A WORK OF ARTi — obliterating excuses, following dreams

A WORK OF ARTi — obliterating excuses, following dreams

I met ARTI SHAH on the set of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.

An inspirational woman of note — her CV is sprinkled with blockbuster titles, like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts… (the list goes on) — Arti successfully eradicates all excuses for not following one’s dream.

I hope you’ll be as inspired & motivated as I am by this peek into her life.

Photo credit: Libby Christensen Photography

Arti, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and overcome?

I was diagnosed with pseudoachondroplasia at the age of two, as my parents noticed I was growing slowly. I was never told that I was different; I was never bubble-wrapped. I was so grateful for my parents and my extended family who showed me so much love and instilled in me a desire to be independent and a belief that anything can be possible.

You could say that my life was ‘normal’, but what is normal? I knew I couldn’t run as fast as the other kids and I couldn’t reach many things, but I adapted and did whatever I could do. I never felt different. Not until I was 13 or 14, when I was walking home from school and a bunch of boys called me a ‘midget’ and threw stones at me. That was when I realised how different I was and how difficult my life was going to be. That was when I began to dislike the way I looked, who I was, and just being alive.

During this time I came across a magazine article about a young girl who was having a leg-lengthening operation, and I thought that this would be perfect for me to gain six inches in height. I spoke to my parents about this, and they were so supportive. They helped me to arrange a meeting with the surgeon and discuss the impact of the surgery on me. I was so excited, even though it meant taking a year out of school, which also meant that I would be behind by a year. But it didn’t matter. All I cared about was becoming taller. I would be accepted by society.

A week before I was due to go ahead with the operation, I realised that I wasn’t doing it for me; I was doing it to fit into society, what I believed society expected of me. I concluded that if I did not love myself, how could anybody else love me for who I am.

Cancelling the operation was the best decision I ever made.


Has acting always been your no. 1 dream?

When I was younger, I always enjoyed role play; and when drama was introduced to me in school, I absolutely loved it. And I’ve always loved the escapism of films. However, I didn’t pursue this in further education. It wasn’t until I graduated, when my year tutor mentioned that he could see me working in the entertainment world (maybe due to my big personality), that I actually seriously considered it. This prompted my move to London.

Ally grins

ATTACK THE BLOCK photo courtesy of Big Talk Productions

Tell us about your journey from media sales & recruitment to acting.

Before I could move to London to pursue acting, I needed to find a job, which wasn’t easy. Back in 2000 I met with so many recruiters who all said that they would help me find work. I knew I was employable: I was educated, well-spoken, and always got on well with people. But deep down I knew it was going to be a challenge. How would a recruiter be able to ‘sell’ a four-foot-tall person to the corporate world?

So I started applying directly to organisations. Which lead me to my first interview, for Media Sales. And I was hired on the spot. They said they liked me and had faith in me, and I cannot explain just how grateful I was.

This allowed me to move to London. While I settled into London living and learning about my new job, I also embarked on research into the acting world. I discovered I needed headshots and acting experience. I also needed money to spend on a good acting course. Which meant I had to leave my media sales job and look for one with a higher-earning potential.

A role in recruitment seemed like a good opportunity. Not only could I earn a little more but I could also recruit differently. I could make a difference. I had so often been judged on my appearance, and I was determined to not be judgmental about others’ physicality. And that’s what I did. I got a job in recruitment, and I recruited differently.

I spent the extra earnings on a method acting course and had headshots taken, and I started sending my CV out to agencies. I received a lot of rejections. But through one agent I got to audition for Blue Peter as a presenter. This was amazing! I didn’t get the job, but to audition in the Blue Peter Garden was phenomenal.

I then worked on a children’s show for a couple of episodes, which was great! I would use my work holidays to attend auditions and to film the episodes. It was a wonderful experience. But I found that there were a lot of stereotypical roles coming my way. For example: an elf during Christmastime. I knew I wasn’t in the entertainment industry to take on stereotypical roles; this was when I realised just how challenging the acting industry was. Even though I needed the experience, I was turning work down to stand up for what I believed in.

It took almost nine years for my film career to take off. And the timing could not have been better. As it turned out, I wasn’t the best recruiter, due to my strong belief in ethical recruiting rather than playing a numbers game. So in early 2009, due to the recession, I was made redundant. But things always happen for a reason. In that same year, I was chosen to be a Goblin in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

But this industry is fickle. I learnt very quickly that, for most actors, paid work isn’t regular. You could have a fantastic role one day, and the next few months could be extremely lean. Yet again, the timing could not have been better. A company I used to recruit for (in an ethical way) asked me to do some work for them. That’s when I set up my own recruitment business. And with every placement, I donated to charity.

