Thank you twenties
Last month (Tuesday 3rd May) I turned thirty. I had been looking forward to this day for nearly a decade. “When I’m thirty, I’ll be a millionaire”, I told colleagues as I left my job in London aged twenty-three. “When you’re thirty, you’ll be old enough for people to listen to you”, I told myself aged twenty-five. “When I’m thirty, we’ll be out of this debt” I told my partner just last month.
As I type this blog, sat in a café in London on a lunch break in between consulting projects I wanted to reflect on some of the core principles I learnt in my twenties for living a happy, deeply fulfilled life. Here are the lessons I want to remember; the lessons I’d pass on to family, friends and strangers if this were my last chance to share what I know, what I’ve learnt in thirty wonderful years on this beautiful planet.
Money will not make you happy and your passion will make you wealthy
When I was in my early twenties, I had a desire to be a millionaire and I told a lot of people about it. I put myself in a race to get that golden figure by the time I was thirty. I am not a millionaire. In fact, I have just recovered from a £70,000 debt I racked up in pursuit of that goal.
My company – Digitia – was doing well. We tripled in size year on year from £9K, to £67k and then up to £122k. Just last year, we got pretty close to a quarter of a million pounds in revenue but as you know: revenue is vanity, profit is sanity and cashflow is reality.
The first time I read that quote was in Hilary Devey’s autobiography. I took it in, but I didn’t internalize it. The truth is that for most of my 20s I was silly with money. I was making a ton of it, but didn’t know how to keep hold of it. I indulged in office spaces, training and salaries, marketing activities…I was great at making it, but I was even better at spending it.
Last year, I hit a crossroads. I’d borrowed £30k from the Funding Circle and I already had a £20k overdraft and £8k bank loan. I was in the midst of expanding the business further, opening an office in Manchester and launching new services, when I stopped and asked myself: “What on earth am I doing?”.
I was chasing something, anything. I was always on to ‘what’s next’. Bigger, better, bolder. With this latest venture, I’d jumped off a cliff and half way through the jump I realized I’d jumped in the wrong direction and that what awaited me on the other size wasn’t compelling enough for me to continue on that trajectory and reach the other side safely. And so, I stopped and plummeted to the ground. With it I took my financial stability, my reputation in the North East and the job security of my team.
Most of my team, perhaps sensing the change in my heart or perhaps inspired to make their own leap, handed in their notice with a new filled excitement of what was to come next for them. Some, I had to let go under difficult circumstances.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that the fall that could have killed me saved my life. I’d hit rock bottom and in the words of Gabrielle Bernstein, you should never deprive someone of their bottom. It’s from this bottom that all great transformations begin.
I decided to downsize Digitia, to slow down, to regain control of my time and my life and my dreams. I stopped looking outwards and started looking inwards.
Day by day, I tackled a £70,000 debt. Alice (my partner in life and business) and I dropped our salaries to £7k – £8k each per year, we scraped pennies together for fun and we spent the first 4-6 month’s living between parent’s homes. With no money (and I mean NO money), and a tumultuous sea of debt separating us from our dream lives we got so desperate we began to pray. We knew the score, but we didn’t discuss it. We kept talking about the future. We made plans for moving to Manchester when it was financially impossible and now, living in Manchester, working in London with plans to travel abroad monthly, we find ourselves discussing the details of our villa. We learnt that a vision of what will be can be enough to lift your soul from the reality of what is in that moment, but more than all of this, we learnt to find peace ‘in the moment’.
I’d never had a spiritual practice before and I wouldn’t say I have one now – I’m at the start of this journey. Alice, however, and even my mum are both very spiritual. My mum introduced me to ‘Angel Cards’ and Alice introduced me to meditation. We found people like Osho, Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer together. I introduced Alice to Tony Robbins and Lisa Nichols and she introduced me to Oprah, Gabby Bernstein and Marianne Williamson. We spent rainy Sunday’s lost in book shops looking for hope and inspiration – I’d say books were the one thing we never cut back on – and the right book always found us. The right book would almost jump off the shelf into our hands the very moment we needed it: “Wishes Fulfilled” by Wayne Dyer, “Living Dangerously” by Osho, “Revolution” by Russell Brand, “The Art of Happiness” by HH Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler. Then random encounters with friends introduced us to others: “The Magic” by Rhonda Byrne (thanks Natalie) and “The Power of Now” (thanks…Natalie again!).
