The Tough Choices Defined Me

by Mike Clayton  - February 18, 2015

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One morning – as I nearly always do, I took a look at the usual LinkedIn email offering me the chance to congratulate former colleagues, clients and contacts. And as always, I made a point of following up with new jobs and roles, but ignoring third anniversaries.

But one anniversary stood out. It was when one former colleague had become a director of a training company… that she, and I, and three other colleagues had founded. It was an anniversary for me too.

But for me, it is different. The other four directors are running a thriving business. I left that business, just over three years ago.

Leaving Reluctantly

I left reluctantly, not just because the business was doing well and giving me a good income. Indeed, I left near the start of a calendar year, and in that year, my income was less than half that of the previous year – ouch!

My real reluctance was that I had been a part (20 per cent) of a team that had built something from nothing – and I was proud of that – I still am. I enjoyed being part of that team.

But I also had new opportunities and new circumstances. I was starting a writing career, I wanted to increase the amount of speaking engagements I did, and short seminars I gave. And I had moved from being very close to a geographically based business – and my business partners – to being a fair distance away.

Compelling Causes

Success comes when you can identify what your compelling causes are, and you are prepared to shut down other avenues, in order to pursue them. Kent Trainers was fun and profitable; but it was no longer a compelling cause. Writing was, and speaking. These now make up the bulk of my business and, the year following my departure I had an astonishing year financially, nearly 50 per cent up on my last year as a director with Kent Trainers.

This wasn’t the first time I had abandoned something to pursue a compelling cause – and it won’t be the last. Ironically, the previous time was when I was just starting to launch my career as a platform speaker. And then along came the chance to start a new business: Kent Trainers. The opportunity was too good to miss, but I had consciously to set aside all my plans. It was nicely circular, after five years, to re-ignite some of that smouldering tinder.

Tough Choices

Leaving Kent Trainers was a tough choice, but it allowed me to define who I am professionally, and what I do now. It also brought into focus who i am, deep down. Because I had great fun starting a business, but in retrospect, was enjoying it less, being part of a team running a business.

I like innovation and creation more than maintenance and operation. I know that now, and it informs many of the tough choices I have made in the last three years.

Happy eighth birthday, Kent Trainers, and good luck Kate, Keith, Richard, and Sally.


This article is written as part of LinkedIn’s #careercurveballs series.

Kent Trainers is a UK-based training business.
Kent Trainers on LinkedIn and the Kent Trainers website.
Mike no longer has any financial, commercial, or other interest in the Kent Trainers business.

Photo credit: Andrew Bowden ‘Completely blank signpost’


SmarttoWiseBook_thumb.jpgMike’s career experiences have been a direct inspiration for his 2012 book,

Smart to Wise:
The Seven Pillars for True Success

In Smart to Wise, Mike identifies seven traits we can develop in ourselves to move from being seen as ‘merely’ smart and savvy, to being regarded as a source of wisdom and insight.

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