22 January 2023
Hi everyone, welcome to the sixth edition of 'Behind the scenes'!
Last time I wrote, I was enjoying the last few days of my six months in Bali: lifting weights, writing, scootering around and experimenting with making YouTube videos that didn't end passing the quality threshold I had set for myself so they're still on my hard drive.
Now I'm back in Europe. It's 30 degrees (Celsius) colder than it was in Bali but the views are just as spectacular. This is Northern Brittany, France, where I am staying for a few days.
Northern Brittany, France
In this edition, I share:
Landing home (in Europe) after twelve months of nomading ended up feeling quite chaotic. My partner and I have had to make some pretty big life-shaping decisions in a very short period of time.
I've had to figure out whether I wanted to take on a job vs take the leap into the solopreneur world without a safety net, and whether my employer would offer me a job that would help me pursue the interests that I now know I want to pursue, thanks to my explorations while on sabbatical.
We've also had to figure out whether we wanted to live in the UK, where inflation is the highest in Europe and salaries aren't following suit, and if so whether we wanted to live in London, where rental prices had increased by 30% in the previous twelve months?
Of course, all these decisions were intertwined: if I signed up for a job in London then we were going to have to find a way to live there despite the ridiculously competitive rental market; if we didn't want to live in the UK then this meant I couldn't accept a job with my employer, and we would need to decide where (in the world) to set up our base.
It's been a wild ride. And most of the big life-shaping decisions have now been made!
First, I've accepted a really cool job with the Electricity System Operator (ESO), the company that balances Great Britain's electricity supply and demand in real-time.
I'm going to help the ESO set its strategy as a standalone company as it separates from its parent company National Grid. I'm also going to shape and facilitate discussions across the energy industry in which industry leaders will set out the ambitions and the roadmap that the ESO should commit to (and deliver!) to accelerate Great Britain's transition to net zero carbon emissions.
Importantly: I'll be working four days a week which will allow me to spend time and energy on writing and creating stuff that I care about and has nothing to do with the energy transition.
This does mean that my partner and I are moving back to London. For at least twelve months. We've found a flat in Southwark, within walking distance of the Tate Modern and Borough Market. Win!
Bankside Power Station was converted in 1947-1963 into what is now the Tate Modern gallery
(not pictured: our flat)
Most of you will know the context for this...
After twelve years working intensely for big businesses in strategy and transformation roles, I decided to take an intentional break and go on a twelve-month sabbatical starting in February 2022.
My first intention was to rest. My second intention was to figure out what kind of work I would end up doing, and life I would end up living, if I stepped out of the constraints of traditional work, stopped 'doing' things constantly, and followed my curiosity for a while.
Of course I was worried about the dent this would make in my career and about living off of the savings I had been building up for a house deposit. I was also terrified that 'following my curiosity' would result in me realising that I was not a curious person after all.
Taking the leap was absolutely worth it, though. This has been an incredible opportunity to reconnect with what matters most to me and better define my own identity, which was something I had been finding impossible to do while working demanding jobs.
For those of you who've been following me for a while, this is old news...
So,what *is* new?!
Well, I think more and more people are curious about taking a break from the default path, pursuing other interests or simply reconnecting with themselves. The decline of the hustle culture and the layoffs in Tech are certainly going to accelerate that trend.
More often than not, those people have been working too hard on things that don't feel meaningful to them. Or they're people who have been working too hard on things that feel so meaningful that they (like me) have forgotten that they cared about other things too, and those other things are starting to cry out for attention.
Speaking from experience and from conversations with others, I'm convinced that going on an intentional work break can help people reconnect with what matters most to them. Which means they can then shape their life on more meaningful foundations.
But taking the leap is scary, and I think most people would benefit from talking with someone who's already gone through the process before deciding whether going on a sabbatical feels right for them.
I know I would have liked to have one or two guides...
So I'm offering 1:1 calls with people who are thinking about going on or who are on sabbaticals.
Fill this in to set up a 'sabbatical chat' with me!
I am also going to start writing more stories about the challenges, tipping points and exciting moments of my sabbatical. I'll be doing this on Substack so that readers can comment on the pieces I write, which in turn will help me write about things that both they and I care about most. That's what I'll be spending most of my writing energy on in the next 3-6 months although I'll still keep these newsletters going to write about other topics as well.
My objective is to put as much information out there on sabbaticals, be it on my website, Susbtack, Twitter or YouTube so that people who are considering taking a work break have resources to peruse.
This is my brand new Substack 'On Sabbatical' and my first (and only) post (for now)
Early November, I said I would write 5-6 essays on why I think online course creators and businesses should work together to revolutionise how learning is done in big organisations. I said I would write them by the end of the year (2022).
And here are two new notes in which I write about some of the challenges that need to be overcome.
Interestingly, I didn’t achieve the ambition that I had set for myself of writing 5-6 essays by the end of the year. The main reason is that the project was incredibly energy-consuming. Much more than I had thought it would be. I kept getting excited about the potential for this project, and was pulling on so many threads that the project became a mammoth project. Classic creator noob mistake.
Mid-December, I realised that I already put c. 55 hours into in this project: 20 hours to brain-dump and organise all the ideas in my head, 14 hours to write and publish 3 essays and draft another one, 12 hours of brilliant conversations with creators and people in businesses, and 7 hours to publish thoughts on the topic on Twitter.
Looking at all this information that I’ve gathered and structured, I can feel that there’s a lot of potential in there which I’m trying to figure out how to channel. Who is interested in this? How do I best reach out to them? I don’t feel like essays are the right medium for this, so if not essays and not Twitter then what?
I’ve paused this for now and will pick it up when the time feels right. When it starts sparking joy and curiosity again, sometime this year :)
Until next time!