Definition of ‘ordinary’: humdrum, conventional, average, everyday, unexciting.
That just about sums up the consensus on their current jobs amongst a group of my friends around a dinner table not so long ago.
And yet we started out as students together with very different ambitions and expectations for where our career paths would take us. And most of those around the table agreed that they’d love the chance to change how they felt. 'Ordinary' isn't where any of us had expected to be at this stage in life.
Our dinner table conversations really made me think.
I don’t feel like I’ve had a particularly ordinary career over the past 20 years. But equally, it’s probably only in the last few years that I’m really living out the ambition and expectations of my early 20’s. There’s no one reason for that. Although if I'm honest, age and experience have definitely made me less accepting of bureaucratic hierarchies and ineffective corporate leaders; and these days, I have a far stronger and more empowering network of men and women who constantly inspire me to push harder and change what doesn't make me happy.
If like those around my dinner table, you’re a closet entrepreneur, intrapreneur or adventurer and you're not that satisfied with how things are right now, this inspiring account by Alastair Humphreys of his decision to change his career and lifestyle is a recommended read.
Alastair’s most impactful message to those who, like him, felt trapped by their career and life choices, is to just start. Make that first move in the right direction.
Changing things doesn’t have to be a radical step first of all ...if ever. Start small if it helps you to get started. Then take it from there.
If your ambition is to travel the world, like my friend Niamh Grogan, (a hugely successful city lawyer, who decided this Autumn to leave her current job in order to travel the world), then take it step by step; look at where you’d like to go first, maybe download a travel guide and then book that first ticket.
Don't set yourself scary targets that stop you from going ahead. There will always be reasons not to do something. Life is full of them and there are plenty of cynical, 'glass half empty' folks out there who will earnestly talk you out of your ambitions.
But how will you know what you're truly capable of, if you never try? And isn't it better to have gone adventuring, to have tried something you're curious about, and to have lived that experience, rather than to have spent a lifetime wondering 'what if I had...?'
Niamh’s adventures are taking her far from ‘ordinary’. I’m really curious to see what she decides to do when she finally does put the suitcase down and resume a career; because her adventures have already convinced her that whatever she chooses next will be something different.
Niamh’s at the more radical end of the spectrum. You might decide to change things by taking a sabbatical and doing a bit of travelling to a few places; or going part-time, giving you the chance to pursue an unfulfilled passion; or changing employer, but not changing the job that you actually want to do.
For intrapreneurs especially, changing location rather than role may be a good approach to considering change and pursuing that career less ordinary that you used to be passionate about.
Don’t waste time and precious energy working for someone else or on a business that you can’t realistically change. Find somewhere that you can change. Don’t wait for that opportunity to find you – those moments rarely happen. Go out and find it yourself. Once you really start looking, you may well be surprised by the opportunities you find.
Then take things at your speed. Scaring yourself every now and then can be healthy and help you make more informed decisions. But only scare yourself in moderate doses. Stress attacks are a sign you may be taking things too far! Reach into your own network, surround yourself with people who will give you honest encouragement, including those who are successfully doing what you want to do. Their knowledge, tips and help are often the best antidote to panic attacks that you can have!
And if the entrepreneur in you has been dreaming about starting a business, then just as before, start with the small steps and allow yourself to adjust to how you feel and what the opportunities might be. Don't quit the day-job ... yet. You don’t need to jump into any huge decisions until you’re ready.
But do take the first step. Start preparing.
If you're thinking about starting a business, take a look at elXtr’s Guide to Getting You Started in our Managing Business category. You can use our handy reverse time-line method to help you plan all the essential steps simply and our case-studies will walk you clearly and expertly through how others have succeeded using this method.
elXtr’s packed with 1000+ handy self-help resources, including legal template documents, enabling you to get a business established affordably and robustly.
Alastair comments that one of the hardest things he faced when he headed off on his own adventures was that he didn’t have anyone to show him what comes next. We can certainly help to take care of that for you. Subscription costs less than the price of a coffee once or twice a month and you could save thousands of pounds on lawyers in the future. So achieving that ambition just got easier and less scary, right?
No matter what your ambition, find the courage to pursue it and achieve a life less ordinary. Fear is ritually identified as the biggest factor that holds us all back from doing what we'd really like to do or to change. It's why I rather love Alastair’s advice not to be afraid of looking silly. As someone who has spent most of the holiday season being snap-chatted by my children and made to look like a total goof, I can say with all sincerity that looking silly should never hold anyone back from living a life and/or a career less ordinary.
‘Perfect and polished’ isn’t the benchmark for life or new businesses. Getting out there, getting started, making things happen and really living, is.
Whatever your resolutions for 2017, I wish you each and all a life and a career less ordinary. So don't stand in your own way. Take the first small step to changing things for you, for the better.
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...somehow, little by little, something changed. The realisation that my days were ticking away, that my life was nice but not truthfully what I yearned for in life. And a growing determination that if adventure was what excited me in life, then I should go and look for it. I might fail (I was not very heroic, tough, talented, well-connected or rich: prerequisites for all the adventurers I had ever heard about). And failure, I realised in a painful bout of honesty, was what frightened me the most. That was what was stopping me. I wasn’t afraid of mountains or deserts. I was afraid of failing and looking a bit silly. And that was ridiculous.