Everything is working out perfectly–10 years of craziness and chaos

25 Jul

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Just over ten years ago I set out on an adventure that was to change my life. That day I woke up, cropped my hair short and loaded the new Bon Jovi box set onto my Mp3 player and then went out on a run before breakfast… and as I ran I looked back on my life up to that point – and forward into the new dawn that lay ahead. A new vista of infinite possibilities lay in front of me. Little did I know that life wasn’t going to follow my expectations. Although perhaps I should have guessed…

But let’s rewind just a few short months. In 2004 I was working as a well respected and well liked programme manager running global IT initiatives for a major multinational, Unilever plc. I had a five figure annual salary, industry respect and the commitment and appreciation of my team, my peers, and my superiors. I was doing what I had trained to do, working in an exciting, dynamic technology environment, living on the edge of technical achievement. I travelled the world, implementing new technologies, running training courses and contributing to industry think tanks and technical peer reviews. And loving every minute of it.

My personal life was a little less perfect though – I was still recovering from a painful divorce, although I still had the love, support and close friendship of my two sons. My personal Christian faith had collapsed a few years earlier – yet I felt I had a huge amount of freedom to determine my own destiny.

In mid 2004 a harsher reality hit our technology world. The head of my organisation was ousted by those around him, and the shape of our business began to shift. Those of us who had been favoured suddenly fell from grace. As part of the subsequent reorganisation, I was offered the post of chief desktop architect – a seductive title, if it wasn’t for the fact that the previous chief desktop architect used to work for me. I was being offered a subordinate’s job. Suddenly, I faced a fearsome choice – and an opportunity. I could press for redundancy, and begin a new life.. or settle back down in the organisation and see what the future would bring.

I wrestled with the options in my head for days. I talked to my closest friends, who were very clear that they felt I should leave on a new adventure – because they could see the excitement in my eyes when I talked about it. Yet I still had the responsibility for two teenage sons – getting them through university, getting them started in life. I turned the possibilities over in my head, unable – or unwilling – to come to a solution.

While away on business, I went to the movies, watching ‘Wimbledon’ – the story of a tennis player with one last chance to be a winner… someone who felt that his best days were behind him and yet still had one chance to win… if he would own the title of ‘winner’. Around me at the movie theatre were posters – the movie ‘Hero’. A soap powder ‘Bold’. And finally, the tag line to an upcoming feature stopped me in my tracks: “In 2005, a hero will arise”. What more guidance could I be looking for? (I would point out that the movie in question was none other than ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’)

My mind was made up. I went in to my boss, who reluctantly accepted my resignation, asking me to work another 6 months to complete the project in hand. And I did. We delivered, on time and under budget, an installation that was subsequently rolled out to 150,000 computers world wide. And in the meantime, I had four leaving parties (the benefits of being an international traveller based on two continents and in three offices), rafted the Grand Canyon and lived it up in Las Vegas. Sadly my ex wife was taken ill during those months, too, and my two sons came to live with me, giving me an even greater sense that I had done the right thing.

And so, on that fateful day in June 2005, I bade farewell to the corporate lifestyle. I had no idea what I was going to do… but I knew that I was going on an adventure – a journey into the unknown, discovering what was possible.

I think these moments happen for all of us in our lives. We dismiss it sometimes as a mid life crisis, but for all of us, in some way, the Destroyer will rear his head – we look back at what we have done with our lives, and decide that we want to build something else. For some that manifests as getting rid of all that’s old and dull – throw out the Mondeo and buy an Alfa. Dye your hair bright blue. Learn to ride a motorcycle. Have an affair. Or change your career.

