This year, I learned a lot

Telescope looking into the mist

My motto is ‘every day’s a school day’ (along with ‘how hard can it be’, but that’s another story). By this, I mean that there’s always an opportunity to learn something new.

Of course, learning something new is much harder when you’ve got wrinkles than when you’re in school. There isn’t always a supportive environment. It can feel like people are willing you to fail so they can step into your shoes. Getting stuff wrong can have consequences for your pride and professional standing. 

But if you’re not pushing the edges of your knowledge and learning new stuff, aren’t you being complacent? Is constantly living inside your comfort zone even good for you?

Into the void

This year I left a job I loved. It was a very rewarding role with a clear link between my actions and the bottom line. I had great colleagues and customers. I was seriously busy, multitasking like mad and racking-up the miles. 

I loved my job, but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t change the thing that was making me unhappy, so I resigned. Working the notice period was seriously painful – easily the worst three months in over 20 years of employment. It was a form of torture, though it needn’t have been. 

Part of the stress was the lack of a safety net. I’d never left any job without having a better position lined-up. But I didn’t choose the perfect moment to resign (is there even such a thing?) – I had no alternative job and very little savings. 

Breathing space

The best decision I made was to give myself the summer off. I had enough in the bank to pay the mortgage for three months, and I needed to free myself emotionally from the old job. And to work out what to do next.

I’m pretty much a workaholic. I love to be busy. To be purposeful. To work in a team. I thought I’d go mad over the summer. Strangely I didn’t. I found lots of fulfilling activities to fill my days, and I had time to connect with friends.

I had the time for introspection too. To take a long hard look at myself. It wasn’t always pretty, but I had a personal reckoning. Some things I decided to get out into the open and deal with, others I packed-away for later. Some stuff I knew I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) deal with. That I consciously jettisoned. No-one needs to carry a ball and chain.

Out of these three months came the decision to set-up my own business. Four months later I am neither starving nor coining-it. I’m in the foothills, but I can see the path, if not the destination.

Homework

This year I’ve learned that I am capable of getting myself into a pickle, but also of finding a way out. I’ve learned that for me, a job title and salary don’t compensate for time well spent – every minute stuck in a meeting or traffic jam is a minute you’ll never get back.

I’ve been on courses, attended seminars and presentations, read academic papers and met some seriously impressive people. Reached out and been ignored, rebuffed and welcomed. Realised that everyone deep-down hates networking events. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I am a work in progress. I’ve got another 15-plus years of working life, and they will be ones of constant change. Every day really is a school day.