Why the tulip field?? Not because it is Spring and they are truly beautiful – but because of the wonderful low Dutch sky. Because when you look out at the sky, the possibilities are limitless, they are endless. And that is what my life is about – and my consulting work is about – the multitude of options we all have every day. Even when it doesn’t seem like it.
The reason I am posting “Never Give Up” is that precisely 5 years ago today I returned to Holland after six months in Houston. I had been taking care of my brother during his battle with stage 4 metastatic melanoma. He lost his fight with cancer at the age of 51 and I returned broken-hearted to Holland, bruised from the 24 x 7 needs of a terminal patient and the emotions that go with those final weeks and days when you know there is no more chance of improvement, that the options are very limited.
When I landed, I had thought life would go back to what it had been before I had taken a pause to care for my brother. That wasn’t to be, and this date five years ago was the beginning of a completely different part of my life than what had gone before.
I didn’t return to the position I had left, what I thought was a leave of absence was permanent; I had to give up my beloved flat in London; I found trying to find consulting work in my mid-50’s from Holland harder than it had been before, especially as I was now based outside the UK; and I wasn’t the same resilient person I had been. I was feeling the stress and strain of losing my brother and my financial security.
I spent the next three years struggling to find contracting work, looked sideways for a while to find a senior role in Holland, lost three times at the final hurdle to Dutch men in their ’40s — and realised that because of the earlier choices I had made in regards to where I lived and working for myself — my life was going to keep being a challenge. I honestly came close to giving up, putting my company into insolvency, filing for personal bankruptcy and spiralling into the depths.
Thankfully though, I have good friends who helped me find a few small pieces of consulting work, so I could pay that month’s mortgage, then the next and gradually I got back to full strength (after being beset by a broken hip for a bit) and right up until today, I just doggedly keep at it, looking for the next contract, completing it and then finding the next one. I pay the mortgage every month. Yes, I have racked up some debts along the way, but I keep at it, month after month. And I promised myself, I would never give up trying.
I believe this story has a business parallel. I spend my time consulting often with companies beset by significant challenges. I am able to take the same approach – never give up – and help to transform them into better companies by recognising the options that they still have open to them. They may still struggle month to month, but they also keep going, just like I have. And looking for the next opportunity. Persistence is the key to success.