When I was about 14 years old, I was set on the idea of being an entrepreneur.
I took the appropriate classes as soon as they were available to me: business studies, economics, and accounting. I'm not afraid to sound braggadocious when I say that I excelled in all of these, because I can temper that statement with any number of stories about subjects that I trudged and hurt through.
However, as I worked my way through the years and papers, I because more and more acutely aware of the unwelcome reality that I was never going to be able to be an entrepreneur. Not because of anything I was learning in my classes, but because I was going through that beautiful time of late-teenage life when the part of the brain that gives you self-awareness finally forms inside your thick skull, like the guest of honour showing up late to the party so that the formalities can begin.
And what I realised wasn't all that great for my dreams of entrepreneurship. I figured out some key facts about myself: I'm fairly risk averse, I don't have a great deal of self-belief, and I'm not an ideas person. No entrepreneur, ever, has said any of these things about themselves. 'Huh', I thought.
I wanted to change these things but I knew that wasn't how it worked. I have strengths, but strengths which lent me to more conventional elements of business, like leadership and management. I was going to end up in a bloody cubicle, I thought to myself, at least until I made it four metres over 40 years to the corner office.
I probably would have as well, were it not for cancer. Now, I do run my own business doing public speaking, and I'm still learning to enjoy the risk/reward ratio that comes with being a business owner. I possibly fall dangerously close to the textbook definition of a entrepreneur, but not in the sense that I always interpreted it- I didn't have a cracking idea, fund it, and build it from the ground up before selling and moving to an island with a yacht and a model.
Instead, I say that I'm self-employed. Even still, my risk aversion means I genuinely may have been better cut out for a 9 to 5, salaried, pen pushing position on a corporate ladder, as much as I make myself vulnerable to admit it, but I love my work with a passion and feel immeasurably fortunate to do it.
But now more than ever, I'm grateful to not have turned from my instincts which told me that I wasn't going to be what I wanted to be, because the culture surrounds entrepreneurship is only getting less and less appealing. I have to listen to one more story of someone sleeping under their desk because they worked such long hours I'm going to yawn, loudly, and without covering my mouth.
Entrepreneurship seems to be less about the result than about how much self-flagellation you underwent to get there, how many unhealthy habits you adopted, how poorly you treated your body, how much you sacrificed in order to get where you are now. Being successful isn't enough- it had to hurt as well, or you're excluded from the club.
Jake Bailey: Xmas mishaps a gift for trainee medics
Elon Musk, likeable as he is, is the person who tells the same story every time they're at a party - his story is about years of 120 hour work weeks, where he didn't leave his office for three days at a time. And like the person who shows up Monday bragging about how much they drank Saturday, it just doesn't hit my impressed button like they think it will. It even glances the edge of the cringe button.
Have a Google and check out the proverbial measuring contest that is the number of hours sleep that CEO's get every night. One article, which chronicles the number of hours sleep that entrepreneurs seek each night (presumably because aspiring entrepreneurs have created a market for this kind of absurd information, and successful people are all to happy to measure up and share it) ran with the sub-headline "Is sleep worth it?". Ponder that for a moment, if you can spare one.
I know now that I was right all along: that could never be me. Maybe that's my failing- perhaps, more than risk tolerance and self-belief and creativity, what I really lack is the motivation and world-beating work ethic. I'm sure it could be said. Or, perhaps, what I have gained is perspective on the importance of good health, human connections, spending time with people you love and whom love you.
So as my phone blew up with notifications from LinkedIn (which is undoubtedly the worst form of social media in existence, because at least on other social media platforms people thinly veil their boasts and strive to remain appearing humble while they brag) over the Christmas break, and LinkedInfluencers (sigh) ran live seminars on Christmas Day, which presumably had an audience of viewers, I wondered why oh why could this be happening.
Then I remembered the mantra of entrepreneurship, and it all made sense: "Do today what others won't, have tomorrow what others don't".
Divorce paperwork, and absent memories of Christmas with family.