Retiring at 36 … really?

I’ve been very fortunate that through a lot of hard work over the years, I’ve been able to have had many opportunities.

For my 13th Birthday (literally the day of my birthday) my older sister gave me her paper-round to start that day (the legal age I was able to start work).

Prior to that (before I even remember starting school), my ‘pocket money’ was only given to me when I’d properly tidied my bedroom, and cleaned a share of the bathroom.  So you could say that from an early age, I was given a strong work ethic.

At University I had a part time complimentary therapy clinic (and in addition to my full time Engineering degree, I was also a barman, student warden, and ran a few clubs and societies).

On leaving Uni I worked as a door-to-door salesman for a few months, had a challenging office job (in that it wasn’t challenging intellectually!) .. and then started setting up my first Limited Company in June 2000.

I’d already heard that in general, only one in five businesses succeed beyond the first few years, so I set up multiple variations of businesses, running them alongside each other, hoping that at least one would succeed longer term.

Then as some businesses didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I’d phase them out and develop alternative ones.  And as new opportunities became available, I’d take them on too.

The longer term plan (from a comparatively early age), was to ‘retire’ at 35 years old (in 2012), with the equivalent of a million pound in the bank, so I wouldn’t have to ‘work’ again.  And then, I could move to NZ, and enjoy the incredible outdoor lifestyle whilst still young and fit enough to maximize my time there.

However, in December 2009, the opportunity became available to take on a luxury boutique hotel the following summer of 2010, on a minimum 3 year lease (taking me to the end of August 2013, so a year behind my planned schedule).  But it seemed too good an opportunity not to miss.

This hotel has been going pretty well (although not quite as well as I’d hoped, because of the naivety of many locals perpetuating historical myths about the hotel). And although I haven’t quite reached the million in the bank, through the acquisition of some property, share options, and savings, I’ll have enough to support myself for the coming years (i.e. enough to cover my living costs whilst living in my own property, with the option to ‘work’ if I want to buy something a little more expensive, as and when).

I can then focus on the dreams I want to, when I want to.

However, I’ve now had it confirmed that literally the day after my hotel lease expires (the final definitive date of my hotel lease), I begin the first actual race day of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race!

So how did I do it?

  • My typical working week is at least 100 hours plus (often more).
  • On average, I manage about a half day off every couple of weeks (and even then I’m still on call)
  • I don’t tend to sleep too much (i.e. 6.5 hours a night seem to work perfectly when I’m busy)
  • I work hard, I’m not afraid to turn my hands to doing whatever needs doing (whether that’s unblocking toilets, fixing websites, dealing with challenging customers, etc.)
  • I work ‘smart’ (although this has been a long and slow process, learning just what is smart working and what’s less effective).  – In the main part for me, it’s about employing the right staff / sub-contractors, to do whatever their job is well, so I can leave them to it without question or concern, with trust, (and provide them with all the training they might need to carry on learning as they go along).
  • I also try to rethink through virtually every process and system I’m involved with, to maximise its efficiency and performance.  Also helping ensure consistency for my businesses customers (whoever they are).
  • There are countless books on the subject, and too many apt quotes to describe what I do.  For each person though, you need to work out what works for you, and go with that.
  • As my sister once said “he had to work really hard to be consistently that lucky” ..  to me, that about sums it up.

How running out of coffee, made me attempt to sail around the world

Picture the scene if you will, the background can highlight how the little things can make the massive differences!..

I currently own/manage a small boutique hotel (along with a few other businesses) .. I’ve also been planning for years, to bring these all to a close soon when I ‘retire’ from regular work at the end of my current hotel contract.

Part of the hotel is that we offer a range of all 16 Nespresso coffees to our guests.  For whatever reason I forgot to add my own favourite variety to the most recent order.  The minimum order is 200 capsules (typically every few weeks), so it wasn’t worth doing another order just for the one extra coffee type (and being Nespresso, there are only a few places to actually buy it in person, ie near Harrods).

