What’s Standing In The Way Of Your Happy Ever After?

Sam’s Driver’s Licence Expired, so Did Her Longtime Relationship, and Now Her Job Had Too

Photo by Tobias Keller on Unsplash

It dawned on Sam that everything has an expiration date, as she closed the door for the last time to the apartment she had shared with her boyfriend Karl. The lease had also expired. It was time for Sam to move on, or actually to move back home.

But let’s back up to Sam’s story.

A What’s Standing in the Way of Your Happy Ever After: Case Study.

Sam had grown up in the country in Ireland, where her family owned a riding stables. She had an idyllic upbringing, and although an only child, she had never felt lonely. Her parents were loving and supportive of everything she had ever wanted to do, and she had a good group of school friends, all of whom mucked out at the stables at weekends and during the holidays.

Although idyllic, life at the stables was also remote. As a child and into her early teens this gave Sam a great sense of freedom, but as she grew older it gave her a sense of feeling confined. What had once been an open world was now closing in on her, and she felt a need to escape. This coincided with Sam finishing college, ready to go out into the world of work. Her parents had secretly hoped she would join the family business at the stables, but recognised it was important for Sam to choose her own path, and as always they were supportive in whatever that meant for Sam.

Sam had studied business at college, and without even applying, she was offered a job at her local bank. The manager, Orla, was a lifelong friend of her parents, and knew Sam all her life. She admired the young woman she had grown into, and she also admired and respected her work ethic, from a young girl helping out at the stables, to the work she had done at the bank, during her summer internship. Sam had a curious and creative mind, and this together with her ability to get things done, had really impressed Orla. The bank needed a business makeover. It needed to move from its staid, old-time, traditional approach to the next generation of banking to meet evolving customer needs. Orla felt that Sam’s skills and work ethic together with her vibrant approach to her work and life, was just what was needed to help make this transition happen.

Then on her twenty-first birthday, her boyfriend Brian proposed to her. That on top of Orla’s job offer, together with knowing that there was an expectation that she would take over the running of the stables (most likely at a time to coincide with her starting a family), was the tipping point for Sam. She felt if she accepted all of this, she’d be trapped forever. This wasn’t the happy-ever-after Sam wanted.

Sam asked herself: What do I need to do that will make me happy?

Reflecting through self-feedback brought her the answer.

And so, on an early hazy summer morning, Sam boarded the boat-train from her local station, caught the ferry to Wales, then boarded the night-train to London Paddington. She was ready to begin her new life, a life of freedom and adventure, in search of her happy ever after.

Immediately she began a business-development job with a travel company, which took her all over the world. She was living her dream in her quest for freedom and adventure. She met interesting people and had lots of amazing experiences.

Seven years later, Sam began to feel weary from living out of a suitcase, and the thought of another flight and another hotel room brought back the sense of feeling confined, she had lost her sense of freedom again.

Sam asked herself: What do I need to do that will make me happy?

Reflecting through self-feedback brought her the answer.

So, she left her job and began working for a startup that catered for adventure and activity holidays in the UK, with a focus on bringing communities and businesses together through tourism and hospitality. Her first day on the job she met Karl, and they began dating. She finally felt she had found her happy-ever-after in both her life and her work.

Seven years later, it all began to fall apart. Sam and Karl knew it was time to end their relationship. There was no big explosive moment, they had simply grown apart. Then Covid-19 happened, which completely destroyed Sam’s industry of tourism and hospitality. Sam’s company didn’t survive the economic fallout from the pandemic, and Sam was out of a job. This was compounded by the fact that all travel to and from the UK was banned — with the exception of free movement between the UK and Ireland.

That recurring sense of feeling confined, and that she had lost her sense of freedom, yet again had returned.

Book Wisdom

Sam was reminded of the chapter: ‘Dedication to Reality’, from the book The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.

Peck writes: “Truth is reality. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world — the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions — the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there.”

And so once again, Sam asked herself: What do I need to do that will make me happy?

Reflecting through self-feedback brought her the answer.

There was nothing to keep Sam in London, and there was nowhere for her to go but back to Ireland. The time had come for Sam to move back home. She needed to vacate the apartment before the lease was due to be renewed. She packed her bags, got her driver’s licence out of the drawer, ready to book a car to drive to the port, only to discover that too had expired.

So, fourteen years later Sam found herself retracing her journey from London to Ireland — well in reverse that is. She caught the night train from London Paddington to Wales, picked up the ferry to Ireland, and then the boat-train home to her local station.

But it was different this time, or actually it was Sam who was different. As she rode across the fields on her first day home, breathing in the wide-open space, that sense of feeling confined was gone. It was replaced with a strong sense of freedom.

Epilogue

The stables were coming out of a three-month lockdown. Sam’s help was needed to not only re-build her family business, but also the businesses of her local community. Her skills, experience and expertise were exactly what was needed to get things moving again.

Orla was the bank representative on the team coming together to get the community and businesses started again. And yes … Brian was on the team too.

For Sam, being back where it had all began, for the first time she felt that her whole life made sense. Up until then she always felt on the outside looking in at her life; now she felt she was in her own life, looking out and for the first time seeing clearly everyone and everything around her.

Her life felt simple for the first time in a long time, maybe as far back to when she was growing up. She wasn’t sure if it was because of Covid-19, but every day she was appreciative of all the simple things in her life. Oftentimes that would be as simple as being just a good feeling.

