I consider myself lucky. Extremely lucky.
Why? Because I always had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life and career. I grew up loving sport — football in particular — and writing was my passion.
Granted, my career has changed a little since going off to university with aspirations of becoming the next Henry Winter. A significant reason behind that was because I found myself not wanting to be constrained by football or sport and I had a deep urge to spread my wings and my horizons.
There were a few factors that helped me take what felt like a mini leap of faith and leave behind an industry I had grown up desperate to work in. I had been in football for four years, but even after two, I felt like I had hit a ceiling. Progress up the ladder was limited. Internal politics were a daily grind. My work-life balance was non-existent. Nor were my weekends for that matter.
I then began to hear a voice. It was nothing more than a whisper at first, but it was there and its presence was being felt. It only got louder over the last two years and after a turbulent end to 2017, the voice was as clear as a siren.
It was time for a change. Rather than be a ‘jack of all trades’ in communications and limited to an experience of working in sport, I wanted to channel my career specifically down PR — no matter the industry — and I wanted to tell other stories instead of those from one football club.
Had I not taken that leap of faith, I would have undoubtedly grown stale. I wouldn’t have learned anything new. I wouldn’t be in the job that I am today, at Hallam — one which I can easily tell you is the best I have ever had.
Prior to this job, that leap of faith hadn’t come without its issues. I’d be lying to you if I said, at times, I hadn’t considered whether I had made the wrong decision, or that I had not considered going back to it because it would have been the easy thing to do.
But I’m so glad I didn’t, though. I’m so glad I didn’t take the easy way out, that I persevered, and listened to that voice. Writing this now, I can safely say it was the best decision I ever made.
My story, however, is not a unique one. Many of you — maybe even you reading this — have been in that position where an internal voice from your gut is screaming at you, telling you a big life decision needs to be made — one that is hard, but you know, deep down, it is the best thing for you.
And so I have a few more inspiring stories to tell off the back of my first article in this Life of Lessons series — starting with a life-changing car journey…
Talking with a loved one can add clarity to that voice
As I alluded to earlier in this piece, most of us have similar thoughts. ‘I’d love to do this’. ‘I’d love to do that’. ‘I think I would be great at that’.
It’s acting on it that’s the hard part.
By our very nature, we want to be reassured when it comes to making a big decision, but talking things through can bring a great deal of clarity to that voice that is talking to us internally.
And this story by Aaron Rudman-Hawkins, director at The Evergreen Agency, is a fine example of that:
“Growing up, I didn’t know anyone that had a career. Everyone just had a job that, more often than not, they hated.
“I left school with no clue what I wanted to do and fell into shop and call centre work for years until my early twenties.
“The moment that changed my life was a conversation on the M25 with my girlfriend at the time, Harriet (who would go on to become my wife).
“When we met in our early twenties, Harriet was already well into her career as a graphic designer, having known from a very young age what she wanted to do. She couldn’t comprehend that I had got to the age I had with absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with my life.
“On a long car journey, we discussed what I loved and why I loved it. We quickly identified that the websites I had been building as a hobby could be a career that I had never even considered before.
“Six months later I was a junior web developer at a creative agency. A few years later I made the move into SEO and the rest at they say is history.”
‘Make the most of your time’
Sticking with important conversations, there are no better people to seek wisdom and knowledge from than those that have been there and lived it.
Grandparents have seen a lot during their years on Earth and have had their fair share of defining life moments. Like this story, my grandparents also preached to me the importance of time.
Especially when it comes to switching career paths, pursuing your passion, or setting up your own business, there is no getting away from the fact that it’s going to take a great deal of time. There is, unfortunately, no quick fix.
Depending on how you use those precious seconds, minutes, and hours, time can be your greatest ally or enemy.
But by using it effectively — to generate what Alec Dobbie, CEO, and co-founder of FanFinders, calls ‘real-time’ — you can create genuine momentum in your mission to turn what starts off as a voice in your head into a reality:
“When I was younger, my great gran, who was brought up on a Dales’ farm before the start of World War One and was a little bit like Yoda, told me that you really have to make use of the time you have.
