I was a senior VP of a private tech company in the USA, living the high life and looking forward to the company going public, when my boss resigned. This resulted in me losing a great deal, including the struggle to stay in the country, impacting my family.
What challenge does this story focus on?
My long-time friend and colleague, CEO of the now, multi-million-dollar business and with whom I had founded the company 9 years earlier, told me he had just resigned. He had sent an email to our investors explaining that for 5 years he had been falsifying the revenue figures …fraud! He was then arrested by the FBI along with his co-conspirator, the Chief Financial Officer. I lost my income, my house, my job, my shares, my visa linked to the company, and therefore my right to live in the USA.
How has this challenge affected you?
During this time, my wife and I separated. I finally returned to the UK with my 9-year-old daughter and £300. I had to learn how to re-invent myself, find accommodation, bury my pride, and reach out to friends and relatives like never before. I struggled financially, emotionally, psychologically and took a huge hit to my confidence and self-worth. I was in a dark place, quite often, through the first few years.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
Two things. Firstly, the relationship I have with my fantastic younger daughter. She has inspired me so much. Secondly, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and, although it’s an old cliché that can really irritate when one is feeling down, it does prove to be so true. I’m still not out of the woods, and for a couple of years I would say “my feet can touch the bottom, so I can keep my head above water, but it is still a strain”. I look back on the worst times and see them as weeks of learning lessons and reaching deep inside for the knowledge that I will survive this. I also look back and think, that by the standards of millions of people on this planet, I have not suffered nor seen real hardship.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
Recently, in a sitcom, one of the characters was going through a hard time with his relationship. Another member of the cast said, “If it makes you feel any better...” and went on to explain his own disastrous relationship. The first one replied, “How would that make me feel better?” Although it was a funny line, he was mistaken because knowing that other people are also struggling with issues far greater makes me realise how lucky I am.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
During the first years back in the UK, while I struggled on so many fronts, I learnt humility, compassion and managed to break some of my habits of pride and arrogance. I find myself reaching out to help others more often and more easily than ever before.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
Give. Open your arms to others, open your heart to others, and even open your wallet to others. Your last shilling will not be your last shilling if you give it away. How does that work…? I don’t know, I just know it does.