I moved to London, from South Africa, when I was 18 years old, FRESH out of high school! I had a plane ticket, a small amount of savings and was off to the UK, where I practically knew nobody! After a few weeks of staying with family, who I had only met for the first time, and after sleeping on the floors of friend’s bedrooms in London, I eventually found myself a room in a shared house with 8 other people. I was, however, still practically on the floor and sleeping on a fold-out camping bed!
After a year in London, I had climbed the ranks and moved into a bigger share house with 13 people! I had transitioned onto a mattress in a bedroom with my four new roommates. We had bunk beds in our bedroom and every night felt like I was on holiday because we got to chat the night away!!
I had also just cracked myself, my first real job…I was working for an Investment Bank in London. I had no degree and only had a high school certificate, so I seriously could not have been happier! It was my foot in the door, I knew nothing about banking but I loved numbers. I thought that if I could be the best filer in the world, then maybe one day they would give me more responsibility. I don’t know if it was my filing abilities, or just that I would bounce into work every day with a big smile on my face, but after 1.5 years they decided to teach me something which involved using a computer!
My job was to literally walk between buildings and pick up trade tickets (shows you how old I am!!) and to then organise and put them into files in the correct order. I developed my own system, which I thought was the best out there 😉 I was proud as punch. I also thought I was the bee’s knees and had the best job ever. No jokes! This was my big breakthrough. It was certainly better than medical trials and re-packing broken beer bottles, which were some of my previous jobs in London!
Fast forward 18.5 years and I was happy that my Investment banking career had served it’s purpose. It was time to leave and do something I was more passionate about. Something that gave back to the world in a more meaningful way!
6 years ago, I tried to leave banking for the first time. After returning from a 6.5 month sabbatical, travelling around South America, I was ready to put my renewed energy back into Banking and make a name for myself! The problem was, when I got back, I had changed. I had seen another world and heard all the cool things that other people did for jobs and careers. 4 months after being back from South America, I left Investment Banking, for the first time…
I left thinking that I was going to set-up a tech business and create an App, which would make me millions and be my next career! My friend and I, who was based in New York, were literally building an App to challenge Tinder. Well, the problem was, we knew very little about developing Apps and about building a business too, so that didn’t last long…
I returned to Colombia and did a bit more travelling but sadly after 5 months, I was back working for another Investment Bank, slightly demoralised. After telling everybody about my new App business I was creating, I pretty much returned to banking with my tail between my legs. I had tasted the life I wanted but it now seemed a distant memory. So going back was tough and almost a little embarrassing (I had a bruised ego!), but I had to do it….
At least when I went back, I worked as a contractor and not a full-time employee, which gave me a bit more flexibility and income too. However, my first two manager’s were very difficult people. They were ‘lifers’, which meant that their job was the most important thing ever and they expected the same from everyone who worked for them…
I’m never one to shy away from hard work, or long hours, but these guys were next level. Heck, the reason I went contracting was because I wanted to have more flexibility around my working hours and be more removed from office politics. I guess, you can never fully escape either, especially when working for an Investment Bank!
One of my managers loved to work early morning’s and the other one, late evening’s. They expected the same from me and everyone else. The work was certainly very interesting and I did learn a lot, however, it wasn’t me, nor was it fulfilling enough. I felt I wasn’t really contributing to society, fulfilling my potential, or living a life I desired that was on my terms. I was back in the rate race and a slave to the system.
I definitely had much bigger goals than spending the rest of my life working for an investment bank!! I longed and dreamed to be doing something different. All of my spare time at home and a lot of my time in the office was spent researching what I really wanted to do!
I only looked forward to going into the office to see my colleagues and for the one hour at lunch when I could do research on my side hustle. I never looked forward to the actual work, or to my managers breathing down my neck! I did really look forward to my ‘working from home’ days though 😉
I certainly wasn’t being the best or most productive employee, which is not something I’m proud to say. You do learn quickly though, that when the motivation is gone, it’s a telltale sign to move on.
I would work in the evenings trying to set-up my side hustle for when I eventually left my job. I knew that running it as a side business was never going to really get the traction I wanted it to. So my job started becoming a hindrance and slowed me down.
Working as an investment banker for so many years, I desired to have more freedom and wanted to work for myself by doing something more purposeful in life. The grass certainly looked a lot greener on the other side!
Deep down, I really wanted to start giving back more in the world. My career had been so one way and money orientated and that left a big void in me. I also knew that one day, I would want to see my kids grow up and be a father who was present and got to spend a lot of time with them! I didn’t want to miss out on so much of their childhood, as I saw happen for most other parents who worked in banks 🙁
The struggle is real
When I first left Banking, I thought I had a plan and knew what I needed to do. However, looking back I really didn’t have a well thought out plan at all! Nor, a good idea, what I wanted to do, or how I was going to earn money. I definitely hadn’t thought it through properly or realised how tough the transition would be.
There were also those people who would question why would you give up a ‘successful’ and well-paid job to go and do something else. ‘Like, WOW….how to quickly kill a person’s dreams!’ Luckily, my African skin is pretty damn thick and I have a stubborn streak in me 😉
To be honest, it was a pretty unsettling though. I was someone, who was always organised and who had a plan, but this time I was feeling a little lost. I also felt like a one trick pony, who only had Investment Banking experience which was not necessarily transferable.
You only live once
During my second stint back in Banking, I realised that I had a skill in helping people, in motivating them, in listening to them. I also became aware that there are many profound skills that you acquire when working for investment banks, which can transfer into so many aspects of life and other careers. Things like; work ethic, time management, organisational skills, people management, dealing with stressful situations, understanding finance, project planning, together with many others. Also, if you are good and competent enough, then you can teach these things to other people too!
