Why I Strive for More – 6 Life Challenges

I am always striving for more. People assume that it is because I don’t appreciate what I already have. I would like to challenge that and below are reasons why.

Photo that I have taken at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (2012)

I think that everyone should be aiming higher. Without progression, we would not be here today. Yes, you can argue that there are some ugly sides to human nature, but on the whole, we have improved our lives for the better. We are all given the ability to make a difference, so why not add value to those around you.

What is the alternative? Going backward! Standing still!  Nothing in our world stands still. We can’t afford to either. I am sure you would not be happy to fall behind from your peers and then feel isolated. It is in our nature to need a purpose. Without a purpose in life, what are we doing here?  Having a purpose creates the drive that when focused correctly will lead to top success.

You can have an appreciation of the present and the desire to improve. These are not mutually exclusive.

So, what has shaped my way of thinking? A very unconventional life. I don’t know where to start, nevertheless, I will try and share. Sharing my story is a way for me to address my struggles and to serve as encouragement for those who want to push themselves forward in life.

My Background

I have lived in 6 countries. I was born in South Africa. My mother is South African and she met my Argentine father at their place of work. My father is open-minded, loved to learn and wanted to push his chemical engineering career forward. From the ages of 3 – 13, I lived in the Netherlands and I am still a Dutch citizen today.

I was very happy in Holland and upset, to say the least when I learned that we would be moving to the US. It was hard to adjust at Middle School in Texas, the mentality was very different from Europe. As soon as I started getting more accustomed and only about 6 months later, we were told that we would be going to Venezuela on a project. We lived there for about a year and then headed back to Houston, Texas.

I remember watching the fireworks in our hotel room to see us through to 2000. I was then thrown mid-way through the academic year into a new High School. It was one of the largest schools I had ever seen. I graduated with good results and at 18 moved to London. 

The longest I have lived anywhere has been in England and that was for about 14 years. I then moved to Wales. However, I am still adding up my years of being in the U.K. Could I dare to say that this is now my home?If you can’t keep track, I don’t blame you. Reading it aloud is confusing, let alone living it. 

Now what has all this moving around taught me? I came to learn that for me to catch up and then go on to do well, I am going to have to be forward-looking. I am going to have to understand that things will improve and that my efforts today are going to give me what I need to go on to exceed. Patience is key!

My travels got me in the habit of reflection and continuous improvement. Don’t get me wrong, I have made my share of mistakes, but the important thing is to grow from them. I was able to overcome some key challenges in my life. By reading the below, you will learn more about these.

Challenge 1: Establishing Your Blueprint

It’s obvious to say that I struggled a lot with my identity. This was due to not having a strong sense of belonging to any culture. I dreaded the simple question: Where are you from?  It used to cause me stress because I didn’t fit in anywhere. I felt like it would be fraudulent to select any one country.

This resulted in a long journey understanding what was going on and it pushed me into a constant state of adaptation. This was not healthy and eventually, I decided that I needed to change my mindset. I needed to recognise the fortune in the hand that I have been dealt.

I concluded that I can choose where ever I want to be from. I can be from many places, there is no right answer. My identity is what I want it to be and is more linked to me as a person. My values and beliefs are not defined by one specific culture, they are taken from multiple cultures and each is special in their way.

My journey has not been a smooth ride. It has been full of obstacles and setbacks, the like of which has brought me close to the edge on more than one occasion. These have also pushed me into changing and growing into who I am today. 

The importance here is to get to know yourself better. Make sure your blueprint is what you want it to be, not what you thought you were or what others expect. This picture of yourself needs to be the best version and something that works in your best interest, not against you.

Challenge 2: Getting an Education

Your education journey doesn’t have to be conventional. It doesn’t matter if you followed a traditional route or took to studying later in life. If you have a passion and the conviction to learn, that is what matters. If you haven’t worked out your path yet, reflect on what made you happier earlier in life. Try new things and you will work it out over time. 

Focusing on the areas that resonate with you will help you succeed. Don’t go after things that you think are expected nor stay comfortable out of fear. If it’s fear holding you back, it’s better to address this first.

I found my enjoyment in numbers and creativity at a young age. For some reason, I was attracted to Maths and was eager to do my assignments. Even at the age of 8, it became a competition and I took pride every time I beat the top boy in our class. It worked out well for me. Math is easily translated across countries.

My education journey was unique. Since starting primary school, I have been to 7 schools up to completing High School. This is likely to be about double that of the average person. Imagine, being the new person in a school every two years and combine that with changes in countries, languages, and cultures. In the end, it didn’t matter what school I attended, my attitude was the most important determinant. 

My report card from Escuelo Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela (1999)

Challenge 3: Learning to Overcome Obstacles

I came to learn that making decisions and taking action are needed at times of difficulty. Inaction is the way to misery. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, make the best decision you can at that time. 

Use research to weigh things up and select the option that you are pulling towards the most. Then go for it, don’t look back, you made the decision. Try to make the most of it and adapt as is needed. Don’t let fear and obstacles stop you from progressing. Whatever you get out of this new experience is going to serve you at some point in life.