So last Sunday evening (13th April), we had a rare case of having an empty hotel, while I was on shift..  So I decided .. it was a nice day .. why not get the train into London to buy more coffee .. and then have a bit of a wander around whilst up there. (I do appreciate the rail fare was more than postage of the coffee order).

20 minutes later I was on the train, including a travel card to ensure I could make it to Harrods before they shut (a rare thing for me, I tend to prefer walking across the surface of London, as I’ve been doing for the past few years)..  And then on the underground system this woman catches my eye:


This image flashes me back 20 years, to a presentation of a friend of my C.O. (while I was in the ATC), from a lovely woman called Cherry (I think).

With no previous professional sailing experience, she skippered a yacht full of other amateur sailors, across the Atlantic (or so I can vaguely remember)..

Even without recalling too many of the finer details, it sounded like an incredible journey .. something to aspire to in years to come, but finding that place in the recesses of my mind along with the other countless thoughts and ideas I collate over the years.

So Monday morning, and after a great night’s sleep, I booted up the laptop and completed the online application.

The website showed the event starting in August 2013, and finishing the following June, so with my timing of the hotel, and my NZ BUNAC work exchange Visa expiring in mid March 2014, I applied for legs 3,4,5 of the 8 legs around the world.  This would take me out on the water from South Africa, to Western Australia, Eastern Australia, and finish in China, from October 2013 to February 2014 (seemingly nicely placed with my hotel lease contract finishing on the 31st August 2013).

Buy that same afternoon I had a call back from a guy called David, at ‘Clipper Ventures’ .. asking if I could I make it to an interview that Friday from 10am-2pm.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem (I normally have staff working all day on Fridays at the hotel, but one staff member was on holiday for the mornings)..  I had three rooms in, but I should be able to get them paid up early, and head down after breakfast.

So Friday morning, I head down to Gosport, and see this lovely 70′ yacht in the Marina.

Clipper Yacht 2013/14
Clipper Yacht 2013/14

I watch and listen to a great presentation, apparently trying to put you off, but making those of us present to want it even more.

Then it’s mentioned.. the race starts the last weekend in August (not early August as I’d expected)..  I look again at the ‘Round the World’ map, taking in the incredible journey that may be available to me … if I can do three legs, why not do all eight? .. The ‘last weekend’ in August is Saturday 31st August, and Sunday the 1st September .. could they mean that one?

Yes, apparently the race actually begins on the 1st September, possibly from London.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I have a great interview, my diverse range of experiences and skills seemed to be well matched to the challenge  (40,000 miles, with up to 50 strangers (around 20 at any time), in a confined space, on a race through all weathers to the finish, and massively hard work)..

So stuff the holiday after the hotel : I’m going on a boat race!

The Kama Sutra Hindu 64 Arts – Modern Day UK equivalents?

I was fortunate to find a book that was pretty life changing for me many years ago. This is not the picture book version, but the ‘Penguin Popular Classic’ which is entirely a text based version!

I didn’t get all that far through the book the first time around, as I was distracted by the pages referring to a the ’64 Arts’ which apparently should be studied in conjunction with the rest of the book (the traditional Hindu Arts).

Although these original arts are a bit different to the culture I was growing up in, I figured that the an equivalent I could work out, would probably be good to try and develop for myself over the subsequent years.

So the original arts (with what I see as many of their modern equivalents where appropriate) are as follows (I can’t do all of these yet, but they were a base for me to look out from and head towards):

