(What’s your ‘DOH!’ moment?)
For the first quarter of a century of my working life, I saw myself as someone who didn’t take risks. I joined the BBC, intending to be a ‘lifer’. If you’d told me three years ago I’d be running my own business, I’d have laughed.
Yes, I was a bit smug.
Then my oldest, dearest friend said ten words to me. We were in a children’s playground. I still remember the rising sense of panic as I realised I would have to leave the job I thought I had for life.
Doing the unthinkable
10 words and 10 months later, I’d duly departed and set up my on my own. Gone were the monthly salary, the kudos and the smugness. It was exhausting and exhilarating. And because it didn’t sit easily with the cosy image I had of myself, it was nerve-racking.
I knew in my head that taking risks is part of being your own boss. But there was no sign of the daredevil in my past CV.
A quarter of a century in one organisation? Nothing bold about that.
Then, as I started capturing other peoples’ stories, I began to rewrite my own history and spot my entrepreneurial streak.
Words prompt action
One of my ‘DOH’ moments came when I interviewed the CEO of the Sussex Innovation Centre, Mike Herd. (It’s a place where adventurous businesses take risk in their stride.) As a teenager, Mike was very proud when he was offered a permanent, safe job at NatWest. A lovely career path with a household name.
Then a central heating engineer who happened to be working at Mike’s house made an off-the-cuff remark about regretting not going to university. A handful of words which prompted Mike to resign his post before he’d even begun. He went on to tell another story which ended with the words, “If you’re not risking something, it doesn’t mean anything”.
Words make you reassess
The story of Mike’s resignation was one of my DOH! moments. In the safe version of my CV I’d conveniently edited out the fact that I began my BBC career with a resignation of my own. I’d got a safe job as a personnel assistant at a local company.
Then, four weeks in, I spent a restless night deciding to resign so I could freelance for my local BBC Radio station. The emphasis was on ‘free’; £5 a week, I think. It was also restless because it coincided with the night of the 1987 hurricane. I ended up ‘filing’ my resignation from a battered telephone kiosk, surrounded by uprooted trees. My mother thought I was mad, but I took the risk anyway and I never regretted it.
Recalling that moment triggered a full-scale internal audit on the Ability of Miranda Birch to be Bold. I started spotting previously neglected incidents of daredevilry in my life. Like the time when I first went skiing and discovered to my surprise that I was a committed speed junkie.
At a time when I was having to be brave about so many new things as an entrepreneur, it was useful to build up a track record of ‘boldness’.
It had been there all the time. I’d just hadn’t seen it.
Shame that you missed it. See you in 2015?
Those Revelatory DOH! Moments was an Un-conference session at the 2014 Brighton Summit.
The ‘DOH!’ comes when a skill that’s has been staring you in the face for years, suddenly reveals itself. In that moment you see yourself in a completely new light. You might even start to behave differently.
If you’d like to find out how telling your business story can give you a fresh perspective, email me