All my adult life I have done what I needed to do, or more accurately what I felt I needed to do. I had no idea how to do what I want. I’ve had a succession of different jobs and businesses but none were the result of a deliberate choice on my part. It was more of a collision between need and circumstance. I needed a job, a job came up and I did it. A profession came up I needed an income I did it. My wife wanted a business so I did that. All this worked fine for me and I have to say I look back on all that now with a degree of fondness.
Things changed though, back in 2005 when my wife passed away after a long battle with cancer. Initially after her passing I was very focused on the needs. I had a young son to take care of, a business to maintain alone and a fairly demanding property to look after. I was fortunate and soon met another wonderful lady and began a relationship with her. She was a mature age student studying nursing at that time. She had two young sons of her own on a shared custody arrangement with their father. She was doing things tuff with little money and lots of pressure. We moved in together and worked hard to blend the families. Three boys between 8 and 13 keep you on your toes. the focus still was on the needs of the family.
Once the family dynamics settled down after the initial blending phase and my partner had finished study and was now working full time, we felt our way clear to make the relationship official and get married. Next the boys started to get driver’s licenses and gain their own independence and I felt the intensity of the pressure to meet everyone’s needs start to diminish. This was the start of the hardest part of my life to date.
You see once I’d done meeting everyone else’s needs I was left with the massive question of
“What do you really want to do?”
That question that hadn’t come up since I was in my early twenties; the only other time in my life when I could do whatever I liked.
I knew I wanted to change my career, I’d been a commercial photographer running my own business for over ten years and a lot of that business, the property we had and the reason for doing it all, died with my first wife. What I didn’t know was just what I wanted to do instead.
I started out with the limiting belief that I had to just rework the existing skills I had as I was surely too old to start a new career at 54. Months of brainstorming that idea got me nowhere. Eventually I relinquished that idea and allowed myself to consider starting from scratch. I sat down and asked myself what I wanted if I start with a blank page. Literally I sat with notebook and pen and a blank page to write down what I did know about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I knew I wanted to own my own business. Once you’ve been self-employed for a decade or so you become unemployable. That’s to say there is no way you would be able to go back to working for someone else again.
I knew I wanted a business that allowed me to travel and work flexible hours, I couldn’t go back to a 9-5 routine in an office or shop.
I knew my work needed to create a reasonably good income, I had been earning reasonably good money and I didn’t want to go backwards.
I also knew that work had to mean more than just the money I wanted to do something that definitely contributed to the lives of others.
Finally I knew I wanted to work with positive and likeminded people who were a pleasure to work with. They would be a sail not an anchor if you know what I mean.
That was it. Nothing else came to me.
After much more soul searching and Googling I discovered a network marketing opportunity in Personal Development Products. I had always been keen on personal development, and it seemed to tick all my boxes. So I threw a bunch of money and time at learning that. We had a couple of great holidays and met some great people but after a while I found that my heart really wasn’t in it. I might talk more about why another time, but let’s just say it wasn’t for me.
Back to Google again and more soul searching. The next thing I found was Life Coaching. This sounded great, ticked all my boxes and so I signed up for a diploma course and got stuck into my study. Life coaching is awesome, it teaches such profound yet simple things about the way we humans construct our world, the things we tell ourselves the conversations we have in our own mind and how all that affects everything we say and do. 99% of our problems stem from the way we think about them. Take your problem and give it to someone else and it’s no problem to them. We have no problem seeing the solutions to other people’s problems but can’t see the solutions to our own. Life coaching is an amazing tool that can unearth and unravel the problems we create in our own mind. The trouble with it from a business perspective is that no-one thinks they need it. You see we all firmly believe that our problems are always caused by someone or something else. As a coach we know that’s not true but you have to get past that in the first place.
Coaching is not a business; it is a tool that will allow people to achieve something. Typically something they do see as their problem. Like a dating coach will help you find a partner. A relationship coach will help you heal relationships etc. so as a coach you need to have a specific problem you can solve for people. So now I had this wonderful box of life coaching tools but no idea what problem I wanted to solve, who I wanted to help or where to find them.
The next phase was learning all I could about niching and marketing. I knew I still wanted the laptop lifestyle so I wanted to work online, but who for? I put a couple of years of study into social media marketing, website building, email marketing, and online business in general to find out how to do that for myself. I had the problem and I needed to find the solution. I was focused on me and my problem. The time seemed to go slowly and the answers come even slower. It was a horrible time in my life.
What did all this teach me?
Well I know that for me at any rate life is given meaning when I am doing something that meets other’s needs. The three years of focusing on meeting my own needs were the three worst years of my life really. In my mind the sky was always grey the grass turned brown and the birds stopped singing. My health suffered, my family suffered, my finances definitely suffered. There was very little laughter, I was obsessed with finding my new niche in life and frustrated beyond measure when I couldn’t seem to find it. Many times I could have given up and gone for a job. I even applied for a couple in one dark moment.
The reality is we all need our niche; we need our place where we can contribute to others and get rewarded for it.
Now that I have found my niche, I have purpose again, I have solutions to people’s problems and I know I can contribute to others. Now the sky is blue again, the grass is green again and the birds are back singing in the trees. If you are struggling with your business or personal life perhaps it’s because you haven’t found your niche. That place where you can contribute to others in a way that satisfies your soul. If that sounds like you I want to encourage you to search hard and focus on how you can use your talents to solve other people’s problems not your own…. That’s where true happiness is found.
You must see yourself as a leader, study, work hard and become valuable to others. Own your own greatness, be proud of your achievement and then get out there and change other people lives.
If you want any help with defining yourself or your business, defining your niche and finding your story, please get in touch, I’d love to help.
Email me here firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me here Paulwebster.com.au
Andy spends his time away from the computer cycling or hiking up mountains or catching a wave on his SUP.