Work. Partner. Home. Three decisions in life you have to get right.
In life there comes a time when, like me, you’ve had more than you’ve got left.
When this happens, you can look back at decisions you – and your contemporaries – have got right (and, I’m afraid, wrong).
In my experience, you have only three decisions that are really important:
As I argued in my last post, you have to find a sphere of work that depends not only on your academic qualifications but which suits your character and ability:
If you find a job that suits you, you are more likely to be good at it
If you are good at what you do, you are more likely to enjoy it.
If you enjoy what you do, you are more likely to work hard at it.
If you work hard at what you do, you are more likely to succeed.
It’s not rocket science is it?
If, as you read this, you are unhappy at work, please bear in mind that I do not mean a particular business or company but a sphere of work – a sector.
For example, for a time, I found myself in the music business. I like music. Music rocks. But I did not enjoy the music business: ‘Don’t make your hobby your job’.
Most of us like to share our lives with someone we love. It doesn’t matter what sex they are, where they are from, what colour they are or even, as long as they are over 16, how old they are. These things are of no concern to anyone else but you. It is your decision. Yours to get right. Yours to get wrong.
Several years ago, a very close friend of mine called me. He said I was the only person in the world he could talk to. He had met a girl he was thinking of marrying. What did I think?
I was worried. If my friend married this girl, I was sure he wouldn’t be happy. I also knew that if I told him this and he ignored my advice, he would be bound to tell his wife – as partners do – and I would lose a friend.
So what did I say?
Well, do you remember the times when you wake up in the morning and you wish you had said something the night before but you didn’t and now you can’t?
Luckily, on this rare occasion, I said what I wanted to say when I needed to say it. I told my friend that, going in to the arrangement, marriage is something you have to be 100% sure about. Not 95%, not even 90%. Any gaps, I said, will only get wider. From the start you need to be 100% sure.
My friend said he was 65% sure and proposed the following week!
He said all his friends were getting married and it was time he did too. Huh?
Another friend of mine got engaged to a woman who had a dark secret. I knew what it was but her fiancée did not.
I told him. He married her. Then he divorced her. I didn’t see my friend for the entire duration of this marriage and his now ex-wife has wrought misery and confusion on my friend and their children ever since.
A third person I know, at work the day after his honeymoon, had lunch with a lady he did not know I was seeing at the time. When she asked him how his honeymoon had been, he said he wished it had been her who he married. Huh?
Difficult things, marriages. And worth getting right.
Mind you, I once sat next to a recruitment consultant at a dinner party. She revealed that her company had developed some bespoke software that defined the optimum characteristics required by candidates in her business sector.
The computer model showed it to be a positive benefit to have had a failed marriage. In her eyes, putting your career before your marriage should be regarded as a strength.
Isn’t that awful? Not, I thought, a lady who would ever help me find a job.
Where you live may seem an easy decision – but it can be harder to get right than you think.
Soon after breaking into advertising, I realised that, if I was to live in the UK, I had to work in London. Yes, there are provincial advertising agencies but they have never had much influence and that is what they are. Provincial.
One day, I was talking about this to an art director I worked with. He was from Rotherham. One day, he said, he wanted to go home and live near his family. He wanted his parents to spend time with his children. But he had identified the problem. He could not build a successful career in advertising and live in Rotherham. He now lives in Australia. Not very close to Rotherham. Or his family. Poor guy.
When I worked in Thailand, I realised expat life was not for me. For other expats, Bangkok had irresistible attractions. It didn’t matter what sex they were, where they were from or what colour they were – and some of them, I’m appalled to say, were under 16 years old.
But these ‘attractions’ did not interest me. I love my wife. I like London. My employers talked about opportunities in Korea, New Zealand, Chile and Canada. Not very near home.
Eventually, I was offered a posting back in London. On arrival in the office, the promises that had been made to me were broken and my life had polarised. Either I stayed with my company but lived abroad. Or I stayed in London and left my job at a company I loved.
As I like living in London, and don’t respect people who break their promises, I left.
By the way, however successful you are at work, you need to consider whether your partner is happy at home. You have a responsibility for his or her wellbeing as well as your own.
And sometimes it can be easier to go somewhere than it is to come back:
The three decisions in life you just have to get right.