The immortal words written by English poet John Donne way back in the 17th century have been interpreted in so many different ways. When the shit hits the fan and there is debris all around you, it is only you that can clear it up..
No man is an island, well yes that is true and when you fall from grace in this ever competitive world that we live in you will soon come to learn that it is only you, the one that has fallen, that can rise up again, basically you’ve got to sort through the mess alone.
Having run a very successful business for almost 30 years. Lot’s of free lunches (there is no such thing), accolades bestowed on me, articles written, and a commercial fan base that once, literally, even put my name in lights in the Centre of London, I fell very hard a couple of years ago to find that I was on my own.
Someone asked me recently what was the first thing that hit you when the proverbial plug was pulled and you lost the lot. My answer was simple, no emails, no phone calls. I had suddenly gone from spending the first hour of may day responding to messages to searching for them and finding nothing all of this in the first 24 hours.
So where were all my chums, my wine buddies, my long lunch companions, my clan, my followers. Well they seemed to simply vaporise and disappear from view. I’m going to be very honest here and tell you that it was scary, a feeling of dreadful loneliness came over me and I was completely lost. Where was I to go, who wants to employ an ageing CEO and in what role. For the last 10 years I was equipped well in how to manage arseholes, by that I mean of course the banks, the lawyers, the accountants, all of whom are your best buddies when you are at the top of your game but when you are falling they throw off their cheap suits and reveal their feathers; vultures the lot of them. It takes years to get these villains on side and minutes for them to pick at your flesh to make sure they get their final fill.
I have spent many hours, days, weeks, months, just sitting mulling over the pain of loss and wondering what the hell I am going to do next. True to say that I did go on a couple of meetings with people I had heard of but never met before. I went because I thought maybe, just maybe, a glimmer of something positive. In the main they just wanted to satisfy their morbid curiosity and try to pick at my contacts, but they are mine, all mine and you aint havin em for love nor money, well when I say money, there is always a price for everything.
Then I fell again, this time physically and suffered life threatening injuries. I took a year to recover so now two years under my belt of ‘nothing’ but my racing mind and that can drive you insane.
I tried a non executive role recently but realised that you can only please some of the people some of the time and whilst the money was welcomed, even though I was a cheap buy, my pride was worth more. The fear in the eyes of those that thought I might be out for their jobs or in some way to undermine them was evident. Believe me I am after no-ones bloody job I’m too old to start a career again and I have never suffered from problems with ego.
I have tried to market myself but all my efforts seem to fall on stony ground so I am still here sitting alone writing this blog, why am I writing this blog, well let me try to explain. When all your old business chums forget you, apart from one lady that talks to me constantly, when they leave you slowly losing your mind something strange happens. I will be the first to say that loneliness is a dreadful thing, not being able to use a creative mind is stifling, not being in the company of others looking for solutions drives me nuts and it shows on my face. I have been told that some of the light has gone from my eyes. that I am quieter than I used to be and that I don’t look happy. So the doorbell just went, I don’t get that many visitors, so when I opened the door it was one of my neighbours. She had noticed, apparently, that I wasn’t looking myself these days. She patted her handbag and said in her soft Irish accent ‘If you want to get away for a week, I have the keys here in my bag to my beautiful cottage on the West Coast of Ireland, you can have them, take yourself away and take some time for yourself’
Just when you think the world has forgotten you someone with a kind heart does something that revitalises your belief in humanity. I will be honest I had tears in my eyes because it was an unexpected kindness that I am simply not used to. What a wonderful gesture and what a heartfelt thought.
So take a lesson from this if you would. All those of you at the top of your game, those of you thinking that you are invincible. Let me assure you that when you land on concrete from a great height, it bloody well hurts, it breaks you, it knocks the wind out of your sails. There are of course lessons to learn and that is loved ones and family become important again when of course they should have been all along but we sometimes forget that. And the other big thing is that strangers can do the nicest things so maybe that is a lesson to us all.
Of course I would love a new opportunity but realise that as time goes by I’m losing my grip and my telephone and email messages will continue to be empty, I will have to pick up my own shit, get back in the game somehow and move on but of course, with huge lessons learned from my journey.