Alongside my recruitment business, I continued to work in TV, theatre, commercials and movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Attack the Block and World War Z.

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens photo credit: see TinyArti.com

Most memorable movie moment?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Working with such an amazing cast from the original films, I had to pinch myself to believe it was real. And holding a lightsaber was definitely a highlight!

You’re a wife, a mum, a motivational speaker, an actress, a corporate model, a creature performer… and now you’re writing a book! How do you find time to do everything? 

Ohh, I honestly don’t know. You could say I love to keep busy. I do know that I need to make more time for myself, which I am trying to do. But I think I just manage to fit things in week by week and spread my time accordingly.

When, how & why did you become a motivational speaker?

I have always said I have a voice and I should use it. And I’ve always been motivated to try and change perceptions due to my four-foot-tall frame. In 2016, I got my first opportunity to do just that! A well-known university contacted my husband, Rutvig, and asked for me to come in and talk about how I started off in the film industry and what challenges I had to overcome. That was the beginning of my motivational speaking career.

The timing was just right: I was expecting my son, Zavian, and, without my realising it, he was the main purpose for my motivational speaking. I am passionate about helping society become more understanding with regard to how unique we all are — and how our differences should be embraced.


Photo credit: see TinyArti.com

What’s your motto?

Hard work, sheer determination and self-belief. I believe that with this in mind, anything is possible.

What has been your lowest moment?

When I had stones thrown at me and was called a midget, which is a word I absolutely hate. It’s so derogatory. I actually don’t know which hurt more: the name calling or the stones.

Who has been your greatest support?

My parents, my husband, my son, my brother, extended family, and friends. I am so grateful for the love and support of those around me.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My son. He inspires me every day to do everything I can to change perceptions.


PARALYMPICS OPENING CEREMONY photo credit: see TinyArti.com

Steepest learning curve?

Accepting who I am and just going with it. It’s actually liberating.

Best nugget of advice you’ve been given?

My parents have always told me: ‘Look after your body, enjoy life to the fullest and don’t give up on your dreams.’

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for those who perhaps see themselves as ‘less than’ — or are too insecure about following their dreams – because of a physical or mental ‘uniqueness’?

We are all different for a reason. Imagine if we all looked the same, how dull society would be. Love who you are, believe in yourself. You have a purpose. Do what you can to make your life your own. Celebrate you, celebrate your differences.

Photo credit: see TinyArti.com

Now I know that you’re currently working on getting your book published. What motivated you to share your life story?

When I moved to London, I had so many strange things happen to me. Often I would laugh about them with my aunt, and she suggested I write a book. So that’s what I started doing. I started writing about all of the situations I was faced with in London; and then I continued to write about my childhood, the hurdles, the fun things, my career, my family life and much more. During the writing process I realised that I needed to share my story with so many people, especially those who don’t like who they are and are suffering. I want to reach out and say it’s okay to be different; don’t suffer in silence.

Arti, what an inspiration you are. Here’s to you, and to your book! Looking forward to reading it one day soon.

READERS: I hope you enjoyed this interview. If you have any comments — or suggestions for the TITLE OF ARTI’S BOOK — please comment below. If you want to know more about Arti, pop over to her website or connect with her on Facebook, TikTok, Insta & Twitter.

Thank you, as always, for reading and subscribing. I am grateful for you all.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

Be Bold. Stand up for what you believe in.

You can make a difference. Yes, YOU.

Embrace & celebrate your differences!

Look after your body, enjoy life to the fullest and don’t give up on your dreams.

You have a PURPOSE.


Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

EMBRACING CHANGE… as if you chose it

EMBRACING CHANGE… as if you chose it

What a crazy notion: embracing change as if you chose it.

Unless your circumstances are dire – or you’ve just won the lottery – change is the last thing you want, right? When everything and everyone in your life remains the same or at least similar to what you’ve come to expect, there are no nasty surprises, no disappointments.

But nothing and no one on earth remains constant.

Change is all around us: seasons, jobs, circumstances, health, moods… Everything changes!

So why not embrace change. Just try it. It’s a mindset – an attitude that says I’m going to try my darndest to make the absolute best of every circumstance.

Our last 3 Christmases have been very different from all the previous ones.

Something unthinkable (to me, anyway) happened at the end of 2020; something that caused a deep sorrow that still lingers. And that something caused a major change in my life.

The change was completely out of my control. I tried everything I could think of to reverse matters, but nothing worked. This ‘something’ is still here, clinging to me like slimy black seaweed.

