I had a really good day (and night) with ACE42 the other week, I haven’t been a member since last April, obviously if you don’t own a company its very difficult to be a member of a group for business owners but I’ve kept in touch with them and received some great support over the dark months of last year.

I was excited to be invited to part of their annual retreat, along with lots of other ex members, and had a great time. I will be totally honest and say it bought to the surface some things that I thought were over and done with (clearly not) but it was a valuable day. As well as everything that it taught me officially it also taught me the following :

– people who have run businesses understand me. I am not judged for my mistakes amongst this kind of group, I am valued for my contributions. This is still something of a shock to me at times.
– Something that was definitely a good idea a year ago is now less of a good idea, but I still did it. God damn it. I weighed it all up and somethings are just too valuable as they are to risk rocking the boat. Is all good. Probably. Sigh.
– Sometimes a good walk is needed in the morning after a lot of gin the night before.
– I need to be more aggressive at insisting the snooker table belongs to US and not let myself be bullied off by car salesmen.

The main focus of the afternoon session was purpose.  I can’t remember the name of the speaker (which probably says something about him….) but I thought he was OK. Purpose is a fascinating subject to me and one that I’ve put a lot of thought into over the last few months.

What is your purpose in life? Do you have one? Can  you articulate it? What do you do at work? How do you do it? Why do  you do it?

The idea was that if you knew what your purpose was then making decisions was simpler because if you could be sure that every decision you made was in tune with your purpose you would never make the wrong decision. Bad decisions, yes, if your purpose was bad, but heartfelt decisions. We looked at our insecurities and strengths, why are those your insecurities and how can you use them to help you make good decisions.

It was a little bit of an airy fairy subject, and the debate around the table was good. It reminded me of the old days of the group when the meaty business subjects would be debated in a very different way to the fluffier ones. I like a bit of fluff every now and again. I’m also proud to say that this was the first retreat (including mid year retreats) where I haven’t cried. The last 2 or 3 retreats I’ve ended up standing in front of the group and sobbing like a girl. I know that I am a girl but not many other people in that room are, I’m sure I made them all feel uncomfortable although they never made me feel that way about sharing my emotions. Not this year though, there were no tears from me at all. To be honest, I’m not a member of the group any more and so therefore there were no challenges thrown at me but it was still refreshing to be able to wear mascara and not end up with it everywhere!

Outside of the working session and over drinks, dinner, games, more drinks etc I told my “story” so many times. I haven’t seen many of the people in that room since the business failed, and business failure is never easy to talk about in a room full of very successful businesspeople. Add to that a marriage failure and a horrible dark summer and I felt like I was just depressing everyone with my “and then the business went into administration, and then I lost all my friends, and then I left my husband, and then I ended up queueing for food stamps to be able to feed my children, but enough about me, hows your year been?”

It was only when a couple of people said that they could see something in my eyes that they’d never seen before that I realised that it was OK to be me there, that I could talk to them about what had really happened and not feel ashamed at all. It was obvious to them that I am happier than I’ve been in a long while, and that’s all for the good. I’m getting my reading and writing mojo back (can you tell from this blog this week?) and that’s brilliant. There are still a few bits to sort out but I’m getting there.

I know what my purpose in life is, do you?

And then after an amazing 24 hours where I felt like a normal human being again, I went to visit some of the very most lovely people I’ve ever met on twitter. None of whom turned out to be axe murderers so that story has a happy ending too. But that’s a blog post for another day.

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