I got my first official job when I was 13.
I worked in Forest Gate Wimpy for £1.50 cleaning dishes, serving customers and occasionally on a Saturday dressing up as Mr Wimpy and playing party games with children who were high on chocolate sundaes.
As difficult as I was as a child you could never call me work shy.
I did all kinds of jobs to make sure I had money growing up. Checkout assistant in a supermarket, theatre usher, salad packer, barmaid…you name it I have probably done it for a bit.
So you might think I would be a bit overwhelmed and perhaps a little embarrassed walking into Stratford Job Centre aged 36 to sign on. But I wasn’t really, I just saw it as a bit of a new adventure. I figured a couple of months with some extra cash now my maternity pay had stopped would come in handy, and I assumed the advisors there would get me back into employment in no time.
Sadly they just didn’t know what to do with me. I had close to a year ago been made redundant at 7 months pregnant from a managerial position in a local authority working on the 2012 Olympics, and when they looked at my colourful and varied CV showing 20 years of employment I almost wondered if they thought I was making it all up.
The first few weeks of signing on were a little annoying but bearable. Rose was still very small but there was no lift to get to the second floor where you had your interviews, so I had to carry her up, with all my bags etc…and trying to keep a toddler quiet and out of trouble while you are explaining for the fourth time that a retail job just wasn’t going to work, became a little trying.
It was the way people spoke to me that really started getting me annoyed. They expected me to understand the system…using phrases and terminology that only the hardcore unemployed would know…I was new to all of this, so then the staff would often turn to sarcasm or tell me that this had all been explained to me before when it hadn’t.
I played the game though…looking for proper employment the way I knew how to. I mean I hadn’t been out of work EVER as an adult, something had always come along, and I often went from job to job with nice little promotions and pay rises along the way. I thought I was reasonably employable.
“Oh but you haven’t been using job search,” the woman said to me one day.
“Erm no, I haven’t…there are no jobs over 20K on job search” followed by “plus the kinds of employment I am looking for just aren’t listed there”
“Well, Julie your circumstances have changed now you might have to be more flexible” she said.
There was no way I was going to take a pay cut of more than 50% and move into an area of work I wasn’t interested in, it just wasn’t going to happen. So a battle of wills started to take place each fortnight, with myself and the advisor going round and round in circles. I did go for one job interview. It was an interesting job, part-time and a low salary but I figured I could top it up with some freelance work. But I didn’t get it…I still to this day think it was the cheap suit the Job Centre had paid for that did it….not to sound ungrateful but my old suits didn’t fit me anymore and I didn’t have the cash to buy another…so I had to go to their preselected stores and choose one. Urgghhh.
It all came to a head one day when I went to sign on one day, it had been raining outside and I was a bit hot and flustered as Rose was playing up a bit and when I asked at reception if I could go up to sign on they said that my claim had been stopped and I would have to wait a certain amount of weeks to reapply (I can’t remember the details now…I think I have blocked it all out)
At first, I was calm and asked if I could speak to an advisor about how it would affect my housing benefit and council tax relief but they refused and said I could phone instead. Jobcentres don’t pick up the phone…or maybe it was just me…maybe they just didn’t pick up for me. I just wanted to know on what grounds they had cancelled my claim…I wanted to see that advisor and have her explain it to me to my face.
And in that moment I became THAT person.
If you have ever signed on or been in a government building around people trying to get their life back together, you will know THAT person.
It’s the person that just loses their shit.
Now I am not an angry person, in fact I am quite reserved…don’t like to make a fuss…but I was done with being treated like a nobody. Now I understood why the place had security, and why 2 out of the 3 phones on the wall had been ripped out of their sockets and were no longer in use.
“I am a person” I screamed.
“I am a real fucking person, can’t you just treat me like an actual person?”
And that’s when the three (yes three) security guards who I had seen for the last six months and nodded at, walked over to me and firmly escorted me out of the building.
My face was red, my eyes were brimmed with tears and my heart was pounding…I was so bloody angry.
I was angry at them, but also I was angry at me.
I had completely lost any sense of who I was. I had nothing to cling on to. No job. No social life. A relationship which was fast falling apart. I had never felt so alone in all of my life.
The following week I was asked to come back into the job centre as there had been a mistake and I would be allowed to sign on afterall.
Part of me didn’t even want to go back in that building.
But I had to.
I was on a mission. Unlike any, I had ever been on and not to go and cause a riot.
In the week gone past I had found out that there was a scheme, you could be referred to from the Jobcentre if you were interested in starting up your own business…and I was interested in setting up my own business…boy was I ready to start up my own business.
I had been writing a blog for a number of years and had built up quite a following…I just had to work out a way to monetise it.
