Approx. reading time: 6 minutes
In late 2016 I decided to quit the rat race and redesign my life in a way that was more satisfying, interesting and adventurous both in my personal and professional life. I didn't even know how to accomplish the large and vague objective of "living better", although I know it meant being more entrepreneurial and spending more time outdoors!
Here is an update on the journey so far.
As the halfway point of the year comes ever closer, it's kind of startling how many times I have changed my description on social media. You know, those few words, casually tossed next to your profile picture, perfectly and concisely summing up what an interesting, complex and charming individual you are, capturing all your idiosyncrasies in just a handful of characters. Sound familiar? No, not for me either.
On my Twitter and Instagram this "micro bio" has gone through so many iterations that it is now clearer than ever that my personal development plan is erm... far from clear.
I think a friend of mine has got it about right. His twitter profile simply reads "No-one ever gets this right, do they?". But, he is obviously not as insecure as me. I have a need for an identity, something I never really thought of, but something that I realised during my recent chat with Dave Cornthwaite... but more on that here.
It seems that as I go through my own personal metamorphosis so do my social media accounts and so has this web site. Cathy O'Dowd (celebrated mountaineer and motivational speaker) quite rightly questioned the direction and scope of this site when I spoke to her, back in late 2016. At the time I commented that I was embracing the chaos that is The Armchair Mountaineer. It’s changing face - and therefore mine - is very much part of my journey.
- Listen to me discuss my journey on the Join Up Dots Podcast.
This remains true but I have also started to expand it with a clearer eye on monetisation at a future date. I am glad to say that amid this life (r)evolution I have stuck to a few things that I had pinpointed as being key to making my existence happier. They are:
- Managing My Time Differently
- Being Creative
- Learning More
- Spending More Time Outdoors
- Accomplish One Huge Challenge
Here are a few words on each, together with some examples to illustrate (for better or worse) the effects.
1. Managing My time Differently
The format of "normal" working life, the 9 to 5 that slips quickly and easily into a routine of 7 to 7, was not for me. I am happy to "put in the hours"- I am after all writing this at midnight on a Saturday - but I knew I wanted to experiment with managing my own time flexibly. I wanted to have the opportunity to apply certain rules to it that would enhance my well being and shape the way I work into a more focussed template.
- I now write a journal first thing in the morning, in order to record moods, useful realisations and set an agenda for each day.
- As a general rule, I now only check emails in the morning. This greatly increases focus on whatever I have scheduled to do in the afternoon, such as longer creative writing or research for a work project.
- I do some work that requires greater focus late at night or early in the morning, when the rest of the world sleeps.
- I am now able to take a more involved role in home life, sharing more time with my wife and daughter.
- But it is not all perfect, it has been hard to limit the work I do and learn to say no to people, in order to focus more closely on the projects that I believe will ultimately be most "fulfilling" - whether that means more enjoyable or more profitable.
- Working from home has also had some negative impact which I touch upon here.
2. Being Creative
I knew I wanted to be creative; partly just for the sake of it but also by embarking on a variety of interesting work projects which allow me to learn more.
- I am writing every day. Whether in my journal, my articles, this blog or ideas for more than one book.
- Necessity is the mother of invention. Without a steady stream of income I have taken the opportunity of allowing my mind to think of new creative business ideas. This kind of thinking I can really recommend - we are probably all entrepreneurial, given the right kind of environment and a little confidence.
- As a result of brainstorming business ideas I am involved in a number of exciting work projects with positive and creative people.
- One such is HD Outsourcing which connects talented outsourced IT resources to a UK & US business audience.
- I have also been working on an augmented reality mobile app, of which there will be more in the future.
3. Learning More
Long before deciding to quit the rat race I think I had stopped learning in the workplace, I was managing people's expectations and not stretching my mind. Yes I was stretching my patience, my capacity to deal with an ever changing environment, even my tolerance for stress, but not really my mind. I was not learning new skills.
Yesterday, I completed an exercise which I have taken to doing from time to time. I wrote down the things I have learnt, just in the last month. 1500 words flowed easily and quickly - amazing!
- Online projects such as this web site, HD Outsourcing as well as researching other ventures, or articles to write have made me learn about:
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Social Media Promotion
- Video Editing
- Affiliate Marketing.
- Inbound Marketing
- Working on my own, from home has taught me new disciplines such as organisational skills, understanding my own strengths and weaknesses better, schedules that work for me and helping me to recognise who I am and what I want.
- Whether prepping a new site, researching a new business, or finding out best practice for landing pages, hands on experience has taught me a multitude of things about which I knew little previously.
- It really pays to approach and to ask people for advice. I owe a debt of gratitude to Simon Spyer at Conduit and Aires Loutsaris, award winning SEO consultant, for sharing their wisdom.
4. Spending more time outdoors
I have tried to actively engage in the outdoor community that thrives on social media and it has been a pleasant experience. I have stepped up my blog, my writing has improved and as the traffic to it increases I have also had some very nice comments from readers.
Most importantly it continues to keep me connected to mountains and nature. I am happy to say that my enthusiasm for the outdoors grows. And with this enthusiasm my day-to-day happiness also increases.
I am out every week; walking or paddling. Something I dreamt of when I was younger and seldom actually did.
Example of a few related Articles or Blog Posts from the last few months:
- Walking in the Italian Alps
- Walking in the Azores
- In the Cairngorms with Chris Townsend
- Buying a packraft to enjoy another aspect of wilderness.
5. Accomplish One huge Challenge
Early on I set myself the challenge of accomplishing one huge challenge in 2017, as part of my life redesign. This was done partly to see what I was capable of achieving on my own and partly as an exercise in building self-confidence - the two being linked. I settled ion an ultra marathon to marry my love of running and the outdoors.
Unfortunately these athletic dreams have gone up in smoke and, with the news from last week's MRI scan that I may have some meniscal damage, I am having to carefully manage what I do. Earlier in the year I had the pleasure to speak to Ali Young and Alison North (two respected runners). Their advice remains in my mind and committed to paper, to be used next year if all goes well. My resolve to run a long-distance event is unbowed, if a little delayed. I will get their one day!
the small print (There is still a long way to go).
I suppose its appropriate, like my desire to train for and run an ultra, this journey of redesign is also a game of patience and a question of trial and error. It has not been perfect; for one I am earning money only sporadically which, whilst not causing any alarms at present, is disconcerting for your average mortgage payer!
I still lack self belief, but jumping in the deep end is a great way to change this. I have no regrets about my decision to use 2017 to redesign my life. I can really recommend it. I am happier than I have been in a long time and I retain optimism for my own future, professional and personal. Bring on the next seven months! You should try it too!