Lifebook Review 2020

Lifebook 2020 – Week 5: Financial Life & Career

Tadaaaa – it’s finally here! The Lifebook week I’ve been waiting for. John hinted at the beginning of the Lifebook course that this is the week that many participants find most rewarding. As such I had high expectations set for it.

Honestly speaking, in the situation I’m currently in, I can’t really say I’ve actually got a career. Unless you count acing the school of life as a career (That should definitely be a thing FYI…).

My finances are in great shape though, given my not-employed situation. However, I’m not rich, so they’ll definitely need some tending soon.

I am well aware of, and at peace with, the fact that this situation is of my own choosing. After all, I was the one who decided to quit my job and move to Spain last year to focus on things more important to me at the time.

Regaining a high level of physical, mental, and emotional health as well as re-inventing my idea of life were definitely at the top of my priority list.

However, I do believe that there is a delicate balance that needs to struck between exploration and focus in life. To me that’s likely the secret spice for a successful life.

That being the case, I know it’s now time to start re-focusing my attention on rejuvenating my ideas around my desired financial life and career too.

 

Course Structure

The standard PVPS (Premise, Vision, Purpose, Strategy) and video structure remained the same this week. There were also no surprising bonus elements to it. However, the videos were a little longer than usual.

The Financial Life video was 1 hour 35 minutes long, which I believe is one of the longest videos in the series so far. The Career video was 1 hour 29 minutes long.

As such the very basic investment for this week was just over 3 hours. Add the optional bonus videos totalling 1 hour 16 minutes and we’re looking at almost 4.5 hours this week.

 

My experience with: Financial Life

My background with finances has been quite a ride to be honest. Across the years, I’ve been rich(ish), so-so and very very poor too.

As such, I think I have a very mixed bag of beliefs related to money that this chapter (and the weeks following) did a fine job of excavating.

Through John’s videos and some serious reflection, I realised that as a young woman, I likely held some very unhealthy beliefs towards money.

I believed money truly had the potential to turn people rotten. The snobbish, entitled and back-stabbing individuals I had met and heard about, with money, made me believe so.

However, it was also the root of a lot of personal unhappiness in my mind. Specifically, as I had been repeatedly told money (or lack of money) was the cause of one specific incident, which had a significant impact on many of my later views in life.

At the age of 14, you see, my mother and I fell into a situation where we went from great economic abundance to near poverty within the space of a few short months.

For many years my mother would be in tears about this event. She would feel sorry for herself. In fact, almost 20 years later she still calls this era out regularly as the “end of her good life and career”.

Personally, that made me feel like a victim too. It caused me a lot of anguish over the years. Especially because life as I knew it changed almost over night.

We went from being able to afford several luxurious vacations a year, me going to a private international school, and being able to buy almost anything I wanted, to not being able to afford a £2 magazine.

We moved from Switzerland to England and had to start over. I had never been to a state school permanently before. And certainly not a state school like the one I went to next.

One where the floor had gum sticking to it, the equipment was old, students thought nothing of swearing, taking drugs and getting into trouble, and teachers could get away with being unmotivated, unenthusiastic and derogatory, with little to no consequences.

In this new place the only one protecting me from my harsh new reality was my best friend Sean. I followed him around like a lost puppy dog. At least that’s how I sometimes felt at the time…

Remembering this period of history, I saw how my current financial beliefs may have been impacted by these events.

At 14, I was just a kid. I did not understand that money is something you needed to manage. That money in and of itself has no power.

I still had to learn that it’s what you do with money that makes the real difference.

 

Diving into the past

As I dug deeper and deeper into my financial history, I started to see where my negative experiences with money came from and when they started to change for the positive.

Specifically, I identified myself making a series of difficult, but ultimately healthy choices, which I think potentially rescued me from a long-term cycle of financial and psychological distress.

It was fascinating, but also slightly painful, to recall.

I started thinking about the first minimum wage job I had at 17. How my first purchase was a bicycle to get to work. I thought about how happy I had felt finally earning something. How it had felt so good to finally be able to help mom out with my earnings, as she was struggling.

Then I started thinking about my university years, where I first started getting into debt at 18. How I signed myself up for the usual student debit and credit cards on offer by the banks. They made everything seem so affordable without an income.

After that I thought about how I moved to South Korea when I was 22. Jumping half way across the world to increase my language skills and try and get out of debt.

Only earning £15,500/ year and yet being a lot better off than my peers in the UK because I had no extortionate rents, transport and hefty student loan deductions to pay.

That experience specifically teaching me that you didn’t have to earn a bomb to live a good life. You just had to be smart about where you were and how you lived. (Location flexibility pays off – big time…)

I remembered mom getting evicting from her flat after me telling her NO for the first time following a £1,500 payment of her rent. Realising at that point that I had regularly been enabling her to live above her means – for years.

Also then realising that my regularly supporting her financially was a key reason for me getting into increased financial difficulty in recent times myself.

I remembered passing my Master’s degree, after winning a scholarship for my second year at university. A scholarship that I only got because I had gone to the university’s payment office, desperate and close to tears.

I remember the awful feeling I had that day. Knowing I would need to drop out of university if I couldn’t arrange an extended payment plan with them.

Then the elation I felt, when I got my scholarship based on my stellar grades and the fact my visit had uncovered a discrepancy with university’s scholarship system. A discrepancy that usually excluded part-time students like myself from any scholarship funding.

My visit to the office that day is an event I am eternally grateful for. It led me to finish my Master’s degree, which would also lead me on to my next graduate position too.

A Fortune 100 Leadership development program that helped me gain some tremendous work experience and allowed me to eventually dig myself out of debt too.

Going through this long, mental journey made me realise how much my financial beliefs and choices changed over time. It made me realise that I no longer see money as a cause of unhappiness or turning people rotten.

