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Monday, 22 September 2014

Escape the City internship: lessons learned (part 1)

The Startup MBA course @ The Escape School (which also happens to be my workplace!)

"I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page 
and I could do anything I wanted." [Jack Kerouac]

I adore this beautiful quote from one of my favourite authors Jack Kerouac.  His awesome book On The Road was one of the first adventure stories I read as a teenager, around the same time my own passion for travel and adventure was ignited.  After spending the weekend on a fantastic intensive entrepreneurship course the quote perfectly expresses how I'm feeling; inspired and hopeful, and bursting with ideas and personal insights. 

The Startup MBA covers all the basics of launching your own business and is run by Founder Centric in conjunction with The Escape School.  We covered a wide range of topics including; idea generation, business model design, tech businesses vs. real world businesses, finding your first customer, funding, the entrepreneurial career path and loads more...  I found it all fascinating!

It's no secret that I yearn for a life where I'm in charge of my own time and my own workload.  I would LOVE to be my own boss and create a sustainable business doing something I'm passionate about.  Something that would allow me to use my favourite skills whilst adding value to the lives of others.  A business that would enable me to have fun, do exciting things, and collaborate with interesting people, whilst delving into the topics that fascinate me. 

I often day-dream about creating my own brand that really reflects my personality.  I find it thrilling to think about having a colourful website, quirky business cards, a cool logo and so on.  However, I have zero desire to manage a team or start a large company with an office to run and big overheads.  In my fantasy I'm a location independent 'solo-preneur' or 'creative entrepreneur' where I work from my beautiful home office and call all the shots.  I can work in my PJs, finally get a dog who will sit at my feet all day, say "no" to things I don't want to do and just generally live life on my terms.  In this fantasy life all I need is a laptop, phone... 

Oh, and a GREAT BUSINESS IDEA!  And this is where it all sort of falls apart for me.  

On the Startup MBA course most participants came with a business idea in mind which they used as the basis for all the exercises we did.  Annoyingly I didn't really have a specific business idea to test beyond some kind of vague dream of becoming a pro-blogger / creative type / cookery expert / photographer / interior stylist / professional luxury hotel reviewer....... confused much?!?!  

I think I need to lie down.

I have always been very unsure about my place in the world, my destiny, what I am meant to be doing with my life, my perfect career.  And I've obsessed about this for years.  Frankly it's exhausting!  

I'm a real 'jack of all trades'; quite good at many things but not really outstanding at any one thing.  I know a little about a lot of subjects.  I'm your classic generalist.  I read fairly widely, with interests ranging from positive psychology to design to health to business.  So, it's about time I worked out how to use this trait to my advantage rather than stressing about the fact I don't have one clear passion or one core skill that's screamingly obvious to me and everyone I know.

One of the things I hoped for when I started my internship at Escape the City is that the experience would help me figure all of this stuff out and suddenly understand what I'm all about.  I was confident that exposure to a great team of people, educational events, and the inspiring Escape community would give me that elusive light-blub moment of clarity and help me answer the age old question: "what should I do with my life?!".

Sadly this hasn't happened!  However, I have learned many valuable lessons during my internship so far.  Possibly the most important of these is to stop waiting for 'the answer' to hit me like lightning.  Instead, the most realistic pathway to my future life is the 'gradual epiphany' (yes, I'm aware this is an oxymoron!) whereby a series of insights and learnings all start to make sense over time and from this emerges greater clarity of who I am, what excites me and what I'm good at. 

I now understand that passions are made not found.  In other words, my passions are not waiting under a rock for me to stumble upon them one day - they will emerge when I start following my heart and my instincts and living more authentically.  

"You don't have to have 'found your calling' in order to do stuff that you enjoy.  Once you take away the pressure of asking "is this what I really want to do with my life?" you make it much easier to take on new ideas, opportunities and challenges.  If you give yourself a break for not having it all figured out yet the world can seem like a much more exciting place." (extract from The Escape Manifesto)

So, I'm starting to grasp that creating my ideal life will most likely happen as a result of giving myself the freedom to experiment with lots of different career paths, lifestyles, ideas and projects.  No amount of reading personal development books, going to inspiring lectures, or navel gazing is going to help me uncover my true self.  

I can only do that by trying to just be myself, every day, in all that I do.

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