You see, we have to destroy in order to create. We have to tear down the security and safety of what is, in order to step into what could be. We have to clear the ground, the things that hold us back, getting rid of the comfort of what we know in order to take the first steps on an adventure into the unknown. We cannot hold on to the past while attempting to create a new future… the Universe demands that we let go of our safety net. It’s like stepping onto a rope bridge over a canyon… we can choose to stay on the safety of one side of the canyon, secure with rock under our feet. But if we want to step into something new, if we want to get to the other side… then we have to take a step onto that bridge, to step out over the chasm, unsure whether the rope will support us. As we step further out, then the bridge sways more. The wind might catch at us. We can go backward to safety – or press on into the unknown. As we step further out, then the bridge sways more wildly. Uncertainty increases. And yet we press on, hopeful of reaching the other side. Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other, feeling our way forward. Yet no matter how scary the crossing might be – the bridge will hold us… we will get to the other side.

One thing I did know… as well as being bloody good with technology (computers had been woven throughout my life from college onwards, back when there were no books, just typewritten notes) I was also damn successful with people. I had taken raw material and helped forge experts, industry leaders and technologists. One of my crew, a secretary when she started working with me, went on to be head of Information Technology for a major fragrance company. Another two created a very successful technology consultancy. Others found their voices and their careers blossom – so rather than diving back into technology or consultancy, I decided that I would find a way to work with people – to bring out the best in them.

And so I began to explore the options available. At first I started as a coach – working with people to help them realise their goals and make the sort of changes I had wrought in my own life. On top of this, I trained as a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) a psychological technology that restored power to individuals, allowing them to make massive changes in their lives. I added a qualification in hypnosis, simply because no-one understood what NLP actually was.

A gruelling three week programme saw me obtain the coveted title of ‘Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ – certified to be able to run my own NLP trainings and adding depth to my ability as a public speaker. I worked with other companies to coach on major programmes, and became an expert in practical demonstrations of the power of the mind – board breaking, iron bar bending, and the fearsome firewalk and meditative glass walk.

And the more I explored the power of the unconscious, unlocking the power of human potential through helping people to rewire their conscious to achieve the results they wanted, the more I became aware that there was more to our own personal power. There seemed to be a supernormal aspect to our beings, that what we saw in this physical realm was only a faint shadow of the true power open to each one of us.

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I travelled to Peru, walking the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu and heard a still small voice speak to me as I looked down over the ancient city spread out below me. I rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and found myself learning deep lessons and stories from the rock around me, as we went deeper and deeper into the layers of stone etched out by the river – as we bounced and span through rapids and over rocks and waterfalls. I grew a beard and shaved my head. I learned to dance, learned to ski and to snowboard, took a course in fire eating, studied to be a bodyguard,threw myself out of a perfectly good aeroplane, got my second dan karate black belt…

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I moved town, with my children, to create a gap between my old life and my new. I made new friends. Learned new skills. Had fun.

I ran coaching programmes for sales staff, communications programmes for help line operators, worked with individuals and companies….I was regarded as one of the people who could really make a difference to people’s lives. People loved what I was doing and the encouragement I brought. I worked on inspirational leadership events, working with attendees to get them through some of the challenges they faced in the seminar programmes.

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Life was good, working out perfectly – or so it seemed…

 

And then disaster struck.

I guess I had seen it coming for a while… but I just worked hard and hoped things would turn round. In early 2008, it became clear that my business was not sustainable. There simply wasn’t enough money coming in to keep me and my family afloat.

With a heavy heart, I decided to start to look for work. I began by approaching technology companies, looking for roles like my previous one. Confident that I had the skills and the understanding to step right back in where I left off, I approached company after company. And met a brick wall of indifference. Too long out of the business. Not up to date.

I set my sights lower. And still no success.

Then I hit a new problem. I was over qualified for lower positions. So they wouldn’t hire me either.

I sold my beautiful car to raise funds. I borrowed money on credit cards to pay the bills, to help provide for my family. I took part time work as a greeter in a kitchen and bathroom showroom with a hundred mile round trip to work every day. The company went bust, and I didn’t get paid. I did display installations for supermarkets. I would have done anything to keep my family together, to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. In those moments I tasted true desperation.

