In early 2011, I made the decision to leave the engineering profession for good in search of greater freedom and fulfilment and it’s been quite an adventure ever since. So far, I’ve sold almost everything I owned, started two online businesses, lived in Thailand for six months and have just booked flights to move to Bali in the new year. I’ve also connected with some incredibly inspiring people, been to some beautiful places and enjoyed some amazing parties. But my journey from engineer to entrepreneur has not been an easy one and is far from over. In fact, I’ve barely even scratched the surface.
Ever since I started working online, I’ve wanted to start a personal blog to connect with people around the world, share ideas and be part of a community. Unfortunately, the demands of starting two online businesses and living a mobile lifestyle have made it impossible to get going. But rather than never getting round to it, I thought I would post my personal entries under the topic of Lifestyle & Travel on the blog. This is also where I’ll be sharing my best tips for taking care of your body image while travelling or living in remote locations so it seemed like a good fit.
I want to begin by telling you a story, a story without an ending but, nevertheless, a story. It’s all about how I got to where I am today and sets the scene for future posts on this topic. It also explains how I came to start Smart Body Image and some of the interesting bizarre things that have happened along the way. I should warn you though, this is a long post so grab yourself a coffee and get comfortable before you read any further…
Where it all started
My journey really began when I graduated with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sheffield in 2004. Despite wanting to quit many times and taking a year out after the first twelve months, I somehow managed to graduate with a 2:1 from what is a highly respected university, particularly in the field of engineering. The key to my eventual success was doing a project in my final year that I was genuinely interested in, which really bumped up my average and made all the difference to my final grade. At that point I should have realised that I need to do something that interests me if I want to be successful.
After graduating, I looked for job as an engineer because that was the most logical thing to do. But I could never quite bring myself to sit behind a desk all day doing calculations or three dimensional drawings so opted to work in engineering sales instead. I was drawn to the more dynamic, people-orientated environment that sales seemed to offer but, sadly, it wasn’t as dynamic as I’d been lead to believe, I rarely got to really interact with anyone and was pretty much chained to a desk five days a week. Not what I signed up for.
Within twelve months of starting work, I decided that employment wasn’t for me and left my job to start my own engineering company. The problem with this move was that I was now chained to a desk five days a week with the added bonus of being lonely and broke. Brilliant. At this point, I thought the obvious thing to do was to go back into an engineering sales job where I had the most experience and could earn the most money. This was extremely important at the time to recover from the disastrous state my finances were in and to be able to move out of my parents house where I had lived for the past twelve months. Predictably, that lasted all of about six months before I hated it even more than my first job. Things were not going well.
A move to Dubai
By now it was 2008, four years since graduation and my career was looking pretty shaky. Then, out of the blue, a good friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to Dubai to work as a Skydiving instructor for the Royal family. Being terrified of heights naturally I said yes and within a matter of weeks was training to become a Skydiving instructor! Fortunately it was in a simulator (a vertical wind tunnel) so no jumping out of a plane was required.
The few months I was training to become an instructor completely turned my life around. I went from being borderline depressed to being the happiest, and most confident and excited I’d been in a long time. When we finally left for Dubai at the start of 2009, I felt like a celebrity and couldn’t wait to see what life had in store for me. The only downside was that I was still terrified of heights so didn’t really enjoy flying in the simulator or jumping out of a plane (yes, I tried it) but I did enjoy the challenge of instructing and daily interaction with people.
I also met my girlfriend, Elly, on a blind date in the first week of being there so life couldn’t really get much better. But after 6 months or so, things had started to change. A lot of the expat community had left due to the financial crisis, including Elly, and life wasn’t quite so good any more. Our shift pattern at work also made it almost impossible to have a social life so after twelve months I decided to leave in search of a new challenge and a better work life balance.
On returning to the UK, I spent almost eight months living with my parents again, searching for a job and finishing my classic car project. By this time, Elly, who was living hundreds of miles away in London, was understandably getting impatient with me and my savings were quickly running out so I had to get serious about finding a job. Of course, the financial crisis had hit the UK too so jobs were hard to find, but it was made even more difficult by my patchwork CV.
Eventually I secured what I thought would be an amazing job in engineering sales and figured that I really should settle into a stable career before it was too late. After all, I had just turned 30 and time was not going to be on my side forever. Fast forward a couple of months and yes, you guessed it, I absolutely hated it. So much so that almost all the benefit the Skydiving job had given me was undone and I felt quite depressed, especially since I’d just moved half way across the country, signed a six month contract for an apartment and bought a car.
After just two months I applied for another job in the area and was invited to attend an interview. Pretty standard stuff. What I didn’t expect was to be cross examined by the interviewer who told me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t want the job and it was clear that I should be following a different path. Apparently, he only interviewed me because his boss had insisted on it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so embarrassed.
It was at this point that I decided enough was enough and that it was time for radical action. This was in early 2011. I spent a great deal of time reading books and online resources looking for how I might be able to make a living without hating every minute of it. I also longed to be back in a warm and sunny climate so leaving the UK was high on my priority list. Once I’d read The Four Hour Work Week that was it. I pretty much quit my job on the spot and left before I turned 31 to work full time online. A risky strategy I know but I had to protect my sanity.
I tried all kinds of businesses when I first started working online but nothing seemed to fit the bill. I wanted to be location independent and help other people, they were the two main criteria. I eventually came to the conclusion that a training and consulting business was the only way to satisfy those criteria so set about trying to decide what subject I was going to base the business around, which proved to be harder than I’d imagined. Very hard in fact.
Next stop Bangkok
Almost six months later at the start of 2012, I moved to Bangkok with Elly to reduce living costs, live in a warmer climate and meet other people who were working online. I was still undecided about what to do but had learned a lot about building an online business so my time hadn’t been wasted. I also joined Eben Pagan’s Guru Masterclass to learn more about building an online information business and Cody McKibben’s Digital Nomad Academy to learn more about living a mobile lifestyle and network with other location independent entrepreneurs.
Eventually, after talking it over with many of my friends, it became clear that fitness and grooming were the two areas where I could provide the most value to people because I’m passionate and knowledgeable about both of them. And having studied both subjects for over ten years for my own needs, as well as having worked as an engineering professional, I knew I could help other professional men transform their lives and so Smart Body Image was born.
As with many new businesses, it can take a long time to become profitable so I also started a freelance web design and tech services business, GTM Web Design, which has enabled me to earn a small income while growing Smart Body Image. I learned the skills for this work in 2004 when I built the eCommerce website for my engineering company and in 2011 when I learned how to build an online business. So you could say that everything I’ve done has turned out to be beneficial in some way or other.
Fast forward to today and I’m back in the UK having returned for my friend’s wedding in August, which turned into two weddings when one of my other friends decided to get married. So I’ll now be in the UK until the end of this year when I’m moving to Bali with Elly to continue my work at Smart Body Image. So far, it’s been one of the hardest but most rewarding things I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to see it grow and help men across the world to live better, more balanced lives.