So for the last two years I’ve had to work on embracing this circumstance: on searching for, and finding, the positives – even in a seemingly hopeless situation. And you know what? It helps me get through the day.

Not only that, this attitude has opened my eyes to possibilities and opportunities I never ever would have considered or imagined!

Now, listen. I am a hopeaholic by nature. A cockeyed optimist, sure. Absolutely. Always will be. No matter what happens to me, I am keenly aware that there are countless others who have it much, much worse. It’s all about perspective. Right?

No matter how bad things are in my life, even in the midst of the most awful sadness and grief, I have always had a deep, indescribable, unending joy. And hope. And peace. I absolutely believe things will turn out for the best. Even when I can’t fathom how that will come about.

But for a lot of people (creatives especially) negativity, depression and, oftentimes, hopelessness, are the norm; and seeing things from a different perspective seems impossible.

That’s why I’m encouraging – nay, urging – you to embrace your circumstances! Whatever they are! You might be surprised at what you’ll discover.

For example, look at all the Creatives who embraced their new circumstances and came into their own during the pandemic! They were either made redundant, or they realised life is short and so they quit the 9-to-5. But because they still had to make a living, and forced to remain at home, they made the decision to do something they loved. They worked their passion, started earning money from it, and were fulfilled.

Now I know there are those whose circumstances are a lot different; for whom grief is a daily part of life at the moment. I’m not trying to diminish your feelings in any way. I’m just trying to say: this is a season you need to go through, and it’s OK to feel. Don’t try and suppress these deep-seated feelings. Just know: it’s temporary. You will make it through. Just hold on a little longer. Take things moment by moment…

I’m obviously no psychologist; I’m just sharing with you how I’m coping, and thriving. And I hope it helps you in some way.

It’s so easy for us to be self-focused, self-centred. But if we realise that no matter what we’re going through, there are always others, many others, who are having to endure much worse circumstances, and maybe there’s some way we can help them – well, that could be the reason you’re alive.

This ‘situation’ I’m in: at times it feels unbearable. Grief threatens to overwhelm me. But I know: ‘this too shall pass’. And I have a choice. We always have a choice. Do or die. Sink or float. Or swim! Drown in depression or sing through the pain. Wallow in sadness or decide to be grateful for every single thing, every single person, in your life, past and present. It’s your choice.

Gratitude is my attitude. And hope is my Kung Fu.

I choose to believe there’s a reason I’m going through whatever it is – so I can come alongside someone who’s going through a similar circumstance, and let them know they’re not alone. Let them know: there’s always hope.

I hope I’ve made a difference today, at least in one person’s life. Thank you for joining me. I hope you’re inspired and motivated!

If you liked this post, please share it far and wide.

If you have any comments, or a short, inspirational story to share, pop these in the COMMENTS box below.

If it’s a long story, I’d love to hear it too. Get in touch with me – pop over to my Contact page – and send me an email.

Until next time, take care of yourself, be kind to each other, and consider embracing change!

With Love,


NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS can be found on the BLOG PAGE.


Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

How to get PERFECT peace — in every circumstance.

How to get PERFECT peace — in every circumstance.

This is the briefest blog post I’ve ever done. A 1-minute read. 

I hope it resonates with you. 

I have a question.

Why do we skim over the 1st 5 words of Psalm 23?

Hear me out. No matter what you believe, this is worth thinking about. My life bears witness to this truth. If you can grasp it, it’ll mean a NIGHT-and-DAY DIFFERENCE in your life, I promise.

‘The Lord is my Shepherd…’

How awesome, how amazing, is that phrase!  The LORD — God of the Angel Armies, Creator of all things seen & unseen, the God of Israel, the great I Am, God above all gods, Lord of Lords, King of Kings — is MY SHEPHERD.

Wow . . .  Right?

Because I’ve handed over the reins of my entire life — all of me, my dreams, hopes, fears, desires, and all those I love & care about — to Almighty God, He guides me through every moment of life. He truly does.

In all my years as a Christian, Jesus has never failed me.  Never.  He has made a night-and-day difference in my life — and always EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS.

I will never doubt His wisdom, His strength, His power, His goodness, His timing, His plans for me.

‘The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’

Because He leads me, I lack nothing.  I have everything I need at all times.

Perfect peace, no matter the circumstances.

It’s not too late to hand over the reins of your life to Jesus.  You’ll never regret it.

May your Christmas be a truly peaceful one, blessed beyond belief.  And may you truly know The Reason for The Season.  

Thank you for reading.  Ever since this epiphany popped into my mind, I’ve been excited to share it.  I hope it resonates with you in some way.

