Six Lessons I Learnt From Leaving A Career In The City

06/01/2017 13:39

This first week back at work after the Christmas break is supposedly the biggest of the year for resignations. It's no surprise really - new year, new me and all. Social media has been aswash with posts on how to quit your job, upcycle your career and find work you love. It's made to sound easy but having been there myself I know that it's a hell of a lot harder in practice.

18 months ago I was living life by the script that Gen Y has been taught; go to university, get a 'professional' career, buy a house, settle down, get married, have kids...we all know how it goes. On the surface I had it all. The six figure salary in private equity, my own flat, the great social life - I was continuously busy, notoriously difficult to pin down and my diary was typically booked up at least a month in advance. Underneath it all though, there was a niggling feeling that something wasn't right. I wasn't happy. I think it was the monotony, the lack of purpose - every day was the same. Wake up, commute, work, gym / tinder date / dinner, commute, bed. I didn't know what I wanted but I knew that it wasn't the life I was living. I didn't want to look back in 30 years and think 'I wish I'd done...'

After running a marathon in Uganda in 2015 I realised that life is too short to not be doing what you're passionate about. With that handed in my notice, sold 95% of my belongings and followed my lifelong dream of moving to East Africa where I ran a charity and co-founded Grass Roots Cafe and Deli. Here are a few things I've learnt along the way:

1) There is no right time to 'jump'
Deciding on when to 'jump' was one of the hardest parts. Do I just quit without a plan and hope it all works out ok? Do I wait until after my bonus gets paid? The longer I left it, the more reasons I found to convince myself not to do it. There was no right time, no lightbulb moment. Once I started to vocalise plans, opportunities started to flow. Vocalising plans makes you accountable too. Go with your gut and just do it.

2) It's all about perception - positive attitude is everything
Pessimistic people really p*ss me off. As do people who blame others or circumstances for where they are in life. If you're not happy with something change it - it's you and you alone that can change your path in life. Every 'failure' or 'mistake' you can learn from. Do I regret spending five years working in finance? No, I learnt a huge amount, met some great people and without those experiences I wouldn't have the perspective or skills that I have today.

3) Time is our most valuable asset
Whilst in London I exchanged my time for money, spending hours working away in a job I didn't enjoy in order to earn more money to buy more crap. SO MUCH CRAP! I'd bought into a myth that acquiring things granted me security and happiness. As a pretty driven person, it was as if the amount of things I owned reflected how successful I was. I've learnt that the exact opposite is true. I now take time to spend it with the people I care about and take time to reflect about what I want from life.

4) Anything is possible
As cliche as it sounds, leaving the City and moving to Uganda taught me that anything really is possible. It doesn't mean that it's easy but it's possible. It was always a far fetched dream that I'd live in East Africa and now I've done it. A dream doesn't become reality through magic, it takes determination, self belief and a huge amount of hard work but if you want it bad enough you can achieve it.

5) In life, you'll always face the sceptics
When I told friends and family of the decision to move to Uganda alone, I wish I'd had a pound for every 'but you cant do that?', 'what about your flat?', 'what about your job you've worked so hard at?', 'you'll be so lonely'. My favourite was 'you're 28 you should be settling down, how will you ever find a husband if you move to Uganda?' - my response of 'oh I'll just wait around on Tinder watching my life pass by then should I?' didn't go down too well. Usually the only reason we doubt ourselves is because of the scepticism of others. It's a fact of life that you'll come across sceptics. It's how you deal with those challenges and your ability to keep focused on your goals that matters.

6) Life is for living
Life is short. Life is uncertain. Too often we act as if tomorrow is promised. It isn't. Live life the way that you want to and on your own terms - you only get one shot at life, but if you do it right, once is enough.

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