For most of my life, I have been a square peg in a round hole. I did things I had no real passion for because I believed that is what I had to do to pay for my children’s education and live up to other people's expectations. It took me 40 years to come to the realisation that these expectations, which I had taken false ownership of, were not serving me. Actually, they were slowly killing me from the inside out.
The path I chose to follow was in fact leading me towards a cliff. But it took years of suffering with chronic anxiety, panic attacks and, ultimately, life-changing illness for me to realise that it was time to make a change. As my closest friend often reminds me, “you do love a near-death experience!”.
I have since learned that, if we ignore the lessons that life sends us, they will keep coming back with increasing intensity until we pay attention. This is otherwise known as the ‘feather, brick and truck’ metaphor.
I got two sets of bricks in 1999 & 2000 and then my truck in 2008, which forced me on a new path and an amazing, scary journey of personal development where I discovered my true calling. I found my way back to me.
Since then, my life's mission has been to empower as many people as I can to come back to who they were born to be and help them avoid the same mistakes that I made.
As I look back on my life over the last 50 years, I can see that I was a classic type-A achiever who thrived on stress. I was stubborn, wilful, obsessive and I would not be told what to do by anyone. Please note……this is emphatically not the smart way to live one's life! The result was a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
My career had a very promising start. After deciding that university was not for me, I joined the British Army at the age of 20, graduating from Sandhurst and serving on operational tours with the Coldstream Guards in Bosnia and Northern Ireland over the next seven years. I really enjoyed my time there, taking on a leadership role that gave me the privilege to work with amazing, like-minded people in challenging environments.
When my wife and I got married - I was 25, she was 21 (and we are still very happily married 25 years later I may add!) - I knew that a long-term career in the Army was not going to work for us. This was where it all started to get painful.
I am not remotely mathematical or financially orientated. However, I do love a proper challenge so I decided to leave the army at the age of 27 to join Ernst & Young as a trainee chartered accountant. Now married with a young son, my rationale for this choice was that I thought this would open doors to anywhere I wanted to go and that it would allow me to always provide for my family.
What followed were three of the most painful years of my life, resulting in two near-death experiences and the onset of chronic anxiety and persistent panic attacks.
This is how life brings you back into alignment. It begins with a feather - a slight tickle, usually originating from our gut or heart, telling us that something is not right. For most of us, this is not enough to grab our attention. For me, I knew in my gut that accountancy was about a million miles away from what I was naturally any good at and what I would enjoy. But I just blocked out those feelings and belligerently forged ahead working 6 day weeks for 3 years to pass hideous exams.
Next comes the brick. It may show up as an illness or as a painful event in our lives like getting fired, a relationship exploding or some form of toxic behaviour/addiction which brings us to our knees.
I got two bricks when I was training to be a chartered accountant; two episodes of persistent atrial fibrillation, the first of which put me in intensive care for a week. And then, when they could find nothing wrong, I started to suffer persistent panic attacks and chronic anxiety for which I started to seek help. However, I ignored the bricks and kept ploughing on, confident that I would soon find the sunlight and feel like me again.
So I went on to spend the next decade in finance roles working my way up the corporate ladder to a lucrative partnership role at Rawlinson & Hunter, a top tier international trust company and firm of accountants. Despite my apparent success (and financial abundance at this time), I secretly continued to suffer panics attacks and severe anxiety was my constant companion.
If, like me, you have a high pain threshold, the brick may not force you to change your behaviour. Trust me when I say that the truck behind it will!
At the age of 39, at the supposed pinnacle of my career, my mind and body just shut down. They screamed to me “we are not playing this game anymore!” and made a crucial life decision for me.
That was when I had to face facts. I was having a nervous breakdown.
I was completely floored. I could not get out my bed for weeks and my mind was out of control, like a bull rampaging through a china shop. It was the most frightening time in my life. Almost every day I felt like I was dying, or was about to die. I wouldn’t wish this on even my worst enemy, if I even had one.
My recovery was a long, bumpy and amazing journey back into a new life and back to the real me. The universe had forced me to change. After a period of medication which only made things worse, I started to attend numerous personal development courses, worked with endless specialists in the mental health space and voraciously read ‘self-help’ books.
And as I reflect on this journey now, I can relate from the heart that I l have earned some big Truths (with a capital T) about life and who I truly am. I would like to take a moment to share a few of these with you below. They are at the core of my coaching philosophy:
We are all born with unique gifts but our conditioning convinces most of us to pursue paths that are not aligned with who we truly are. Each one of us has the potential to do something amazing - to achieve the extraordinary. Every day brings us this opportunity.
I am not a guru and do not hold myself out to be one. I am a perfectly flawed, straight-talking, compassionate and tough-loving human who has learnt to use my years of painful experiences and consequent growth to help me serve others. As I have personally suffered, experiencing what really works and what doesn’t (and why), I've developed a powerful set of skills which I know can help many others.
If you want to reconnect with who you were born to be and experience true success and fulfilment, please join me.