In 1999 I made the decision to change career.
At the time, I was working with the most successful home building company in Australia. I had a senior position and was managing a small team. But I wasn’t satisfied.
I wasn’t satisfied with the pay check I received each week because I knew I offered so much more than what I was being paid. But that was only one problem.
I wasn’t satisfied because I knew I was capable of much more than I was currently doing. I may not have been able to jump straight into the shoes of the current General Manager, but I believed I had the capability to learn how to do that role well.
There wasn’t a real path for career advancement in that business. The truth was, there were only 2 positions that would be considered moving ‘up’.
Each position would require me to study. To get some more skills before I could take that leap.
I had a decision to make.
Did I really want to stay in the building industry?
For me to receive a promotion, I needed to study. But I had to ask myself; did I want to spend 3-4 years of my life studying for something that I really didn’t like?
So I deliberated on what I actually did like.
That’s a really hard question for most of us to answer.
Here’s $20,000 – now spend it on an education.
What are you spending it on?
I mean you, the reader… What are you spending that money on if I handed you a $20,000 cheque?
It raises the significance of the question doesn’t it. All of a sudden you can’t be flippant with your choice. Your first thought might have been ‘I’d love to do acting classes’ but then you think ‘Once I’m finished, do I really want to be a starving artist?’ You’ll also begin to consider that $20,000 is a lot of money. Do I really want to invest that much on acting classes?
Instead, you’re going to consider what happens well beyond that study. What the day to day will involve. What you’ll look like once you have that new job title. How will people think of you. Will it open doors to further promotion. Will you roll out of bed each morning anticipating another great day at the office, or will you get out of bed and feel like you feel now? Deflated. Unmotivated. Hopeless. Unappreciated.
I chose a to study something I realised I loved doing. In fact, I was doing it without being paid for it. Software Engineering.
I had been creating software for myself and my side projects for years. I wanted to make things easier. I wanted to build software that would improve the way we live and work. So the choice in the end became easy.
At the time, I was 29 years old.
Unfortunately, everything doesn’t always go to plan.
After completing my degree, I couldn’t find any work. The DOT COM bust had happened while I was studying and no one was employing software engineers.
I needed money.
After weeks of only looking for work as a software engineer and after sending out 65 applications and letters to software companies, I made a compromise.
I looked at the newspaper jobs for building companies.
I found that there were positions advertised that I could do easily.
They were offering enough money for me to pay the bills and get me out of the debt I had incurred over the last 3 years.
I applied, and took a job with a builder again.
This was a step backwards… Or was it?
While I was at Uni, I discovered something.
Yes, I discovered software engineering came easily to me. But something else became obvious. A few of the courses I had to take exposed me to management and business strategy.
I discovered then that I loved the management and strategy of business.
It’s funny when you set out to learn, you’ll often learn more than you ever expected. Have you noticed that?
When you want to learn how to catch fish, you’ll learn about fishing tackle, bait, casting a line, playing the fish. But then you’ll learn about tides, the moon, the ocean floor, feeding patterns, bird activity, how to launch a boat, seamanship and safety.
You may have wanted to learn how to catch fish but along the way you realised you love nature and all of a sudden you’re thinking about donating to Greenpeace and getting involved locally.
Discovering your life purpose is a bit like that. It requires paying attention to the triggers that set off inspired thought. Then as you follow those triggers you’ll stumble upon something new. Something that was previously hidden from you. Your eyes will light up and you’ll give it full attention. But that might not be the end of the journey. This new tangent will reveal even more to you. Now you’re on the yellow brick road heading somewhere and everything is fascinating.
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After going back to the building industry, it took a life changing event for me to realise I needed to stop wasting time on a path I didn’t want to be on.
That happened in 2007 when my father died suddenly. I then realised I didn’t have the ‘luxury’ of wasting time.
Three years later (2010) I’m out on my own starting my own company.
Twelve months after that (2011) I’ve started my second company.
Three years later (2014) I make the bold decision to wind down my first company – the one currently paying all the bills – and I’m taking on a completely new and unfamiliar role which is absolutely pursuing my life purpose.
Now here we are in 2015.
Last year, my wife declared “You’ve never really had the opportunity to pursue what you love.”
It’s true. I tried to in 1999. But that failed because doors closed.
Now, it’s different.
The only problem is, I’m also different.
I’m now in my early 40’s.
Who the heck starts a new venture in their early 40’s and makes it?
My wife Jayne and I have had this very discussion.
We’ve been bombarded with the young success stories of our time. Mark Zuckerberg is a perfect example. A young uni student makes it big with his business venture. It feels like success belongs to those who find the right path early on in life, don’t you think?
When was the last time you saw a news article of a 40+ year old making the big time?
Even our awards celebrate these young successful people. The popular awards 40 under 40 highlight great achievements by those under 40.
It’s a little harder to find highly successful people who only became successful later in life. So I had to do a bit of searching.
The best known story is probably that of Ray Kroc.
Ray Kroc bought McDonalds when he was 52 years old, and then grew that business to be the biggest fast food franchise in the world. Before then? Well Ray was a humble milkshake device salesman.
Wally Blume was 57 before he started his own icecream company Delani Flavours in 1995. 14 years later Delani had revenues that exceeded $80 Million.
Harland Sanders – the Colonel as many would refer to him – franchised KFC when he was 62.
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) began her painting career at the age of 78. Her paintings sell for over $1M.
Julia Child worked in advertising before she wrote her first cookbook at 50 years old. That launched a career for her as a celebrity chef.
Charles Darwin didn’t write the Origin of Species until he was 50. Before then he was basically a recluse.
Henry Ford’s name can be seen on cars around the world. He was 45 when he created the revolutionary Model T car.
Samuel Jackson was 43 before he had his breakthrough in acting. That was in Spike Lee’s film ‘Jungle Fever’
So, as I contemplate doing something different (again), I’m now seeing possibilities instead of road blocks.
That old saying ‘Life is what you make it’ couldn’t be more true for the people mentioned above. I hope it’s enough to inspire us all to think of new possibilities, new opportunities and most of all, to live a life that is more meaningful.