Through the teachings of people who’d been through this and more, through the applications of their ideas to my life and through the ever-persistent “it is what it is”, “it’s fine, we’ll get through it” attitude of Alice (my greatest teacher) and her belief in what we were doing, we made it through.
I learnt that money will never make me happy, it never had.
Through the debt, I found wealth – in friendships, my own resourcefulness and a quest for ‘peace in the moment’.
My advice to you? Face your demons, listen to your heart and risk your reputation to find happiness. The people who matter won’t judge you, they’ll help you.
It is never too late to make a change and pursue happiness
Do you love what you do, how you spend your time, who you spend your time with and most of all who you are as a person? I love what I do, how I spend my time, who I spend it with and most of all who I am as a person. I’ve worked hard to get here and it wasn’t always like this.
Sometimes we don’t like who we are, or who we’ve become. Sometimes we end up in roles that make us miserable, or situations we can’t understand. Sometimes whole weeks and even months go by before we realise we’re deeply unhappy. Sometimes we realise that how we once felt about someone has changed.
In these moments of realization we all have a choice: make a change and change our lives, or stay as we are and drift on through. So many people drift on through and I’ve heard people say things like “We’ve been together so long, I just couldn’t leave”, or “the money’s too good, I’m stuck now”, and even “it’s too much like hard work, I can’t be bothered”.
It makes me so sad that people would sacrifice their own happiness out of habit, or fear or comfort. We all feel ‘duty bound’ to stay – in that role, or relationship or town. Today, travelling from Wembley Park to Stratford on the Jubilee Line at 9am I was so saddened to see so many sad, tired and worn out faces getting off at the various stops. I was so sad in fact that I started to feel anxious, depressed, nervous, small. I found myself saying “I wish this ride would last longer so I don’t have to face the world”. “Woooah” I thought to myself – they are the kind of thoughts I have before depression tightens its grip and I hadn’t felt like that for months and months! Being around this sadness had literally made me regress!!
I jumped off the Tube and practically ran to WH Smiths, where I purchased the brightest, most picture-packed travel magazine I could find and started flicking through the pictures to remind me what I’m working towards. I have conditioned myself, over time, to control my own mood and take the steps needed to stay in happy and positive.
You see, I believe our only true duty in this life is to find what makes us happy and pursue it relentlessly. Part of this can sometimes mean getting away from negative people until you’re ready to help them. It can mean making tough, life changing decisions. Sometimes, it can mean hurting someone in the moment to save them in the longterm: yourself included. Think about it – do you think that partner really wants to stay with someone who is too scared to leave? Do you think your team really wants to work with someone who actually wants to do something else? Do you really think anyone is happier because you sacrificed your own happiness to ‘stay’? I don’t think so!
Often people I meet who are older than me (in their 40s, or 50s) say to me: “How can you possibly know so much at this age?” and “is it too late for me Lisa?”. My answer is always the same: it is never too late to make a change and pursue happiness. One year, month, week or even day spent in utter bliss can be enough to carry us through forever.
Other people will hold you back out of ignorance
I’ve always been on the edge of the herd, trying to break away, leading people in a new direction. They say it’s lonely at the top. I say it’s lonely at the peripheries; the outskirts, the edges of what other people deem normal, possible and ‘expected’.
I have a strong belief that anything is possible for us in this life: we can have, do, be anything we put our minds to. If you want it, and believe in yourself enough you can have it in abundance. We don’t get taught this in school, however. Nor do we get taught this by parents growing up. In fact, I think so many of us have been raised to be average: by the school system, by parents, by managers, by the government. Let’s face it – the people above you on £30k or more aren’t going to be able to teach you how to make your first million are they? The parents who’ve worked their whole lives to make enough money to buy a home near where they grew up aren’t going to be able to teach you how to make a living from your passion and live abroad are they? The government officials who are trying to cater for everyone simultaneously, and work on the basis everyone falling into line (conforming) aren’t going to teach you how to stand out from the crowd. No, no, no my friend.
