With sheer determination, change can occur quickly

Last week I confirmed my _SocialStarters place for February 2016. I am so excited. I can’t believe that in 6 months time I will be starting a new phase of my life.

Looking back to when I started to get this ball rolling, I was surprised to find it wasn’t really that long ago. It was early June that I thought a career change was an option and totally possible. Going to the The Escape the City taster session turned my internal light back on.  Thanks to the talk by Matt Trinetti and The Escape Manifesto I am on course for major lifestyle changes. All of this happened only a mere 7 weeks ago.

This isn’t to say that I have made spur of the moment decisions. I haven’t. The last 6 weeks have allowed me to take practical small steps in the right direction and thus provide me with the confidence to aspire for something much bigger, yet unknown. More importantly for me, I am okay with the idea of not knowing.  This is a massive step change for me as I am someone who has previously been more comfortable with black and white.

I have done a hell of a lot of research and planning to get me to where I am, and I am feeling the benefits of the effort I have already put in.  I feel more confident in my own ability and I am optimistic about what the future may bring.

My biggest concern revolves around not having the right people around me, so I have actively been taking steps to connect with different people.  I have signed up for events and talks but the biggest benefit to date has been offering my skills on a pro bono basis. People are approaching me.

I have engaged with really interesting and inspiring people who have set up and run organisations I would never have come across.  It’s been a fantastic opportunity and a great learning experience and I’m really excited about a project I have just been discussing with a potential new client.

Right now, the opportunities appear endless.  For me, anything is possible.  No problem is unsolvable, you just have to work out how to approach it and be determined to make change happen.

You have to know what you want… that ideal job

As planned in my last update Getting Granular, I have been actively working away on my targets for this week. Right now I am feeling very inspired and hopeful. It’s been a progressive week, in many ways, which started with focusing  on getting onto paper what my ideal job was.  A lot of it was just things I like about my present role and things I enjoy doing that should be a main part of my job but aren’t because I work in a mammoth of a machine for an organisation and I am a mere cog.  The culture is definitely killing me, whether it be slowly or fast I’m not quite sure yet but I sure done want to hang around too long to find out.

A Clear Vision

So I wrote my job description. It is by no means full and complete. I’ve trained myself to just be able to get things done without worrying about it being perfect and complete. If the bare bones are there, it’s a starting point. I can’t grow something which doesn’t exist so I aim to get anything down just as long as it’s something. I wrote down five aspects I enjoyed and would like to continue doing.  I felt a weight had been lifted; I had a clearer vision of what I enjoyed.

Here’s where the strangest thing happened. My current job has been under review for the last few months because I have raised that it is not fit for purpose from a business point of view. I have had various discussions about what might work better but nothing has been agreed.

The day after I write my ideal job description, I come across an article about replacing Chief Innovation Officers with Innovation Enablement Leaders – the IEL role is to my surprise more or less the job I had drawn out for myself. To top things off,  my boss raises the question about the direction of my role again. It could not have been more perfectly timed.

The organisation I work for needs to go undergo a number of cultural changes before it is ready to take the next step. It wants to be more innovative; it needs to be, but everything that is a move from the norm is a struggle, or fails because the foundations are poor. The house isn’t in order and there’s too much bureaucracy and internal politics.

The previous discussions I had about my role have been merely plasters over a wound. They don’t treat the cause. I like to use the sand castle analogy. I can build a castle and make it huge, but if the foundations are poorly arranged then the sea will just erode away anything I build.

Insight, Values and Opportunities

With my newly developed insight and the timely article, I feel that actually my role should be something different, more than a plaster, more like a breeze block. This sounds like an amazing opportunity; to be doing what I want to be doing, however I am only part excited by it. I am not jumping for joy, but why?

Fact is I no longer like my employer. There are parts of the business that don’t fit with my values. I never wanted to work for a religious organisation but it is becoming more so. It’s a huge machine and everyday is an uphill battle. I spend more time thinking about and trying to resolve politics than doing the things that make a difference to the bottom line. Besides, I have felt like my skills will diminish if I don’t leave soon. I don’t practice what I am self learning fast enough and I am impatient and thrive on growth.  Although this opportunity is tempting, I’ve learnt to stick to my guns.  If it doesn’t fit with my values and what I am striving for, then I shouldn’t choose it. The role is right, but the environment is wrong; I’m striving for the full package.  I am more excited about leaving this all behind to start a new phase of my life.

My manager has no idea of my intention to leave but as we have been discussing a change in role, the time is fast approaching for that awkward conversation. I have however made a plan – a proposal of sort – for what I’d like the role to do and to make it a six month project. This way the project is defined and I get to help deliver substantial changes which should leave them in a much stronger position than they are in now. That’s the theory anyway.

My vision for the role is to build innovation capacity so that they can deliver innovative solutions. It’s a self sustaining model and it’s about capacity building which is ultimately what I stand for. Empowerment of individuals who can collectively make a difference. I feel excited by this. I just hope they buy it!

Making Substantial Progress

Other progresses I’ve made have been about what to do after my placement. I have more ideas now. If the project above succeeds that’s a string to my bow as I’d definitely like more of that. But having returned to The Escape Manifesto – my Bible – I have found inspiration from the suggested readings and case studies of fellow escapees. The article that resonates with me most right now is How to become an idea machine. Reframing questions:  “when is an idea too big” re thought as “how do I make all ideas smaller and achievable”. The Richard Branson story of how he started the airline business inspired me to have faith and confidence in myself. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do anything new because I didn’t have the right expertise but you know what, when you break it down, it becomes instantly possible. The opportunities now appear to be endless. I shut down many ideas because  I thought they were too big, but now I have a renewed energy to chase those tennis balls.

