is a general happiness, poverty, a failed retail business venture (Creative Destruction Ltd), and being married; but only one regret.

I have lost acquaintances (fair weather friends) following the protected disclosure as a Chief Executive I made in 2009; and then through representing myself and winning an unfair dismissal case, I lost my career. People too easily suggest, ‘you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you’ yet if something such as corruption it is clearly wrong, how can it be made right, if no-one voices their concerns?

None of that I regret, nor ever could, as it woke me from a slumber. What I regret is spending time and money on people that were greedy and selfish, unlike my beautiful wife. My only regret is not having the money to spend on her, as she supports me in this ongoing career trial and challenge. The serendipity realisation, is that I would never have met her if I had stayed on my self-imposed corporate path.

I trained as a property surveyor and at age 29, I became possibly the youngest chief executive within social housing in Northern Ireland, for almost seven years. During that time, I gained a lot of project success and transformed a stumbling housing association on the point of closure to a sustainable and viable business. My salary almost doubled from the initial £19,000 to approximately £36,000 over the years as turnover increased from £315,000 pa to £750,000 as recorded in 2009 accounts. But my salary was never permitted to eclipse that of the voluntary board members. After my departure, and board members undertaking my role the decline of the association was inevitable I believed and in 2013, it ceased to exist as an independent entity.

Whilst I did prove myself as an intrepreneur in various short-term contracts and employment positions, I wasn’t ready to be an entrepreneur. Yes, my MBA studies educated me but I didn’t know that it is not just actions but the mind-set that accomplishes the transformation to entrepreneur. Opening and operating Creative Destruction Ltd for table-top, board and card games was a blessing and a curse. I gained new friends, met my wife and learned so much more about myself. Some of which, I should have realised much sooner in my youth. Although, working 50 hour plus a week as you attempt to break-even is challenging in a new venture as is seeing the greed of people. When you close a business, it is not the sharks or wolves but the vultures that do the most hurt; yet that is far another publishing tale.

What I have learned is this after senior management, MBA studies and my retail business, yet do excuse the parody. I’m like a zoo animal. I have escaped my cage yet I’m not aware that so much more exists beyond the enclosure.

Without the benefit of 3rd level academic education, some people that leave school early will use their gut instincts and initiative to become entrepreneurs, their nature is possibly that of a wild animal. They decide the risks to take and do what they prefer. They know how to survive and fend for themselves. Whereas, the zoo animal is dependent upon set times of feeding and is safe. Much like being an employee with a job description, salary, status and paid holidays. Yet surely that is contentment rather than happiness?

For myself, the change I have recognised is that I am like a zoo animal that has escaped it’s cage yet not it’s enclosure. It would be preferable to have a regular job with a fixed salary as that is what I have known but the joy of working for yourself and striving to gain that wage, means I never want go back to what I once knew. To work in an office and told where to sit, to have work finished early yet unable to leave or be penalised for being late, despite working over the allocated hours. It’s possibly one of the reasons, why entrepreneurs seldom make good employees yet excellent business partners. The term ‘intrepreneur’ is possibly what I was.

So my challenge now as an accomplished intrepreneur is to move beyond my zoo enclosure and venture away from what I have termed ‘safety’. In closing as a perfect summary, the lyrics from David Bowie ‘Changes’ reflect the fact that changes are taking the pace, that I’m going through.

Your comments and suggestions would be most welcomed.

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