What followed was 6 months of filling in forms, creating a business plan, attending workshops which were so piss easy it was a joke…and then finally in June 2014 I received £2500 start-up loan and Too Fat to Run was born.
I felt like I was a somebody again.
Look guys, this isn’t your typical rags to riches story…cos damn I am nowhere near rich yet, but every day I walk past that building I am reminded of how close I was to losing everything and hitting rock bottom…I was literally weeks away from losing my home, the home I had worked for 10 years to achieve, I was considering using the local food bank…shit, I didn’t even have a flipping pair of jeans that fitted me.
It is a million miles away from where I am today, just 4 years later, but I am reminded so often now that all you need is an idea and someone to believe in it, to help you out of the hole you can often find yourself in when life takes a nose dive like mine did.
I am also reminded that some people go through that shit week in week out, dealing with being spoken down to and not believed when they say they are looking for work…it is enough to break you, seriously it really is.
Today has been a momentous day for me, just like that day was when I got unceremoniously kicked out of my local jobcentre, a day which I think I will look back on as the day it all changed.
Today though has been an ordinary day though in many ways. I woke up late, spent the day at my desk barely taking time for a break, I picked Rose up from school went and did some shopping, came home cooked and played with Rose until it was time for me to go and do CrossFit…I am marathon training at the moment in case you didn’t know.
And then at 10pm, I sat at my desk looking for the message I had been anxiously dreading all week.
The website is done…its up…its ready to share.
My new business venture which I have been working on for the past 12 months was finally ready to launch into the big bad world….and it hit me like a train.
4 years ago I was Julie Creffield, an unemployed new parent who had completely and absolutely lost her sense of direction in life.
Today I am Julie Creffield, CEO & Founder of a global company, author of 8 books, ultramarathon running, award-winning blogger….oh and transformational LIFE COACH!!!
I am a somebody. A somebody on a mission to change the bloody world.
I help ordinary women who are a little bit lost like I was to do extraordinary things with their lives. I help brilliant women work out what it is they really want and then give them the tools to do it. I help women live healthier, happier, wealthier, more adventurous lives…and in the process of doing that, I make sure I never have to go in that bloody Jobcentre or any other one like it ever again.
I have just come out of a really busy phase, work wise…I mean a really busy phase.
And all around me I can see business owners talking about slowing things down, looking towards new goals for 2018 and starting to taking some time off to prepare for Christmas, so maybe you’d think I’d follow suit.
But hang on?
Christmas Day is like 40 days away.
I don’t want to stop working yet.
Now, perhaps this is a gender thing, but I saw a discussion in a Facebook group of female business owners earlier this week about the unfair responsibility at home that women either willingly take on or are somehow burdened with when it comes to the festivities, and it made me realise that if this is the case then female owned businesses are seriously at a disadvantage, if every year they are winding down their business 3 or 4 weeks earlier than their male counterparts…to go off and find matching Christmas Crackers and locating the perfect gift for uncle bob who they only see once a year for a few hours. Knowing that many working mothers often take on the lions share of childcare during the school holidays too across the year…we literally have fewer days than ever to make our businesses work for us.
Now this is not me being all bah humbug, nor starting a gender war about who does what…I don’t have a husband so what do I know anyway? All I know is that Christmas, and other holidays seem to be an excuse to take your foot of the pedal, to be complacent, to become lazy even.
So I wanted to write this post today to encourage you not to stop, nor to focus too much yet on plans for 2018, but to instead think about what you can achieve with the remaining 47 days of this year.
What could you do with that time?
Have a look back at what you had on your goals list for 2017, and how many of them could you still squeeze in….it isn’t too late.
And remember, they don’t have to be SMART goals, I bloody well hate SMART goals…writing my best book ever in 27 days, or 19 if you don’t count the editing time…was not realistic in the slightest, instead it was a…
Big. Fat. Stupid.Goal
The best sort in my mind.
Go crazy, think about something outrageous you could do before the year is out.
How many past clients could you reconnect with, how many more speaking gigs or training days could you get booked in, how many outstanding invoices could you get processed? What could you pitch for, what could you launch, what could you try, what could you publish.
What could you do, you didn’t think possible?
Perhaps working later into the month of December will put you at an advantage to your competitors too, because you are available to have those discovery calls, and to help potential clients and customers work out what they need over the next few months.
I am most definitely not done for the year, I plan to have my best financial quarter of the year, and am about to launch another pilot round of my Living A Bigger Life Mastermind…I mean why would I be encouraging the women I work with to wait until January?
Don’t get me wrong…enjoy the festive parties, and the more relaxed attitude to work in the last week before the big day, but come on people we are only in November…even if I did go out in xmas themed leggings today in advance of my Countdown to Christmas challenge going live.
