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Life Sentence

Experience isn’t always the best teacher.

I started smoking around the time I started going to high school.  A group of us used to hang about together, and one day a couple of our gang disappeared.  Well, those of us that were left were curious and we spread out to figure out where they’d gone; we found them in our local park hiding in some bushes smoking cigarettes.  Well this seemed like a good idea to us and felt very grown up so we decided to join in, and we shared the task of buying a pack from a vending machine outside a local shop for half a crown a pack.  

Over the next number of years, I would find myself deciding that this was really a bit of a daft, costly and unhealthy habit and that I really ought to quit, especially when I started to develop that “smokers cough”.  I managed to kick the habit on several occasions too, but then something happened which caused me to fall off the wagon and start up again.  I finally “grew up” about 20 years ago and I’ve not touched any since.  I used to say “it’s really easy to give up smoking, I’ve done it loads of times”, but in reality, it was really quite a hard lesson.

So, despite the experience that it was hard to give up, I relapsed several times and had to do it all over again.  Experience wasn’t the best teacher, and it’s fair to say that I wasn’t the best student either, where smoking was concerned.  

However, in the end, evaluated experience became my best teacher.  I took some time for me to look back over my life and evaluate life’s experience, and in the end it was that evaluation that made the difference.  

“I never did a day’s work in my life.  It was all fun!”

~ Thomas Edison

I had the opportunity to do a similar evaluation more recently on the direction and focus of my career. This time the thing I discovered was that everything I’ve done, I’ve taught; or at least, pretty much everything I’ve done well, I’ve taught.  I just love helping people to learn something I know how to do.

Something else I discovered is that there are times when other people are less passionate about a subject than I am.  I can remember the day, and the circumstances, when I stopped trying to help people learn.

It was only after I took time out to study my “life sentence” and took time to evaluate my life experiences that I made a conscious decision to refocus on doing what I love doing.  

When I was growing up one of my main hobbies was playing the violin, and I loved performing when I had the chance, playing in orchestras and doing solo gigs.  After one of these solo gigs I was offered a sponsorship to pursue a career as a violinist, however I ended up turning that opportunity down.  I just knew that although I loved playing, I didn’t have the passion to persevere with the level of practice that I would need to do, to achieve the standard required of a professional violinist.  

The Life Sentence exercise was a process of looking back over my life and career to identify the people, events, activities and circumstances that have most affected my life.  It involved exploring the highs and the lows, the mountaintops and the valleys, the pleasures and the pains of life, and then identifying the through-line for each season.  

Rather like a series on Netflix, where each season has a different through-line (a key theme or idea that runs through that season) I explored the through-line for each season in my life.  I imagined the season title, and spent some time clarifying the major lessons learned from that season, the episode titles within each season, and where the drama was found.

The outcome from my Life Sentence exercise was now available as a collection of evaluated experiences, and had some really helpful and fascinating personal insights.  Such as, I love helping people to learn something I know how to do.

“Following your passion is the key to finding your potential.”

~ John Maxwell

One of the key lessons was that I had found myself in a place where was invited to become the first coach to support the leadership team, who were in turn leading a team of over 400 volunteers from over 40 countries.  Since then this team has grown and I am privileged to call these people some of my best and closest friends.  I had uncovered something that inspired me to do everything I could to pursue it, and I was loving it.  So this, in turn, inspired me to bring my career into alignment and to follow where that inspiration was leading me.

This has, in turn, led me to pursue a calling that resulted in sharing the stage with John Maxwell this summer and talk about that role.  For me, following my passion has certainly proved to be a key to finding my potential!

I have discovered that talent on its own is never enough, opportunity alone will never get us to the top, knowledge alone will never help to achieve all was can achieve, and even having a great team doesn’t guarantee producing great results.  Something that is personally both inspiring and rewarding is essential for a person to achieve everything they are capable of.  

“The world will belong to passionate, driven leaders . . . people who not only have enormous amounts of energy, but who can energise those they lead.”

~ Jack Welch

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.