Everything Worthwhile Takes a Long Time
Tom’s Story: A Case Study:
Tom loves quotes. They have helped shape his thinking. They have helped him to understand and navigate through his WorkLife struggles and success. And the timeless ones have become ways to articulate his values.
One such quote is a line from James Joyce’s Ulysses, which Tom considers to be:
Words of Wisdom
“The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The meaning that line holds for Tom is that: “Everything worthwhile takes a long time.” That quote has been his mantra throughout his WorkLife.
A mantra that had helped him through the decade from his early 20s into his early 30s, when following his long-held passion for theatre, on completing his degree in Drama and Theatre Arts, he began his WorkLife by following the traditional straight and narrow path to auditioning for this play and that film, this commercial and that VoiceOver. A path along which he faced rejection after rejection after rejection.
His mantra had gotten him through those tough times. He would tell himself that every dream he ever had about who he could be would be possible if he wanted it badly enough. And if he wanted it badly enough, he needed to work as if his whole WorkLife depended on it because it did. And then it would be. And it was to be. And so, even though every single one of those rejections hurt like hell, he somehow knew he needed to go through them to get to where he wanted and needed to be in his WorkLife. He also knew he needed to be open to discoveries along the way.
A book that helped Tom through this difficult time in his WorkLife was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. In her introduction to the book, Rand said; “being rejected by twelve publishers, some of whom declared that it was “too intellectual,” “too controversial” and would not sell because no audience existed for it — that was the difficult part of its history; difficult for me to bear. I mention it here for the sake of any other writer of my kind who might have to face the same battle — as a reminder of the fact that it can be done.”
These words, this wisdom gave Tom the impetus to continue to follow his dream.
He formed his own theatre company and was involved as an actor, a writer and a director. With his team, he created a community hub that brought people from all walks of life together. Through their productions, they gave people a voice, a unique voice that allowed them to express their identity and connect to their audience from a truthful place, and also share unique aspects of their culture. Together with his team, Tom found an audience for their work.
Through his work, Tom discovered he had a natural ability to help people connect to self-growth at different stages of their WorkLife. It came from a place of managing his own learning. Throughout those years of exploration as an artist, he focused his entire day on perfecting his craft, he took classes, he practised monologues, he wrote stories and scripts, he read books, he saw live performances, and he watched films.
It was in watching films by The Warner Brothers that Tom believed he made the discovery of the motivation behind their work. He thought perhaps it was their undeclared Mission Statement, or even perhaps unknowingly the drive behind their work which comprised of the core elements, To Entertain, Educate, Elevate, Enlighten and Evaluate. For their audiences, that meant:
Entertain — keep it fun and engaging;
Educate — provide learning something throughout the film;
Elevate — leave feeling inspired you can do something;
Enlighten — be able to be light and have fun, and then when you want to make a point, you give yourself permission to go within;
Evaluate — learning about yourself through the experience, giving yourself permission to explore what’s important about the learning that you can apply to your WorkLife.
Tom loved this way of learning for himself and also as a way of sharing learning with others by making recommendations that aligned with their interests — whether that be their current role or aspirational role. This was because he believed it was important not to give advice to people. He believed you can show people the way. He believed that through this people have to find their own way. Because what he truly believed was that people have everything within them to find their own way.
Alongside all of this and in between his theatre work, to help pay the bills, Tom worked in pubs, pulling pints and serving bar food. At the time he joined the team at the pub, he has since come to manage, ‘small plates’ started becoming a trend in seeking to revive traditional British pub culture. Pubs were going back in time to when a bar snack was an accompaniment to a drink that you could eat with one hand, leaving the other hand free for a drink.
Tom became fascinated with how Chef Jones, when creating each dish, paid attention to acknowledging the past while welcoming the future. Wanting to become more involved and to help in some way, Tom asked himself:
What can I bring to the food table when I don’t have super special culinary skills?
He thought, I’m a creative person, and I’m also a curious person — I like to ask a lot of questions because I like to be engaged in learning from others. I also believe if you want to be interesting, you need to be interested.
Then he asked himself two more questions:
What skill do I have that can be adapted to help me help the team and the business?
How can I take my knowledge and apply it in a different way?
This took him back to The Fountainhead and these words from Rand: “I write — and read — for the sake of the story. My basic test for any story is: Would I want to meet these characters and observe these events in real life? Is this story an experience worth living through for its own sake?. Is the pleasure of contemplating these characters an end in itself?.”
This led Tom to become involved behind the scenes. He began writing the menus and drawing from his background; he wrote a script to tell the story of the pub and the stories of the people who made it what it is. He also wrote the backstory behind the food and drinks. He approached it by writing a script that described the action, the characters, the setting. He built it around hardcore ideas that could be shared with other people so they could explain the pub’s vision. He told stories about the produce they used and how they strived to source from local suppliers as much as they could. He talked about local markets and small businesses and the integral role they each played in supporting the community they served. He then told their stories, and this helped people envision where their food comes from and to talk about it with a sense of pride. (From WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly — Me).
Tom was back at a place remembering the line from Ulysses: “The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The line that he had connected to the insightful quote in forming his mantra: “Everything worthwhile takes a long time.”
The wisdom he had taken from The Fountainhead gave Tom the courage to move away from the straight and narrow path of auditions to explore new pathways in pursuit of his artistic goals. It gave him an inner strength to believe in himself and served as a reminder not to compromise but to stay truthful to what he wanted to explore.
Tom believes the arc of a life is really circuitous. He went on to become manager of the pub. He believes his love of theatre brought him to where he is now. The place he’s meant to be. He thinks of it as a theatre of craftspeople practising their different crafts daily. Cooking, often costuming for the themed events they run, lightning, sound. So many performers, so many front-of-house people, so many behind-the-scenes people, all of whom are needed to keep all the operations running. (From WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly — Me).
Tom continues to manage his own learning, development and growth by doing the things he loves to do that make learning easy to integrate into his WorkLife. For Tom, that means listening to podcasts and reading articles and books.
To keep himself focused on his team member’s professional and personal learning, development and growth needs and wants, he asks himself:
What resource recommendation can I send someone this month?
He then aims to send them one podcast, article or book recommendation every month related to things they are interested in — whether that be their current role or aspirational role. It’s proven to be a great tool for opening up dialogues on various topics that they may have not gotten to otherwise. It also helps Tom and the rest of the team get to know each other in different ways and at a much deeper level.
As with Tom, it’s easy for the team to integrate this learning into their WorkLife — on their journey to and from work reading or listening to a podcast. Tom supports offsite learning courses and facilitates onsite learning through doing — hands-on learning for both front-of-house and back-of-house staff, helping them perfect their customer service and culinary skills. He also facilitates their learning through listening and reading — podcasts, articles and books by incorporating a half an hour of learning time into their workday, where they can walk or sit awhile listening or reading. The company covers the cost of books read, and once a month, they come together over a drink and a small plate to discuss and share their learning. The team call it Excerpts of Learning. It’s not a book club per se, but it quite often leads to a good book and or podcast recommendation.
Tom’s story has been adapted from my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly
Tom’s back story was inspired by Debbie Millman and Vince Vaughan, who were guests on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. And David Hieatt from The DO Lectures.
Tom’s continuing WorkLife learning was inspired by a collection of articles from Inc., Wired, Fast Company and First Round Review.
This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.
You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.