In the midst of what I thought might be a mid-life crises during October, I met someone who was completely fascinating. Claire seemed quite coy at the networking meeting I was attending and, in typical style, focused more on my business than hers. Being an introvert, I find business networking quite difficult, but I have learned to stretch myself.
We hit it off straight away and in the weeks that followed a few strange co-incidences brought us closer together. She does some amazing work in specifically helping people (and teams) find their flow. I remember asking her if she’d read ‘Flow’ and she said she’d named her business after it! The timing was perfect so I asked for her help in understanding my passions and how to define my path.
The outcome of the test showed that I am primarily a right-brained person, which to be honest, was a shock to me. At school I loved Mathematics (but also languages) and I chose to study a commerce degree with a focus on software. My career matched my studies and the trade I developed was that of Business Analyst in software development. I created detailed specifications with hours spent painstakingly getting the diagrams correct, with proper semantics. I accommodated elicitation of requirements from people in the knowledge that it was a necessary part of the job. I did enjoy the writing part but also the analytical part. I excelled in that job, surprisingly, given my brain and personality profile.
My introversion also came up on the test and the fact that I have some risk-taking or entrepreneurial characteristics. Who would have thought this girl at school who excelled at Mathematics and who chose IT as an industry would turn out to be creative?
It did get me thinking about all the creative pursuits I've leaned towards in my personal life. BC (Before Children), I took classes on making cards, painting plates and decoupage. I spent my weekends creating things. At school I loved piano and dancing but had to give them up since my school was small then and they needed all pupils to do sports, at which I most definitely did not excel.
I wonder how much of following a path in commerce was to please others or to ensure a good income. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had elected to be a choreographer as I’d dreamed of as a kid. I do know myself well enough to know that I’m only recently becoming tolerant of very creative people. I've always viewed them with a little skepticism and have labelled them as ‘scatter-brained’ or ‘disorganised’ in the past. At one of my early employers I was exposed to the advertising industry on an e-commerce team. I instantly navigated towards the ‘database’ guys who were not even that strong technically. For those who are more technically inclined, one of them told me he deleted foreign keys because they ‘got in the way’.
The primary reason I left the corporate world was lack of meaning. I joined the family business with two hopes. Firstly, that I’d learn how to run a business which I have most certainly learned. And secondly, to have the flexibility and lifestyle to enjoy my children. After 18 months into the business, we obtained a credible and supportive shareholder. We finally had a chance but with that, came a lot more formality. I had to learn how to be a proper Managing Director of a company, running board meetings, ensuring all aspects of regulation were covered etc. Although I learned and benefited a lot, I traded flexibility and freedom, for admin and regulation.
The last job I had in the corporate world was the manager of a large team of Business Analysts. The leader of the division kept telling the management team that we must run our teams like we run a business. I marvelled at the admin that he expected us, the expensive highly skilled people, to do. At the same time the team secretary played solitaire on her computer. I remember having to stamp each invoice at right angles otherwise it was rejected. I used to tell people that every time I use that stamp 'a little piece of me died'. How funny it is to look back now, being a business owner, an entrepreneur and knowing what I know.
I know that doing work you hate breaks your spirit. I know that management is overrated but leadership rocks. I know the stress and panic of not being able to pay the bills. I know the real difficulty of key man dependencies. I know how much time and effort is spent doing things to just remain legal. And I know how important it is to let people focus on what they love.
We can only be true to ourselves if we know ourselves. I’d highly recommend doing tests and completing questionnaires to discover what makes you tick. Only then can you be sure to focus on the things that you love, not the things that you’re good at. I have learned that there is a big difference.