Why I invented my own job and why you could too
What do you do for a living when the best part of a million dollars has been invested in your education?...That’s a lot of education…For me, it was more than half of my life in fact.
In a knowledge economy, you’d think I could do any job I wanted, right?
But that’s not how I felt when it came to crunch time deciding on a long term job at the end of my specialist training.
Nothing seemed to fit. I was like a grumpy kid who didn’t want to play with anyone…And I was so confused.
Perhaps I was bored. Or just tired. I mean, that was a lot of exams, weekends working, nights on call, documents filled in, papers written…not to mention interviews, vivas, case scenarios even a good old anatomy steeplechase where you’re presented with body parts that you have to name bits of in a race against the clock…Pretty strange, thinking back.
All that would easily warrant a year off doing nothing surely... But no, I was told it was time to decide what I was going to do until my retirement, or at least the next 5 years. Ugh.
“Get a safe job. Pay your dues. Then maybe you can do something you really like.”
I felt like a dolphin who’d swum the oceans and was starting to yearn for the next new adventure, but was being asked to settle in a swimming pool to jump through hoops in exchange for sardines…
Luckily, the run up to the big decision about jobs was marked by enormous uncertainty in the medical profession. The recession leading to austerity leading to cuts to public services, government and healthcare…The Health and Social Care Act transformed the face of public health and the jobs available…
The positive outcome was that it habituated me to massive uncertainty. [Here’s the bit where I go on about meditation] I’d developed a good meditation practice, done a lot of coaching and self-reflection and was able to stay relatively calm and self-aware in a storm. So I started to be less bothered by what appeared as professionally risky decisions…So what? Being born is risky.
A few adventures and one amazing trip to Alaska later, I went for it. I went for what I really wanted deep inside. First, inventing a job as a Consultant in International Public Health specialising in Disaster Risk Reduction (with my trailblazing boss at the time); and then as my own boss and Director of my own company.
I started enjoying memes like the Chinese proverb: “the person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person already doing it”; or Nelson Mandela’s: “it’s impossible until it’s done”. Or medical student, Roger Bannister’s story of running a mile in 4 minutes when it was thought impossible, and then in the year that followed his record, several other people running a 4 minute-mile... Sir Bannister showed them it could be done and so they did it.
To be fair, I’d always done things that were more outside the box than in. I was the only person who wanted to do public health at medical school and arranged and funded my elective to Cuba. I was the first to take my academic clinical role in my department and get my PhD funded by the second largest charitable foundation in the world and co-founder of the Human Genome Project.
Recipe for inventing your own job? A sprinkle of imagination, a dash of inspiration and an appetite for implementation.
But the stakes get higher as you grow older.
The truth is, I just started believing that something else was possible. Beyond the mortgage, the professional status and pension, I entertained the idea that another future could unfold from the realm of possibility…if I would just calm my fears, sit still and listen to the quiet whisper that spoke of a different future…
What can you do this week to quiet any fears and hear your inner-genie whisper of the magic you can make?
Will you sit still and meditate for a few moments? Set your imagination free?
Will you write with abandon to pour your thoughts on paper and decant the message your soul has for you?
Will you take action on the idea that comes, even if it scares you?
Go ahead. You may surprise yourself at how even more awesome you can be.
Compassion · Courage · Wisdom
p.s. The next Leaders Circle is CONFIRMED for 6pm on the 29th of March at Harley Street. We'll be talking about boundaries. What they are; why they're important; how to create them effectively so you can honour your own agenda (and not other people's). We'll have relaxing meditation, fun exercises and authentic dialogue to help you get clear, feel inspired and stay in action.
More details and REGISTRATION here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leaders-circle-reclaiming-no-to-make-way-for-your-dreams-tickets-43882077475
Super stoked to be co-hosting this webinar on “Creating the Impossible” (i.e. taking action on dreams you think are too far - they are actually closer than you think…) with Cathy Presland under the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) banner and the RSA Coaching Network I set up in 2016. The RSA's mission is to nurture initiatives for 21st Century enlightenment and socially progressive entrepreneurship. The Coaching Network's mission is to support the RSA mission one coaching conversation at a time. Our live London events have been popular and the RSA is supporting us to broaden access and reach through this first online event.
Hope you can join us. It's sure to be fun and inspiring!
More info and registration here (n.b. times are UK):