I have spent the last three weeks writing up a piece of work that was a follow up from the first piece of consultancy/interim management that I delivered in 2014/5. It was a really interesting assignment, one where I was able to use and further develop my investigative and analytical skills, indulge my inner geek by immersing myself in lots of interesting data, talk to wise and wonderful people across the country and spend time focused on an area which I am hugely passionate about.
Whilst re visiting the area that I started out in, and coming across people that I first met at work 10-15 years ago, it got me thinking about the last few years of working for myself and all the things that I have learnt and done in that time. It got me thinking about what I thought I would do and how far I have come. It got me thinking about what I thought I would do and haven’t yet started. It got me thinking about what I thought I would do and what I am still procrastinating about (see my beautiful Wildflower Fire logo above as one example!!) It got me thinking about what I thought I would do, why I thought I would do it and who I thought I would do it for.
When I set out to start my own business I was one of those people who was out of the house 12 or 13 hours a day for 3/4 and more days a week. I was the main breadwinner and I was doing what I thought was my most important work. I made up for the time that I wasn’t with my young children by packing as much in as possible when I was with them. While I was doing my important work I made sure I went to sports day, Christmas plays and was there for significant events but my important work was never really far from my mind. When I set up my own business my main thought was how to generate more important work.
On the subject of work, I have been fortunate and I am hugely grateful that I have always had enough. Sometimes burning the candle at both ends to get it done, sometimes wondering what will happen at the end of the month, but I’ve always had enough. It turns out that there is always important work that needs doing. What’s changed and changing is the importance of work in the context of the rest of life. The last three years have seen significant life changes, mostly instigated by me, that have impacted as well as enhanced my ability to do important work. Amicable divorce, single parenthood, a couple of house moves, new partnership, start of the menopause, directorship of a couple of companies to name but a few. Along the way I’ve started to realise that I’ve learnt a few things.
I’ve learnt that I like, actually love, professional mess, complexity, problems and jigsaw pieces that need tidying back into some sort of order. I’ve learnt that while I enjoy working to inspire, lead, challenge and develop people, that I’ve not yet learnt to do it in a way that doesn’t take every single last ounce of energy and capacity that I have. I’ve learnt that being clear, assertive, real and respectful gets the job done. I’ve learnt that I don’t tolerate bullshit and that if I trust my gut instinct I can usually see it, smell it, feel it from 10 miles away !I’ve remembered that I have always had an ability to cut through the bamboo and expose the real issues at the heart of a matter. I’m still learning that there’s a time and a place to do it !With reference to number 4, I’ve also learnt that I care a bit too much about what people think of me, what I say, what I write and that this care impacts on my ability to be authentic. I’ve learnt that there’s a place for ego but its best to think with head and lead with heart. I’ve learnt that while I get inspired, energised, motivated by being around people, actually some of my best work is done quietly, independently and in my own way. I’ve learnt that many people want many things but saying no, that’s not for me, I’m not the best person, I don’t want to do that right now doesn’t mean that the world will cave in. I’ve learnt that most people, including me, are beautifully winging it much of the time and I’ve learnt that no one really has the answer any more than I have the answer. I’ve learnt that peri menopause is a thing. A life changing, energy sucking, anxiety ridden, increasingly liberating thing. I’ve learnt that cutting open my chest, taking my heart out and putting myself out there on virtual paper is something that I find really hard, scary and difficult to do. At the same time I’ve learnt that courage leads to courage. Fundamentally, I’ve learnt that none of it really matters.
It turns out that for me, the important work is embracing simplicity, motherhood, putting one foot in front of each other every day and lying down at night and thinking was I able to listen today, was I heard today, did I learn anything new today, did I teach anybody anything today and if I had today again would I do it all again in exactly the same way.