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I took to walking by the river in the early hours of the morning, before anyone was awake in the house, fingers clutched round a cup of coffee, looking desperately for answers. I was certain I had set out trying to do the right thing. I had followed my dreams, listened to my heart, looking to work with people, trying to bring more love into the world – yet here I was… lost, alone, afraid, stuck, and in trouble. And it was there, in those dark moments in late winter, that I found a new faith, a new depth of being, that would sustain me through the dark days to come. My youthful Christianity had been transformed into a new belief system and world view, based less on rules, and more on love. My finances may have been falling apart… but my heart was beginning to heal.

Eventually, when I was down to my last few pounds, I got a job working as a call centre operative for a UK communications supplier. And I hoped that the worst was over. By now I was around £40,000 in debt, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had started to pursue me for taxes I didn’t realise I had to pay.

When a friend offered me a job working for a technology startup in the Midlands, I jumped at the chance. For six months I lived in his garden shed while we started to build the technology for a new web service. To enable the move, I sold my house, at a loss, and added another £20,000 to my debt – finally finding a rental flat in north Birmingham. In that time, my mother suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalised, unable to speak – dying in hospital some nine months later after struggling through her rehabilitation, never really regaining her mobility or her speech.

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Yet in all of this, I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel. When this new project worked, we would be wealthy. We talked of company vacations in Trinidad. I would be able to repay my debts, and start out again.

I was wrong. Again. My friend decided that we had been following the wrong technical solution, and reluctantly let me go. Two years later, I was back at square one… out of work and still looking for answers.

I had one card up my sleeve left to play. Early retirement. Very early retirement. I had had some very good years at my final position with my previous company – because I was retiring so early, I wouldn’t retire as wealthy as I might have done, but I would at least be comfortable. Having got my creditors under control, I decided on two things. First, that I would retire, so that I didn’t have to deal with the uncertainty of unemployment ever again, and second, that I would take a year out to travel the world.

I used a small lump sum to buy some cheap flights around the world, and to buy a rucksack and a good pair of boots. I invested in a couple of tours, and a couple of courses I wanted to attend. I spent the next few months planning an itinerary that would take me to many of the places I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child – places that were so far away and wonderful, that had lit up my childhood imagination.

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And in July 2011, I set off. I came back for a month once I had finished the US/Mexico leg of my trip, poking sticks in volcanoes, exploring American’s National Parks, learning Hawaiian shamanism, savouring the exuberance of Cuba, climbing Mexican temples and chasing down Mayan legend.

The next leg of my trip took me ten months – round Australasia and Asia, into China and across out through Tibet & Nepal. My budget was tight, so I lived on ramen and red peppers, banana pancakes and street food. I slept in hostels and dodgy hotels, and made friendships that have lasted to this day. When I was down to my last ringgit, I worked Chinese New Year in exchange for a bed for the night. I took buses rather than trains, motorbikes and tuk tuks rather than taxis.

And I saw so much. And I saw places that made me glad to be alive, sights that filled my heart with joy. I saw things that made me ashamed to be human – reminders of atrocities past too horrible to consider, yet too important to forget. I lost my passport and credit cards and got stuck in Cambodia. I lost my passport again (d’oh!) and got stuck in China.

As I wandered, I found myself learning to listen to the whispers all around me – to develop a new understanding of Spirit, and of the nature of humanity. I found myself deeply and permanently transformed. Perhaps I was still uncertain of my role in the world… but certain that there was more than I saw with my eyes. I decided that only I could be the arbiter of what I held to be true – and that only I could be the architect of my own destiny. I began to carefully look into what I believed – and what I didn’t. I had few preconceptions – open to the thought that there might be no deeper reality to this world, yet somehow convinced in my heart that there was something other behind this reality.

