In our new series, the Further team look at insight from a personal perspective, revealing one that changed their path and inspired something new at work, at home, or across their life in general...
Welcome to part three.
I have made many mistakes in my life so far. We all have. The truth is that we won’t always be able to do things perfectly the first time around — we are bound to fail sometime.
For a lot of us, failure has happened a few times already. The real challenge is learning how to pick ourselves back up, dust off, and push forwards, remembering any lessons that we have learnt along the way. I am fortunate to have discovered a valuable lesson relatively early in life: own your choices.
When I came out of school and was deciding on what career path to pursue, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices that I faced. I had a variety of interests from engineering, to accounting, to mathematics, to history. You name it, I wanted to do it.
After a few hints by my parents and Gran on the earning potential of an accountant, and with no other strong ideas of my own, I ended up doing a Bachelor degree in Accounting Science. I learnt a lot during that time, but I had to push through every single minute of it. Not because it was technically challenging, but because I had absolutely no passion or enthusiasm for it. Every single day got harder and harder to face, and I found myself blaming everybody but myself for the choice of going down that path in the first place.
With hindsight, the best choice at that moment would probably have been to take a “gap” year and given myself a bit more time. Youthful pride, a healthy helping of stubbornness, and the fear of failure were the only things that got me through that degree. But I had learnt a valuable lesson on perseverance and determination along the way, and figured out a valuable insight: at the end of the day, *I* had made that choice to go into accounting — not my parents, not my Gran, but me.
It was a tough pill to swallow, and it took a while for it to settle. I had to learn how to admit to, deal with, and own my choices.
It has been a while now since that time and believe it or not, I now find myself with a smile on my face whenever I chat to accountant friends and hear all about their work. A piece of me wonders what would have happened if I had gleaned my insight earlier on and embraced the degree to the max; but I have no regrets, for I have lots of new things to talk about since moving into software engineering.
It’s a diverse field with lots of opportunities; I get to flex my creative muscles and solve problems, and I get to grow and learn from a diverse team of like-minded colleagues every single day.
On parting, a final word of advice. Wherever you end up, just remember one thing: every single move you made to get to where you are at this present moment was a choice that *you* made. Nobody forced you to do it.
Own it, because you will be stronger for it.
The day my first daughter was born unsurprisingly changed my life. With her birth came the realisation that every decision I made would have to take her into account. No longer could I be a ‘selfish’ individual, the priority was someone other than myself. Decisions about work, living location and even the choice of a sofa have been shaped by this new entry in my life.
It’s natural to think about how much ‘easier’ things would be without children, I could live wherever I wanted, watch all the box sets in the world and be spontaneous. However, I’m sure that would lead to a world of regrets.
Ultimately it made me realise what’s really important in life. That I should stop always thinking about what I should be doing next and enjoy the smaller moments I would have taken for granted. Yes, it's important to think about the future but to also focus more on the present moment. Don't always be focused on the end goal but try to enjoy the process of getting there, this will normally achieve a better result in most things.
'Patterns in everything…'
A long time ago in the cold, dark north (only joking), I was stuck in a bit of a rut. Working as a postman and then in pubs (later as a pub manager); I didn’t believe I was ever going to get out of that line of work. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with managing a pub or working as a postman it was just that I didn’t choose it, I just fell into it. It wasn’t until I met my wife and she started encouraging me to follow my own path. Then, along with her family, she supported me financially so that I felt I did not always have to work and could spend time developing my skills.
I had always been a keen bass player but with the type of music I play, I knew that was not an option. Then it hit me, the thing that links my passion for playing bass with my current career was finding patterns in everything. Scales are just patterns and music is very much maths. I seemed to specialise in logical thinking and with this in mind, I started working with PCs. My now father-in-law gave me one of his old laptops and the first thing I did was go at it with a screwdriver in hand to see what is going on under the hood. This started me off first going down the path of IT support doing my MCDST and my MCSA, as well as running a small laptop repair business. But my knowledge of what was happening mechanically with a PC was not enough - I needed to go deeper. This lead me to coding and that’s where I am now many years on.
Marie-Claude (Research Director)
That was the summer of 1977, the year Elvis died. I was ten. In typical Canadian fashion, I was at a summer camp for a few weeks and having a grand time. The sun was shining and everyone was having a blast playing games, swimming in the pristine waters of a private lake, eating terrible canteen food, sharing bunk beds in dorms, and making new friends.
There was one little girl, whose name I don’t even remember, also aged ten, who was always by herself. A private child who never said anything and never played. She seemed pleasant enough and had a shy smile, but she just never spoke. So it was a complete surprise to everyone at the camp to watch her come alive on the last the night at a camp session and deliver a brilliant performance of Abba’s Fernando with her guitar. She had such personality, such a warm voice and such feeling when she sang! It was mesmerising. Watching her come to life was a truly beautiful thing.
Years later, I returned to the same camp and learned that that summer, the girl had become an orphan when her father shot her mother and siblings, before killing himself. And that day, I understood that behind every person, there is a story. We don’t know what that story is, so we’d better be kind. Now, when I take the tube to work, I look at people and wonder who is planning a wedding, is worried about an ageing parent, will run a marathon to raise money, has left relatives in another country in the hope of building a new life in England, etc. I imagine their stories.
Maybe I became a Social Psychologist as a result, I don’t know. But this little girl certainly taught me not to judge too quickly and to try to discover what lies beneath the surface.
Want to discover more insights of your own?
Download our 'Five tips for running an efficient and effective insight community' below...