2017 was a transformative year for me. It was painful, enlightening, hard and rewarding. I haven’t done a New Year review, for a number of years but I thought I’d do one this year to try and share some of the lessons that I have learned. I hope they may be of use to you, or stimulate some small change that will help make the world better.
At the end of 2016 I was in a job that I passionately believed in but which had such a toxic culture that it was wrecking all other aspects of my life. I was so focused on this that I didn’t realise the damage that I was causing to myself or to the people around me until it was far too late.
The pain had risen to unbearable levels and on the first day at work of 2017 my boss said something that made my position untenable. Shortly afterwards I was clearing my desk and leaving a great bunch of people behind me. That was a big blow and in the days that followed I struggled to articulate any sort of vision that could be used to get me a job. I felt totally worthless and unable to contribute anything of value to the world. During this low point Senay frustrated with the pain and poison I was oozing said that she wanted a divorce.
A few weeks later I was living in the jungle an hour or so north of KL. I was trying to figure out what had happened to all the dreams that I had had in my early thirties. Why was I here without love, children, money or a future?
That’s the end of the glum stuff.
Over the next 10 months I slowly picked myself up and took some steps on the road to enlightenment. I even shaved my head. That was because it was more comfortable for running!
That was my first solace. Long runs and rides deep into the jungle. Over time I explored thousands of kilometres of small and large trails in the mountainous jungle covered foothills around my home. Slowly that evolved into the idea of Tiger Trail, a network of trails that will reach from Southern Malaysia to the Thai border. On the ground there isn’t much yet to see but online there are incredibly detailed maps that are now used by hundreds of thousands of Malaysians. As time goes by I believe hat Tiger Trail will evolve to be a great force for good in conserving Malaysia’s ecological heritage. More about that later in the year.
My second came via many friends and colleagues. This was the power that meditation has to help us reshape the way that we see the world. Ronan, Dan and Senay, all gave me unwitting prods that started me down a track that eventually led me and Leander to create Revolution Startups.
We’re still find our feet here, however the insight is that there are many people who are trapped and frustrated in their jobs and are looking for a way of life that is more satisfying. Given our experience in entrepreneurship – both in practice and teaching it- we started sharing some of what we have learned. That resulted in a first online video based course on how to design great business models. It’s great that we have people all over the world using it and creating better enterprises as a result.
Back in January I had no money and so I started providing entrepreneurial coaching and marketing strategy. As a friend pointed out I’d got 10 years of startup experience, an MBA, boundless enthusiasm and. A tendency to ask LOTS of questions and that had got to be good for something. Progress was tough to start with as I struggled with the blows to my self esteem. Another Friend, Dilip, came to the rescue and by the end of the year our startup marketing and strategy consultancy, CalTheory, is doing well.
Finally, I joined up with a number of old engineering colleagues to create Stanway Consulting Asia. We’re going to be working on a number of high speed and mass transit rail projects across Asia helping to make them safer and more reliable. I’m expecting great things from this venture as we go into 2018
So I picked myself up. Great. The most important person was Senay, my wife, who clearly and uncompromisingly said – whatever happens next will be based on trust and respect.
Over the year green shoots grew from the charred wreckage of 2016 and I believe that in 2018 we will see some wonderful flowers start to bloom.
So many other wonderful things happened, a very large python, red cards across Asia, beach camping, Lego, Philip Pullman, hospital emergencies and near starvation that I could go on an on. I promised you some lessons that I thought might help you with the year ahead and here they are.
- Kill your negative thoughts as quickly and as often as they come into your mind.
- Look for GEMS every day – gratitude, exercise, meditation and self compassion
- When you have a wonderful idea take a step, however small, towards it and see what happens next
- Switch your phone/iPad off when you finish work
None of these ideas are original. In fact many of us have heard them so many times that we ignore them. Alcohol, work, affairs and more seem far better routes to achieving happiness or fulfilment.
As I end this post I’d like to offer out a helping hand. If there is anything in my experience that touched you and you are in a similar place let me know how I can help or support you. I survived, and eventually flourished this year because of the extraordinary gratitude of a group of people, some of whom were strangers when they first offered help. Let me give the same gift to you that they gave to me
With lots of love and hope for an amazing 2018