When I was an articled clerk, back in the early 1960s, my parents paid for me to travel first class in the hope that I would meet the ‘right business people’. I remember overhearing a conversation between two middle-aged men one evening; they must have been at least 50! They were dreaming about changing their profession and just doing something different.
I remember thinking how curious that was. After all, they had both quite clearly got to the top. Why on earth would they want to change?
Of course, now I know what they were talking about, but the difference is they were dreaming and I have done it.
And they would be very envious of me.
But believe me it’s not always plain sailing. In fact, sometimes I am gripped with horrendous fear; yes, cold sweats and sleepless nights. In fact, not unlike being a partner in a major firm of accountants!
So what is the downside? Well, here are just three examples:
Starting again can be lonely. The great thing about going to the office is the contact you have with, and the help you get from, your professional peers.
And the great thing about going home is the cut-off it provides from the office. Although I’m lucky enough to have a partner, who is also my wife, there is no cut-off, and that takes managing.
And the trouble with being middle-aged is that you tend to look wise, and that means everybody thinks you know what you are doing – but you don’t! You are starting at the bottom of a completely new learning curve, mistakes are expensive and there is nobody else to bear the cost of those mistakes. A younger man inevitably receives gratuitous advice from every quarter; middle-aged men are expected to know.
The next one is very sad. A quality of youth is boundless energy, which is wonderful when beginning the climb up a very steep ladder. With age, the inclination of the ladder becomes even steeper, and you begin to realise why young Jack was able so easily to climb his beanstalk. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done; you just have to be careful where you put your feet, be quite certain that you hang on tightly and to pace yourself!
I could go on and talk about the lack of a secure monthly income, being asked to write articles because people think I’ve got nothing to do, and generally being asked by others for advice on the basis that I’ve done something they don’t dare. The truth is, in spite of the downside, I’m still pleased I’ve done it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
– Peter Smith is is a former national training partner with Binder Hamlyn and has also worked for BDO Stoy Hayward during 25 years in accountancy. He still works as a consultant and with his wife Sally runs a luxury guest house, La Maison Aubelle, in the Loire Valley.
Maison Aubelle can be found at www.aubelle.com. ?:
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