Has Sam arrived at her happy-ever-after? Well for now, that remains to be seen. Maybe we need to come back in seven years, and pick up on Sam’s story then.

I leave you with the questions:

What do I need to do to make me happy?

What’s standing in the way of my happy-ever-after?

Words of Wisdom

It’s true many things in life have an expiration date. The trick is knowing when that is, and being prepared for it. Because all these things can sneak up on you, and in the end you’ve got to know when something is over, and be willing to let it go.

Sage Wisdom

Every problem has an expiration date too. But your dreams, your happy-ever-after, don’t have an expiration date, so take a deep breath, and try again.

We only know one thing for sure in life, where we’ve been and the journey we took. Our paths come together and then break apart. We can only hope that they lead us back to the people we love.

Today’s Featured Book is: The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck

Sam’s story was featured in my book: How To Pursue The Superpower of Happiness, from The School Of WorkLife book series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:

The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

How To Build Your WorkLife Around What Engages and Inspires You

What Completely Engages and Inspires You in Your WorkLife and How To Use This to Create Your Go-Be-Do Joie de Vivre WorkLife Living Plan

Image supplied by author

I listen to The Tim Ferriss Show, a podcast where he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas to extract the tactics, tools and routines they use. You should check it out, it’s really inspiring. A favourite question of mine which Tim asks all of his guests is: “What message would you put on a billboard?” One of my favourite answers was “Go Be Do”, because it reminded me when I’m living my WorkLife fully this is what I’m doing; and when I’m not I ask myself where I want to go, who do I want to be with and what do I want to do. In fact, I’ve created my ‘Joie De Vivre’ WorkLife Living Plan (living my best WorkLife) from this.

What is it you find yourself doing when you’re completely engaged and inspired, and the time just passes by and you have to remind yourself to stop to eat, and before you know it the morning has turned into evening and you can still continue with what you’re doing into the night. For me, it’s writing. Not so long ago, my response to that questions was: “Lately it’s writing, and I say lately as I suppose part of me wonders if this is a passing phase and if my thought process will dry up soon.” But since then, and in a very short space of time, I’ve written my first paperback, twenty seven e-books, and I’m working on my next paperback.

Why do I want to write? Because, as Colin Firth said in his role as George VI in The Kings Speech, “I have a voice”. I’m discovering writing to be a great expression of that, and being the reflective soul I am, writing is a more natural medium for me to get my thinking out into the world, as opposed to impromptu speaking. As Mark Twain once said: “It takes me three weeks to prepare for an impromptu speech.”

My professional and personal development is important to me, as I expect it is for you. For some of you it will be an important perk of your job — i.e. you’re fortunate that support to continue to progress and develop in your WorkLife is part of your reward package.

However, what do you do if the development budget has been frozen, or like me you need to fund your own learning and development. Or what if you want to develop skills for something you aspire to do in the future and can’t get buy-in from your manager to approve this because they can’t see how it will support you in your current role, and actually you don’t really want them to know about it anyway.

The good news is there are ways to gain skills that will serve you in progressing your WorkLife path in the direction of your choice, and this can be done in a manner that fits into your WorkLife in an engaging and inspiring way that is enjoyable, rewarding, fun, and cost-effective.

For example, once I knew I wanted the next stage of my next WorkLife to be about supporting individuals in their WorkLife learning and development (in a previous life I worked in investment banking) I undertook a degree in Career Coaching and Career Management. This was a significant investment, but knowing the work I aspired to do, I knew to be able to support others I needed a good theoretical foundation that I could then personalise to my client needs. This has led me to where I am now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my WorkLife and learning so much from the people I support through my work.

And so, to continue my own learning and development and move my WorkLife in the direction I want to, I’ve identified that I want to continue to develop my research and development skills, together with reading more. These are supporting skills for my writing. For the moment I’m not going to invest in any specific training to do this, but instead I’m adopting a hands-on approach of just getting stuck in and building this into my day.

The purpose of this is to become a specialist in my area by staying up-to-date with what’s going on in my industry, and across other industries. Discovering new ways of doing things, and as a result be able to support people in a manner that draws on expertise, is fresh, interesting, creative, innovative and fun.

Other areas I want to develop are my technical ability, and my marketing skills — in the past I have to admit to being a little phobic about technology. So, to facilitate this development need, I built my first websites, and I’m learning all about social media. I have to say I’m really enjoying it,

and of course it’s a double whammy because along the way I’m creating content that is helpful for people and as a result my business. My business skills are also growing — so a win/win, really.

And what if as an aspiring writer my thought process dries up, and I develop writer’s block, as they say? Well, that’s when the romantic side of me kicks in, and I think I’ll take myself off to a beautiful location, perhaps a French, Spanish or Italian home that has a vineyard for a backyard. My creative juices are sure to flow once more — or it may just seem that way a vintage or two later!

Develop Your WorkLife Story

If I can do it so can you. Just think about what you’re doing when you’re completely engaged and inspired, and build more of this into your day. Then think about the skills you want to develop, and you’ll find ways to take a hands-on approach to make this happen.

Assignments


 What Completely Engages You in Your WorkLife Assignment

What are you doing when you’re completely engaged and inspired? How can you build more of this into your day, your week, your month? What skills do you want to develop to become better at this?
 Are there any further supporting skills you want to develop?