I end up spending three years back in Banking. During that time, I was meticulously scheming and devising a proper plan for when I could one day leave. One day when I could leave with the confidence I needed, also with enough money to last me for a while. I had a set of things planned out to keep me busy, to stay motivated, to keep moving forward, to be continuously learning and acquiring new skills the whole time too!
One year into my new journey after leaving Banking, I had tried my hand at everything which interested me by doing tons of courses and programs! I was initially going to get into high-end sports coaching and personal training. That was, after all, everything I thought I knew, besides my banking knowledge. So I trained to be a Yoga Teacher, Meditation Teacher and Chef, but then one day it all clicked….literally, it was an amazing revelation!
There is an art and science to coaching and I knew that I needed to learn how to be a great coach if I wanted to train high performing athletes and people. So I completed an Executive Coaching program to learn those coaching skills. That program was an absolute game changer for me.
I also received coaching during the whole program, which totally blew me away. Having someone who is neutral and sees things from a different perspective to you, will absolutely change your life and it did for me! The coaching program reminded me of my love for business and for helping people find their hidden talents, true strengths and for realising their potential.
Being in a coaching partnership, made me really understand the value and necessity of having a coach to guide you through times of confusion and the unknown.
Execution and sacrifices
If you are planning to leave a job which is unfulfilling then you certainly need to have a plan of action. If you are planning on going the entrepreneurial route, then save double the amount of money you will think you need. If you are considering changing industries, then start putting your feelers out early in those industries which you are interested in working in. They will take you if you are the right person, I promise!! Skills are adaptable and can be learnt. However, a good attitude, hard work and strong ethics are generally something you always have instilled in you.
You are going to have to come home and work in the evening’s, make sacrifices by not attending social events, possibly alienating yourself a little and definitely working on some weekends too. Attend events, read books, watch videos, do courses and connect with others who have done what you want to do!
You will find a new tribe and lose a few people along the way too….self-discovery and change does that.
The true short cut is getting someone and learning from people who have already done what you are trying to achieve, like a mentor or coach!
You will question every decision and have tons of self-doubt
By making the transition to working for myself, some of my preconceived ideas were quickly quashed. Like, “I’ll work less, have a cushy lifestyle, sit back and watch the money come rolling in!” That is the furthest thing from the truth ever! I have worked much harder than I have ever before. Much harder. Sorry to my previous manager’s, as I now realise my true working output!
Things will definitely not happen as quickly as you want them to. PATIENCE is the absolute integral part of the ingredients when going it alone. You need to always remain flexible and ready to pivot, because things do change and so do you. You are going to have to dig deep and find a new type of motivation within you, because it’s much more difficult running your own business than it is going into the office each day, which may seem surprising!
There are many moments of self-doubt and questioning your decision to do this, but when that happens you have to re-calibrate, take a step back and remember why you made this change. You need to keep an eye on the end game, as hard as it sometimes may be. The thing I have mostly missed is seeing people in person each day… it’s not until you don’t have something, that you realise you miss it.
The mindset of going from working in a corporate environment for 18 years, to starting your own business is one of the biggest challenges I faced. You do eventually figure things out though and one thing I realised was, that I was spreading myself too thin and needed to niche up. I had to stop trying to do too many things and catering for too many people. I had to niche up so that my prospective clients could find me. I had to drop the health and fitness side of coaching and focus on Executive and Lifestyle Coaching. Start with a niche, get traction, and then branch out. That is one of the only reasons I am able to write this today.
It will be the best decision you ever make in your life
The flip side is that there is nothing more satisfying than being your own boss. You have no office politics, no manager breathing down your neck. You are in charge and responsible for absolutely everything and it feels great. I now have the flexibility to work from where I want…soon we’ll be moving to Portugal and building our dream house. It’s near the beach too, which has been a life long dream of mine. Goodbye suits, hello shorts!!
When we have kids, I’ll be able to be that Dad I mentioned earlier.
After completing this change in career, I’m now able to help people on a daily basis and have a direct impact on their lives. I actually receive praise and thanks for the work I am doing, not something I could say happened often when working for an Investment Bank. It puts a smile on my face that I am now giving back to the world.
I’m co-host of a Podcast too, The Ridiculously Human Podcast, and that has been a rock and guiding light in my life. The people we have met, the discussions we have had and the community we have built, has been a life changing experience. 100% LIFE CHANGING!!!
Expect to be a better version of yourself
It’s fair to say that changes like this are transformational. All the fear, angst and uncertainty you have at the beginning can be eliminated if you have the right tools and structure in place. I have changed a lot as a person. I certainly have a different outlook on life, I respect others stories and perspective more and have a new found appreciation for all entrepreneurs and solopreneurs!!
Now I’m able to spend more time doing things I really enjoy as well as adding value to this world. If I want to spend an hour reading a book and learning something new, I can. If I want to listen to a Podcast while I prepare dinner at 4pm in the afternoon, then I can. If I want to take a 2-hour lunch break to meet up with buddies, then I can. Freedom and flexibility are not things you can easily quantify.
All those little things, you had dreamt of doing, become a reality and your new norm. I have grown, changed and become more wise and confident. You only live one once and that should be a good enough reminder for all of us to keep chasing our dreams. Keep chasing them EVERY FREAKIN’ DAY!! Don’t delay or let anything hold you back from chasing your dreams. Start putting things in place now to realise them, before it is too late.
Enjoy the journey of life because either side of it, you’re not going to remember much of…