Today, I’m starting off with two questions for you.
What is the decision in your life so far that you are proudest of?
How did you make that decision?
That is, was it a gut thing, or did you thoroughly research all the options? What kinds of people did you listen to, if you listened to any.
My guess is, you probably listened to people who believed in you and your potential rather than buying into any perceived limitations that you might tell yourself or let others tell you.
You probably listened to people whose advice was based on considering what was important to you, rather than people speaking from their own bias to reserve their own interests.
You probably acted from a place of courage and love, rather than fear, except the fear of not living with integrity.
One of the best decisions I made, well actually they were two interconnected ones, was to leave Art School and to go back to uni a couple of years later to study myth and literature. Both were big decisions. One because it went against nearly everybody’s opinion, and the other because I had to change the way in which I perceived my life.
Leaving art school, some 16 years ago now, was driven mostly by gut feeling. I was very successful their by any measure but I knew it was wrong for me at that time. My decision was strongly opposed by many around me who I loved and respected and even looked to for advice. All except my mother who understood my frustration and respected my need to leave. I think also, that she understood that my decision was based on a desire to do more with my life rather than less.
I was at Drawing school, and during that year I recall an uncle of mine, who is an artist, saying to me “but you can already draw.” While at art school I had learned to draw like my teachers and I was rewarded for this, but it was in leaving that I found my own expression again.
Going back to uni after a break of several years was also a big move. After art school, I had started my own quest of self-discovery. Starting in the Himalayas (as you do!), roving around India for a bit and then back in Australia. I was looking for a teacher, a guide, and I found many along the way – not in ashrams, or temples, but in the poor men and women who helped me every day on my quest. After a couple of years of this I found myself at a dead-end. My flatmate at the time was a very well educated man from India, Paul. We had a great friendship, and he took great interest in my development. His parents also provided a home for me for a time in India.
I can’t remember now whose idea it was to go back to uni. It might have been his. He had two Masters Degrees and a Doctorate from one of India’s best institution, the IIT. He was a great friend to me because he encouraged me to invest in my future through education. He saw potential in me that I had begun to lose sight of. The strangest thing was that even though I was 21, I somehow had it in my head that I was too old to go back to uni. It seems so ridiculous now but it’s true. Now of course I know that even in our 40s and 50s we can embark on whole new adventures, and careers. The great thing is that we are never actually starting from scratch. We bring with us the accumulated wealth of our life experience and learning. My own mother is a shining example of this. She started an acting career in her late 20s, and only recently went back to uni to qualify as a teacher. She is now working as a teacher, and it is plain to see how this vocation brings together several decades of learning.
Going back was scary. Even though I was very good at school, with low confidence it took a good 6 months to reconnect with what I knew. I had forgotten how to write essays and basic thing like that. But I stuck at it, and found my teacher in the ancient Greek poet Homer and his epic the Iliad, and through this so much has grown – from meeting my wife as a fellow post-graduate, to experiencing the pleasures of teaching, and the enrichment of sustained research over many years. 13 years later, this investment is now growing into my publishing and coaching as well as opening up doorways to other areas I am passionate about, such as conflict diplomacy, and leadership development.
Behind this, though has been my ability to make wise and brave decisions. And where I have found myself taking the wrong path, I have had the ability to recognise this and take a better road, that is in keeping with my spirit and my life’s purpose. I haven’t listened to people who would say that I couldn’t. Rather, I have listened to those who would say that I could, and in doing so challenged my dooubt with the brilliance of faith.
I would love to hear about your great decision, and how it worked for you.