Your Go-Be-Do Assignment

What interesting places do you want to Go to? What interesting people do you want to Be with? What interesting things do you want to Do?

From this create your Go-Be-Do WorkLife Living Plan

For example:

I do want to go to vineyards. While saying this was a fun way to bring my story to a close, as the old adage goes: “Many a true word is spoken in jest.” Why do I want to go? Well, apart from the fact that I really like wine, I also love vineyards. I know that a vineyard road trip will take me to inter- esting places. I’ll meet interesting people along the way: the people behind the vineyard and their stories, as well as fellow wine lovers. I’ll learn about wine and get to develop my appreciation. I’ll write about it by way of sharing my stories and developing my writing ability. I’ll take photographs, maybe even videos, which will allow me to develop other skills I’ve identified I want to. I want to develop them to embrace my interests in photography and filming, and also because I want to use photos and videos as part my marketing. I want to bring different element of my WorkLife together and this is a natural way to do that.

This story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Build Your WorkLife Around What Engages and Inspires You, from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.

This Is The Way It’s Always Been Done

What’s Good For Many People, Isn’t Good For All People. Freedom of Choice Gives People Their Best Way of Doing What They Want and Need to Do

Photo by Vidar Nordii-Mathisen on Unsplash

This Is The Way It’s Always Been Done … are people’s stories of when they wanted to do things differently, not necessarily because they thought there was anything wrong with the way things had always been done, but because they wanted to try new and different ways of doing things, because they believed there are new and different ways of doing things.

They believed that the way of always doing things, while good for many people and situations isn’t necessarily good for all people or all situations. They believed in exploring and trying out new ways of doing things, and importantly they believed in choice. They believed in the freedom of choice to give people their best way of doing what they wanted and needed to do.

This Is The Way It’s Always Been Done: A Case Study:

I was in the queue for Richard II tickets at the Barbican London. The show starring David Tennant was completely sold-out, but as with many London theatres they hold back a small number of seats for on the day performances. People join the queue early, in the hope of successfully being able to buy a ticket. It’s actually a really good experience, because you get chatting to people who share an interest with you — anyone who’s willing to get up early to queue for theatre tickets has a love of theatre. Somebody will usually do a coffee run, and if you are successful in getting a ticket, you’ll be on first name terms with people in your row of seats.

Meg, the girl next to me, was Canadian. She was a teacher and had a love of both Shakespeare and David Tenant. My nephew Trevor, who has moved to Canada, had just shared a photo of his six-year old daughter, Jodi, who had received an award at school for reading her first one hundred books. I thought this was a pretty amazing achievement for Jodi, and a great way to encourage children to read. I shared this story and my thinking with Meg.

She had a different take on it. She said yes it’s really encouraging for children who love to learn through reading, but it actually discriminates against children who love to learn in other ways.

For example, she said a lot of children in Canada loved the outdoors and loved learning through nature, others loved singing, dancing and music and loved learning through the arts. She said while these were considered to be good, children weren’t recognised and rewarded in the same way for learning through nature and the arts, as they were for learning through reading. She said she felt there was a bias in favour of reading being the best way to learn, and as a result there was more recognition and reward for children who read more.

She had broached this with her school board, and she was told: “This is the way it’s always been done. Reading has always been an integral part of a child’s education, and their learning process, it should be recognised and rewarded.” She said her argument wasn’t that it shouldn’t be rewarded, but that other ways of learning should be rewarded in the same way. She really objected to the thinking or reasoning: “This is the way it’s always been done.” But she said her argument fell on deaf ears.

In a previous story: Knowing When To Say No More, I’ve Had Enough, It’s Time To Call It Quits I shared some of the trials and tribulations Mo experienced as a volunteer at a non-profit organisation from his fellow committee members. The words: “This is the way it’s always been done,” can be added to what Mo had to endure.

Mo felt as a committee they were out of touch with what people attending the events they ran wanted. But when he tried to raise it, he was immediately shot down with the words: “This is the way it’s always been done. People know what to expect and that’s what we give them. There’s nothing wrong with that, it works just fine, people are fine with the way it’s always been done”

Mo’s argument wasn’t that there was anything wrong with what they were doing, or that there weren’t people who came because they knew what to expect, and that there were people who were fine with his. His point was that they could offer more of the same for the people who wanted that, and they could also offer something different for people who wanted that.

His belief was that the customer, or the member in this case, will always show you what’s next. Because he felt the committee were out of touch with what many of their members wanted, he began talking directly to the members, simply asking what they would like to see more or less of. He knew he would find the answers this way.

The majority of members did want something else, they did want something different. Mo shared the information he’d gathered with the rest of the committee, letting them know that there was more demand for new and different courses than the courses they had created and were offering. He said we’re trying to sell them something, but they want something else, they want something different. He was met with the response: “But that’s not our business goals.” He replied: “But we’re getting lots of enquires, maybe we need to expand our business goals.” The reply he received: “This is the way it’s always been done.” His argument had fallen on deaf ears.

Book Wisdom

In the book Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin, Martin throws the idea of: “This Is The Way It’s Always Been Done” on its head. He says: “With conventional joke telling, there’s a moment when the comedian delivers their punchline. What bothered me was the nature of the laugh it inspired, a vocal acknowledgement that a joke had been told, like automatic applause at the end of a song. A skilful comedian could coax a laugh with tiny indicators such as a vocal tic or a slight body shift.” He noticed that even with unintelligible punch lines, audiences would laugh at nothing but the cue of a hand slap.”

