July 28, 2022

Chapter 15 — Invest In Yourself

My investing in myself story really started nearly 9 years ago.

I decided I wanted to get sober.

My sobriety was the point where I really took control of myself and my life, and it was time to be the best I could be in every conceivable way. This was an invaluable investment, and the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program supports my sobriety amazingly. I’m very open and honest about being nearly 9 years sober, and about my relationship with alcohol. I needed to get sober and I continue to need that help to stay sober. For those who don’t know much about 12-step programs and stopping drinking, there is a well-heeled phrase in AA which is, You come for your drinking and stay for your thinking. I absolutely agree with this.

Coincidentally, or rather appropriately, my decision to get clean was also when I joined DfE as their CIO and the first time I reached out for the help and support of a business mentor. I’ve approached mentors over the years when I’ve been missing a certain skill, and it’s worked very well for me. I’ve been very lucky with the mentors I’ve had — probably because I’ve always paid for their time and I’ve never expected that level of support for free. And I think paying for that support keeps me more honest and keeps me more invested in that whole process, meaning I’ll do more work around it and value it more. Ian Cohen, my mentor at this time, is a proper adult. He’s a dad type, but a dad type I wouldn’t fuck around with. Which was exactly what I needed. Super smart, a fabulous presenter, and has been around in the world of CIO-ing so was also a great sounding board. I loved working with Ian and we have remained friends years on.

It feels like I’ve made some of my biggest changes and discoveries in the last couple of years. Maybe this move was part subconscious, based on how mad the world has been. I know I’ve wanted the freedom to do it for a while. Nothing like a pandemic to help get your arse into gear, eh?

I had my first taste of life coaching and I’ve absolutely loved it! I was quite surprised, not just at how much I loved it, but at what I got out of it personally. I never expected to get such an understanding of different models (one favourite is The Model by Brooke Castille) and different tools to analyse how I look at things. It’s been fascinating. Rather than the old every day is a school day phrase with passive learning, it’s really refreshing to take an active approach to learning and improving.

Philip Hendrix has been exceptional. He has introduced me to lots of different techniques and we recorded each session. And having those recordings means I can go back and replay them and I usually get something new with each listen. Interestingly during this learning, it’s become abundantly clear that the people I clash with in the workplace are those who share similar traits I dislike in myself. I’m looking forward to kicking off another period of coaching with Philip during 2022. I think revelations like recognising those similar traits are vital for our development and improvement. Introspection, addressing things that are holding us back, and overcoming them positively and healthily. For me, it’s the future.

Phillip and Rachel outside smiling at the camera
Philip and me, Hampton Court January 2022

One of the things I learned early on was about asking for help. I’ve never been shy in this department and looking silly doesn’t bother me! And a term I added to my vocab from my time in Newcastle is, Shy bairns get nowt. I know there are plenty of people who are better than I am at many things and I often seek them out. It’s pretty obvious when you write it down. Don’t just ask someone who knows — ask the one that knows the most. Ask the best ones, the ones who’ll go a few steps further. When I identify a skill set gap, I will seek the help I need and try to fill that gap. Job done.

You wouldn’t think it now, but for years I really struggled with public speaking. I genuinely thought I would never master the art! Even at Silicon Slopes, when I could easily have had a meltdown and either not gone on stage or just emotionally unravelled, I kept my shit together and did it. I would genuinely rather have broken a leg than got on a stage in my younger years! Ironic now, having rocked up for 38 formal public speaking events in 2021, plus plenty of other unofficial ones! I suppose I’ve turned into my comfort zone. I read a hell of a lot: business, self-help, biographies of inspirational people — everything with a purpose, everything that will drive me forward in some way.

2021 also saw me kick off on a really intensive programme focused on leadership. This was initially a seven-weeker that rapidly became six months, as I frankly couldn’t get enough of it. It’s not your normal leadership development programme — it was put together by Jonathan De Potter who created a business called Behold Retreats and developed an online and in-person programme, targeting the top 1% of entrepreneurs in the world. It gets you to look at your thinking, at understanding yourself and your consciousness — the I am — properly connecting with yourself and your true self. I know that sounds hippie as fuck, and that’s because on some level it really is! For me this programme signified having another look at connecting with myself properly and asking myself some pretty deep questions about the meaning of my life. Part of this involves a week of taking psychedelics in a clinical environment with a hefty emphasis on set and setting, to allow for a true personal journey of connection, realisation and enlightenment. That’s something I avoided a fair bit with my drinking in my earlier adult life — it numbed lots and meant I didn’t have to face many truths. There will be another blog to follow on this subject when I find the right words to explain the experience!

Rachel outside smiling at the camera

A few people have suggested I write a book about the sale of the company and get it all down on paper. Well, the jury’s out on that one. For now. But this is my first step. I’d never just do something like this for vanity reasons because it’s never been about the ego. Like the books I read, I feel like there had to be a reason behind writing this and a point to it all. For starters, it’s a lot of time and effort. From my point of view, it’s kind of like doing a company-wide retro — looking back on what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what I should continue — making sure to carry my action points forward into the next phase. Writing it all down has been a cathartic experience, and it’s been my intention all along to learn from it. Hopefully you will take something from it too. With that in mind, I’m listing this as personal development. It comes from the heart with no pretension. I’ve been as honest as I can. I feel like I’ve come a long way in a short space of time, and maybe wouldn’t have spent as much time dwelling on it if it wasn’t for writing this.

My ‘Being Me’ journey reached its destination and, in doing so, helped me realise so much about myself. And I’ve never thought about it in this way, but maybe I’m exposing vulnerabilities and opening myself to scrutiny. That in itself has got to be a healthy thing, a conversation stimulator that could help us all learn about ourselves and our practises. We’re all human, we’re all just doing what we can.

My takeaways

  1. Personal development is very often not about work. See it more as an investment in yourself, and in your future.
  2. Getting a good understanding of yourself is key if you are going to manage or lead people.
  3. Stretching yourself with your personal development is key.
  4. Be authentic and true to yourself, what do you really want to develop in yourself
  5. Personal Development is personal development not your line manager suggesting you do things! Don’t be a lazy sod!

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