My cumulative experiences have, in fact, helped me understand that money is simply a tool. It is a tool that opens up opportunities and freedom. It is also a tool that unlocks personalities.

In the right hands, money can achieve amazing things. Disrespected and wasted carelessly, it can lead to serious issues. However, in the end, money is just an object.

Therefore, it’s the person who holds that object in their hands that also holds the responsibility for doing the right things with it.

Thus, my financial life also needs to be based on being respectful and thoughtful about where my money flows.

It seems I’ve come a long way, but also have a long way to go. Wouldn’t you agree? 😉

 

My experience with: Career

One of the things that surprised me the most about the Career chapter of Lifebook is how very unrelated it was to my Financial Life chapter.

Oftentimes when people talk about a career, they talk about being successful in the workplace. The first thing I think of when I think of success in the workplace is the typical corporate image. Men and women in pant suits, ties and with brief cases. Intelligent, sharp and jetting all over the place… aaaaand earning a lot of money!

However, as my own corporate experience has taught me, that life’s not necessarily all it’s said to be. As I was reviewing my past work and career experiences, I had to actually face an interesting fact.

My automatically generated image of a successful career, and my actual “ideal” image of a career look very different.

The thing is that my ingrained image of a career was very much instilled in me by my mother. Growing up she always encouraged me to be anything I wanted to be. However, generally that anything was in a certain direction.

Be a doctor, lawyer, stock broker, programmer or otherwise white-collar worker and she was totally on board. Consider being a masseuse, artist or musician and the encouragement was more along the lines of “I mean sure, if that’s what you want to do go for it. I certainly wouldn’t do that though!”.

For some reason that single line “I wouldn’t do that though” still grates me today – every time she says it. Due to some unknown reason it makes me feel like I’m not reaching her standards. Like I’m somehow choosing something that’s not good enough.

I’m not completely sure why that is, but it’s definitely how I feel. However, the key is that I realise now just how heavily influenced many of my prior life choices were by my mother.

They were based on her image of what I should and shouldn’t be reaching for, but I’ve also learned that my mother is human.

Which means what works for her in her mind, may not actually be what I need to find satisfaction in my own little world.

 

Choosing a new direction

Last year, when I quit my job, I realised that everything I had ever done career-wise was in line with what my mother had wanted for me.

That’s not to say that that’s a good or bad thing. I just feel like I haven’t necessarily made choices in the past because I decided they suited me.

I simply made them because I knew they would benefit me in some way on this culturally promoted ladder called a “career”.

Now I’ve been out of work for around 15 months and I’ve got to say my viewpoints have changed somewhat. Before I left my previous company, I always imagined being an employee. I imagined climbing the ladder as high as I could go and earning a nice dime in the process.

I’ve never negotiated on having fun at work, because again, that’s something my mom emphasised is a non-negotiable (I send out a genuine thank you to my mother for that one!). However, I also never questioned that work would be my priority and my path was to climb as high on the corporate ladder as I could go

These days, however, I have realised that career success can come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, you can be an employee, but you can also be an entrepreneur. You can be a freelancer, or take on temporary contract work.

There are also options for flexible working as well as compressed work weeks. You can work from an office, but equally there are remote positions too.

Honestly, the choices we have for our careers these days are so immense – it can be really head spinning sometimes!

Integrate other elements of Lifebook into the equation, like Health and Fitness, Intellectual Life, Character, Parenting, Financial Life etc. and you realise that the design of a career really shouldn’t be so one-track minded.

It should be a flexible process that adapts with you as you change over the years too. That being said, I started creating a new vision of what I would like my career to look like.

It looks something like this:

 

I am extremely satisfied with my career and very proud of the fact that I can help people achieve great things – simply

 

My work gives me a lot of flexibility to balance other areas of life around it. It provides me stimulating opportunities to work with amazing people, travel to new places and influence people in a mindful, positive and inspiring way

 

When people engage with me, and my work, they feel confident and at ease. They feel inspired to think big and imagine that the best possible outcome is possible for them

 

Now I don’t know about you, but I feel a shiver of excitement every time I read those statements.

It’s like my entire philosophy on life has been captured in these sentences. My wants and needs laid bare on a platter, opening opportunities of unknown dimensions.

I think about what kind of career could make me achieve those goals. Then I realise there is no one way, because life and work are what you make of them.

For example, I have a number of friends that tell me they dislike work. They only work because it pays them an income. This is something I could never really relate to.

Ever since I started working at 17, I have always found things to enjoy about my work. Whether I worked at a cafe, supermarket, bar, office assistance, project manager or HR generalist.

In the 11 companies I have worked for, I do not remember one job that I couldn’t find anything to like about. I’m pretty sure that’s linked to my mindset.

Since I see every new job as an opportunity to learn, it’s like a new positive challenge for me every time. I also believe it’s this mentality which made me so successful when I was working my way to the top of the career ladder.

Furthermore, I believe it’s going to help me in the future. It will help me fulfil my vision of a successful career.

I believe this, because I see that my vision is based on many intangibles. However, intangibles that I have some level of control over, should I take the time to learn how to achieve them.

You see, I believe in cause and effect.

I believe that if you want a certain outcome, you need to find out what it is you need to achieve that outcome. You then also decide if you want to pay the price that comes with it.

You may call me calculating in this respect. I probably am to a degree. However, I have seen the reality of this with my own eyes.

Most recently, the price of my freedom for 15 months so far, was the loss of my prior “vision” of a career.

Nonetheless, I can also tell you that I’ve learnt a lot in those 15 months, and I’m convinced what’s to come will likely far outstrip that vision.

Especially because what’s to come is not for anyone but me to determine. It’s a future career that in the end will be all… mine 🙂

 


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