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When I was about 13 or 14, I went to this intensive training weekend with a company that I cannot remember the name of. There were around 10 of us, I was the youngest, and we sat and listened to two trainers teach us how to achieve success. It sounds very far-fetched, but it has stayed with me to this day. It focused a lot of visualising what success was going to look like. Remembering all of the little things that you can see, hear and touch when you realise what success is.

I have noticeably been silent on a lot of what has happened this week. I am incredibly proud and humbled by all of the things that we have achieved this year and I have no idea how we got here. When I said that we were going to be the best student publication in the country, I was being naïve. I wasn’t lying because I believed it, but I still might be the only one who thought that we had a chance.

For me the nomination was always enough. At least, that is what I thought until I got to the awards ceremony and sat on my chair. As the night went on, I thought we would do the impossible and I have been kicking myself for the last few days trying to figure out what went wrong. I visualised what success and failure would look like – I dreamt about it and prepared myself for it. But in the end, losing on the night took all of the breath out of me.

The truth is that I am disappointed – upset, that we didn’t quite do enough – but that is the problem with expectation. I feel guilty for even feeling like this, because I am so proud of how far we have come. It is this strange inner conflict, of both complete happiness but a nagging sense of incompleteness that confuses me. I didn’t really know how to react and so I went with what I knew – I felt inadequate.

What is most annoying is that there are so many positives to take from this. All in all, the awards that we won were actually the ones that we deserved and the ones we put the most work into. Best Publication would have been a nice cherry, but in my heart of hearts, I know that we just weren’t consistently good enough. It is a hard thing to swallow, knowing that it wasn’t quite enough, but if I had it all worked out now, who knows what the outcome would have been?

The positive learning curve from this is that I am not quite there yet. Hell it hurts more than a lot of things that I have done, but it is the reason why I need to wake up early in the morning and keep going. We managed to do the best that we have ever done at these awards, and I need to realise how big a deal that is – regardless of my selfish motives and my ego.

Putting that all aside, I cried with happiness. I actually weeped and it didn’t feel like a bad thing. It felt like a wonderful thing to let the emotion out. Knowing that life never really works out the way that you know it, to have these pieces of glass, to go beyond the expectation, is one of the best things I have ever done.

It is with this that I finally put it to bed and realise that it is time for the next challenge. I have done everything that I can do here and it is finally time to say goodbye. For the millionth time, it is time to look back fondly, rather than turn my back.

Expectation is a bitch. But this is enough for now – there are more first places to come.

You Won’t Be Loved

Responsibility is a very funny thing. It puts you in a position where you can make the difficult decisions, move towards a vision that you are personally invested in and share this with the people around you in the hope that they will walk with you. My leadership style has evolved over the past few years to be more inclusive – to try and empower everyone to fill my shoes regardless of where they stand – it is called servant leadership.

A servant leader is one who chooses to work for his team and not the other way around. It requires an individual to value and weigh up the opinions of those around them, without being scared to make the tough calls when need be. And I think the most effective way to take on any sort of responsibility. To ensure that you value the humanity of the human beings that break their backs for the good of the cause.

However, it is a very lonely experience. The one thing that I have noticed about taking on responsibility this year is that you stand alone and at the front. There are no safety nets or comfort blankets. Whether I have liked it or not, every decision has been a risk that needs to be taken, without being able to make people happy and learning to justify each and every element. It has been a fight against myself and sometimes others. There are no easy wins.

I have lost friends and gained colleagues. The lines become so blurred that you become the face of the responsibility, and that every conversation is about work. The positives are taken for granted with the understanding that these are expectations which needed to be met. The negatives are riddled with ridicule, criticism and personal attack – and you become a brick wall for people to bounce their frustrations off. You wear your heart on your sleeve, but you must keep your emotions locked away. People want to see strength from those at the top, albeit at any personal cost.

Some responsibilities in themselves are a poison chalice, with only the passion and enthusiasm for the cause being the motivation to carry on. Because there is the potential for you to do something amazing, you have to wade through the tough waters first. It doesn’t get easier, but you become tougher, with the conviction that you are doing the right thing; even if it means upsetting those people who matter to you the most.

As a leader, you won’t be loved. You will not be praised for your good decisions, but will be responsible for the bad ones. There are no prizes for the process, and the outcomes are important to share with the team, rather than take on yourself. You will not be thanked, and people will inadvertently take you for granted. A servant leader will get the job done, but no one will really know what happens behind the scenes.

Everyone who fulfils their responsibility will understand these hard truths. It will not have been what they signed up for, but what inevitably becomes reality. We must forgive those that make rash decisions and don’t understand the implications; we must protect those that are vulnerable and need support; and finally, we must love those that won’t love us back. It is our jobs, the burden that we inadvertently chose to accept when we took on the responsibility.

The silver lining is that the people around you will finally realise how much time and effort you went to, to make them happy and spur on their success. When all of the petty arguments evaporate as the wider vision is achieved.

This is a fantastic day and you will cherish it. But by the time they realise, you will have inevitably moved on, and it will be too late.

You are not important, but the vision is. You won’t be loved, but you will be successful. This is the curse of leadership itself.

This Is The End

There is no point in being bitter about the last page of the closing chapter. You enjoyed reading every word, but you knew at some point that the words would finally run out. This book is over. Today officially marks the end of We Do Ideas, the business that I have been running for the past two years. It is…sorry, was the only youth-led innovation consultancy in the world. I would go into explaining exactly what that is, but I guess it would be futile to go into too much detail.

After attending the Phoenix Festival (have a look at the last post) it seemed like a fitting time to call it quits – it was almost like our last hurrah. And what a great way to end! As much as it has been tough and stressful, it has also been extremely rewarding and eye-opening. The last two years have indirectly opened up a lot of doors for me. Not only have they furthered my hunger to develop something successful on my own, but they have shown me that I have the capacity to do it.

It is a failure of sorts. A failure to establish a vision that we were extremely passionate about. A failure to convince others of how powerful the vision is, in order for them to invest their time and money into it. But failure is a damning word. As if there is nothing to resurrect from the fires of what once was. However, the world does not work like that – nothing is a complete failure, and nothing is a complete success. Or maybe those are the forlorn thoughts of a person who is trying to take the positives of a pretty difficult situation. But hey…you can’t blame a guy for trying!

It is no surprise to me that more small businesses fail than those that succeed. And out of those that supposedly “succeed”, many seem to limp along trying to make things meet. I guess that there are many others like me that are trying to hang onto the coattails of hope. Entrepreneurship, although it sounds it, is not at all glamourous. It is a lifestyle that will bit by bit seep into all areas of your life. You will see them, entrepreneurs, at events and behind the smiles and the fancy business cards is a person who is doing an 80 hour week minimum and getting paid basically nothing.

Nevertheless, it is the most exhilarating thing I have ever done. Because when something works well, which it does sometimes, it was down to you and your efforts. No babysitting. And it is not for the faint hearted…as if I have not given that vibe away already. A very small percentage of people will ever take the leap of going it alone or in a partnership (because putting it all on the line is not always attractive). An even smaller number will make a living out of it – but that is the gauntlet.

This book has finished, but I am no way close to putting down the pen. This is not a melancholy post about what has been, but a vow as to what will be. The next book has already begun to be written. Is this the end? No, this is just the beginning.