Now get back to work you orrible lot, otherwise Santa won’t bring you anything nice!!!
I don’t know about you but I grew up thinking Mastermind was a quiz show on TV, a quite boring one at that.
But then when I entered the world of business, and I kept hearing everyone say
Oh you must join a mastermind
Ask the members of your mastermind to help you on this
I thought it was some new fangled bit of business advise to stop you from actually getting on with the business of your business. But actually the concept has been knocking around for some time,
It was introduced by Napoleon Hill in his book from the 1920s, The Law of Success, and expanded upon in his more popular book, Think And Grow Rich which I read last year. While Napoleon Hill called it a “master mind alliance,” it’s now better known as a “mastermind group.” where people gather together in a structured, repeatable environment for the success of all.
In the speaking world everyone already seemed to be in a mastermind, and enquiring with folks you admired about joining theirs or forming a new one felt a bit like asking “Will you be my friend” or worse still “Are you single”.
What I have learned about masterminds is that like any relationship there has to be give and take, you all have to be at the right stage in life, and ready for commitment.
From what I can work out, there seems to be 2 main types of mastermind…both of which I have experienced being a participant in and leading over the last few years.
- Paid Mastermind – Whereby you pay someone (experienced and knowledgeable) to facilitate a mastermind over a set period with clear objectives that help everyone move forward. These can be in person in a geographical location or done via skype or some other technology.
- Unpaid Mastermind – Whereby a group meet in person or virtually at regular intervals with no leader as such, but each participant comes with a set of skills, experiences and qualities which benefit the group. Objectives are established early on, and trust and confidentiality are a must.
There are pros and cons to both of these, and no reason at all that you can’t be part of a number of mastermind groups as long as each are serving you and helping you progress. Finding the right people to be part of any mastermind is key…and committing to it 100% is the only way of getting real benefit from it.
I am part of 3 masterminds at the moment…
My SPEAKER Mastermind – Which involves 2 of the most awesome women I know. We came together quite organically after knowing each other through The Proffesional Speaking Association for a while. We each speak on different topics, and have different skill sets but we get on famously and in the past 6 months we have really helped each other move forward with our speaking businesses. What I have found I enjoy most about this mastermind is that we meet in person once a month, always in a nice location and we have the whole day to work on our businesses. A surprise to me though is how much I have enjoyed giving ideas and solutions to my mastermind buddies, and then enjoying the wins they have had as a result.
My BUSINESS Mastermind – This is a paid mastermind with the genius that is Digital Strategist Gemma Went. I had been following Gemma for a few years on social media and really loved the way she showed up on line. I had been looking for a business coach for a while to help me clarify my vision for the business and to hold me accountable as it grows, so when places become available in her Flourish Mastermind I jumped at it. In this one I love how I do the work because I have paid for it…I stay in the room, attend all coaching sessions and post in the Facebook group whenever I am stuck because I know this is an investment in me. I also love how much the 20 participants have got to know each other and offer practical and emotional support as we work through the programme together.
My HEALTH Mastermind – Now this is a strange one really, because its a group I actually lead. Yet I get so many benefits from its members. The Clubhouse is my online running club, but it is so much more than that. It is a team of almost 400 warriors, and superheroes who support each other virtually but also make the effort to meet up for training, races and socials whenever they can to. We don’t just talk about running or fitness, but any conceivable topic related to being a woman and wanting to be in good mental, physical and spiritual health. They are a lifeline to me, and to each other. They pay just £79 for the year for this support.
So the question is when are you going to join your own mastermind?
Business is lonely, heck life itself can be lonely…the pursuit of our dreams whichever area of our lives they sit in can be lonely as hell. It doesn’t matter how great your friends and family are, or how wonderful your partner is…sometimes having a group of people who you don’t know so well, who are not likely to laugh at your ideas, or hold you down because of their own issues is a more productive way of getting the support you actually need, to become the person you actually want to be.
In a world where your network is your net-worth (who is it who said that again?) can you afford not to surround yourself with people on the same brainwave as you?
This month I am launching my own paid mastermind called Living a Bigger Life which focusses on improving health, wealth and happiness for women.
Thousands of women over the last few years have told me they feel like they are hiding away from the life they actually want? Living a life quite different from the one they once pictured for them self?
Often they feel like they have to do everything by themselves, and have nobody to inspire, motivate and keep them accountable when it comes to their dreams and goals.
So I have designed a 10 week transformational programme to help women step out from the shadows and live a bigger better life? And with lifetime access to the training materials, the mastermind community on Facebook and ongoing support from me, this really is a mastermind with a difference…a super sized one if you like.
There are less than half of the places left at the hugely discounted pilot price of £359 and we start in 2 weeks. So are you ready to live bigger? Or do you know a wonderful women who might be?
Find out more here