I don’t know much

As a people, we’re hardwired into seeing things from one point of view and one point of view alone. Evolution hasn’t done a lot to help with the whole flight or fight response we’re ladened with. The part of the brain that forces us into this mode of thinking – the amygdala – sits there waiting for shit to hit the fan. And it’s a bloody good thing to. Well, in this day and age you might question how useful it is to have a physical reaction to something when we don’t know if it is truly a life or death situation.

But let’s think about that. In days gone by, when loincloths were the height of fashion, you needed to know pretty darn quick if that big hairy tusky beast was about to kill you or run away. Fast forward several thousand years, and we certainly don’t face that anymore. But we certainly do face an intriguing array of events that the amygdala forces us to choose one set of actions over the other.

At work, you’re setting about your day to day and get an email from Brian. It’s rather rude, accuses you of some things, has cc’d an array of people and made your name mud. You feel the heat rising in your blood and your anger levels rising? That’s the adrenalin. Caused by the amygdala.

On your commute, you’re idly walking along and not paying attention to the other people walking at speed by you. Someone knocks straight into you who equally was walking idly. That blood rising and making you jump back to your feet finding your solid footing? That’s your amygdala working it’s magic again.

You’re delivering a presentation and start to get challenged by an audience member. You don’t know how to respond to the questions and start to break down and fall apart. You lose your focus, a stutter develops you never knew you had, and you sweat. Pretty interesting what this amydala does to you, eh?

So what can we do about it? Well nothing really. Not initially anyway. What you need to start doing is reading. What you need to start doing is talking to people. You need to go out an experience different situations. You need to listen to different music. You need to try different foods. You need to learn a new skill. You need to be challenged in ways never challenged before. You need to get married. You need to get divorced. You need to experience loss. You need to find love. You need to have sex. You need to sit in silence. You need to stop the amygdala taking over your life.

But don’t think for one moment it’s the amygdala making you react the way you do. By doing the things I’ve just mentioned, they help you overcome the chemical reaction triggered by the amygdala. Once you’re passed that initial reaction, it’s all down to you and what you choose to do. And that is when you start to live.

Do I regret my career choice?

T’other day on Twitter, I made a flippant comment about choosing L&D as a career over being a bhangra dancer. Wendy Jacob threw the question over the fence – do you regret your choice? And I never responded. Because it’s a bloody interesting question.

I see what my friends are doing around me as the first port of call. From my teenage years, this has always been what I’ve done. It’s been my measure of success. As an only child, I didn’t have siblings to measure myself against. I had cousins, but most were older than me, and the ones near my age, were either living too far away for me to give any real attention, or not that close. So, to my friends I’d look, and I’d observe. There was Richard I remember. He was a clever kid. In the top of the class. I was a middling student mostly. And carried on so throughout my education. Enough to get by, and enough to do well enough to get the pass mark. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m not as academically astute as others, or if I didn’t apply myself enough. I’ll say it’s a bit of both.

While at college, we then had to think about university and what subjects we’d be studying. I had friends going off to Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Luton and there was me at UEL studying Psychology at undergraduate. At university, friends went off to study masters in chemical engineering and medicine. I couldn’t decide what my path needed to be after being an undergraduate, but realised unless I specialised in a field of psychology my prospects for working in the field weren’t that great. So after some time, I thought about doing occupational psychology.

Which brought us into the world of work. Friends had joined the civil service graduate scheme, management consulting firms, accountancy firms, and became qualified teachers and I was working part time doing temp work. When I finished my MSc, it took me a few months to get a real job, at QVC. And boy was I chuffed! I saw my friends doing well around me. High paid jobs, or jobs with responsibility, and I was a Training Officer.

After some years with them, I decided it was time to move on. And joined a training company called The Outsourced Training Company as a consultant whose primarily role was to deliver all things occupational psychology. And that made me grow some. More than some, I grew a lot in that role. Learned a lot. Having been made redundant by them, I found a role at LBi. And have been here since. And this role brought with it a lot of autonomy and a lot of opportunity to spread my wings. So I have done.

But what have I learned in that time? Surely I must have achieved stuff? Well yes, and no. I’ve learned broad things about myself. I’m clearly a people person. I’m clearly someone motivated by engaging with others. I’m clearly someone who enjoys the work he does. I’m clearly someone who has learned how to build a reputation. I’ve also learned how to take feedback on performance. I’ve learned I don’t get on well with everyone. I’ve learned even though you may enjoy your job, it’s not always fun and games.

Do I regret my choice to go into L&D? Sometimes, yes. Because I see what else is potentially available out there. I see people working in other fields and I learn about what they do, and I think bloody hell that sounds fascinating. And I see other salaries that people earn. I’m not greedy like that, and I’m not exactly struggling, but I do marvel at the worth attached to some roles. Then, I see what is potentially on the horizon for me in my current role, or with other companies.

But then I look at where I’m at. I look at my life. I look at my wife and my kids. I look at my family. I look at my friends and I look at my connections. I look at my lifestyle, my health and my personal development. And I realise that this is exactly where I want to be. I have ambitions and aspirations like most people, but am not deluded to think I’m not a lucky guy. I’m awesomely lucky to be in this role, doing what I do, and with the skill to be able to do it. So, do I regret making my choice?

No, because I knew exactly what I was doing.