A Letter to my Younger Self

When I was asked about doing this article it really set me thinking. Like many of us, especially those who are business owners or aspiring business owners, I’ve long had a strong sense of self-belief, which I guess is essential if your goal in life is to be ‘your own boss’, but looking back there have been many instances throughout my post-school lifetime where I’ve had no real idea of what I wanted to do and certainly no inkling at that time that I’d end up with this business. The typical phrase might be… If someone had told me at age 16 that I’d one day own a successful business supplying soap and cosmetic ingredients to thousands of customers across the world I’d have told them not to be so daft…. Why would I have told them that..? Well…

Growing up I was mad about cars. This was probably not a coincidence as my father was in the motor trade which was a strong influence. There’s also the fact that I’m naturally a very practical person, and surely that is inherited, so throughout my later school days I always saw myself working in the world of the motor car, but on preparing to leave school at age 16 I rejected all that and decided to follow the advice of a careers officer who said to me ‘The future is in electronics…’, so I opted to enter into an Electronics Apprenticeship which proved to be a mixed blessing, and looking back on this experience, then looking back over my wider working life and reflecting on the many decisions I’ve made and the consequences of them with the benefit of hindsight, it seemed that there really was some proper advice I could offer my younger self, and much of this would not be unique to me. I’ve long seen myself as being in my own business, even before leaving school, so starting work always seemed like it should be a springboard into becoming independent, although early in life there was no real sense of how this might happen.

Letter to younger self

Without going into detail about all the many and varied things I’ve done throughout my working life and all the highs and lows I’d experienced as a result, there are definitely some significant pieces of advice I could offer my 16 year-old-self when I was first setting out into the world of work and many if not all of these are applicable to almost anyone, especially if, like me, you’ve always wanted to be independent and own your own business, even if you didn’t know what business that might be nor have any idea at times how you might achieve that goal. The problem is that reflecting on what I might now consider to have been bad decisions, with the benefit of hindsight, quite often there have been spin-offs which have been of great benefit at a later stage, so I can’t simply look back and say to my younger self… don’t do this or don’t do that, it has to be much more general than that. I’m sure many of you reading this can draw parallels and by way of an example… My first venture into the world of work, which was the electronics apprenticeship previously mentioned, ended early, not because I wasn’t good at it, because I was, but because I didn’t like it and felt I needed to be happy in my work, although the training I received in that time has gone on to provide me with an understanding of electrics that has saved me literally thousands of £’s over the years in home/business wiring installations, even up to quite recently where I was able to confidently carry out all the mains and data wiring in our Creative Suite myself when we had it built in our current business premises, so not all seemingly negative experiences are without benefit. With that in mind, here’s my ‘letter to my younger self (age 16)’…

Dear Richard,

As you’re starting out in your working life, this letter comes after 40 years of ‘wisdom’ from yourself… I’m not seeking to tell you what to do, only to give you some advice based on experience in the hope that you’ll make a success of your ambitions sooner rather than later. Mistakes will be made, lessons learned and successes achieved if you remember to try to follow this advice and ‘be positive’…

Trust in your instincts. There will be those who seek to send you in directions you’re not sure about and maybe not happy about, so remember it is better to be happy in what you do and sure about what makes you happy.

Follow your ambition. Don’t be put off when those around you offer only negatives, as most don’t share your ambitions and offer no useful advice. Seek advice from like-minded people who share similar goals to yourself wherever possible, but heed warnings from the experienced as not all in life is rosy.

Research things well. Just because you think something is a good idea doesn’t mean it is. There is more at stake when looking to go into business for yourself that you might at first think, so look at all possible outcomes and as well as planning for success, be wise and try to have a back-up plan in case of failure.

When things go well don’t be complacent. Business needs constant attention and evolution to keep it successful. My catch phrase after years in business is ‘Evolve or Die’.

When things go wrong and don’t look like getting better don’t waste time and money trying to keep everything going, pull the plug and move on as it will save a lot of expense and heartache.There is truth in these wise phrases… ‘As one door closes another opens’…. ‘Don’t throw good money after bad’….‘Things can only get better’. They are well known phrases for a reason.

Keep an open mind and embrace all interesting opportunities, whether they look promising at first or not. You never know what useful life experience and skills each opportunity might bring, whether it works out overall or not.

As you get older never forget how important it is to continue to embrace new technology, as the world moves on and you cannot ever afford to be left behind.

There really is no such thing as overnight success no matter what anyone else tries to convince you. Be prepared to work hard and be persistent in all you strive to achieve.

Remember there is life away from work… When you come to have a family and the ability to afford to take time off, plan to do exactly that.To quote another very true saying… ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.

Never feel that you should not express your opinion. You will often find that your opinion is widely shared and valuable, but others may not be as willing to stand up and be first to say it.

… Broadly these few short paragraphs represent an ‘attitude’ that, if you apply it to your life ahead you will benefit greatly and maybe achieve your goals sooner rather than later, as you could avoid much wasted time, not to mention money.

Good Luck

Richard Phillips

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