Have Voice, Will Travel – a 12-episode series on the Working From Anywhere journey of award-winning professional speaker, author and entertainer Greg Ward
Have Voice, Will Travel, Episode 2
High School Drop-out?
To say I ‘dropped out of school’ implies I had it tough, that I didn’t have the ability to succeed and that I came from wrong side of the tracks; but the truth was quite different. I had done very well in my studies through the first three years of high-school, receiving second-in-form for academic achievement in third and fourth form, and achieving 6 subjects in 5th form School Certificate grading (the standard was 5 subjects).
In reality, as for most, there was no ‘one thing’ that caused the decision to leave – it was a combination of factors which directed me away from the effort I’d previously put in, most tellingly the break-up of my parents marriage.
Life events such as this have a high emotional toll, and it would be over two decades later when I finally felt I had overcame the issues surrounding the fallout. But the immediate effect was for me to hang out with a different crowd, neglect my studies, and by the halfway point of the year I was failing in all subjects. Worried I’d not graduate at the end of the year, I bailed, scored a job on my second interview and started working in the real world as a sample-maker, compositor and junior designer of cardboard packaging.
Opportunity is everywhere
That’s when my next WFA freelancing moment arrived. I’d always had a musical bent and had taken up the guitar at the age of 15. I was practicing up to four hours a night (in hindsight it was a way to block out the turmoil in the family), so it seemed natural to join or form a band. Myself and two others created a three-piece called ‘No Comment’ -which was what we agreed we’d be saying to the hundreds of journalists clamouring for a sound-bite once we became famous.
Whatever you decide to do, treat it seriously
But we had ‘something’. And we treated it seriously, rehearsing carefully and thoroughly and we used our contacts to find opportunities to perform. Having a brother as a fledgling reporter for the local paper certainly helped, and, newly kitted out in matching ‘uniforms’ courtesy of our clothing sponsor ‘Gregory’s for Men’, (whose banner was always draped behind us part of the deal while we played) we started a residency at a local nightspot.
Success breeds success
Never mind we were too young to be in the place (16, 17 and 17 respectively) we packed the place with 200 guests and rocked the night. We had makeshift gear, and about three-quarters of the way through the night our drummer’s mum’s home stereo amplifier gave up the ghost (the heart of our PA system). Fortunately, only one bottle was thrown our way, and with that in mind, we considered the night a resounding success!
We went on to perform three nights a week for many months, turning over $300.00 a week each, tax free (…there’s that element of false learning again.) To put this in context, at the time (1986) I was working at my day job in the packaging factory, earning $137.00 a week, minus tax…
Is this freelance life for me?
So, the WFA life was possible – and we mooted the idea of going pro. I was keen, but the other members were creating careers in teaching and building, and a freelance lifestyle was not for them. I succumbed to the peer thinking and soldiered on. No pun intended, but I literally did just that – for around a year later I joined the RNZ Army, following in my Father’s footsteps in homage to his foray into military service in his youth.
The Army – literally, Working From Anywhere
Talk about WFA! A fantastic experience, great leveler and an opportunity to build resilience – and it’s a great life if you are happy in an institution. Although I praise the military daily for teaching me confidence and the ability to touch type (military communication specialist role), for the ambitious, upwardly mobile soldier, it didn’t always come across as a particularly responsive organisation.
My first real inkling that perhaps my days in the army were numbered came when a careers officer, a Lt. Colonel from Defence Headquarters, came around the units to talk with soldiers about their career paths. As a recently promoted Lance Corporal (read ‘second rung from bottom’) I jumped at the chance. Sitting across from him, he peered over his glasses and asked “So, Corporal Ward, why are YOU here?”
“I’d like to talk to you about my career…” I responded.
“Hmmmph. You don’t HAVE a career until you’re at least a Sergeant…” he sneered, and began leafing through my personnel file. The rest of the interview was a blur – it was only his first words that remained with me throughout the sitting.
I was incensed! Here was a motivated soldier, quite possibly the most motivated person he was seeing that day, and he simply showed disdain for the fact I was thinking further ahead than most. I expected leadership from the military, yet more often than not, I found ‘military leadership’ was often another phrase for ‘length of time spent in the service’ – and as I travelled through life, I found the same often applied to many other sectors, industries and organisations.
Life lesson? Leadership has little to do with tenure. And nobody cares about your life or career as much as you. Nobody is going to give it to you. If you want it, go out and get it.
One door closes, another opens…
so that was the start of my disillusionment with army life, so soon after, following four years service to my country, I was back on civvy street, a plane ticket in my hand, ready to fly to Europe. It would be another four years before I set foot back in New Zealand
Coming up: Synchronicity, or how the Universe works in strange ways; What do you do when challenged to a duel in Turkey?; and if you dream it, you can achieve it: signed to a record company in England.
© Greg Ward 2016
Andy spends his time away from the computer cycling or hiking up mountains or catching a wave on his SUP.