First day back after the Easter holidays. I woke up and that almighty machine gets into motion, the machine that directs a systematic sequence of events from making the beds, helping the kids get dressed, breakfast, pack lunches, PE bags, doing a little reading, brushing teeth, polishing school shoes…. By the time they run ahead of me towards the school gate, shouting “come on, mum!” over their shoulder, I am checking that all my boxes are ticked and that we are on track after the starting shot was fired 7am this morning. I am trying to keep up with my boys but of course by now I look like I had all the Easter eggs at 7 months pregnant and I am struggling to keep up with the scramble of getting into school fast enough so they have football time left.
Walking out of the school gate my pace and thought process changes. I look around to the beautiful surroundings that are bursting into life with the persistence of spring and I gratefully embrace the day. It occurred to me that I no longer hate Mondays and I no longer suffer the stomach tension on a Sunday, the night before the dreaded day. It is one year and 2 days since we moved to the coast and if you paid me a million pounds, I would not go back. Re-location is by no means for the faint hearted, because a year ago we didn’t know a soul here, had no real idea of how we were going to earn a living and failed to get the boys into the school of our choice. A year down the line, we have built a brand new foundation on an empty patch but on soil that was fertilised with faith and conviction.
Looking back now, it takes a good year to get into the swing of a new life. We are blessed with friends and a community, with business and work, with the school of our choosing, not to mention all the other wonderful lifestyle changes, such as the bread-maker, the frequent cycle and boat rides, crab fishing, home cooking and fresh veg from local farmers. The boys have got used to sand, stinging nettles, rats and stoats and playing endlessly in the great outdoors. Our next project is to get our own chickens.
It may sound cheesy to some, perhaps small minded in comparison to worldwide events and almost like a hippy statement, but not only charity begins at home, so does harmony and peace. The stress of our old lives is a mere distant memory and with this new found perspective we can move mountains for the smaller and hopefully sooner or later for the greater good as well.
I grew up in Holland in the part where the bulbs come from. Honestly, you may think that every Dutch person makes this claim, but in my case it is really true. It is the kind of landscape where you can see about two-thirds of sky because wherever you look the reclaimed land is as flat as a pancake. Roads and bicycle lanes run in perfectly straight lines in the one-third of the picture that remains. Spring is graced by endless fields of the most amazing stretches of colours, purely breathtaking and probably the one thing I will miss forever. I now hang with my nose in the pots of hyacinths that I buy and display in the kitchen, because the smell transports me directly back to my youth.
Whereas the average youngster may have worked a few hours in a restaurant or in a shop, I worked with the bulbs with my schoolmates. Generally this meant sorting the bulbs to size standing at the convey belt. The repetitiveness of it was sort of mind numbing but the extra cash came in handy. It’s not my only claim to fame in aiding the Dutch export another millimetre along, I also worked on the strawberry fields and I remember fitting chicory neatly into boxes.
With my notoriously pathetic amount of patience it was clear to me that there would be no way on this earth that I could do something remotely repetitive. It was round about this time that I was filling in the forms in the career’s advisor’s office in school, the outcomes of which unfortunately never pointed in one direction. That could have been my fault for my only consistent answer was that I wanted to work varied working hours.
Needless to say that from that point I took a somewhat alternative and perhaps almost searching route. I certainly can’t say that I went about things in the right way, because at 17 quite a few of my decisions were rebellion driven. Yet behind me lie more than 20 very colourful years, in which I studied, got some life experience, set up as a business coach and found different ways to earn a living. With the benefit of hindsight there are a few things that never really changed. I have always worked with people in some way and the nature of my work in various capacities has always been to help someone to get from A to B, as a teacher, a trainer and a coach. I always wanted to stand on a stage as a youngster and I pursued drama extensively, yet I ended up on a corporate stage talking in front of large groups of people. Perhaps certain things are laid out for us, almost predetermined, but we still have to find our own way with it. If that’s the case then it is important to recognise our unique strengths and give what we have got. The things that we love doing will flow out of us with ease and one will never tire of developing the skills that are personal strengths.
