4 Life Lessons I Learnt In My First Year After Leaving School

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On leaving school I found myself, surrounded by thousands of students, studying for a science degree at Sydney University.

From day one I was floundering. The reason I had accepted this career path was really more to do with ego(an inflated feeling of pride) than it had to do with career choice. The fact was, I really didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do with my life.

I had also been accepted into ‘The Conservatorium of Music’, but couldn’t picture myself teaching music to secondary students who just didn’t want to study music in a formal sense. So with my blinkers on – not realizing that there could have been many other paths I could have taken if I had attended there, I ignored that path.

None of my family before me, as far as I knew, had ever attended university, so I wanted to chalk this up as an achievement that I could bring about. But, in hindsight, ego is never enough to sustain you. I only survived one semester of excruciating pain and stress. University just wasn’t for me and so I promptly left.

After leaving university, what to do?

I decided to apply for a job as  storeman/driver with the Swarovski firm based in the Sydney CBD, and was hired on the spot. As an 18 year old, to be handed the keys of a vehicle to deliver product to jewelery stores all over Sydney was a dream come true. My role was to simply spend time each day filling orders in a room without any interference from those in authority and then deliver at my leisure in the company vehicle.

But in my travels I returned time and again to one of our clients in the suburb of Kogarah on the south side of Sydney, and on one particular day Sid put a proposal to me that I couldn’t resist, and that was that he wanted me to come and work for him so that he, in his words, ‘could train me up in business’.

Again my ego rose to the surface and I accepted. I couldn’t recall anyone in my immediate family who had ever been trained up in business. Here again was my chance to prove myself. I resigned my position with the other company and started working at Potch Trading.

So that was the beginning of my first venture into business. While working for Sid I started my own little jewelery business and sold to friends and relatives leading up to the Christmas period that year.

The seed of business  – that has guided my life throughout the decades was lodged firmly in the crevice of my heart and mind – and I have never been able to dislodge it ever since.

So what did I learn from that defining year in my young life?

  1. A decision based purely on ego may lead you to a dead end – but as someone once told me that when God shuts a door He often opens a window.
  2. A decision guided by ego may also lead you to an exciting opening.
  3. Never be afraid to try something new.
  4. Never be afraid to fail – because on the other side of failure is often success – especially if you learn from it and then stick with your vision long enough.

I ultimately left Sid’s company, because it wasn’t long before I realized that what had been promised was possibly never going to come to fruition, and that Sid’s influence in a number of ways didn’t line up with my personal moral and ethical values.

So I ended up leaving in the new year to attend three years of Teacher’s College, and what a wonderful three years that was. But after graduating and leaving college and then enduring the classroom with 30 students to control – many whom did not appear to want to learn – it wasn’t long before I was back in business – and that’s how it’s been for most of my adult life.

So what lessons did you learn in your first year after leaving the safety of formal education?

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