Turning Worst Case Scenario Into Opportunity

Challenge Sophie

What do you want to do in life?

Those of you who have followed my progress since I began this blog in January 2013 will know that since January I have been exploring the world and trying to create opportunities that will push me mentally and physically.  When I graduated from university in 2007 people were always asking me "what do you want to do with your life?" I was so busy ensuring that I made the most of my last few university days, that I delayed giving too much thought to the question. Perhaps this was the wrong strategy, but I figured I had the rest of my life to work this out, so why not enjoy the student days whilst I can.

I did take the time to design myself this t-shirt though. I thought if I wore what I was thinking, perhaps people would stop asking me the answer to a question I didn't know. Is this situation ringing bells with anyone else?

Graduating from Uni t-shirt
Graduating from Uni t-shirt

My First Bonus

After graduating I never once looked back and wished I was still at university. I loved it of course, who doesn't? But I was happy to be free from the ever constant pressure of exams and essays. My first year of graduate employment was one joyful discovery after another:

  • I earned my own money. Even though I had worked since the age of 16, I had never earned this much
  • I had the chance to make a name for myself, I worked hard and received a bonus for it. That had never happened before, I remember thinking how this was 'free money'. I had always worked hard at school, university etc so my new job would be no exception, but this time someone would give me extra money for it. Amazing.
  • My first bonus check was £1000 which I spent on a week long adventure race through the jungles of Borneo. The Kinabalu Challenge, the first adventures of Challenge Sophie.
DSC_0400
DSC_0400
Racing through the jungles of Borneo, 2008
Racing through the jungles of Borneo, 2008
Stunning sunsets at the end of the race
Stunning sunsets at the end of the race

How Can I Add Most Value?

Over the years I've realised the question "what do you want to do with your life?" should be "how can you add most value to the world?"

I found this quote from Aristotle: "Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation".

Many of us fall into one line of work or another without really knowing what we want to do and struggle to find the answer to this question for years.  Interestingly, many of my friends are currently having a form of late-twenties crisis and questioning the value of the work they are devoting their careers to.

When you find a vocation that you think your skills match better than any other person, this leads to happiness. Everyone wants to add as much value as possible.

My Answer

When I left my job in December last year, my friends asked me "what's your plan?" Again, I didn't have the answer, my plan was to figure out my plan. Perhaps you  are spotting a trend here... For the last 4 months this is what I've been up to:

  • Working on two startups in online advertising and online fundraising
  • Building my network
  • Attending conferences and events in the London startup community
  • Brainstorming
  • Exploring working on business ventures with my fiancé
  • Getting used to living on a lower salary
  • Embracing the unknown
  • Playing with puppies in the office (not so bad!)
  • Being happy
Meeting Dr Watson
Meeting Dr Watson
My desk
My desk

Failure as a Positive Platform to Progress

Everything stems from your mindset. Two weeks ago we decided that the startup we were working on - Goals for Giving- was not making the progress we wanted or needed. We decided to put the business on ice, to re-assess and create the opportunity to work on new ventures that will enable us to have the success we want to work hard for. Some might call this failure.

Charley, my fiancé and Goals for Giving's Founder, invested a year of his life, all his savings and a phenomenal amount of energy into his first startup. It was his baby. I remember how at the start he couldn't think or talk of anything else, it physically lit him up. Each milestone was a steep step on the learning curve.  In December there was strong interest in leading Not For Profit service provider buying the team and business, which after 6 months we thought was perhaps too good to be true. Turned out it was. In January, we signed up Oxfam - our first client and a big one. In February we showed our product to Yahoo, they loved it. So much, that they said they would build their own version. The Guardian and Gumtree were both in communication each week, very interested.  The opportunities seemed to be there and spurred us to keep plugging our resources in.

Over the last two months things started to change. each day there was a new mine in the minefield. Another dead end in the maze.  It felt as though we were struggling to find a business model where perhaps there wasn't one. Each month we spent more money and made less.

I joined the team in January to plug my sales experience and energy into the business. No one wants to give up until you know you have exhausted all possibilites. It was important for me to support the business that Charley had built and do everything I could to help it succeed.

Now we know we have tried everything, given it our best shot and can now move on. We tied up loose ends, went out for beers and went our separate ways.

The Last Supper
The Last Supper

Perception

Sometimes we might feel we have failed, but perception and mindset can have a hugely positive effect and change everything. I see this as an opportunity to take what has been learnt and build something new. Of course this is not the best case scenario, but at least we tried. Charley knows what it is like to have an idea and act on it. To find investors and build a team. To make mistakes and recover from them. To build products and platforms and pitch them to clients.  To be the person who is most passionate about what you are doing. To feel the pressure every day that you are the predominant person driving this business forward, without which nothing may happen.

There have been many ups and downs in the last few months and I may not be rich in the bank but my life feels rich and happy.  I'm doing what I set out to do and explore new opportunities. I've learnt that the worst case scenario isn't really that bad. I am exploring and coming ever closer to figuring out how I can add most value to the world, be happy and use my skills to help people be the best they can be. Herein lies my passion.

Keeping positive, writing my blog
Keeping positive, writing my blog

Join me as I figure out my next venture and take on new challenges :)

If you have any suggestions or opportunities I'd love to hear from you! sophie@challengesophie.com