Life’s too short

So it’s a new year and as everybody gets moving again there’s the usual talk of how determined people are to make this one different. Resolutions about personal change, ‘this is finally the year when…’, future goals being resolutely set. A world full of determination to make the best out of difficult times.

‘Determination’ – it’s a grim word isn’t it? Sums up the hard work involved in changing. And the reason why most of the changing people are talking and thinking about probably won’t happen. Because it seems like hard work, and life’s too short to add a load more hard work in on top of the hard, busy work you’re probably already doing, isn’t it?

Well no, not if the changes you want to make are really and truly what you want to do. But how would you know?

Walking around thinking. Always good for you.

Walking around thinking. Always good for you.

For years I would take this ‘changing little bits and pieces round the edge of my life’ approach. A new ‘time management’ system would be bought and laboured over so I could have such wonders as ’52 different weekends every year’. I was even allowed a ‘personal life goals’ category in this, obviously coming well after all the categories full of work goals.

I would set planned time aside to read books about career development (British) and ‘creating the life you want out of the life you’ve got’ (American) There were lots of them and they weren’t all complete rubbish.

But nothing really worked until, in the best Scouse tradition I ‘calmed down’.

Working out that what I was up to here might be called ‘career development’ or perhaps ‘dropping out of society altogether’ – I remembered that the only life or career planning advice I’d ever had in my life had been at school, when I was 16 years old. The ‘careers master’ was a priest (yes I’d already knocked that career back) and after a very short conversation about my life, (as in, looking at a list of my marks and seeing which subjects I was best at) he recommended that my best bets were:

  • a job at the National Girobank, which just happened to be getting built next door to the school;
  • or a job with the Inland Revenue who would soon be opening a new office on land elsewhere in Bootle where the school used to be.
The National Girobank, Bootle. I didn't work here.

The National Girobank, Bootle. I didn’t work here.

Well I may have been only 16 but I knew I deserved a wider choice than this, so I ignored these suggestions, and from then on I ‘developed’ my own career in the usual way. A mixture of happenstance, taking opportunities and, I realised in this calming down, looking for work that I thought I’d, if not love, then at least like. Like most people.

Inland Revenue, St Martin's House, Bootle. Didn't work here either.

Inland Revenue, St Martin’s House, Bootle. Didn’t work here either.

Because life’s too short to deliberately spend it doing the wrong thing. And most of us are not a million miles out in the life and career paths we end up with. But as I did this ‘calming down’ (we’re in the early 1990s here) walking around Liverpool and Sefton Park in particular (yes, that had already started) the question that kept coming to me was ‘Yes but, what if you ONLY did work that you loved, wouldn’t that be what you’d be best at?’

And so began the adventures of my lifetime. Not hard determined work, but a series of adventures.

First of all the adventure of walking around, musing, thinking and finding out, out of all the things I could do, which ones I’d really love.

Then the adventure of going and seeing if I could change the shape of the job I had, so it filled up with more of the things I’d love to do. And lost the things I didn’t.

And then the continuing adventure of ‘a sense of place’ – having the idea, Sarah and I going part time at our jobs, and eventually setting off on our own road. Which brings us to now.

And in all this time we’ve been guided by that thought from Sefton Park, from when I calmed down, about only doing work that we love. And in all this time, from 1995 onwards, we’ve helped other people through ‘Finding the work that you love’. Time for themselves. To calm down. And begin their own adventure.

Finding your own road. And setting off on your own adventure.

Finding your own road.

Back soon with more about this ‘Finding the work that you love’. But in all this earnest ‘changing’ and ‘resolving’ and ‘new year, new you’ stuff that sounds so exhausting, I just wanted to point out, from my own experience, that there is another way. And its not so much like hard work.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Life’s too short

  1. Barry Ward

    Hi Ronnie,
    This is an amazing coincidence ! The careers advice I was given was to apply for jobs at the Giro or the Inland Revenue. This was after the tentative enquiry about whether I had a ‘vocation’ ! Can’t remember which particular priest it was who ‘specialised’ in careers advice, but whoever it was probably had as much expertise in this field as Father Delahunty ‘coaching’ the Rigby House football team.

    And do you remember about a week before our O-Levels we had to spend a week ‘contemplating’ religion (I think they called it a ‘retreat’ but it was held in Fr DeBono’s Youth Club ). This was instead of revising for the impending exams. Priceless!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Yes, in so many ways it wasn’t much of a school we went to was it? Dizzyingly person-centred career advice from someone who’d never had what you or I would call ‘a job’ – and football coaching from someone who’d never played football. (Though he at least was a nice bloke, which couldn’t be said of too many of them, particularly the ‘careers master’, who I recall as a sadist, whose main skill was being able to hit any boy in the class with a flying board duster with deadly accuracy.)

      And yes, I think there might be a whole blog in their ‘retreats’. Phrases like ‘toe-curling embarrassment’ and ‘mass outbreaks of stifled laughter’ come to me immediately.

      Reply

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