“This wasn’t about never having downtime but instead making sure it’s the best quality downtime. For me, this came to light after having kids, trying to pay a mortgage, and simultaneously starting up a business.
“There are only so many hours in a day and following my nan’s advice, I was up early every day making the best use of my time and coding the first version of the business that is now my livelihood.
“This approach to not wasting time watching TV or pontificating around what to do helped me to create more real “time”. I know this all sounds a touch know-it-all, but you make your own future and a lot of this is about how you manage your time and who you spend your spare time with.
“For me, this allowed me to set up a business, be there as a father to my kids and help pay the bills. (Though it has to be caveated that without my other half, none of this would have been possible).”
‘If you want it, believe it, ride through it, and go get it.’
I love these words.
Take me for example. I knew I wanted to grow. I knew I needed a change. And every decision I made after changing my career path was geared towards achieving a goal.
However, this differs. Some have a clear picture in their head of what they’re looking for. For others, that picture is sketchier — like Aaron earlier in this piece.
Regardless, though, the above quote from Unsah Malik, a social media influencer and author of Slashed It, are words we can all live by:
“The best advice I received in my teens, at 17-years-old, is: ‘If you want it, believe it, ride through it, and go get it.’
“I was also told to redefine the word failure by attaching positive connotations to it, instead of the typical negative — and to maintain a mindset that always saw myself as a successful person, irrespective of how the outcome might have made me feel in the hot moment.
“It also gave me that go-getter energy. I don’t think anything is impossible whatsoever. You can mention the most ludicrous ambition to me and I’ll still say ‘you can’t not do it’.
“You can say you’ve been rejected from a job 100 times and I’ll still tell you it’s possible. Some journeys may be longer depending on what you desire and what your current position is, but if you want it to happen, put in the action, believe in it and it’s going to happen.
“Mindset combined with the refusal to see failure as something negative can truly turn your dreams into achievable goals.”
Unsah added: “I’m an all-in sort of person, and clearly I always have been. I sent email after email requesting an internship at any fashion publication’s email (being a fashion journalist was my goal) I could find from Google searches.
“The rejections came quicker than the time it took me to write the emails, but for some reason, it never bothered me.
“Something about me being naive and believing everything at a young age combined with being told that failure isn’t a bad thing and to ‘ride through’ any temporary roadblocks until you get it really positioned my mindset to a place where I could (and still can) always see some light at the end of the tunnel.
“Of course, I have tough days, but that’s just part of the ‘ride through it’ process!
“Without ‘If you want it, believe it, ride through it and go get it’, I wouldn’t have climbed the career ladder, written a book, or be where I am today!”
‘Don’t let others’ limitation define your pathway’
Ali McDowall is a VERY wise woman. I referenced her in my first article and I am turning to her again to finish this latest article.
In life, it’s very easy to get sucked down a certain path, blame the hand of cards that life has dealt you with, and think that nothing can be changed.
This is absolutely NOT the case. Like Unsah, I am a firm believer that you can be anything you want to be if you want it enough.
It takes time. It takes dedication. It takes perseverance. And according to Ali, sometimes, it also takes the ability to uncouple the mind and take a step back to open our minds:
“The best piece of advice I could impart would be to enrich your life as much as possible, have creative outlets, travel, learn and nourish yourself because all of these things help us understand ourselves better.
“We can problem solve and take risks in these areas, and we build confidence and a sense of wellbeing through what we experience.
“I wish I had loved my body more growing up. I think I have started that journey to body positivity now, but there is work to be undone there.
“The thing is to unlearn and re-wire. As humans, we tend to be so binary. We are either this or that, good or bad, when did these decisions happen and solidify in our minds?
“We are all understanding more and more that we are only one positive mindset away from being exactly what we want. Don’t let the limitation from others set your pathway.
“We always have a choice.”