Don’t be tempted to think that doing what you love comes easy. It doesn’t. Doing what you love and loving what you do takes time, energy and effort to achieve. In the face of paying bills and adhering to responsibilities it can be really hard to stick to your original goal, your talent, the thing you love and have the patience to make it a success. But if it is worth doing because it may in the end give you a lifetime of fulfilment, then isn’t it worth every investment? Someone once told me, “if you love what you do, then you never do another day’s work in your life”. It is true that the boundary between work and life suddenly blur because both need your expression. When I am asked to speak in organisations on the “work-life balance” subject, then I often make the point early on that life doesn’t have to happen away from one’s work.
In this time of economic strain it is easy to just aim to work or find a job, but perhaps these are the times that require a re-think. Perhaps our working lives no longer fit in a predominantly 9-5 straight jacket. Many people already work from home, work family friendly hours or end up setting up their own initiatives to suit lifestyle. But what could you do if you completely played to your strengths and stuck to the thing that inspired you, going with it all the way?
Sometimes you have to get 100 “No’s” before your idea, your initiative, your plan can be put into action. Don’t be intimidated by the Big Boys or anyone who may express doubt. It took the authors of the book “The Chicken Soup for the Soul” 2 years of continuously making at least 5 efforts a day before their book was published. They were advised that “If you would go every day to a very large tree and take five swings at it with a very sharp axe, eventually, no matter how large the tree, it would have to come down”. Their books have now sold 112 million copies in 41 languages.
People who aim to express their talent and do what they love until they have reached success with it, think in a different way. They do not wait for their dreams to become a reality, they move towards their dream. They don’t count failures but see those as steps on the way to success. They don’t try and put every single detail into place and plan for eventuality before moving forward, they make efforts every day, just like taking a swing at the very large tree.
A wise man once said “Effort releases its reward after a person refuses to quit”. There are too many things in this world that discourage us, de-motivate us, make us believe that it cannot be done. There is no way we would now have any of the inventions, the technologies or conveniences if some entrepreneurs and inventors would have buckled at the 1st hurdle. Who is not to say that you hold a special key, that you may have that new idea? Or who is not to say that sticking to your guns (whilst making the odd adaptation here and there) will not give you the ultimate professional expression you long for.
In his terrific book “the War of Art” Steven Pressfield says: “If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet…. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us from your contribution. Give us what you’ve got”.
As a youngster I always had big dreams which didn’t fit in any way the village life with lovely but very conventional parents I grew up with. The more resistance I got the bigger the dream and the confidence and eventually I travelled and settled in the UK. Life has a habit of knocking you down a few pegs so now –at 41- I still have dreams but maybe less confidence. I chase the demons from my mind that I should have been established by now, have the mortgage, the incredible salary and the trappings of life. (Note, what an interesting word “trappings”, maybe those are the very things that do trap you). Instead the last 6 years have been levelling in every way possible. I went through a very acrimonious divorce from a man who more or less turned out to have a double life, I became a single mum of 2 babies and lost all of the “trappings” I so proudly acquired. Soon after I lost my business.
Donna VanLiere writes: ...there’s more love after infidelity, more joy after the diagnosis, and more life after financial ruin…” I couldn’t agree more. After 20 colourful years, the last 6 of which destructive on the face of it, I reached a platform on which I could truthfully and comfortably stand to express myself. Yes, it enters my mind I “should get a normal job” but the passion and the dreams to be a coach, speaker and a writer beckon me now stronger than before. And so does the desire to change the world, or at the very least my corner of it. In the last year I got married to my soul-mate and the perfect father for my sons, we re-located to a lovely place on the coast, I started my Blog and re-launched my coaching business. I am loving what I do and I am doing what I love. It is early days, but I will refuse to give up to on the contribution I want to make wholeheartedly in this world. With humility and quiet confidence I pray that effort will keep releasing the rewards.
Do what you love and love what you do. You will develop wings, see light in every tunnel and you will reach beyond your wildest dreams.
Take a leap
If you knew that you could not fail, and time and money were no object, what three things would you most like to have, accomplish, or work towards?