Reflections on a Decade
An article by James West, founder of West Creative
Today is my 40th birthday. Learning a lesson from my past decade – before diving into ambitions for the future – I wanted to take a moment to look back. I’ve come to realise, recognising distanced traveled is sometimes more valuable than ploughing all your energy into where you want to be.
- What happens when purpose becomes philosophy
- Unexpected consequences of controlling how time is used
- Finding peace from knowing where you add value
(and where you don’t!)
It’s an odd year in which to mark this milestone – in the midst of a pandemic, removed and restricted from so many norms. Yet, the timing is oddly reflective of an early milestone in my past decade – starting my own company, West Creative. I started the company towards the end of the last financial crisis in 2013. A high risk strategy, with companies reducing expenditure and government bodies facing the start of austerity measures. My Dad offered me some good advice that I still reflect on to this day – “If you can make a business work in this climate, you’ll be better prepared to face future challenges”. How right he was.
It isn’t just winning work and growing a stable income that stands out. It’s also the personal benefits gained from the act of steering your own ship. Feeling free from the constraints of being an employee and not working on someone else’s agenda, took a while to realise. It’s quite impressive how difficult it is to shake off an ingrained employee mindset. Yet, over time I noticed this shift. Realising my values had entirely become my work practices, choosing when and when not to pitch for a job, which relationships I choose to advocate and how I recognised loyalty.
My personality has changed. I feel more relaxed – despite varying tones of alarm bells reminding me to focus on winning more work. Relaxed through increased self assurance, comforted by a deeper sense of purpose, fulfilled by the freedom of a self determined future. A lot of this reward has come not just from the core business, but from my ever increasing work as a Creative Industries Business Adviser / Coach. At the start I felt like an imposter – unsure if I had sufficient grey hair to be imparting knowledge. Yet, through feedback, results and self realisation I’ve grown more comfortable with the value of what I can offer. I know when and where to offer my service and, equally important, when to ask, signpost or bring others in.
When you run your own business you certainly don’t work any less, but you do have the potential to control when you work. A benefit many employees may be discovering in the context of remote working. This control over time led to one of my unexpected, yet highly rewarding milestones – losing weight. For me, at the start of my decade, the drudgery of office routine was really starting to bite. I offset this with heavy drinking after work and a routinely poor approach to nutrition – skipping breakfast and regular cafe lunches. I was fat. And I wasn’t happy. In the early days I revelled in the chance to nap after lunch, what luxury I thought I’d discovered. Until I decided that enough was enough and worked with a personal trainer during my ‘nap hour’. It took a good two years of solid work, changing habits and increasing effort. The physical transformation was impressive and the mental one simply powerful. Utilising the control over when I worked and prioritising health alongside wealth changed my world and quite possibly saved my life.
The decade has been marked with many other milestones – I met my soulmate, bought a flat, traveled to some wonderful places, met new people, consolidated friendships, collaborated on arts project and expanded my ever increasing collection of wildly colourful clothes.
As I entered my 30’s I had plans driving my sense of purpose. I still have plans going forward, but I also have personal philosophies. I am fascinated to see how a warmer, more settled, James West fairs through his 40’s.
Off now to break all nutrition rules with beer, cake and a Zoom call with friends (when will 2020 be over!).