A big shout out to the fabulous Monique Bayer of Walk Melbourne, who has promised to motivate me on writing a business book this year. I’m considering a book on ‘99 Ways to Have Fun in Business‘ (what do you think?), so for today’s article I wanted to share one of the most fun-filled moments I have ever had in business … struggling to kick start my coaching practice in London.
November 2010: The subject of living overseas came up several times in my relationship with my beautiful wife, although we made a decision very early in our relationship that if we ever did move to London it would not be immediately post-university (as so many Australians do) but rather several years later, having established enough of our careers to transfer to high-paying professional jobs in the UK.
My career choices led me to business coaching, and Shirlaws. I spent several years writing our global blog (sadly, no longer online) which positioned me as an experienced coach internationally. And opportunities began presenting themselves. When the world fell off a cliff in 2009 we postponed any decisions, and in 2010 we realised that for us the London choice was now or never. We chose now. And to make the mid-recession transition easier, I lined up two long-term projects within the Shirlaws network where I could choose to work in either Australia or abroad. We were set. Tickets were booked with a 6 month transition plan.
The first, smaller, project collapsed about half way through the transition. The second, larger, project upon which our financial stability on the far side of the world was based, collapsed 3 days before we boarded the plane. I won’t name the poor bastard who had to call me with that news. I’ll always remember the skype call, sitting in the spare bedroom of a friend’s house because we had already moved out of home, packed half our belongings in storage and put the other half on a boat to London. How does this story lead to having fun in business?
I arrived in London in October with some reputation, no income, and not having fore-planned connections because me building my own coaching practice from scratch was never part of the plan. In fact, the only people I really knew were other Shirlaws coaches, themselves struggling due to the economy. I was selling myself in a market with few buyers, a sub-tropical Brisbane lad heading into a London winter, and counting down the days until my beautiful wife (also struggling to find work as a lawyer) would have to put return flights to Australia on a credit card to escape with our dignity.
On November 29, 2010, I scheduled two meetings with coaches knew me by reputation and would prove instrumental in helping me establish myself in London: Nat Olaiya and Ed Percival. Both meetings were in Putney – I wore my best suit, matched with brand new hiking boots because snow was forecast. I went by bus, with a hand drawn map of the two cafes because I had no smartphone or Zipcar account.
Nat gave me the choice to join him on a small gig, helping kick-off a new client of his. No guarantee of ongoing work, but it would pay a month’s rent and help me build relationships. Moreover, it was the first coaching income for my UK business.
And as I stepped outside to walk to meeting Ed, the sky opened. For the first time in my life I stood in awe as snow fell all around me, flakes on my Wil Valor suit and crunch beneath my Mountain Warehouse boots.
In that moment I had the choice to wallow wet and broke and a long way from home without an umbrella. Or to embrace this adventure where my best laid plans had collapsed but I was going back to business basics and experiencing my career in a whole new wonderland. I made the choice to embrace. I walked slowly to meet Ed with a smile on my face that I can recreate just by remembering that moment.
Choice. You have it always. You keep making a choice in each moment. That’s how to have fun in business.
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