I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m being honest. It’s not their fault: they don’t know what they don’t know and neither do you or I. The second you realise you don’t know how to get what you want, or if it’s even possible it’s time to start asking new questions: where could I find out this information, who would know, if resources were unlimited what would I try…?
If you want to change your life, you can’t expect the people around you to help you if they have accepted the status quo. If you want to run your own business, do you ask the lifetime employee for advice? No. If you want to build muscle mass, you don’t ask the couch potato. No. If you want to make a million pounds do you ask the salary addict how to get started? No.
If you want to do something that is different from the people around you, then you need to change the people around you. They won’t mean to hold you back but they will do it by accident: through silent judgement, through their lack of resourcefulness, through their modest life expectations, through the tone they’ve set for their world and yours.
My advice to you? Decide on want you want in life and get around people who already have it and watch things change instantly for you. If you can’t get around people physically, watch You Tube videos, read autobiographies or attend courses. Break your own ignorance through education.
You should pray for people who hurt you
I’ve been attacked over the years. Someone I once respected told me I was selfish for following my dreams. An extended family member told me not to hold hands with my girlfriend because it’s not right in his culture. A much closer family member laughs when I tell him I’ve turned things around and will make back the money I lost.
At first my reaction was always to feel hurt, anger or even vengeance…they’ll get their come-uppance! Quickly, however, I’ve learnt to see things differently. For one, if you let comments like that get to you then you have allowed yourself to be pulled down by people with anger in their hearts. Secondly, holding sadness and anger in your own heart won’t serve you or the people around you in any way at all.
Don’t get angry with these people: pray for them instead. Pray for their awakening, their enlightenment – pray that they start to focus on changing their own lives rather than controlling yours. Pray that they learn to change their views in time and continue to be an example to them and the world in the meantime. I mean, what a sad state of affairs they must be in to think that dreams shouldn’t be followed, or love should be hidden or dreams can’t come true.
This can be hard at first but when you see the logic in this you realise they they need more help than you do!
“You’re selfish for following your dreams.” I mean, really? What on earth has happened to this person for them to think that? Be the example, walk away and pray they find a happier way to live soon.
You are more resourceful than you will ever know
If I asked you how you’d get out of £70k worth of debt, you might recoil in horror and fear. “It’s impossible”, you might say. If I asked you to follow your dreams, you might say the same thing: “It’s a dream, it’s not possible for me”.
Get ready for a harsh moment of truth:
Mahamid Ali once said: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
He could say this because he knew who he was and what he wanted and he trusted in his own resourcefulness to make this a reality. I know this is true. We all overcome so much heartbreak, pain and disappointment every day just by trying to do what’s average, what’s expected, what’s normal. Who said you had to stay? Who said you had to follow his orders? Who said you had to conform? Who said you won’t make it?
We all have a gift inside of us and when we identify it and shine a light on it, it unleashes inside of us an unstoppable force that will find a way over, around or through every obstacle. No matter what is standing in your way right now, it is just an illusion: a barrier you’ve put in front of yourself to allow you to stay where you are. You’ve been trained to do this by society, by teachers, by soaps on the TV.
You are incredible. You have a unique skill. Anything stopping you right now is overcomeable (not a word, I know!). You are more resourceful than you will ever know.
Tony Robbins says “we all overestimate what we can achieve in a year but underestimate what we can achieve in a decade”. What could we achieve if we only believed in our own resourcefulness?
My advice to you? Stop saying it’s impossible, stop asking for feedback from the people around you and start trusting in that voice that speaks to you every day. Find your passion, follow your heart and make your dreams a reality. Turn down the voices outside, and turn up that voice inside. Stop making excuses and start asking “What if it were possible…what would I do first?”.
The longest journey starts with the smallest step. Take a step today, right now.
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