I always expected to “be somebody”. I was the child who always looked for more… “Where are we going today? What shall we do? Why are you doing that? Can I have a go?”
I wanted to be a West End star – an actress and singer. But as a straight A student, my parents encouraged a choice between being a doctor and a lawyer. There’s no money in the arts, they said. We were a working class family in north Wales, so going to University and onwards into a profession was a “dream come true.” I chose law because I hated the sight of blood (seemed a sensible decision given the options!) I figured I’d qualify as a lawyer, make my parents happy, and then pursue my acting career…
A different kind of star…
But moving to Hollywood never happened. During my law degree study, both my parents tragically died within six months of each other, and as a result I became responsible for my little brother. Suddenly, being a lawyer make a lot more practical sense. I had to grow up fast, earn money, build a home and stability for my brother. I had to deal with my grief on the fly, step into a maternal role and put my own dreams on the back-burner.
So my 20s were focussed on working up the ladder of a legal career, earning money to pay the mortgage working as commercial lawyer at an international law firm. I worked long long hours on big projects, collected my generous pay packet and bonuses and was ‘successful’. I won awards, got promoted and sat in countless boardrooms. I was a star lawyer, but it wasn’t the stage I’d wanted – I lived my parents’ dream not mine. And they weren’t even there to see it.
I applied an actress approach to work too – wearing bright red suits, standing out in a sea of grey. (Although that changed over time too – remind me to tell you the story about when I was asked not to wear red in the office anymore.)
I was a square peg in a very round corporate lawyer hole. I conformed. I tried my best to fit into the box.
The wrong role
I could tell you so many stories about my life in the law, but for now I’ll just tell you this: sexism and discrimination is alive and well in the legal profession. I have lost count of the number of bright, intelligent legal brains who were pushed out of their careers because they were female. Especially once trying to raise a young family. As a result, I had precious few role models around me for what I dreamed of for my own life.
I sought out opportunities for change. When the chance arose, I moved sideways into a legal consultancy role, which gave me freedom to work on more exciting projects, to get closer to the clients, to be more commercial and away from the pure legal work which stifled my creative side. Life looked much better (still not the West End stage but at least I wasn’t stuck in a backstage audition anymore). But then the rollercoaster dipped again, as my younger brother was killed in a car crash.
The bottom of the ride
Losing loved ones is the ultimate challenge in life. It’s very hard to find a way out when we’re at the bottom of a swamp. Overcoming grief takes grit, determination and above all the desire to cling to hope and a faith in a brighter day. That the sunshine will come again. To be willing to fight depression, anxiety, fear and grief with love, joy, happiness and hope is no mean feat.
The most important thing I’ve learnt is to take every new day as a gift and use it to make a difference in the world. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful strong man, got married, started my business, kept putting one foot in front of the next each day. We’ve had two beautiful daughters who have given me a reason to inspire and aspire for the best life we can have. My youngest daughter recently completed 3 years of leukaemia treatment (yep, so that explains why 10% of all my business revenues each year go to Candlelighter children’s cancer charity – in case you were wondering).
As with anyone living life on purpose, it’s not to hard to understand my motivation for my business aims when you know some of my personal story.
Living MY life
Now when I started my own consultancy (Serenwood – ‘seren” is Welsh for “star”) in 2009 I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was giving birth to both, you might say.
My aim was to create for myself the perfect work/life balance…and then create job opportunities for people who wanted to continue having rewarding legal careers but have time to ‘live life’ and contribute how they chose too. I built Serenwood steadily, increasing revenues 20% year on year and following my intuition to challenge the market, build relationships and create disruptive offerings.
Importantly I’ve stayed true to my desire to work flexibly around my young family and not be drawn into the noise of the “hustle” or the “get rich quick” ethos which pervades much of the business building advice out there today – especially online (bleurgh).
Of course along the way I’ve acquired huge stocks of resilience, and so I know that my ability to inspire and coach others stems from the fact that I have been knocked down and got myself back up so many times. Building a business is never easy, but when we’re emblazoned and connected to our “Why” it makes the rocky roads more fun to navigate.
I get it
I understand how it feels to be stuck in a dark place AND how to feels to climb back up again and see the world emerge in technicolor after giving up hope. Life can be difficult for many of us but we can choose whether to opt-out, or go all in and seek happiness in the face of adversity. You know which I chose. And I want everyone to see what I see. Above all, I want to support ambitious people to create lives of independence and freedom using their own unique talents and not be boxed in or forced to conform.
And the one thought I always return to, and that always drives me to share with others:
Don’t wait. Let’s live life now.
Are you in?