Why I Quit the Best Job in the World (Part 2)

This is Part 2. For Part 1, click here 

I’d been asking myself for months “How can I help people achieve their ambitions when I don’t really know much?”...I was washing up in the kitchen one evening when the realisation hit me out of nowhere: I can’t help everybody with their ambitions, but what I could do is create the platform for our communities to help each other with their personal ambitions. Thus, Ambigo was born.

 

I put on a trial event in a cafe. Over 30 people showed up to my huge surprise and they seemed to have a fantastic time connecting with others in their area and sharing info, advice, contacts and ideas about ways to get closer to their ambitions. There was someone who wanted to record an album, a lady who wanted to grow veg at Calais refugee camp, and a young person who just wanted to work out how to be more courageous. It was thrilling to experience it and I knew *this was it*!

 My fave photo of the first event. The excitement in Fran's eyes was what I felt too!

My fave photo of the first event. The excitement in Fran's eyes was what I felt too!

 

Soon after though, I spent two weeks in Lesvos, Greece, volunteering to support refugees amid the biggest migration crisis of a generation. I won’t go into it now (I’d probably start blubbing again), but suffice to say it had a massive impact on me. As a result, on my return from there, I knew two things:

  1. I was definitely going to be quitting my career to dedicate myself to Ambigo.

  2. Ambigo *must* work towards generating better social cohesion between us all...and so from October 2016, instead of a sports journalist, I was the founder of a new not-for-profit.

 Volunteering in Lesvos had brief moments of bliss like watching this young Syrian boy go crazy with glee at being given a football to play with. The whole experience was scarcely believable - not in a good way and certainly pivotal.

Volunteering in Lesvos had brief moments of bliss like watching this young Syrian boy go crazy with glee at being given a football to play with. The whole experience was scarcely believable - not in a good way and certainly pivotal.

 

I’ve never run a business before. They tell you it’s going to be harder than you imagine, and of course, they’re right. There have been numerous unforeseen challenges. Luckily, people have identified with the Ambigo vision for a harmonious world where everyone feels empowered to achieve their ambitions and that’s meant I’ve had some amazing support. ‘I’ quickly became ‘we’. The friendliest bunch of renegades who want to see people of all different backgrounds come together to support each other towards fulfilment.

 

I would’ve wallowed in despair long ago without many incredible individuals. There’s still a long long way to go and a lot of help we need to make this thrive in the long-term. Like most non-profits, financial sustainability is the greatest challenge (so if you could search down the back of your settee for a spare few grand and pass it on, that’d be terrific, thanks). But, I’m confident we’re on to something very special.

 Christian sharing his ambition. You can read the post about it and see if you can help by  clicking here

Christian sharing his ambition. You can read the post about it and see if you can help by clicking here

 

Although all the effort comes at very little personal financial reward in these early days, it’s all made worthwhile by phone calls like the one I had an hour ago. It was a man, Christian (above), who’s had dozens of people reach out offering to help him achieve his ambition that Ambigo featured. He wants to set up a community hub for people with a learning disability, like him. Because of that, he’s been offered a venue for free, he’s got several volunteers saying they’d like to help and the local BBC radio station want to cover the story. This is what it’s about.

 

I suppose the title of this blog post is a lie. Sorry. I didn’t really quit the “best” job because it can’t be the best if it wasn’t quite right for me. Now, the future I’m creating for myself is moulded around the change I’m most passionate about seeing in the world. The challenges ahead are daunting and exciting in equal measure and I’d be glad for you to follow the ride (do get in touch!). And, although I feel I’ve already come a long way, I still have holes in my socks.

Why I Quit the Best Job in the World (Part 1)

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I was just waking up in Paris. My phone buzzed. It was a simple text message that informed me the biggest moment of my career would take place that afternoon.

 

“We want you to commentate on the Nadal vs Djokovic match, if that’s alright…?” That might not mean much to a non-sports fan, but my belly immediately turned into a washing machine going at full pelt. I knew this particular match at the French Open - between two of the greatest sportsmen that have ever lived - could be remembered as one of the most important matches in recent times...and I was being asked to commentate on the match on the official global television broadcast...Gulp!

 

I sat in the commentary booth up in the sky, looking down on the crowd below buzzing beside the historic Philippe Chatrier orange clay court.  I tried to control my nerves and fight imposter syndrome. I pretended to all around that it was completely normal for a scruffy 26-year old lad from Burton-upon-Trent with holes in his socks to be in the commentary box one down from where John McEnroe and chums were broadcasting across the USA…I doubt he had holes in his.

 

Even though it was a big match, I’d gradually become used to commentating to millions of people (which seems bonkers to write now) and managed to pull off a steady commentary without making any big mistakes. Relief! When I got to the end, I took a moment to savour it because, deep down, I knew I wouldn’t get many chances to enjoy such occasions again...and that would be my choice.

 Commentating below Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. It couldn't have been a great commentary because I was facing the wrong way.

Commentating below Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. It couldn't have been a great commentary because I was facing the wrong way.

 

Throughout my sports journalism career, I’d always had a thought in the back of my mind nagging away telling me to do something that was “actually” going to help people. But, it had always been my dream since a little kid to become a sports commentator and I’m glad I pursued that. Travelling far and wide waffling about football and tennis, mainly, was an immense privilege.  By 2014 though, everything was beginning to change.

 

I lived and worked in Uruguay for a while. I trained for 12 months to successfully break a Guinness World Record. I finally came out to my family over Christmas dinner...next on my list of wacky adventures was to work out what I wanted to do with my career.

 

Sports journalism has been great fun, but it wasn’t quite fulfilling. I found out why when I joined Escape the City’s Escape Tribe in early 2015. Charly, one of the career coaches leading a workshop, asked us the question “When was the last time you felt alive?” Introspecting over that single question helped me work out that what I loved the most was helping people feel valued and empowered to achieve their ambitions. I knew I wasn’t going to get that out of commentating on Torquay United away...so then what?

 

To continue to Part 2, click here