  1. Singing
  2. Playing musical instruments
  3. Dancing – Salsa, ballroom, pole
  4. Performance combining the above
  5. Writing and drawing
  6. Tattooing
  7. Adorning an idol with rice and flowers – Floristry and flower arranging ?
  8. Spreading and arranging of bed of flowers, or flowers upon the ground
  9. Colouring the teeth, clothing, hair, nails and bodies – body painting and hair styling
  10. Fixed stained glass into the floor – mosaics
  11. The art of making beds – hotel housekeeping
  12. Playing musical glasses partially filled with water
  13. Storing and accumulating water, aqueducts, etc. – household plumbing
  14. Picture making – modern day photography
  15. Stringing of necklaces and garlands –
  16. Binding of turbans and chaplets –
  17. Scenic representation /stage play – Amateur Dramatics?
  18. Art of making ear ornaments –
  19. Preparing perfumes –
  20. Proper disposition of jewels and decorations in dress – fashion accessories
  21. Magic or sorcery – stage magic and slight of hand
  22. Quickness and dexterity in manual skill – computer typing speed.
  23. Culinary art – cooking and baking
  24. Making lemonades, acidulated drinks – smoothies, cocktails and fruit drinks
  25. Tailors work and sewing – same today (including curtain making)
  26. Making parrots and other decorative items out of yarn or thread – cross stitching
  27. Solutions of riddles and verbal puzzles – same today (+ debating contests)
  28. Connected stories game – Modern day politics or sales
  29. Mimicry or imitation – acting and imitation
  30. Reading, including chanting and intoning – public speaking / corporate training
  31. Tongue twisters
  32. Sword, quarterstaff, bow and arrow – martial arts
  33. Drawing inferences, reasoning and inferring – psychotherapy and counselling
  34. Carpentry – carpentry and furniture building (both flat pack and from scratch)
  35. Architecture or the art of building – build your own home and/or house extension
  36. Knowledge about gold silver and gems – same
  37. Chemistry and mineralogy – same
  38. Colouring jewels, gems and beads
  39. Knowledge of mines and quarries
  40. Gardening – gardening and tree surgery
  41. Cockfighting, quail fighting and ram fighting – boxing or martial art tournaments
  42. Teaching parrots or starlings to speak – dog and horse whispering
  43. Applying perfumes to the body
  44. Writing of cipher – code writing and code breaking / computer programming
  45. Modifying speech in abstract ways
  46. Knowledge of languages – speaking foreign languages
  47. Making flower carriages
  48. Spells and charms – Spells and witchcraft
  49. Memory and mental exercises – brain challenges and IQ tests
  50. Composing poems
  51. Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies – well read and well spoken
  52. Knowledge of disguising people
  53. The ability to change cheaper items to appear as of a higher value (ie cotton to silk, etc.)
  54. Gambling – gambling and stock market share dealing
  55. Art of mantras or incarnations to gaining possession of others’ property – positive thinking and witchcraft
  56. Skill in youthful sports – sports and athletics
  57. Knowledge of the rules of society, and paying respects and compliments to others – well mannered, respectful to all, and ability to give genuine compliments
  58. Knowledge of the art of war, armies, etc – military service (paid, part time, or voluntary)
  59. Knowledge of gymnastics – modern day gymnastics
  60. Knowing someone’s character by their features – personology, face reading and body language
  61. Knowledge of scanning and constructing verses – speed reading and writing
  62. Arithmetical recreations – maths challenges / chess
  63. Making artificial flowers
  64. Making figures and images in clay – pottery and sculpture

Particularly where I couldn’t work out a modern UK equivalent, I also felt there was a few modern day skills not included in the above list, but useful in the UK Society I lived and grew up:

  1. Sailing and navigating on water
  2. Ship building
  3. Plastering a wall
  4. Painting and Decorating
  5. Household rewiring
  6. Massage therapies
  7. Hypnotherapy & Hypnosis
  8. Meditation
  9. Anatomy and physiology
  10. Website design and development
  11. IT software skills (ie Windows, Linux, Mac)
  12. IT hardware skills (repairing / rebuilding your computer hardware)
  13. Sales skills
  14. Presentation skills / after dinner speeches
  15. Voluntary work with children
  16. Movie making / directing
  17. Advanced driver training
  18. Skills in piloting a plane  (ie private pilots licence, or gliding certificate)
  19. Sustainable living / renewable energies
  20. Growing your own fruit and veg
  21. Survival skills (remote living)
  22. Surfing
  23. Rock Climbing / Urban Free Running
  24. Car mechanics and repair
  25. Swimming
  26. Scuba diving
  27. High Board Diving

Your thoughts?