Taking the plunge – again

"You stupid bastard": Liam quits a successful business to try something new. But, he wonders in his latest epistle to a budding social entrepreneur, has he gone too far this time?


Dear Jude,

So it’s 9:23pm and I’m watching my favourite show Peaky Blinders. It’s 48 hours since I’ve signed away my ownership of Wavelength, the company I co-founded ten years ago.

Suddenly my mind slips into Anxiety Overdrive.“You stupid bastard what have you done? You’re 57 and you jump ship from a profitable cash rich business? You’re mad. Your best days are behind you. You’re done. What are you thinking.” This mental drumbeat continues in bed, lying awake, into the small hours.

I had been expecting these anxiety trapdoors to fall open, but the suddenness and intensity have surprised me. How fragile my confidence and optimism can be.

I’m old enough to know that this is simply my mind bullshitting me. I’ve been ambushed by worry many many times. As my great friend Lisa says, all anxiety tells you is that your central nervous system is working and not much else. Maybe worry is my subconscious telling me, “don’t get cocky, son, even at your age!”

I am feeling four things: elation, a sense of freedom and possibility, curiosity and, yes, anxiety – sometimes at the same time. It can be confusing.

But here I am, once more having taken the plunge, jumping over the edge, hoping to land somewhere even more interesting.

My mind slips into Anxiety Overdrive: You’re 57 and you jump ship from a profitable cash rich business? You’re mad

I want to spend as much time with my grandkids as I can. I will deepen my involvement in impact investing, helping changemakers gather the courage and capital they need to grow.

I’m working on a book about middle age, men and leadership. How do we get out of the way as creatively as possible because, great as we can be (and think we are), we are not the ones who will bring the change the world so badly needs. We’re really not.

I have created a new company called As We Please with the mission of “doing interesting and useful stuff in the world with people we like and respect”. If you know any such people, Jude, put them in touch with me.

This is the fifth major shift in my working life. One thing though has been constant – that sense of urgency and obligation to make the world better. This was drilled into me as a kid growing up in a Catholic working class Irish immigrant household and it has diminished little in 50 years. To be honest, Jude, it has felt like a burden at times. Don’t tell my mum.

The hunger for purpose, meaning, clarity, to doing something useful, and, yes, to be seen to do something useful, can gnaw away the same now as it did when I was 20. All that’s changed really is, as I sniff 60 over the horizon, is that I don’t believe in God any more and I’ve no hair and a grey beard. As philosopher gangster and uber-Peaky Blinder Tommy Shelby says, “You can change what you do, but you can’t change what you want.”

Header photo: By Chris Nener, published under a Creative Commons licence.