I had a parent that was very ill while I was in High School in Texas and naturally, money became an issue. I found some money in helping acquaintances with babysitting and cleaning. We had visa restrictions and I felt like a burden on my parents. I wanted to take some of the financial pressure away. I made a very difficult decision at 18 to move to the UK. 

I had no ties to the U.K. The only connection I had was several British friends that I knew in Texas. They always spoke well of the U.K. I wanted to continue my further education and do so in English. At that time, I wasn’t legally allowed to work in the US, so I knew that to be able to achieve this, I would return to Europe. At least there I would be able to take action to help resolve my problems.

I was gifted a holiday with one of the British families. I ended up visiting London and I started looking for accommodation. The only place I found that I could afford was a tiny bed-sit. It had many foreign students that were attending a local college. I also ended up enrolling in that college. The course wasn’t much good, but through that experience, I made friends, completed my certificate and learned that I enjoyed finance and accounting. 

You can overcome obstacles by taking action to address them. They don’t have to be the right answer, but these steps will get you to the right answer as long as you don’t give up looking for a way out.

Challenge 4: Taking Responsibility

The first night in my new accommodation in London, I had a panic attack. I felt vulnerable, I had never been alone nor responsible for everything. I didn’t even have a phone. I used to walk to the nearest payphone to make necessary calls. I didn’t want to admit to my family of being scared and thereby cause unnecessary worry. I began budgeting, big time … I set out how much I needed each week. I had to find work to pay for it all. Rent and food were my main concern. 

I found work in a high-street coffee chain. I did this by going store-to-store asking if they had vacancies and by leaving them my CV. A lovely lady that was the store manager had taken to me and offered me a role. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working there. I worked up to team leader level. I was able to take responsibility at a young age for things like overseeing the shift, supporting the team, managing the float and opening and closing the store. It was hard work, I held a full-time job and I was dedicated to passing my exams in the local college. 

I met an immigrant man not long after moving to the UK. Long story short I got married at the age of 19 and eventually about 12 years later ended up divorced. This is one of my biggest growth lessons to date. I had to take responsibility for my decision to get into that relationship and even harder was to understand my reasoning for sticking with it for so long.

By taking responsibility for my decisions I was able to reflect and grow. It is not about punishing yourself, be kind. Use this experience to better define your needs and work on areas that need improving.

Challenge 5: Perseverance

When I completed my college course, I knew that finance was the career choice for me. I decided to apply to multiple universities and I got rejected by them. Guess what … it was for the best!

The following year I upped my game and applied again. I got into my top choice for a place to do a degree aimed at banking from what I think is an excellent business school. I was so appreciative of getting into university, I was going to make the most of it. I worked incredibly hard and applied for placements. I had interviews at a couple of investment banks and even got an interview with the Bank of England. Although I didn’t get the role (possibly due to a lack of confidence), I am proud of my efforts. I was fortunate to get the opportunity given that we were in the middle of a financial crisis. 

I did get a placement with American Express and I excelled there. The team I worked with was inspiring and I still remember them today as my key leadership role models. I was given a graduate job offer before I even returned to university. I took that offer and I went on to graduate with a first degree. I was nominated to join the Beta Gamma Sigma society for my academic achievements. 

I returned to American Express and decided to become a qualified accountant. I chose ACA because I wanted technical accounting knowledge. I wanted to be well-rounded finance professional. Since then I have always taken opportunities in my career that progressed my life, challenged me or that added more experience. 

I was constantly pushed outside my comfort zone. I had to find my own way and as a result, I had to develop the skills I needed. Although they were humbling and incredibly painful at times, these experiences were necessary for me to grow. It is what has made me develop confidence in my ability to thrive in any circumstance. It has resulted in me questioning what is considered normal and has given me excellent problem-solving skills and an incredible will to survive.  

You will never reach perfect levels of confidence, you are always evolving. Everyone has their good and bad times, however through experience you learn to trust yourself.  

Challenge 6: Knowing What You Want

When it gets hard (and it will), you just keep going, keep believing. When you have to summon the strength, you can and you will. You learn that hope for improvement is what drives you forward. You become aware that you are still able to succeed despite any obstacles. 

What do I need to do to get through this? Am I going to give in and never live up to my potential? Giving up is not an option for me. 

I learned to pick myself up and try again, work harder. I am proud of where I have gotten so far because none of it was given to me! If you get given things you are not learning the lessons and skills you need for later in life. You may have a head start, but others will catch-up and eventually surpass you if you don’t end up taking responsibility for yourself. 

I strive to be able to add value to my career. I understand that things won’t just be given to me or come my way.  I am looking for places where I am allowed to make a difference. I want others to be able to enjoy my passion. It is what makes things worthwhile. I feel like I have a lot to add and I want to be in the best position to give something back of value.  

One way of doing this is helping others see their potential. It doesn’t matter where you are starting from or your background, you can get where you want to be. It won’t come for free, you are going to have to work very hard for it, but by keep going in the right direction, you will get there. Keep appreciating and don’t hold back, strive for more!

Thank you for allowing me to share this experience. If you like what I am about then please follow me. You can do this by clicking the social media icons below.


One thought on “Why I Strive for More – 6 Life Challenges

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s