Unless you are Royalty, have very rich parents, disabled or part of the feral class, the chances are that at some stage you will need to work to survive. Most of us don't enjoy doing it but unless we work, we will not have any money…and there is very little you can do in this life without money.
When I was growing up the socially ideal path of life, was pretty much the same for everyone…go to school, then University, get a good job, get married, get a mortgage, have kids and die.
If you were lucky enough to reach retirement age, then you were allowed to enjoy your final years doing what you wanted but usually with limited funds and a body that’s falling apart…lovely!
As someone who had no idea what he wanted to do in life, the early part of mine was very much that of the social ideal. I was actually very ambitious (can’t say it with a straight face anymore) and wanted the successful career with everything that it brought, in truth mainly the money.
Unfortunately like many, as my career developed I realised that reaching my career goals, wasn’t just dependent on my ability. I was doing ok, good money, decent lifestyle, enjoyed numerous annual holidays and received all of the benefits that large corporate companies offer.
However the problem was something that I just couldn’t handle…playing the corporate game.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of enduring, it’s when you have to say nice things to people that you know are trying to shaft you, because you don’t want to upset them or affect your career. People that you struggle to look at because you can see right through them but end up wasting a Friday evening ‘team building’ because the mortgage needs paying and it’s the right thing to do.
Although I don’t think that I’m naturally unwelcoming, my bullshit antenna is finely tuned. I can’t see the point of wasting my time listening to someone who is clearly lying, when I can just call bullshit and we can move on. Similar to Christmas when we have to be nice to people we don’t really like, I much prefer to be true to myself and continue to ignore them. Miserable old sod? Maybe. True to myself? Always.
Unfortunately corporate life doesn’t allow that and I was left in a frustrating void between sucking up like everyone else and doing what was morally right for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t try playing along but it rarely lasted more than an hour and deep down I just couldn’t accept that my values had been bought.
What is often overlooked or maybe just accepted as part of life, is the impact work has on your health and happiness.
I often look at how famous politicians, football managers and even a few friends, have aged over a relatively short space of time due to the pressures of work. Yes they have the money and the lifestyle but they never look truly happy. Is money, social acceptance, ego etc really more important than health and happiness?
For me it wasn’t and in 2005, I decided to start working my way back down the corporate ladder. Although this wasn’t the result of any sort of meltdown that I had seen others experience (I simply didn’t care enough), working away from home and the corporate environment was having a negative impact on my health and happiness.
I had always enjoyed sport but the need to pay the mortgage etc took priority, resulting in me weighing 132kg and unable to do most things people see as normal.
Clearly working back down the ladder was fraught with challenges, predominantly salary expectations, varying company cultures and Line Managers frustrated at my arse covering abilities, whilst exposing theirs. It was entertaining while it lasted but came to an end in 2008 with a compromise agreement, where an employer pays you an inflated sum to leave because they can’t find a reason to sack you.
Fortunately it came as no surprise and in the three years since giving up on my ‘proper career’, I trained hard, lost weight and studied for a far more rewarding career as a personal trainer. I knew that it was going to be a struggle financially, especially at my age and previous income but it was something that I was determined to make a success.
The original plan was to work at the local gym where I had trained, it was a national gym across the UK and had everything needed. Ironically it was at a time when PTs were starting to be outsourced to save costs, which had been my corporate career that I had just left. As I understood the philosophy and knew how it would develop, I decided to focus on training from people’s homes instead.
With hindsight it would probably been easier having a part time job to ease the financial burden but you learn from your experiences. Most significantly my age wasn’t a factor, if anything coupled with my weight loss success it was a real plus. Many people feel intimidated by the stereotypical personal trainer, so an old bloke with poor humour was a bit of a niche for me.
Fifteen years and all sorts of amazing experiences later, I don’t have a single regret.
Gone are the days of multiple annual holidays, top hotels, nice salaries and smiling at people because I have to. I now live in a new country, 100 metres from the sea, work for myself, am usually skint but am much happier and healthier than before.
I have helped many clients achieve results that they never believed possible, which is far more rewarding than anything corporate life could offer. Yes I still need money because that’s the way life is but it doesn’t rule my life or force me to do things that I struggle with morally.
Life is all about choices and if you want to chase the money, then that’s fine and as long as you are nice, I wish you well. However it’s not for me.
My life is all about new experiences, having fun and dying without a single regret. Only time will tell if it was a good game plan but I’ll be dead by then, so it doesn’t really matter.