“These notions stayed with me for months, until they formed an idea that revolutionised my comic direction: What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anti-climax? If I kept denying them the formality of a punchline, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh.”

He tested it out and it worked. People were falling around the place laughing, they were laughing their heads off, they were crying from laughter. Afterwards when these people were asked what was funny, they weren’t able to say exactly what it was, they simply said: “You had to be there.”

Now the punchline hasn’t gone away, and I expect we’ve all laughed at a good punchline. I expect there have also been times when we’ve all used the expression: “You had to be there” when something was really funny but we couldn’t explain exactly what it was.

Words of Wisdom

The great thing about exploring and trying out new ways of doing things, is that it gives us choice. It’s not about the way it’s always been done being wrong, no more than it’s about always doing things differently being right. It’s simply about what’s best for any one of us at any given time.

Sage Wisdom

What’s good for many people and situations, isn’t good for all people or all situations. Freedom of choice gives people their best way of doing what they want and need to do.

Reflect on the following questions through self-feedback to know what’s best for you:

Is this known and proven way the best way for me in this moment and situation?

If yes, great. If no, ask yourself:

What do I need to do differently to find the best way for me in this moment and situation?

Remember whenever you have a question or a problem, you also have the answer or solution within you. Remember also the power of What If? questions. If they can turn comedy on its head, imagine what they can do for you in finding your best way.

Epilogue

Meg and I were both successful in getting a ticket to see Richard II that evening. The history play by William Shakespeare was believed to have been written in approximately 1595.

I expect since then it’s been performed on stages throughout the world hundreds or more likely thousands of times. Each and every time I know that every single actor who has played this role will have played it differently, and every single director will have directed it differently. This is because actors and directors will always look for something new to bring to the role, and to the play.

They never come to a role or a play thinking this is the way it’s always been done, so this is the only way it can be done. Instead they look for nuances that will allow them to bring something new and different to the role and to the play. That’s not because there was anything wrong with how it was done before, it’s just that they believe that there’s always something new to learn and discover from a personal perspective. This is something that is encouraged within the arts, something that is recognised and rewarded.

Today’s Featured Book is: Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:

The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

When I Need Clarity, I Write

Writing Takes Me Along a Path of Discovery

Photo by Min An from Pexels

There are (many) times when my gut instinct is telling me something.

There are also (many) times when I don’t know what that is.

But I do know it’s something important, and I need to figure out what it is.

Writing gets me to that place of knowing.

Writing helps me to understand my innermost thoughts and feelings.

Writing helps me understand my gut reaction.

Writing helps me to get to the answer of what I need to do.

Writing helps me to know whether to say yes or no.

Writing helps me to know whether to walk away or to embrace it.

Writing helps me to know what to do next.

Writing helps my decision making.

Writing helps my well-being.

Writing helps my sanity.

Writing is my sanity.

WorkLife Book Of The Week: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Courage

Welcome to WorkLife Book Of The Week. Every week Monday through Sunday I serialise a story from the School of WorkLife book series. I do this each day in under 280 characters, which I post across my social media channels. Then at the end of each week, I bring all 7 daily posts together here as 1 weekly blog post, which I also share on my podcast: WorkLife Book Wisdom.

This week’s WorkLife Book of The Week is: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Courage  

This week’s WorkLife Story of The Week: Improvisation Career Change and Hiking in the Alps.

Richards Story: Stepping Beyond His Fear To Embrace What Lies Ahead

MONDAY

During an improvisation workshop, the group worked in pairs to tell a story by each saying one word at a time. Using the first principle of improvisation: ‘Yes, and…’, in which you accept and build on each new contribution. There’s no time to negate or judge an idea, the shared

TUESDAY

goal is to propel a scene forward and make something new. It’s about letting ideas breathe, trusting, and going on a journey of the unknown. ‘Yes, and…’ lets you build and grow. This principle applies well beyond improvisation. Richard’s story is one of many of people who have 

WEDNESDAY

reached a scary place in their WorkLife, and they are struggling to go beyond that. Richard is a language teacher. His career has been within private schools. While he enjoyed his work, he felt he needed a change, and wanted adventure and excitement in his life. Richard wanted

THURSDAY

to move into the travel industry with a focus on educational travel languages and cultural programmes within Europe. This would allow him to use his language skills, and to nurture his knowledge and love of medieval European history. He was experienced in designing school trips,

FRIDAY

and had established strong collaborative working relationships with partners in a number of countries. He was in a pretty good place in knowing the possibilities that could be out there. But it kept coming back to giving up a full-time job and everything that went with that. It 

SATURDAY

would also mean leaving his life in London. which was good, but at the same time lacking that sense of excitement and adventure that he yearned for. It took three years for Richard to step into the unknown and follow his dream. He was scared to take the step he so wanted to, and 

SUNDAY

he needed to consider the reality of the situation. He continued to research and his good groundwork led to securing enough work for his first year. Richard has now resigned from his teaching job. He’s stepped beyond that place of fear and is ready to embrace what lies ahead. 

That’s a wrap on this week’s WorkLife Story of The Week: Improvisation Career Change and Hiking in the Alps, from the School Of WorkLife book: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Courage  

If you enjoyed Richard’s story, you may also like to learn about his fuller WorkLife story and the exercises that helped him to step beyond his place of fear to embrace what lies ahead, along with the other stories and assignments in this week’s WorkLife Book of The Week: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Trust.