If you read The Escape Manifesto or talk to anyone from Esc, you will immediately understand the tennis ball reference. It’s about finding your passion.  Apparently, it was Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, who made the first reference to Tennis Balls in his MIT Commencement Speech but I first heard it at the Esc taster session I attended.

With my renewed energy and focus, my mental to do list has grown exponentially. I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed with the things I want to cover and get through.  I woke up with a busy mind, which frankly is not a great way to start the day.

Prioritise and Chill Out

As I have made a lot of progress in identifying things I need to read, sites I need to visit, videos I need to watch, people I might want to connect with, I feel a prioritisation exercise looming. Being someone who can often be impatient, I have to remind myself that this is a marathon and not a sprint.  I need to pace myself to avoid burnout.

This week I will:

  • Get organised – make lots of lists on my OneNote account so that they are accessible where ever I am.
  • Prioritise the information I want to get through
  • Decided on my meetups as I’ve still not done this
  • Confirm my _SocialStarters placement

Getting Granular

Time seems to just evaporate and before you know it, you forget what you are striving for.  At least, that is how I have let myself feel in the last week or so.   But it’s ok!  I have managed to drag myself out of the pit and as of today, I have regained my strength and am determined to be even more focused.

A few weeks ago, I went to a talk at The Escape School – it was a taster session about their Escape Tribe.  They describe it as “a community experience combined with an expert education in career change. Accountability, inspiration, and confidence to move you from thinking into doing”.  An opportunity to “find direction and transition towards more fulfilling work”.

It really sung out to me and I loved the session.  I felt really connected and inspired and truly believed in what they were saying.  It was like they had experienced everything I was feeling.  God forbid, they had been there too!  Joining the Tribe would have been amazing, but alas, I don’t have the funds.   I have no doubt the benefits would have been priceless but I really need the money for my escape fund.

This is all a bit chicken and egg, and it’s all rather frustrating.  Even sitting and writing about this situation makes me feel all weird and overwhelmed.   I feel anxious.  I’d rather just not think about it, but the not thinking doesn’t help the situation, so I am forcing myself.  The more uncomfortable I am about doing something, the more I clearly need to write about it.

I have an idea of what I want to do when I escape from my current job, correction, I know what I want to do and I know how much money I need to do it.  So you may be thinking, what’s the problem? Why would I need the tribe?  Well, my escape plan seems a little flawed.  I want to leave my current job to do a 6 week _SocialStarters immersion programme as a Social Enterprise Consultant, but that’s as far as my plan goes.  I am adamant that I don’t want to return to my current role so am not even entertaining any form of sabbatical. But what happens after?

This is where I become overwhelmed with information and I end up doing nothing in order to just make it stop. I think being part of the tribe would help me focus and help alleviate some of the anxiety, but I am getting desperate to leave my job, so much so I am reassessing dates and budgets.  Money spent on the tribe would have negatively impacted the escape fund, but it would have had a positive impact on the planning and anxiety.  For me, the escape fund won, rightly or wrongly, this is where I am at.  On my own!

Small Steps

Via The Escape School’s website, you can sign up to a whole host of inspiring emails.  I think I have signed up to all of them! Yesterday’s carried a link to: Should I worry about….Not knowing what I want to do with my life? podcast.   I listened to it on my way into work and it’s given me a new lease of life on chasing my escape goal.  It was like being gently kicked up the backside. I feel a need to get organised again.  Things went a little bit awry last week, so I am addressing that by making my plan more granular.

The Plan

As it stands the plan says:

  • Commit to _Socialstarters programme for February
  • Start a blog
  • Offer my skills via online volunteering
  • Leave job end of January 2016
  • Save £x each month
  • Attend some meetups to network and meet more people

I think you will agree; it’s pretty broad.  So far, I have interviewed with _SocialStarters but am yet to commit.  This is partly down to having a few other major commitments that need sorting first but it’s in motion.

I am volunteering my skills via pimpmycause and have consulted with several organisations already.

I have attended one meetup, see previous blog and I have booked to attend a masterclass on 1 August about Conversation, social skills and influence.

I am saving. And yes, I have started my blog; you’re reading it, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Although I am ticking things off my list, I don’t feel like I am making any progress, making enough impact, so as of today, I aim to set myself smarter goals and the goals will be set per week. I need to be accountable to myself and I will use this blog to track my progress.   The steps were too big, so I’m breaking them down.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am very goal driven. Set me a goal and I will do whatever I can to achieve it.  When I am goal-less I am like a lost soul out at sea, just drifting.

The Escape Manifesto  Manifesto-Large-poster

The guys from The Escape School published an incredibly useful book The Escape Manifesto.  I devoured the book in a few hours.  It’s full of practical things you can do to make the escape happen and as it is written by people who’ve been in the same situation as I am now, they get it, they really do.

The benefit of reading it through a Kindle App meant I could highlight all the things I needed to do and refer back to them easily at the end.  I will refer back to the list this evening and address what needs to be done this week.

Finally, my list for this week:

  • Go back and review The Escape Manifesto to do list
  • Go through Meetup options and identify at least 3 more talks to attend before end of August
  • Create my perfect job description – this one has been on my mental to do list for ages. I need to write it down as it may provide some clarity for post placement.