It is interesting to think about the key decision points that dictate the course of one’s future life. You could say that life is similar to the journey taken by an ant walking up the trunk of a tree, along a bow, then onto a branch and then a twig. During life’s journey we come to forks in the road – we choose our preferred route and carry on. Rarely do we get the chance to retrace our steps and re-make past decisions.
I’m now in my sixties, but when I was a young man at Bangor University in North Wales (1973-1976) I completed my final exams and met one of these decision points. I’d read Accounting and Finance and was now was faced with the prospect of spending the entirety of my working life as an accountant. Contemplating this career option; it didn’t strike me as overly appealing so I decided there and then to be either an engineer or find a job with the Forestry Commission. However, after a very short meeting with my university careers advisor, I was quickly put straight and I was assured that a profession in Accountancy was the best option.
And so, post university I studied to become a Chartered accountant. Once qualified my professional career took me to the Bahamas, New Orleans, the Channel Islands, and Inverness before settling in the London area. I am a lucky man: I have enjoyed my 40 years of work – every day has been different – with challenges and fulfilment in equal measure. I’m not one to carry regrets but looking back now I do rue the many nights spent away from my family on business.
There were some useful pointers along the way. My mother had some pearls of knowledge that she imparted to me.
•Do unto others….. as you would be done by
•Manners maketh man
•Time used is life: time wasted is existence
•The more you put in… the more you get out
And I have learned a few others about life from my own experiences
•Accountability [of course] – take responsibility
•Sufficient is enough
Now I reach this point in my life – but I just can’t imagine retiring. As well as holding a commercial role at COINS Global, I am Treasurer of COINS Foundation. With charities there is quite a bit of legal compliance so I ensure that the accounts and filings are up to date, and have an independent inspection each year. This takes the pressure off the Foundation’s small team. Governance of every charity is important, and the actions of the charity must be documented and approved. In my role I also keep all records relating to meetings of the Board of Trustees.
I’ve been doing this for the past few years trying to make some positive impact on the lives of others. In some way though, I feel that I have yet to find my role and find myself questioning whether I have done enough to help others in a direct way. I have run marathons, ridden a bike across Scotland and rowed the Thames – all for worthy causes but I don’t feel that I have done anything directly to make a difference.
I was reading the COINS Foundation blog contributed by my past colleague Keith Harrison. Keith’s strong spiritual belief helps to drive his action and his support to deserving, local causes. I feel envious that I don’t have that same spiritual foundation. Perhaps when the day for retirement does arrive, this will be my opportunity to do the things I have been putting off. Not so much a bucket list – but a chance to put something back in to society. Work and family life, chasing the unforgiving hours – so much stuff to do that it stops you taking on other meaningful projects. I could conceivably play a useful role in helping excluded and marginalised people who find themselves laden with debt to understand “finance” and help them to take control of their lives. I am not sure if my spiritual quest will ever be achieved but in the meantime living with consideration, surrounded by those that you love is surely a good place to start!