Click on the above image to see a preview of what’s inside, along with the main ideas and the meaning behind these.

Come back next Sunday for next week’s WorkLife Story of The Week: An Endless Source Of Inspiration From Curious Conversations, from the School Of WorkLife book: How To Let Curiosity Be Your Driving Force

Click on the above image to see a preview of what’s inside, along with the main ideas and the meaning behind these.

You can also catch each weekly story as it’s released daily. Just tap the link below to:

The School of WorkLife book series are designed to help you manage your own WorkLife Learning.

Each book tells real WorkLife stories of the successes and challenges people encountered in their WorkLife. Each book also includes the exercises that helped navigate these situations, which are presented as assignments for you to work through.

The stories I share are based on real life WorkLife situations – case studies of the challenges and successes people experienced in navigating the chapters of their WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and also a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

I hope you enjoy the stories and find them helpful in navigating the chapters of your WorkLife story.

To view all the books in the School of WorkLife series and to learn about my Affiliate Programme click the link below: 

 

Quote #10 That Helped Shape The Chapters Of My First Book

To Give People an Understanding Into What the Chapter Was About. To Open Their Thinking without Telling Them How or What to Think

Image supplied by author

Chapter #10 Creating Your Shorter And Longer Term WorkLife Plan

Quote #10 “You can’t predict. You can prepare.” Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance

Followed by my Chapter Introduction:

Some time ago, I was asked to write an article for communication-director .eu about managing and directing your WorkLife in times of uncertainty. I wrote that you need to come up with a WorkLife plan that’s two-fold: both short-term and long-term.

As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I know the importance of serving people’s preferred learning style. Some people like the bigger picture — quotes allow that. Other people like more detail — the chapter introductions allow that.

I like the bigger picture, to begin with, then I like detail. So I like both.

What’s your preferred learning style?

Bigger picture, more detail, or both?

First shared in my book: Your WorkLife Your Way.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, to see the other topics and assignments which have been created to help you manage your WorkLife learning, development and growth.  

When You Know You Have to Fire Your Client, Your Collaborator or Your Colleague to Save Your Sanity

A Client, Collaborator or Colleague That Drains You With Too Many Demands, or Derails Your Morale, Needs to Be Fired From Your WorkLife

Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels


Because for all the time you waste salvaging deteriorating relationships, you could instead be opening yourself up to doing great work with great people, and living a happy and healthy WorkLife as a result.

When You Know You Have to Fire Your Client, Your Collaborator or Your Colleague from Your WorkLife to Save Your Sanity: A Case Study:

Another Friday afternoon meeting with the client from hell, another weekend ruined by unrealistic demands. Those were Tony’s thoughts going into his meeting with George, and boy was he right. But this time he knew it was the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Tony knew he had to fire George as a client. He had to do it for his own morale and his mental health. He had to save himself from this toxic relationship, but as a freelancer this wasn’t going to be easy from a financial perspective. But let’s back up a little to understand Tony’s story, and how he found himself in this position.

Tony’s position as Marketing Executive at a non-profit organisation had been made redundant two years earlier. He had worked there for five years and really enjoyed his time. He was part of a small team, which meant he got exposure to all aspects of the job, and he had worked with really interesting companies, from business startups to SMEs in developing and building their marketing strategies.

It was always his dream to work for himself. The skills he’d developed, the experience he’d gained, together with the redundancy financial package he’d received, put him in a good position to work towards making his dream come true. And so he set out to find his first client. Enter George.

It was at a tech networking event that they first met and got chatting. Tony told George he was setting up as a freelance marketing executive, having worked in the industry for five years. George said he needed support with his marketing, suggesting this would be good experience for George, and that he could introduce him to fellow business owners. His first gig as a freelancer, Tony couldn’t believe his luck, he was on a high, and over the next few days he prepared for the first of what was going to become the Friday afternoon meetings with the client from hell.

In fact when Tony reflected on those initial words, “It’ll be good experience for you,” he now knew these words should have been a red flag. He didn’t need experience, he had five years of experience; and he soon came to learn, that experience as a freelancer doesn’t pay the rent, and that in his haste to get his first client he had sold himself short. He hadn’t read between the lines.- George’s lines, that is. Working for experience means working for very little money. And as for the introductions to George’s fellow business owners, well, that was never forthcoming. It was simply another ploy by George to sucker him in, and suckered in he was. Tony thought to himself: “boy, did he see me and all my naivety and misplaced trust coming!”

The Friday afternoon meetings became a weekly thing. They weren’t needed, nor were the 6pm calls George constantly made, by way of checking in, checking up, and most often making changes to what they’d agreed. But George insisted on the meetings, and he insisted they needed to be face-to-face at his office — a taxi ride across town in Friday afternoon London traffic.

There was so much wrong with this relationship. Apart from paying very little, George never paid on time. The Friday afternoon meetings, the late evening calls, the constant changes to the brief they’d agreed on, and the continuous demands for more work on Tony’s part, without sufficient financial renumeration was having a really negative impact on Tony’s morale and his mental health. His relationship with his girlfriend was suffering, because he never had time to spend with her, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been to visit his parents, or seen his friends.

