I can’t remember a year in my adult life where I’ve started with no idea what was on the horizon. Usually I’m looking forward to doing something, going somewhere or starting something.
But this year I have no idea.
I’ve got a completely clean slate to design a future for me and my family. Well, as clean as it can be when you’re a 40-year-old with a wife, kid and a mortgage. It’s a nice thought, but also a little scary.
Whilst I ran Copper, we worked with a business coach who helped us grow the business in the right direction. Near the start of the process, the management team discussed what we were each looking to achieve personally; what we are aspiring to, what our personal goals are and what drives us.
I find this sort of personal introspection difficult because it relies on knowing what I’m passionate about. Problem is, I don’t. At the ripe old age of 40 I’m still not really sure what I’m passionate about, at least not as a single idea I can articulate. There are small things in life that make me happy, like a perfectly mowed lawn or when my son responds to my sense of humour with an equally witty remark, without missing a beat. A moment in time, usually involving a view, warm air, low sun, a glass of something nice and no worries, where everything seems right.
At the time, the conclusion I came to was a comfortable life. To me ‘comfortable’ meant having a few nice holidays each year, not being financially stretched, not working ridiculous hours, drinking good wine, having a nice car (or at least having time and money to race around a track in one), living in a nice area. Amongst other things.
The aim of the process was to understand what sort of business we were building. Was it a £50m agency or was it a lifestyle business? Knowing where you’re heading is vital to making sure you’re doing the right things. If we were going to build a £50m agency then ‘comfort’ would have to wait. It ended up that we were aiming for somewhere in the middle, which meant solid work over the next 5-7 years, then with a comfortable payoff.
Over the years that followed there were a number of unexpected hurdles which challenged the end goal and set me back a bit. But in the end I decided to jump off the track and realise a portion of that comfortable life now. I get some aspects of my ideal life, but some will have to be put off. Temporarily.
As I start the year thinking about what comes next I saw this quote by John A. Shedd:
“Ships are safest in the harbour, but that’s not why they were built”.John A. Shedd
It’s helped me better understand where I’m at. It’s like I’ve been out at sea, hit some rough water, lost a few crew and sailed back to harbour early to take stock and re-plan the journey.
Within the quote it also nicely recognises that growth and comfort don’t co-exist. And unless you are willing to venture out and take risks, you’re not really going to grow or move forward.
Looking back, it’s been interesting to see the times where I’ve had the greatest growth personally and also when I’ve had the most enjoyable ‘comfort’. But majority of my working life has been spent somewhere in the middle, with a little bit of both.
Over the years, I’ve learnt that I’m not the type of person who is willing to sacrifice everything to achieve a goal. And I’m always in awe of people who can do that. Those people who can single-mindedly focus on one outcome, like professional athletes. I always feel the need for a bit of comfort. It takes a lot of self-discipline, something, contrary to what many might think, I lack.
When I was younger I liked the idea of doing the Army basic training. My thinking was that there’s no way out and you have to do what has to be done. It would push you to the limit mentally and physically and get you way out of your comfort zone. I’m sure I would have learned a heck of a lot about myself. Sadly, I don’t think my dodgy back would hold up now otherwise that could have been an interesting next challenge.
So the decision for me at this point is how far I choose to step out of my comfort zone. In which direction? And when?
Growth is a choice, and as much as I’m reluctant to step out of this temporary comfort, I need to. This was one of the main reasons I chose to close Copper. I needed something different.
I now have a growing list of things which would be nice to achieve, and many paths to pursue. Somehow I’ve got to evaluate them and make a decision on what’s next. That, in itself, is going to take a leap of faith because I have no way of knowing which is best.
I’ll finish this post with another quote which sums up what I know I have to do. This one by Roy T. Bennett.
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.”Roy T. Benett