This is quite an interesting question upon which to muse.
What got me thinking about it was a conversation I had with one of my clients who had declared that they had made such a mess of their life that they didn’t know what to do.
The same day, I was browsing the BBC web site when I came across the story of Michael Balogun.
Michael had a very challenging upbringing. His father abandoned the family when he was very young. His mother was frequently away and he, and his sisters, raised themselves. Even when his mother was sentenced to prison for 15 years for drug dealing, no one was aware that the children were home alone. Eventually they went to live with an aunt having been taken into care.
This was the start of a long criminal career. Starting with shoplifting and theft, he ended up dealing heroin and crack cocaine. Inevitably he was caught and was jailed for three and a half years. His prison experience was sobering and when he was released, he determined to go straight and sort his life out. Despite his attempts to do this, involvement in a night club shoot-out resulted in a further nine year prison sentence.
Determined to turn his life around, Michael undertook a number of catering qualifications, whilst in prison, with the aim of working in restaurants. When he became eligible for day release, he was found a job at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) working in the canteen. One day the manager asked if he wanted to watch one of the plays performed by RADA’s students. Michael had never been inside a theatre except on a trip to watch Starlight Express when he was at primary school, so jumped at the opportunity. He became more and more involved with the students and would help them to learn their lines. It seemed that he had found his calling.
At this point Michael was caught trying to smuggle a mobile phone into prison, which resulted in transfer to a closed prison and the end of his work experience. He knew that he had made one mistake too many. He explains that as he sat alone in his prison cell, thinking about all the chances he’d messed up, he made a decision: if he couldn’t work out what to do with his life that night, he would hang himself.
Fast forward to this month, when he walked out in front of an audience at National Theatre for the first time. As he took his place on stage in a new production of Macbeth he stood alongside such celebrated actors as Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff. At this point he marvelled at how far he had come. “I would never have imagined myself here,” he thought to himself. He found himself here, because on release from prison, he followed his instincts and auditioned with RADA – who offered him a place on a BA degree course. He clearly hasn’t looked back since.
When Balogun thinks about the epiphany in the prison cell that started him on this journey, he comments:
“Obviously circumstances do affect you, and events that happen in your life – but there comes a time in life where you need to take responsibility,”
So, what do you do when you’ve REALLY messed your life up?
First of all you have to make your own decisions about what constitutes a mess. Clearly, in Michaels case, the situation he found himself in woud have been pretty spectaular by most people’s standards. Most of us will never experience that level of personal challenge, however his story inspires that even if life IS that messed up, you can still overcome it.
However, as Michael says, you have to take responsibility for your choices. However the most important thing is to start from where you are. It doesn’t matter what the ‘history’ is, as Michael shows us, it is what you do about it that is crucial. It is never too late to start. As Michael also shows us, no matter how unlikely the vision, having something to aim for is essential for future success where you can #Accomplishsomething.
Fortunately, most of us don’t have the sort of life issues that result in us sitting in a prison cell contemplating suicide. When he was at that low ebb, Michael couldn’t have known that he would, one day, be sharing a stage with such well known actors. If he had given up, he would never have found out. So, if you think your life is a mess, what are YOU going to DO about it? The only way you can is to #Startsomething or #Changesomething…
If you want to read Michael’s story in full, click on this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43560517.