Time and time again Tony questioned why he was doing this. He felt it was because George was his first client, and he felt that he owed him. He also felt if he couldn’t deliver on this work. If he failed his client, he would be failing himself, he would be a failure, his freelance business would be a failure. And so he persisted, telling himself it would get easier, that George would come to recognise and value the good work he was doing, and that they’d develop a better working relationship.

That wasn’t to be. That Friday afternoon meeting was to become the final, fateful meeting from hell.

As Tony had come to expect from these meetings, George wanted to make yet more changes to the brief that they’d agreed on. He demanded more from Tony, and he said all of this needed to be completed by Monday morning. Tony said that wasn’t possible. He had a friend’s wedding the next day, and immediately after the meeting he was catching a train out of London and wouldn’t return until Sunday night. He had already told George this. In fact he had wanted to travel earlier in the day, and had asked George if they could have this meeting remotely. George refused and insisted Tony come to his office. He then kept Tony waiting for an hour.

George’s behaviour was always unsettling, but today it was completely erratic. He kept getting up from the table and pacing back and forth. When he was sitting, he just kept tapping the table. He didn’t engage in any eye contact. He wouldn’t listen to anything Tony was trying to say, and kept cutting him off and talking over him.

Then about an hour into the meeting, when he demanded Tony work on the latest changes he needed over the weekend, and Tony told him he couldn’t, telling him again about the wedding he was going to, George completely flipped, shouting at Tony that he needed it done, and that if he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t pay him for any of the work he’d done on the project; and he’d tell everyone he knew how bad Tony’s work was. His final words were: “if you don’t do this, I’ll destroy you, and I’ll make sure you’ll never work as a marketing consultant again.”

Tony was dumbstruck. He had been feeling anxious throughout the meeting, now his blood pressure had risen sky high. He still doesn’t know how, but he somehow managed to hold it together. He got up from the table, and said: “We’re finished, this relationship is over, I’m terminating this project. We both know you owe me for the work I’ve done, I’m going to write that off, because I don’t want to have anything to do with you ever again. If you want to pursue this, if you want to bad mouth me, there will be repercussions, that I can guarantee you. I’ll be seeing my best friend who is a solicitor at the wedding this weekend. I’ll brief him fully on the situation. Here’s his card. Anything else you’ve got to say, say it to him.” With that Tony walked out of George’s office.

He never did hear from George again. Tony recognised he was a bully, and in standing up to him, he had disempowered him.

Although shaken by the whole experience, Tony also felt a great sense of relief. He felt he’d gotten his WorkLife back, and was determined not to lose it again. He knew he needed to define what that was — what it was he wanted, and as importantly what it was he didn’t want. In terms of the people he wanted to work with, and the work he wanted to do, and also making time for the people he wanted to spend time with outside of work, and the things outside of work he wanted to make time to do.

Book Wisdom

Tony picked up a copy of Small is the New Big by Seth Godin. One of the first questions Godin poses is: “How Dare You? How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” Going on to say: “I Dare You. I dare you to read any ten of these essays and still be comfortable settling for what you’ve got. You don’t have to settle for the status quo, for being good enough, for getting by, for working all night.”

This question, these words echoed loudly for Tony. He was determined to draw on the wisdom of the essays, the stories Godin shared, to give himself the feedback he needed to make his WorkLife work for him.

Tony drew the following wisdom from the essay/story: Do Less.

“Years ago, when I started my first company, I believed in two things: Survival is Success and Take the best project you can get, but take a project. I figured that if I was always busy and I managed to avoid wiping out, sooner or later everything would work out.”

“Maybe you need to be a lot pickier about what you do and for whom you do it.”

“Consider the architect who designs just a few major buildings a year. Obviously he has to dig deep to do work of a high enough quality to earn these commissions. But by not cluttering his life and his reputation with a string of low-budget, boring projects, he actually increases his chances of getting great projects in the future.”

“Take a look at your client list. What would happen if you fired half of your clients? If you fire the customers who pay late, give you a hard time, have you work on low-leverage projects, and are rarely the source of positive recommendations. Would your business improve?”

“Leaving off that last business project not only makes our profits go up, but it can also dramatically improve the rest of our lives.”

Words of Wisdom

Knowing when to pull the plug on toxic work relationships gives you more time to find good people to work with. That can be colleagues, collaborators or clients.

Sage Wisdom

“The ability to change fast is the single best asset in a world that is changing fast.” Seth Godin

Epilogue

Do something that matters with people who matter. This is Tony’s motto for his WorkLife. This is the motto which guides him in deciding every project he takes on, and in how he lives his WorkLife today.

Today’s Featured Book is: Small is the New Big by Seth Godin

Today’s story was featured in my book: How To Use Your Voice To Express And Protect Your Identity from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:

The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Working Remotely Lawyers in Cyber Space Making the Best Of a Bad Situation

Life’s Most Difficult Situations Can Also Be the Most Transformative, As I Expect Many Of Us Have Come to Learn

Photo by Nasa on Unsplash

The type of changes to our way of working brought about by the economic downturn of 2007 was, I think, quite interesting in how it caused the entrepreneurs among us to get creative in our thinking of how to make the best of a bad situation.

In a lot of cases, the doom and gloom of late will also bring about quite enterprising and more fulfilling ways to work. Life’s most difficult situations can also be the most transformative, as I expect many of us have come to learn.

