Taking meaning from your story. How by heading back home I ran into me.
I started this week with a run along the seafront near where I live. It was drizzling and cold, and the wind was up, so my half-way mark came a little sooner than usual.
And as I changed direction to head back west, a blast of Thames estuary wind whipped up the rain and slapped me in the face. It was suddenly a much harder run. But along with the wind and rain, I had a sense of something else striking me: clarity.
As I upped my pace to battle the elements, I realised something: this year is my fiftieth on the planet, and I’ve never felt so confidently aligned with all I’m doing.
Heading home, I reflected on what a journey I’ve been on professionally. Pursuing different career paths, taking on different roles and saying yes to — often challenging — opportunities. There have been lows — moments of hand-wringing where I’ve questioned what I’m doing, but also great highs: successes which confirmed I was on the right track. It’s been a career full of learning, experimentation and exploration. From teenage local radio DJ to MD of a small business — and everything in between — it’s been a full and fulfilling career, and certainly never mundane.
As I ran, I could see ahead of me in the near distance, nestled on a small hillside, my home town of Leigh-on-Sea. A pretty church on a hill, rooftops down to the estuary edge, and the buildings and boats of a small fishing village. It’s where I grew up.
In the far distance I could see the vast cranes of the Thames Gateway super-port, and beyond that (although not visible today) Canary Wharf and the sprawling metropolis. London: my favourite city, the stage for my work. It’s where most of my clients are based. Its streets and squares the backdrop to my Fuel Safaris. In its cafes I generate and grow my ideas.
Whilst Leigh-on-Sea is home, London is what fuels me. I like the duality of the two places that provide me with value in different ways.
I’ll admit I haven’t always felt so fondly about my hometown. Prior to moving back here, I’d spent 15 years living in London. Moving back felt as if I’d taken a step backwards. But over time I have become more comfortable with my place here by the estuary. And what’s more I now realise that moving back served a purpose. Perhaps I needed to come back to Leigh-on-Sea to find myself again, to rediscover my soul? For a while, I’d got muddled up in my career. I’d lost sight of who I truly was and what I stood for. I’d taken some wrong paths. I needed to get back on track.
What hit me in the face as I ran along on Monday was a sense that, as I ran closer towards Leigh, moving back here was not heading back in time, it was me heading towards Ian, towards who I am meant to be and all that I’m meant to be doing.
I can see now how my many paths have led to what I do today. Now, I draw on my outsider status, as one who shines a light on people and organisations who are too close to what they are doing to see for themselves what’s going on. I’m a guide who takes people and businesses on journeys of change. As a storyteller I reframe the future based on what has gone before. Just as I have positioned my working life on the passions and attributes I had as a young man.
The 2018 Ian Sanders Company proposition is founded on the qualities of the 1986/7 Ian. The year I left school, took an accidental gap year, the transition from boy to man. A year of exploration, of juggling multiple roles. The year I went plural. Working in BBC local radio. Working for a small record distribution business. Studying photography. An explorer. A storyteller. Sometimes you have to head home in order to find yourself.
The end of the 1980s was when I came of age. The only mistake I made was to think that I needed to grow up to be a success. My run on Monday showed me, I needed to head towards me. I may have gone around the houses — and that was always necessary, to spread my wings and stretch myself — but ultimately, I have come back to simply being me. And that feels good.