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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Escape the City: lessons learned (part 2)

I love this group photo taken on my last day at Esc

- To read 'Escape the City: lessons learned (part 1) click here -

So long, farewell...

This week I said goodbye to a wonderful group of people and closed the door on an experience that has been truly life changing for me. My internship at Escape the City is over. 

It's been an exhilarating, eye opening, challenging and fun few months. A true career adventure, and a much needed breath of fresh air in my life. 

My summer at Escape the City taught me lots of valuable things every day, and several big life lessons too. 

I learned that, for me, who you work with matters just as much as what you are working on. I've realised that work can actually be fun, even while you're working really hard, and even when you're stressed and tired. I found that it is possible to feel happy on a Monday morning and not spend each day clock watching and wishing Friday would hurry up and get here already. I discovered how much you can achieve when a group of people with a shared goal pull together, determined to make it happen.

But now it's time to move on and I have mixed emotions about leaving. 

There's sadness that something so amazing has come to an end. Nostalgia looking back on all the happy and important moments over the last 4 months. Fear about taking my next tentative steps in life. Excitement, nerves and anticipation about starting a new chapter in my career story. 

Working for Escape was always meant to be a temporary thing and when it came down to it, I think I was ready to leave. In the weeks leading up to my last day I felt a bit like a bird preparing to fly the nest - I knew it was time to spread my wings and continue to grow and develop the new 'non-corporate' me, but at the same time I was reluctant to leave the comfort and security that Escape provided.

It's such an incredibly nurturing environment, full of inspirational people who deeply care about the work they do and are on a mission to make a real impact on the world. The Escape team are genuinely changing the lives of the many people who have come to rely on them to provide momentum, guidance and support as they make their way out of the corporate jungle and into the unchartered waters of entrepreneurship - or whatever career or life adventure awaits them on the other side. 

I have such huge respect and admiration for the mission the Esc team are on to challenge the status-quo of modern working life and provide a pathway to a more rewarding alternative way of working and living. But my god it's not an easy undertaking!

Challenging my own long-held beliefs

One of the key lessons I'm taking away from my time at Esc is that starting your own business is incredibly difficult. Until now I really didn't appreciate just how much blood, sweat and tears goes into launching and running a successful enterprise. It's so impressive what they've managed to create with limited resources and a small team of inspired, energetic, and committed people. 

Escape the City is a success story and the team are doing a fantastic job growing a profitable business that also brilliantly serves the varied and complex needs of it's community. But I don't think most people truly realise just how much goes into this success. It's such an involved and emotional process for those in the driving seat. 

Forget that "it's not personal, it's business" rubbish some people spout. If you really care about the company you're building then it's seriously personal and there will be a hell of a lot of sleepless nights sweating over big, direction setting decisions, and stressful days where you wonder if it's all worth it. I know this because I witnessed this first hand observing team Esc bravely pushing on every day without a road map to guide the way or a blueprint to show them how to build their business.

It seems like everyone wants to be an entrepreneur nowadays - it's become fashionable, cool and aspirational. Unfortunately I'm one of those people! Since I was a teenager I dreamt of having my own business when I grew up (still waiting for that to happen by the way). I now realise that a lot of what I thought starting a business would be like was largely a fantasy perpetuated by television programmes like The Apprentice and Dragon's Den. They make entrepreneurship look so glamorous and fun! 

But observing the struggles of the entrepreneurial types I met during my time there, and seeing just how hard the team have to work to make Esc a success, showed me that maybe starting my own business isn't the right path for me. The reality is that it's bloody hard work and not remotely glamorous and I'm not sure that I'm cut out for it after all.

Another valuable lesson learned

These realisations about the realities of the start-up world have helped uncover an important personal discovery - that my home life and personal time are actually my number one priority. I never truly appreciated this fact before and it feels like a huge revelation! 

I was so busy every day at Esc, often working until late at night running events, or working on the weekend. There was barely left any time left over for the rest of my life. 

Now before you accuse me of complaining, I want to emphasise that I'm incredibly grateful for being blessed with the opportunity to work for such a cool organisation. And I know that it was actually vital that I immerse myself in the experience so I could squeeze the most out of it. 

But towards the end I was starting to miss the greatest luxury of all... time. Specifically, my own free time to do my favourite things like reading books and blogs, trying new recipes, chatting to my parents, going to the movies with my husband, dinner dates with friends, parties, blogging...

I'm starting to really appreciate the beauty of a simpler life with less stress and more time for personal passions. I want to leave breathing space to stop and smell the roses instead of constantly rushing from one task to the next. 

It's actually really important to me to have plenty of unstructured, unplanned 'me time' where I can daydream and wander without an action list to work through. I want to really live and I'm starting to think that for me that means cultivating a really meaningful and fulfilling life outside work instead of obsessively trying to create the perfect work life and serious career.

This doesn't mean I'm giving up on my quest to find work that makes me feel excited and motivated. It just means I'm coming to understand that I can't expect every aspect of my life to be perfect all at once. It's totally unrealistic to hope, as I used to do, for the perfect job, a great salary, no stress, loads of free time, great holidays... this isn't real life! 

I've spent the last 10 years trying to find out what I want from my career, and this is still something I am figuring out. But at least I'm starting to finally appreciate that my career is just one part of my full and happy life.


Some of my favourite pictures from my time at Escape the City (in no particular order)...


Physical proof of what vision + hard work + great leadership + community love can transform... [before/after shot of the Escape School's main space - in July, then in September!]


  1. Great post! Best of luck with the new job! Jess (Smith - we met at an Esc the City event I was volunteering at)

    1. Thanks so much Jess! Lovely to meet you at Esc and I hope to see you again at The Escape School!! Thanks so much for supporting my blog :)