Let me take you back in time to 2007 and let me tell you Gerald and Barbara’s stories.

The world of law and how severely impacted it was by what had been going on in the economy. Bearing in mind the historically traditional approach to work in this profession, there have been a number of successful spin-offs where lawyers having found themselves out of work made the most of combining their considerable experience while also utilising technology to join forces with other equally talented lawyers across the various disciplines of law to offer a solution that provides the same professional service the client would expect from a leading law firm that’s extremely more affordable — Virtual Law.

Who’d have thought Cyber Space law would work in the law profession, which is steeped in tradition. But work it does for Gerald and Barbara: two lawyers who established their work in this way.

Gerald is a senior Commercial Lawyer who has joined forces with a newly formed virtual law company.

Barbara is a family lawyer who chose this way of working to facilitate being a mum and wanting to be at home bringing up her daughter with the ability of being able to attend those all so important school events, in the knowledge that a sudden transaction won’t take over her life.

Both lawyers provide quality work in the same way they would have done within the organisations they worked in.

Surely this has to be a win/win situation all around, the client is happy, and each lawyer has created a way of working that in the short term provides them with a great way of working that fits into their lifestyle in the way they want it.

They may choose to continue with this arrangement, and they may find that it completely works for them, or they may decide to return to a more corporate environment.

If so, it’s a great way of demonstrating their ability to develop business, which of course is a key factor on that road to partnership and beyond.

This story is from the economic downturn of 2007. We’ve come far since then in how we manage our WorkLives. However, economic downturns always bring about new challenges. This new one we’re facing following the pandemic will be no different. Nor will we be different in getting creative in our thinking of how to make the best of a bad situation.

I first shared this story some years ago on my original, now-defunct blog: Evolving Careers. I’m sharing it again because I believe it’s as relevant today, and it was all those years ago.

The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories, I share my own experiences, and with permission, stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.

Start With Where You Are With What You’ve Got and With Who You Are

Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash


Maria was in her early 50s when she began her return journey to the world of acting. Over thirty years earlier, on finishing school, she had gone straight onto drama school, gaining a BA (Hons) in Drama & Theatre Arts. Soon after she married and started a family. She chose to be a stay-at-home mum, and to put her dream of becoming an actor on hold.

Over the years she kept her hand in by being involved in her local community theatre, mostly behind the scenes, helping out with whatever needed to be done on productions, as General Production Runners assistant — from making costumes, to office administration to promoting ticket sales, and cleaning up.

Start With Where You Are With What You’ve Got and With Who You Are: A Case Study:

Her dream of becoming an actor had never gone away, and in recent years she had successfully auditioned for small roles in her community theatre productions. This reignited her quenched fire and she knew she wanted more. She wanted bigger roles in her local theatre productions, and she also wanted roles in bigger theatre productions, as well as roles in film and TV.

To achieve this she knew she needed to develop her skills, and so began her quest to learn, and learn and then learn some more. And so, she took class, after class, after class. This helped to give her the confidence to successfully audition for those bigger roles in her local community theatre productions.

Three years later she had taken every course possible at all of London drama schools offering part time courses, and she’d played most of the leading roles in her local community theatre productions. She had put all of the skills she had learnt to good practice, both on stage in the theatrical productions she had been involved with, and on screen by becoming involved in student short film productions.

She was at a point where she wanted to perform on stages other than those that were considered to be amateur dramatics productions, or even fringe theatre. And she wanted to move away from student films to be part of mainstream films and TV productions.

This was when she hit a barrier. She didn’t believe she could achieve this starting from where she was, with what she had, and with who she was. She believed she needed to attend a leading drama school, undertake a full-time course — the courses she identified would take two years. This she believed would allow her to start from a better place, with what she needed, and with who she would be by the end of the course.

Maria identified three London schools she wanted to apply to, each of them offered two-year courses, and so she began to prepare for auditions. She was successful in being offered a place at one of the schools.

Over coffee, Maria shared her good news with her trusted friend Bella. They’d attended Drama School together all those years ago. Bella had gone on to become an actor, and played roles on stage, film, and TV. In between times when she wasn’t performing, she taught acting at a leading drama school.

Bella wasn’t convinced that Maria’s belief that she needed to attend a leading drama school and undertake a two year course was true, or that it was the only option that Maria had, or indeed the best option. She had been to see Maria’s most recent stage performances, and she’d watched the short films she’d acted in. Bella was impressed with her performances, and she thought that Maria was actually holding herself back, and that she was in danger of becoming a perpetual student. She gently broached this with Maria, sharing these:

Word of Wisdom

While learning is wonderful, it can sometimes hold you back, it can be your comfort blanket.

She went on to ask Maria to consider the following questions:

What will going to a leading drama school for the next two years give you?

What will not going to a leading drama school for the next two years give you?

What will you gain by doing this?

What will you lose by doing this?

Can you get what you want in any other way?

Maria was thrown by what Bella said. Before they met she was convinced that going to a leading drama school, and undertaking a full-time course, was not only the best option, but the only real option she had. Now she was less certain. Because she valued Bella’s thinking, she knew she needed to give the questions Bella had posed serious consideration.

Reflecting on these questions, this is the feedback she gave herself:

Going to a leading drama school for the next two years would give her great credibility. To have been accepted onto the course in the first place was a great achievement. The audition process was tough, places were limited. She knew from the feedback she’d been given, that the school had seen something in her, for her to have been successful in being offered a place. Building on this over the course of two years, Maria could only get better because of the intensive training she would undertake.

