Five years ago I was broke and trying to change career

It’s always darkest just before dawn

“I’m leaving.”

Two words that changed my world forever. It was two weeks after our eighth wedding anniversary and just four months after our second child was born.

I had no clue. Apart from me losing my job a few months previously, I thought all was right in our world. I’d got an interim role, we had almost £50K in savings, we lived in a beautiful home, our second child had just arrived fit and well.

I guess not. This isn’t an ex-wife bashing post, far from it. She’s happily re-married to a lovely guy (the reason, it turned out) who is an excellent step-dad, and I’m about to re-marry to an amazing woman, and, most importantly, the children are great.

At the time, the way I reconciled it was to accept my 50%. I refused to accept or dish out more blame than that: two people, one relationship. Own my half, move on.

A single Dad with two kids and a mortgage

What it did mean was that I became a single Dad with two kids half the time and a full-time mortgage!

The £50K vanished in a puff of legal bills, mortgage payments, and more, over the next 18 months, which meant that by the time I could no longer afford to keep the family home. I had to downsize and borrow from my folks to scrape the deposit for a new home.

Over the next few years, it was the hamster wheel of life. Get up, kids in nursery, race 30 miles down the M6 to work, race back…you know the drill.

Added to which the UK Government’s austerity programme was in full swing, like the Grim Reaper’s scythe cutting down all before it. Seeing the writing on the wall, I left my public sector job and took one working back in the private sector.

“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.”

That line from one of my favourite songs turned out to be startling true. Six months in, on a Tuesday, my boss called me into his office at 4:55 for a “quick catch up.”

“I’m letting you go,” he said to the amazement of both me and the HR rep he had hurriedly dragged in. Five mins later, I’m clearing my desk. The drive home was horrendous. Anger, frustration, worry all swirled around in my head as I called my Dad.

“You aren’t going to do anything stupid, are you?” he asked. I knew what he meant. “No, Dad, don’t worry.”

That night I went home and unsurprisingly, couldn’t sleep. So I came downstairs, poured a glass of Jameson, grabbed a notebook and pen, and set to work.

Down the middle of the page went a vertical line. On the left, I wrote down the worst things that might happen as a result of this. The tears flowed at first, and then they stopped. As I wrote, it all became less scary, less emotional.

Then, my thoughts exhausted on the negatives, I set to work in the potential positives down the right-hand side. I refused to stop until I had twice as many positives as negatives.

I then went to bed and slept like the dead for nine hours.

I knew what I wanted to so I moved heaven and earth

The truth is I’d been falling out of love with my career in corporate communications for a while. For the last few months, every day felt like walking through treacle.

Aged 40, I realised it was time to figure out what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. I’d never really known. I had some idea aged 18 that I wanted to work in personal development after listening to the likes of Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy but had no idea how.

Almost twenty years later, I was in a rut and miserable. As scary as it was, I gave myself three months off to figure out what I wanted to do. “What’s a few more grand in debt when you are where you are?” I reasoned.

It worked. Within three months, I figured it out.

I invested money I didn’t have

What began was a journey to make my new dream a reality. I invested money I didn’t have from credit cards to become a coach.

I had to go back to comms work to pay the bills, but it was only ever as an interim. The mindset shift that subtle change in employment status provided, coupled with a burning desire to change my career, meant I was willing to do whatever it took.

By that, I mean more debt, more hours working, and less sleep. I’d work, come home, be with the kids, put them to bed, then study. Then get up a 5 am and read for 90mins before repeating the day.

My old job in the public sector asked me to go back on a 12-month contract to help rebuild the team.

I went on a two-day course to become an accredited #mentaltoughness trainer

A few years into my career change process and realised that I wanted mental toughness to underpin my focus on personal development. That was the vehicle I was going to tie my wagon to.

I invested more money, I didn’t yet have and went on a two-day mental toughness practitioner course to learn how to assess it. Twenty minutes in, the door opens and in breezed a delegate who had got lost en route and was late.

There was one space left in the room, next to me. “Hi, I’m Jo, sorry I’m late can I sit here?”

Five years on from that day, and Jo is now my fiance. I’m running my own business, and last year earnt more than 30% more than I ever did as a Head of Department in my corporate life.

The debt is gone, and we are in the process of buying our own home.

When you chase your dreams and don’t stop, life has a funny way of coming together

One of the things my Mum often used to say to me was, “If you don’t like something, change it and if you can’t change it, change your mindset to it. But whatever you do, don’t whine about it.”

It’s taken a decade, my son is now 13 and as tall as me, and daughter is catching up fast. What I’ve learned is that when you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way. I’ve made the biggest progress when I invested more time and money on myself than on other things.

It’s scary as hell being made redundant, it happened three times in total. It’s also scary as hell starting out on a new path, but when you realise that what you really want is on the other side of fear, you’ll take that step.

It began with a simple decision that I wanted more for myself. I wanted to do something with purpose. When you find that sense of purpose then anything becomes possible.

As the Sunscreen song says:

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t…

“The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

What’s the best decision you ever made?

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Helping people use mental fitness for a great life. Author of Mental Toughness Metaphors — Stories to inspire resilience

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