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I stood under a waterfall in Mexico near the temples of Palenque, and heard a voice from beyond my own knowing speaking directly to my heart. I watched as lightning lit up the sky above the Rio Grande in Colorado USA, and began to understand a little of what I longed to teach. I sat still in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia and allowed truth to be unfolded to me. I found deep peace walking by the Tongariro River and felt the power of the creation at the Aratatia Waterfalls in North Island New Zealand. I found a new peacefulness practicing Tai Chi overlooking Hong Kong harbour under the guidance of ‘Mr Peacey Mind’. I went through a moment of transformation as I walked through a lava tunnel in Hawai’i, after marvelling at the iridescent power of the lava flow on Big Island. I looked into the skies above Mauna Kea and glimpsed something of power that lay beyond the stars. I looked up at the stars and marvelled as I lay out under the night sky in the Red Centre of Australia, under an Arizona sky, from the decks of live-aboards in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and on the Great Barrier Reef. I looked out to see from a simple wooden pier in Fiji and found a new hope growing in my heart. I learnt, studied and read in countless coffee houses, buses and train journeys, and I learned to listen to both the stillness and to the chaos – to see beyond what seemed to be happening to what was really real.

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All great things must transform into something new, and so, exhausted with travel, I returned. My ex mother in law was ill, and I wanted to see her before she died, and I was missing my family terribly.

For a while I stayed with family and friends, until one of my friends offered me a baby camper van, and I travelled the country and lived in my little camper for a few months… eventually scraping together enough money to get my stuff out of storage where it was being held ransom by the storage company and rent a small flat, back where I had started out five years before.

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A friend of mine worked as a DJ at a local dance organisation, and offered to give me a lift there.. arriving early, I was soon put to work sweeping floors by the event organiser, who excitedly declared ‘I’ve always wanted a minion’. I started to help out more and more, becoming an invaluable part of that organisation and supporting their web site and by travelling across the UK… the appearance of two ‘Despicable Me’ movies transforming the concept of a ‘minion’ into a small yellow thing with goggles and dungarees, and a fondness for bananas.

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Slowly, I began to rebuild my life. Although I had reached an agreement with my creditors in early 2009, I knew that unless I could create considerable wealth rapidly, I would never be free of my repayments, and so, reluctantly, I elected to make myself bankrupt. I expected that this would eliminate the final payment to my creditors but, to my surprise, due to a change in the law, my repayments actually quadrupled, causing me to shrink back into myself, bringing new limitations and restrictions. I found myself severely restricted as to what I could or could not do..causing me to drastically rethink my relationships and my lifestyle.

And finally, as I write this in the middle of 2015, I have now been discharged from bankruptcy. My debts have been written off, and I feel a new sense of freedom again. Sadly, due to a disparity between business law and personal law when it comes to bankruptcy, repayments continue for another two years or so.. but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I rage sometimes at the seeming injustice that means that a company director can go bankrupt and escape any real penalty for his error, able to go back into business almost immediately, while a personal bankrupt is stripped of his financial freedom for three years. And yet I know that the decision to pursue bankruptcy has created a step change in my life – shaking up a world that had perhaps become safe and predictable.

And yet, in all of this, I AM STILL HERE. The experiences I have had over the last ten years were not the ones I expected – but they are the ones I needed. Many of them have been hugely painful, stripping me back to the core of my own truth and my own being. I have come from having everything to understanding what it means to have nothing. I have learned what it means to have no roof over my head, to live wild, to have nothing but the gear in my bag. I have been in situations where the only choice is to walk, as there is no money for a bus – where I have been counting the change in my pocket to work out if I can afford to eat. I have stared despair and disappointment in the face… and have decided that they shall not have power over me. I know that I made the choices and decisions that were right for me, at the time… I had adventures and experiences that made me rich in all the ways that truly count. And now I am living with the unexpected outcomes of those decisions with my head held high.

I’ve learned that it’s actually impossible to make a wrong decision. Why would you? How could you? It might not be, in the light of what unfolds later, be the best possible choice – and yet, in that moment of deciding, you made the best decision you could given the information that you had. How can it be anything else? And even when we do make decisions that take us off our path – the Universe is self healing. It will find a new route to take us where we need to go – if we trust it to.