Not going to a leading drama school for the next two years, would give her — well it would give her two years to focus on getting the roles she aspired to getting, on stage, on film and on TV. A head start as such. If she was good enough to be accepted into this school, well maybe she was good enough to begin to get small roles, which in turn could lead to something bigger.

She would gain more skills and more confidence as a result, by doing this.

She would lose the opportunity to be out in the real world auditioning for real roles, and gaining real world experience of the industry, and potentially being offered roles by doing this.

She could get the experience in another way by identifying her learning gaps, learning what she needed to bridge those gaps, then putting that into practice, enabling her to learn and grow.

Maria was confused, she really didn’t know what to do for the best. She had two months before she needed to accept her place, she also had the option of deferring for one year.

She and Bella met for coffee again, and Maria shared the feedback she’d given herself, prompted by Bella’s questions. Bella had brought along a book which she believed would be helpful to Maria.

Book Wisdom

The book was The Intent to Live Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor by Larry Moss.

“Moss shares the techniques he has developed over thirty years to help actors set their emotions and imagination on fire, resulting in performances that are powerful, authentic and career changing. From the foundations of script analysis to the nuances of physicalisation and sensory work, here are the case studies, exercises, and insights that enable you to connect personally with a script, develop your character from the inside out, overcome fear and inhibition, and master the technical skills required for success in the theatre, television, and movies.” These words from the back cover spoke to Maria. Immediately she made the decision to spend the two months she had before she needed to make her decision, learning as much as she could from Moss. She wasn’t convinced she could get the learning she needed from a book, but she was willing to give it a go.

Sage Wisdom

“I call this book The Intent to Live rather than the Intent to Act because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living. You know you’re in the presence of the best actors when you forget you’re sitting in an audience watching make-believe and instead you are catapulted onto the screen or stage and blasted into the lives of the characters.”

“I want to tell you another, more personal reason for the title of this book. When I was a young actor, I had many negative feelings about myself and about my life. I made a decision not to destroy myself but to understand and heal the pain that at times seemed so overwhelming. In other words, I made a decision to live. And one of the things that helped me was learning the craft of acting.” Larry Moss

Epilogue

Maria did in fact learn a lot through the book. Not as much as she knew she would learn attending drama school full-time for two years, but enough to allow her to know that her best decision at the end of the two months was to defer for one year. This would allow her time to put the learning she had gained into practice, and to continue this learn/practice loop by continuing to identify her skills gap. She made the decision to start with where she was, with what she had, and with who she was.

Today’s Featured Book is: The Intent to Live Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor by Larry Moss.

Today’s story was featured in my book: How To Embrace The Superpower of Self-Awareness from The School Of WorkLife book series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:

The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

How To Use Turning Points To Start Something Different And Better

Life is Too Short Not To Be Living it Fully

Carmel’s story of how the loss of her brother led her to reevaluate her WorkLife, to think through what was important in her day-to-day living and the legacy she wanted to work towards leaving behind.

There have been a few turning points in my life that have caused me to stop and think about what’s important to me and to consider what I want from my WorkLife. Sadly, one of those occasions was when my brother Kieran died aged just 42. Kieran had lived very much in the present and enjoyed the simple things in life. I remember his wife Christina telling me how in the summer once their four girls were in bed, they’d sit in their garden and watch the sunset.

As well as bringing up four daughters they also gave their time generously to supporting the families who had been impacted by the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, and every summer they would welcome children from Chernobyl to stay with them. Their stay in Ireland allowed the children to relax and recuperate during the summer months.

It was important for Kieran and Christina to give back — or indeed give forward. Thinking about my brother caused me to realise that I needed to live in the present and make every day worthwhile. It also made me question what contribution I wanted to make, to give back, to give forward. It made me go deeper in my questions around what legacy I wanted to leave behind. Itook a step back to evaluate my most important values to consider what needed to change in my WorkLife to honour these. What I could do differently to make it better.

I’d worked in investment banking for several years. I enjoyed the work and worked with great people, and it also afforded me a great lifestyle. However, the hours were long and I wasn’t spend- ing as much time with my family as I would have liked.

I made the decision to leave banking and to set up in business myself. This took time, as first I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next; and once I did, I then needed to retrain. It was quite a juggling act initially: working to bring in much needed income while studying and subse- quently gaining practical experience to launch my new business and WorkLife. 

Although tough, it was extremely enjoyable, and from the outset I was carving a WorkLife in line with my needs and values. Now I both plan for tomorrow and live for today. At times it can be extremely challenging but it’s also extremely rewarding.

Along the way I discovered ways in which I could give back and give forward, along with the legacy I want to leave behind. From this I wrote My Mission Statement: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose, and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible for everyone.”

Develop Your WorkLife Story

Assignment

In light of the reality that life can be short, take time to reflect on the following questions:

Your WorkLife Mission Statement Assignment

What is a defining moment in your life and how did it impact you?
 What is most important to you?
 What challenge do you want to overcome?
 What do you want to accomplish? contribute? complete? create or build? What legacy or reputation do you want to leave behind?

What is something you can start to make your WorkLife different and better?

Use this information to write your Mission Statement.

A reminder of mine: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose, and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

This story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Use Turning Points To Start Something Different and Better, from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.