Just last week, during a heated discussion, I was reminded about how worried someone very close to me is feeling because I have failed to follow the road that should, apparently, have been an automatic choice. And, of course, an easy option - allegedly! Since I've been actively seeking work since Christmas, and we're now at the beginning of April, surely I haven't been trying hard enough? And had I moved back to the UK, I could certainly have found gainful employment by now. Instead of which I've been attending endless business meetings and have still failed to earn any money. And this kind of 'supportive' talk is meant to demonstrate caring and understanding - I am speechless, and exasperated.
Now, I appreciate the kind and loving intention behind these particular types of conversations, don't get me wrong. And at the same time I am astounded that I find myself in the position where I need to defend my actions? For this kind of conversation feels to me (rightly or wrongly) very similar to a series of accusations. For "facts" are reeled off to me, rather than questions being asked of how I'm getting on (yes, I know, always the coach!). To me it feels like a series of judgements on my quite obvious and blatant inability to "do the right thing" - whatever that is for heaven's sake! And to me it seems I stand accused of having clearly been stupid enough already, and yet I'm stubbornly continuing along the stupid path without any consideration of the consequences.
From my own perspective, I would describe my progress in a more positive way - and so this is my take on how I've come to where I am. In April last year my entire world collapsed. Everything, absolutely EVERYTHING I thought I could hang my hat on turned out to be nothing but a lie. The fallout has been horrific, and yet I've coped. Just as I was beginning to regain my confidence, and had started pushing for work as a business coach, I had an accident in July which meant it was suddenly physically impossible for me to do my work. As I was healing (emotionally and physically) I continued writing this blog. On the back of that, countless people were telling me that I should write a book. So I took their advice, researched the best way to approach this new field, and wrote a detailed synopsis and book proposal. And on 10th September, my first visit to the UK since I uncovered my estranged husband's double life, I was signed by the very first agent I approached. A well-known and respected London agent to boot.
That very same day, I met up with an old client of mine who had become a personal friend, and we discussed opportunities of working together. We hit upon a plan, and decided to go in to business together. This friend is a millionaire, and together we were going to create an amazing product that would help others and also make a fortune. This product was an idea of mine, so the deal was that I bring the idea to the table, while my friend was to provide the backing.
All well and good, and for the next two months we spent time together meeting people and pulling the business plan together. Things were looking good - we were making great progress, and while we were building the business, the plan was that I was to be paid just enough to cover my monthly outgoings. And then, towards the end of November, the project suddenly fell apart with no warning and no reason - and with none of the agreements fulfilled. I won't go in to the details here - perhaps I'll save that for another time and place - suffice it to say I was left reeling, on my knees and once again feeling totally let down and duped. And in a worse financial mess than I'd been in before! I had stopped any focus on my coaching work while I was putting time in to this new venture, and now it was so very close to Christmas that even by picking myself back up off the floor again, I was up against it to find any work!
But I DID pick myself up off the floor. And I DID head back out there. And I DID secure a piece of work in mid-December that just saw me through to the New Year without becoming homeless. Yes, it's been that bad. At the same time, I pulled together an impressive CV and started sending it out to recruitment agencies and responding to every job advertisement I could find that might suit. Training was an obvious route, but then so was sales and business development. With more than 500 contacts made, I was confident I could secure something. I was heading for anything at that time, and it was another "worried" relative who told me very curtly that I should go and work as a waitress over Christmas to earn money. Little did she know that I'd already been turned down for those kind of jobs, either because as I have no relevant experience, or because I'm too experienced, so I retorted that I'd happily work as a stripper if I could find anyone would have me! And as for the other 499 CVs I sent out? Nothing. Nada. Niente.
The assumption, however, seems to be that I haven't been trying - and I honestly don't know where that comes from. Perhaps it's because I refuse to stay down and depressed even when troubles keep heading my way thick and fast? Perhaps it's because I am constantly seeking alternative solutions? Or perhaps it's just because most people can't begin to comprehend the stuff I've been dealing with. Whatever the reason, I am finding that a smile goes a long way in the face of adversity.
And then in the new year friends, colleagues and old clients kept on telling me to keep hold of the Top Banana brand. The trademark belongs to me personally, and the brand carries a lot of weight. But I was still fighting against it - as you'll know from previous blogs.
One of these extremely well-connected friends went further than giving me advice - he actually opened up his contact book and pushed me back out there in to the corporate world with a big kick! And it was scary. To once again sit in front of high-powered business people and sell myself was very frightening. And there were occasions where I feared I might be sick, or just dissolve in to hysterical laughter during the meeting. Have you ever had one of those dreams where you're on show in some way - perhaps talking to a bunch of colleagues, or on stage doing something in front of the whole school? You know the one. Where you're well in to your stride and suddenly notice that you're totally naked? Well, I felt naked on numerous occasions, through countless meetings this year. And yet I've battled on - and made some amazing contacts.
In mid-February I decided to re-launch with Top Banana. So I built my own website. And now I've been able to gather together a fantastic bunch of professional people who are all willing and enthused about working with me the Top Banana way. And I have the first team meeting arranged for 22nd of this month, as you know. I have three pitches for business out there at the moment. I also have promises from four large organisations (all well known brands) for big projects that will kick-off in the summer. I have three well-connected colleagues who are currently opening their contact book for me. And I have forged a close relationship with the fabulous owners of another great training company who will hire me for the first bit of associate work they can find for me.
So, yes, we may now be at the beginning of April. But it's only been just over six weeks since I started working on my new website, and began creating my team of Top Bananas. And now I am able to offer a service that is so deep. So rich. So wide in it's offering that the clients I'm now talking with are blown away by the strength of solutions I can now provide. As one client said just a couple of weeks ago when I explained I'd split from Cam "Half the size, but more than twice the power!"
And yet just last night I again found myself in the position where I felt I had to justify where I am? Perhaps it's just my perspective, and perhaps I've become a bit prickly - but quite frankly, I think that's an OK place to be! What normal human being wouldn't now be feeling a little sensitive and battle-weary if they had been in my place?
Yes, perhaps I have failed by normal standards - I certainly have the history of a failed marriage and business behind me. Perhaps I AM now therefore being unreasonable with my dreams and determination to create something spectacular. Perhaps I HAVE chosen the road less travelled.. but then again, by anyone's standards, I have been living "a life less ordinary" since my earliest childhood memories!
And, well, the fact is, we all of us choose our own path. Our own journey through this maze of adventure we call life. It seems that I just happen to have made more colourful choices and taken more unexplored routes than those of many people around me. Does that make me wrong? I don't think so. Does it make me an explorer? An adventurer? A pioneer? Absolutely it does. Loud, proud, and determined to fulfill my passions. We only have one life - a lesson I learned from an early age. I can't speak for anyone else, but as for me, well I intend to follow this heartfelt advice from a feisty 83-year old lady called Mavis Leyrer:
Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "Holy sh*t, what a ride!"