The last six weeks have been absolutely crazy. I have gone from shop owner and company director to unemployed lecture-crasher. I have gone through disappointment, despair and desperation. A closing down sale, seeing stock and fixtures packed up for auction and the realisation that I wouldn’t be doing what I loved anymore. The numbers just weren’t working and it was time to pull the plug. Reluctantly and regrettably.
Now that the worst of it is over I am now feeling relief and am ready to embark on yet another chapter. With no regrets and a whole load of life experience that you can read in the fine lines accessorising the skin around my eyes, I am thinking about my next transformation.
Employment v Entrepreneur
The next thing I do is going to be back in the realm of employee. That’s just where we need me to be. And having seen both sides of the entrepreneur vs employee equation I am aware of the pros and cons. At least what we traditionally see as the pros and cons and the boundaries between. Because, actually, employment can be as like or as unlike the entrepreneur experience as you want. That’s exactly what I am spending a lot of time thinking about. What do I want in the next chapter? Do I want more or less responsibility? Do I want ‘9 to 5’? Do I want structure? Do I want a different work-life balance?
What I really want to do…. is work with an organisation whose purpose aligns with my values. The big stuff. Fairness, tackling poverty, giving young people purpose and hope, giving two’s up to inequality, creating little pockets of joy. How do my skills work with that? I am an organiser and I am a communicator. I can help people share what they are all about. I can inspire action based on those stories – whether it’s joining something, buying something, giving something. I like talking to people. I even like talking to people in large groups. I am enthusiastic. I am strategic. I am hard-working. But most of all, I need purpose. And I like to be around people with purpose – whose work is about more than their own career or financial goals. Culture is so important and one of the best parts of being your own boss was creating that culture.
Opportunities to get stuck in
Now, in an area like Tayside, there are not always going to be opportunities popping up that are an exact fit. Unless you go down the entrepreneur path and create one but I just said that’s not for me right now. I also don’t need an exact fit right now. I’m working towards a life purpose – it doesn’t happen overnight. So if I need to pay the bills and I’m not ticking all those boxes then I can find something in my extracurricular life to satisfy that purpose.
That’s what I have been doing lately. Meeting with interesting people. Finding out what is going on in the city. What the needs are. Where the challenges are. Where the opportunities are. There are amazing opportunities out there or coming up. Some will be paid, some will not. But what I learned is I can make a difference out with office hours. At a Charity Chit Chat event I heard about the great organisations who need help with sharing their message. They need volunteers to help them run their services. They need help to fundraise and pay for their services. That sounds like an area I can get stuck into.
Why was I gate-crashing a lecture?
A few months ago my friend, Ali McGill, and I were discussing potential speakers for a TEDx event in Dundee. I mentioned that I had always wanted to hear Lauren Currie aka Redjotter speak. He remembered and invited me to gate crash a lecture with him last Friday at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. As friends of the Design Enterprise course there, we were warmly welcomed.
We walked in just to hear Lauren giving the course organiser a hard time about an all-male line-up at a talk the following week. I knew then she was my kind of girl. (I am now talking in that slot on Wednesday – cheers, Mike!). Lauren knows a lot about design thinking. She has run an agency on helping organisations use design to create better outcomes. She ran a Masters course on the subject. In a short while she rattled through the kind of inspired projects must organisations can only dream about. One thing struck me – they were remarkably simple. In terms of technology, costs, infrastructure – there was nothing hugely sophisticated going on. The sophistication and the brilliance was in their design. Understanding how to engage people and work with them is obviously a key strength of Lauren’s. She understands that people hate having projects or services ‘done to them’ and having the ‘beneficiaries’ of such projects involved from conception is what drives success. Conversations are everything. She also understands that we are all responsible for our own learning. Learning is a lifelong pursuit.
Lauren’s social conscience and desire to make change in society is laudable. She reminded me of something I used to say. You only get to complain three times. Then you have to do something about it. That’s what led me to quit my job and start a business. Now that I am in the next chapter I intend to put that advice to very good use and look at what I am complaining about right now. So thanks, Lauren. You reminded how important it was to find work that I really care about. As I left you were introducing Simon Sinek’s, ‘Start with why’. I didn’t start there. I ended up there. But at least I’m there now that it’s time to start again.