Getting your shift together in 2016

We’re born. There’s some shit in between. And we die.

For far too many that in between bit is filled with corporate humdrum, office politics and drawn out, pointless meetings.

The ‘way things are around here’ can suck the life out of you and spill over into your spare time. There’s no meaning, your relationships suffer and your zest for life is severely depleted. And before you know it you’re a shadow of your former self.

I know as I’ve been there myself.

Rewind to 1997 

The Spice Girls were taking over the world and I’d just started my first ‘proper’ job out of University at a pension fund in the City of London. I’d done my year of travelling around the world and made ends meet since with bar and temp jobs.

Now was the time to knuckle down and get on that corporate ladder.

But after a few days in my new role I quickly realised this wasn’t the life for me. The suit didn’t quite fit.

At my new company no-one said hello to each other in the morning. And I mean no-one. Even school was better than this.

This was a place where long hours were rewarded and where the lines between work and play were firmly drawn. I remember when my boss just about came to terms with having to ‘do the mum thing’ (her words) when her child’s birthday came around.

Work was work. Money was the reward. And a big house and car was the ultimate prize. Family came second.

However as those around me climbed the ladder I noticed there was less and less time for them to enjoy the trappings of their wealth.

This was a corporate prison and it was time to escape.

At 23 I’d learnt the valuable lesson that I’d never make much money working in a job I hated. Without any passion there was no energy.

You can read the full story of how I transitioned between careers right here, this is the shortened version.

Looking back

Here’s why I think I hated this corporate job so much:

  • I couldn’t be myself, wholeness at work wasn’t encouraged
  • There were no positive role models that inspired me or I could relate to
  • The culture was poisonous and bred fear and resentment
  • There was no point to the work other than to make people money
  • People were deeply unhappy but they didn’t dare admit it

I lasted 10 months. It felt like 10 years.

It was time to bridge the gap between who I was and what I did for a living.


Mapping it out

I remember scribbling on the back of a piece of paper what I wanted from work. I drew 4 circles:

  1. What did I need?
    To have the freedom to decide where, when and how I worked.
  2. What was I good at?
    Making things look nice and easy to understand. Although I studied Economics I seemed to have a talent for design and communication. A City career wasn’t for me.
  3. What got me excited?
    Working with nice, creative people, learning and growing, the unknown. Earning money this way would bring me joy.
  4. What would I never do?
    Wear a suit or work with mood hoovers again.

So after this I decided I needed to carve out a role where I had more autonomy, could use more of my talents and do something I love. This would give me energy and I’d be more likely to make money doing it.

Fast forward to today

Following 6 years as a freelancer and then 11 years running an agency I found what I’d been looking for – autonomy, working with people I loved, seeing my kids grow up at close hand and a nice life and business by the sea.

But needs change – you need to regularly check in to assess whether what you’re doing still gets you excited. The truth was client work no longer floated my boat — I’d done it for 17 years. Now all the energy was with our new venture, The Happy Startup School.

This journey from studio to school was, and still is, a rollercoaster ride but a rewarding one at that. Every day feels exciting, challenging, scary and fun. 

So where has this re-discovered lust for work come from?

  • Working on something that genuinely makes a difference to people’s lives
  • Being surrounded by people that inspire me
  • Doing things I really want to do and not doings things I don’t want to do (sounds easier than it is)
  • Being part of a community that’s realising its dreams together
  • Challenging conventional thinking about what work is by making it fun

Having seen 500+ people come through our Home School program I know one of the key challenges for most people is to step out into the unknown, embrace uncertainty and make the tough decisions but believe you can and you will.

An invitation to change in 2016

If you're going into the new year unhappy about the way things are for you at work and think a corporate job is all there is to life, you're wrong.

Here are 2 questions to get you thinking:

What are you here to do?
Start with your needs, passions, superpowers and beliefs. How can you use these to eliminate the gap between who you are and what you do?
What are you prepared to give up to make this work?
How bad do you want this? That nagging feeling is a message to do something. It might mean some short term pain.

If you’re struggling with the answers to these, here are some ideas to help you get there:

Get inspired
By people, stories and experiences
Get tooled up
With the web you’ve now got the world at your fingertips and anyone can be anything. Skill up.
Get connected
Find your tribe of crazies, positive people that want you to succeed
Start small, but do start
If you’re not happy then change something. But you don’t need to make big changes, start by running experiments.

A shorter version of my full post "A rocky road to find meaningful work"

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