A friend asked me yesterday if I would I do anything different, if I had the chance again? Some days, I do look back and imagine that my life would have been easier if I hadn’t leapt into the uncertainty of self employment. But it would never have been so full, so exciting, so rich.

I hope that I would still do the brave thing, the risky thing. I hope I would still launch myself into an uncertain future rather than living in the ‘what if?’ I hope I would still choose to live from faith and love rather than live from fear. And perhaps the only thing I would do differently would be to live bigger, to dream more, to be more certain, more confident, more bold. Because perhaps the only mistake I made was to shrink down and be less than I truly am.

And I can see the blessings of the decisions I made. So, so many blessings. A tough, demanding career that laid the foundations for me to retire early and have adventures that I would not have dreamed of. A career path that had me at the front of the technology revolution and that gave me huge insights into the path of progress.

I have two incredible sons that gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams, and the space to find myself again. I had freedom from the need to find employment that helped me work with my dance teacher friend to help her build her business. I have friends that have supported me at every turn. Over the last few years this life has not perhaps been what you might call ‘comfortable’. But it has been rich, and rewarding, and beautiful. It has been full of incredible and wonderful friends. It has stretched me, and challenged me, and caused me to grow. It has brought me wisdom, and character, and depth. It has allowed me to explore meaning and truth, power and reality, faith and reality.

It has given me a new simplicity to living: being glad for simple joys and pleasures – a walk by the river, a bike ride in the country, sitting and watching the rain. It has given me a new empathy for the homeless, for those that are struggling, for those that are a little lost.

It has opened my heart and made me more sensitive to something ‘other’ – something deeper, something more real. 

And although I thought I would become wealthy and prosperous, I have been reminded that actually I am already still easily in the top 5% of incomes around the world – and been reminded that true wealth isn’t found in an income stream or a pay check,

And above it all I find myself deeply, deeply at peace. At peace with myself, and with Spirit. At peace with others. At peace with circumstances. I may be frustrated at times – yet in all of this it comes back to a deep inner knowing that, as my Hawai’ian Huna tutor taught me – everything is working out perfectly. What seems to be imperfection is actually perfection.. what seems difficult is actually a space where miracles can – and do – happen.

So now what….?

Baby steps. I am still finding what I want to do unfolding every day, as I learn more and as I learn to listen, to meditate, to take time out to hear the still small voice of my own heart. I have laid down my writing for a while to see what develops, and I will start to let that grow again – letting go of the need to create money and responding to the call to share my heart. I’m going to learn listen more closely to the voice of Love, because Love brings all the madness we need to unfurl ourselves across the world. I’m going to look for opportunities to share what I do know, where those might be helpful to others. I’m going to find ways to be a mender, to do what I can to bring healing into a world that truly needs it.

And I will carry on learning and growing, following my own path wherever that might take me. For me, there are no such things as mistakes… as one of my wise sons said years ago – there are no mistakes – there is just.. what happened.

And there is always, no matter what we have done, and no matter what mistakes we think we might have made, there is always hope.. and peace.. and Love.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

 

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One Response to “Everything is working out perfectly–10 years of craziness and chaos”

  1. phoenixcrystals July 29, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Hi Tim, Thank you for this inspiration blog. I’ve just begun the process of taking ill health retirement. On the good days it feels like re-birthing, with so many new possibilities. On the dark days I just feel like a failure. Like you I have so many blessings, I have soul partner who builds me and challenges me.

    What’s next in my life, apart from trying to build John’s jewellery website, I have no idea! I know I’m not ready for a tartan rug on my knees, watching Eastenders, there is something. I’m letting go and trusting that the Universe has a plan.

    Thank you for reminding me that we are all beautiful, powerful beings and we are always so much stronger than we think we are.

    As a good friend keeps reminding me “one step at a time gets you where you are going”

    Best wishes

    Sara x

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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