Design Your Life as an instruction can feel a bit overwhelming at any age but when I was 15-20 years old, it would have sounded down right crazy! Design my life? My response, on a positive day would have been, “I can just about figure out what to do at the weekend!” With the pressures of exams looming – “Have I done enough revision? Will I remember it all on the day?” – thinking about designing my whole life would have been just impossible – or would it?
Before we answer that, let’s consider the alternative. We could just leave our one life to chance, to the whims of others and hope we get lucky. Hope someone gives us a great job with loads of money to pay off our student loan and put down a deposit on our first home. Hope we don’t end up desperately looking for a job, any old job, just to cover the rent and scrabbling for change down the back of the sofa to be able to catch the bus instead of walking in the rain. Hope we don’t have to join the queue at the job centre. Hope we don’t have to live rough on the streets.
I remember leaving school with some ‘A’ levels and not a clue about what I wanted to do with my life! It seemed like my friends all knew what they wanted to do (they didn’t, it just felt like that!) My French grade wasn’t good enough to get on the “European Business Studies” course that I’d fancied and I decided that I wasn’t going to waste 4 years at Uni doing a course I didn’t want to do. I was going to work hard, earn some money and be successful – I just had to decide at what.
Holding down 5 part time jobs was fun though. I would go from counting packets of Kayser tights in Tesco and making sure that the display stand was tidy, to Cash & Carry where I my job was “stock and order” for St Ivel and Eden Vale (counting cheese and cream!) then it was on to Pontins Holiday Camp where I did a similar job for Chupa Chups lollies and in the evening I’d be waiting tables at a local pub. Living at home, my Mum charged me £20 a week ‘keep’ and the rest was mine. I was cash rich and had a fun-filled few months.
One day my Dad asked me: “What are you actually going to do?” I must have changed the subject because I still didn’t have an answer. However, I knew that I couldn’t carry on like this. I had to get a “proper job.” Not too long after though, the Chupa Chups job turned into a full-time role after a chance meeting with the owner of the company who was running the merchandising service.
It paid £11,000 a year (1989-90) and I had a brand new G reg Peugeot 205 as a company car. I felt like I’d arrived! Luck? Yep, pure luck. And it meant I could avoid the big question again, for a while. However, my new Rockafella status was short-lived. The business went bust and I was redundant after 9 months.
By now, my Dad was embarking on an exciting new project having sold the acre or so of land that had held his workshop and my pony all my life, to a developer, he’d bought a huge plot of 14 acres with a small river running through and was setting about creating a trout farm. I offered to work with him for six months (the summer) and help him sell the trout products to local restaurants, cafes and shops. I knew I could sell anything by now and I loved working with my Dad. The recession hit but we were sure we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and were creating a fabulous, lifestyle business.
Five years later, I was still working with my Dad. The recession had taken its toll and we had run out of finances to keep our beloved trout farm in the manner to which the fish had become accustomed so hard decisions had to be made.
I was back to the big question. “What am I going to do?” It occurred to me that no-one could decide for me. I relied on my tenacity and positive thinking again and after a few false starts, (when I said I could sell anything? – Anything that is except bubble-wrap on the phone, from an airless office stacked with yellow-pages!) I landed a job with Forte Hotels as a Sales Executive. Within a year, this found me trying to sell a Christmas Party (in June!) to the newly opened DFS Furniture store in Plymouth and the rest, as they say, is history because although they didn’t buy a party, they gave me a job and I stayed for the next 17 years, carving out my career.
So, would I change any of that? No, not really. It was my education, my experience and without it, I wouldn’t have moved to Gloucester, wouldn’t have met my darling husband and I wouldn’t be here, writing this for you today.
The one thing I would like to be able to tell my young self, though, is that it would be alright and not to fret so much. That I was doing the right things even when I thought I was just faffing about. These were the things I did right:
- I set an intention – I knew I would be successful.
- I recognised my strengths – I knew I could sell stuff and I loved it!
- I saw and grasped opportunities when they presented themselves.
- I worked hard and focused.
Although, it’s too late to reassure my young self now, I want to do the next best thing which is to help young people now to understand that with the right attitude and belief in yourself, you can have the life you want. So, I’ve teamed up with Nicholas Ferguson to pilot a workshop called “Design Your Life” on 19th June, right here in Gloucester. Nic has a totally different story to me of course and a wealth of different experiences to share. Check out his blog at www.nicholasferguson.org
This workshop will be lots of fun, give you some practical advice and help you challenge your thinking. If you are young and ambitious (or you know someone who is) please contact us now to book your place or find out more. We only have 12 free places available for this workshop and we’d love you to take part. Whether you know what your dream job is or not, this is for you! We have so much to share with you, to inspire you and encourage you to follow your dreams…. Don’t miss out!
Any questions or comments? Please leave them below or contact us direct.
I’d like to leave you with a quote:
“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs!”
– Tony Gaskins
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