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Bottling Time

One entrepreneur's journey to capturing the most elusive commodity

Bureau sur la mer

The sun rose over the Mediterranean today and the silhouette of my little writing desk against the sea felt like a dream to me. Today is a special day, not just because every day in the French Riviera is special, but because it is the culmination of a long-held dream. One I don’t think I imagined would come and I have been moving so fast lately that I am just now appreciating the ‘big-ness’ of it.

So a little recap of my last decade:

· Nine years ago, I left a lousy marriage in absolute shambles. I was a hot mess. I went back home broken. Two years of support (lots of support) from my family and friends and I was finally able to see a future.

· Seven years ago, I moved to Europe and my life began its new trajectory. Soon thereafter I met my partner in love and life.

· Four years ago, we started HATCH as a side gig on our kitchen table.

· Three years ago, I quit my job to run our business full time.

When I made that last leap, I set two simple goals for myself. I didn’t say I wanted to be a millionaire (which is good because I’m not!) or get heaps of VC funding. My goals weren’t monetary at all, in fact.

My first goal was my organisational mission. I wanted to make a difference in people’s work lives. I try to do that every day through consulting, speaking, blog writing and advocacy. We spend more waking time at work than almost anywhere else and I believe that if we can make work better for people, that will have a knock-on effect to their homes, their families, their communities, and our world.

The second goal was more personal. I wanted to be what I called ‘location inspecific.’ (I know ‘inspecific’ isn’t a word, but it’s my goal so back off.) What that meant to me was that I could pick up and take myself wherever; I could work anywhere, anytime. After a period working with people in prison, and then being in a corporate prison myself, my biggest goal was, and continues to be my freedom. (Cue William Wallace.) The freedom to not be a morning person. The freedom to see my globally flung friends and family. The freedom to think. The freedom to move to where the people and climate (political and otherwise) fit me. In the words of the immortal Grateful Dead, to go where the climate suits my clothes.

I know the statistics. With 30%of UK entrepreneurs saying they haven’t had a holiday in two years, carving out this freedom was going to take effort, planning and a good dose of bravery. But I’m proud to say I’m penning this from the first week of my two-month sabbatical in Nice, basing myself in the south of France while I research, write, think and plan my next set of goals. I know so many entrepreneurs who quit the corporate grind with these exact same ideas. ‘I want more time. I want more freedom’, but they never seem to get there.

I feared I would be in that league, and I’ve been pinching myself a lot this week, reflecting on how I managed to make it happen. What was the special sauce that brought me to my bureau sur la mer?

Decide you want it

It seems a bit too simple, but by setting the intention, your mind will naturally look for the opportunities to fulfil it. I found the flat I’m staying in during an Airbnb search for a weekend summer holiday. By coming and staying in the winter for a fraction of the price, two months on the Cote d’Azur was doable. I was also always plotting and planning the right gaps in time. Knowing the naturally slow time in our work, I barricaded those dates early on. My ‘time away’ dream was never far from my mind.

Surround yourself with yes people

In business you need some naysayers, but in dreams, you need yes men (and women). Had I shared with my tribe my goal of taking time away and they had said ‘your business will suffer’ or ‘why do you need to go anywhere to think?’ I might have questioned this whole idea as folly. But they didn’t. Instead they actually kept me true. They reminded me, as my husband often does, to take the hard-earned opportunities, rather than squander them, which we all do far too frequently.

I also obviously didn’t create this reality all by myself.  We have amazing clients, partners and cheerleaders who have made our business a success. And most importantly, this dream could not have come to fruition if I didn’t have the best team ever who keep HATCH HQ running tight. When I left, I thanked them for their support and promised them that I would return the favour by supporting them to define and deliver their own personal goals.  

Research shows that the combo of setting goals, creating an action plan, and having a friend to support you in the process almost doubles your chance of success. The buoyancy of accountable encouragement cannot be underestimated.

Follow your dreams, not someone else’s

It’s important to have role models and equally good to have competition that keep us keen. But don’t let others set your personal benchmarks. So what if someone else just got the TED talk you covet? And what about the other who won that big round of funding? Be happy for them and remind yourself that your goal was time. You can get those other things too, if you want them. But on another day. This is the toughest for me, and I have to remind myself frequently: you can have it all, but not all at once.

So why am I sharing this? Because I hope that this may inspire someone to keep pushing for their dreams. To remember that goals don’t have to be measured by others’ yard sticks. And last, but certainly not least, I hope people realise that success doesn’t have to be about the big monetary rewards or the accolades, it can be as simple as a bit of freedom. 

You can’t buy time, and you can’t stop it either. The best you can do is harness it and hold on for the ride.

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