5 things about me
I got 'tagged' last week by Jodee from You Already Know This Stuff and I must confess that my first reaction was I secretly hoped that if I kept my head down this 'tagging thing' might just go away. Anyway, Dan at Unfolding Leadership also did the dastardly deed so I guess there's no escape. The problem is, I really didn't know how to respond, - all the funny little stories and interesting bits usually come out in context with other stuff, and maybe that will happen here in future posts. And in any case, I'm just a regular guy but with a wild hair up his ass, and I'm sure you don't want to hear about that.
So instead of the usual '5 things you didn't know' here's a rough outline of my journey through our world so far, in 5 themes:
My childhood years were a bit a nightmare really but I have absolutely no regrets because I learnt so much and it was only my own inability to see the Love that was there that made it seem so hard. I'll spare you the details because it's all water under the bridge now and pretty much forgotten, but one event I do remember was as a 10 year old seeing a film set in Canada with Grizzly Bears, wild rivers and huge forests. The next day I took my penknife and all my savings to school with me and instead of walking home that afternoon I got on the local bus to Crewe, the end of the line.
Still in my short school pants I went into the local Army and Navy store and bought a rucksack and a military compass. The rucksack dragged on the ground behind me but I remember feeling really good.....now that I had the starting requisites of a Canadian Trapper. My plan was that if I could get to the English Channel by daybreak I would be able to blag a ride on a fishing boat over to France and then make my way across Europe and on to Canada (geography wasn't my strongest subject). The police eventually caught up with me at 1am the next morning as I attempted to change trains at Stafford (200 miles away).
Later that week I was hauled up before the Chief of Police who explained that they had over 200 police officers out looking for me as well as most of the people from the local village. I was sorry, but only because I hadn't managed to get to Canada. Skiing in Vermont is this closest I've been since, so perhaps one day.
I left home for good at 15 years old and I needed to work, so from then on it was the school of hard knocks for me. But I don't think a lack of formal education is ever a problem. If you want to learn something there's always someone willing to share what they know, especially now with the Internet... it's so easy. I've always felt that if one person can do something, so can anyone else.... it's simply a question of finding out how. I feel we are limited only by what we can imagine is possible. I'm not a religious person but when I read as a child that Jesus said, "Greater things than these things shall ye do" those words somehow resonated with me, and on this one thing I have tended to take him at his word (in spite of the apparent lack of evidence to support the claim).
In my late teens I lived for a while with an aunt, uncle and two younger cousins. Many would describe the family dynamics as dysfunctional - a lot of screaming and shouting, and Peter often came home blind drunk, but what I remember most is the raw honesty and total lack of grievances. There may have been a lot to shout about but it was frictionless communication, and I had never really experienced that before - just 'say it as it is and move on'. It was a family grounded in honesty and love and there was just this incredible feeling of 'home'.
A while later, after Mary had died and I had moved on, my uncle Peter became ill so I took him into hospital. The Ward Sister went through the usual questions on the admittance form, asking Peter each question in turn, until she asked, ".. and what religion are you", to which Peter replied, "I deal direct". I laughed at the remark, but when I looked at the nurse she was definitely not amused, so I turned to Peter to defuse the tension, but he was just as deadly serious. The nurse ended up writing 'Deals direct' because Peter wouldn't have it any other way, but in the awkwardness of those few moments those two little words somehow got burnt right through me and have served me well ever since.
'Deal direct' means to me, to follow no-one else's doctrine except our own. It's to be open to everything, but believe in nothing until we have tested it out for ourselves. Does it work for me?... then that is what it must be. I think that the moment we follow someone, or something else, we cease to be true to ourselves and we become lost. In becoming lost we start to fear things, and with fear comes the need to protect things, and then we end up living a miserable little life trying to please other people rather than ourself, and wondering what could come around the next corner to upset our little lot. This to me is a description of hell. I think there's great freedom in being true to only what we personally know as true and offering no apologies for that... Not ever.
My first 'working' memory was as a six year old. I set up a little stall at my Grandad's garden gate selling fresh farm produce. Business was good until the day when Mr. Foyers - the farmer from along the road, pulled up in his tractor to reclaim
my his stock. In my early twenties I built a painting contracting business and sold that, then I started 'Free Spirit' - a outdoor pursuits retail chain (the 3rd. largest in the UK now), then a software company that built money management and technical analysis software for trading in the derivatives and forex markets, then I started a hedge fund in partnership with Oakes Fitzwilliam investment bank in London. That last business went bankrupt and in doing so it took everything that I personally owned with it -- I had given the banks a sh*t load of personal guarantees :(***. C'est la vie.
I'm now involved in a very 'Web 2.0' (?!?) type of startup that I'll tell you about as soon as I can. And I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. ;-)
It makes me laugh when people reflect and say, "I wouldn't change a thing". So you haven't learnt anything, right? It reminds me of the words from Joni Mitchell's song:
I've looked at life
from both sides now
From win and lose
and still somehow
It's life's illusions
I really don't
know life at all
I have absolutely no regrets about anything but on the same footing, if I knew then what I know now, I would change everything. I think our lives are like treasure hunt stories, and what we discover in each chapter we take with us to the next. Looking at it this way, life becomes a lot less serious and much more fun.
So I really have no idea what the future holds but I just hope that I'll have the willingness to keep wagering what that has gone before for what is still to come. That way the future may not always be 'easy' but always new and wonderful..... and besides, as I think Oscar Wilde once said, 'We should try everything once except folk dancing and incest'.
[cue: rising drum roll ] And the 5 people that I'm tagging are..........
 Often one of our parents, and often way after we have flown the nest.