With Love,


P.S. If you haven’t yet read my story about finding my dad at nineteen, I’d love for you to pop over to that blog post when you have some time.

Until next time, may 2023 bring you Joy, Hope & Peace that transcends all understanding & expectations!

If you’d like to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS can be found on the BLOG PAGE.


Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂



Does your child/nephew/niece/grandchild think they’re special, amazing, unique?

Do they truly know their worth?

Wherein does their IDENTITY lie?

Meet Lynette Snyman. This South African has made it her mission to positively impact the lives of as many children as possible. And testimonies like this one are irrefutable proof that she’s accomplishing her goal:

One children’s pastor from a church using the syllabus Lynette created forwarded a voice note from a parent about how a lesson had impacted her family. The lesson was about how God has made each of us in an amazing and wonderful way, and that He has great plans for our life. Each child was given a mirror and they had to decorate it with stickers, and write I AM AMAZING on the bottom. This pastor gave each child a mirror to give away to someone else.

The voice note from the mom said: ‘My younger daughter gave the mirror to her friend during school. She told me that at aftercare her friend kept taking the mirror out of her bag and saying over and over: “I am amazing.” She said she could see the excitement in her eyes.’ The mom went on to say: ‘This material that you have sourced carries so much power and it’s so amazing to see the children doing what they have learnt at children’s church.’ 

Want to know more? Read on…

Corporate look

Lynette, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a Year 1-3 teacher.

Did you realise that dream?

Yes. However, after teaching for six years, I became restless. So I prayed and asked God what to do. I was at a real crossroads. I asked Him to send someone to offer me a job in the next ten days. A few days later my pastor asked me to come and ‘sort out the children’s ministry’. I nearly fainted!

I love how God answered your specific prayer! And you’ve been in children’s ministry ever since. Tell us about your work.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been teaching children for more than 20 years about Father God who loves them. At my church, where I’m a children’s pastor, we provide a place for 3- to 13-year-olds to encounter Jesus and experience His love and presence.

Part of my role as a children’s pastor is to source appropriate material to use in our children’s church. Because we live in South Africa, buying anything from the UK or USA is very expensive; and often, especially with the USA material, it has to be rewritten because our culture is very different. A few years ago I decided to write my own syllabus — without the help of Google. I wanted to make sure that it was all my own work, because I knew that I had to make it as a resource for not only my church but other churches too, across the world.

Ally grins

What was your LIGHTBULB moment?

Over the last 15 years I have had several prophetic words about writing material. So I knew it was in the pipeline. There are so many great, free children’s ministry resources available, but most of them teach children about God. Very few enable and encourage children to have a relationship with God.

I was looking for material that taught children about how God speaks to us, and then made listening to Him part of the lesson. I also wanted something that would work in a South African context, with a South African budget, and internationally. I remembered all the prophetic words and, encouraged and supported by my husband and son, decided to write my own.

Fit and fab

How did you know this was your calling, part of your purpose?

Besides all the prophetic words that I’d had over the years about writing, it is something that I enjoy, and it comes relatively easily to me.

How did you make the time in your busy schedule to create and write your unique, inspired syllabus?

The best thing I did was set aside one morning a week for writing. I would sit down after spending time with God and tackle whatever lessons I had to write for that day. I wasn’t allowed to pack up for the day until I had written my allotted number of lessons. When I got stuck, I prayed. And Holy Spirit always gave me ideas of what to write.

How do you promote your syllabus?

On my Living Clay website, which my very talented son built for me. I also promote it at conferences and workshops that a friend and I host. And some people hear about it from others and contact me.

Currently, my syllabus is being used by churches in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.



Any journey highlights you’d like to share?

It’s been very humbling to get personal messages and photos from churches who are using my material, saying what a huge impact it is having on their children’s church. To think that something that I have written, with huge help from Holy Spirit, is having an impact not only in our church, but in several other churches, is very surreal.

One of the reviews on my website — a pastor’s recommendation — mentions that ‘kids with attention difficulties have engaged beautifully in this too‘.

Another children’s pastor told me about how initially the children struggled to write in their journals during ‘God Time’ (sitting quietly in God’s presence, listening to Him). One of the children didn’t want to participate at all, so she sat beside him and asked him how he was feeling and whether she could pray with him. After that, he wrote practically an entire page in his journal.

I was at a church recently where I was introduced as the lady who wrote all their lessons, and the children clapped for me. It was very sweet. I explained to the children that I didn’t write it alone — Holy Spirit helped me. I prayed before I planned each lesson set, and before I wrote each lesson. Whenever I got stuck I would say: ‘Holy Spirit, we need an idea here’, and soon enough an idea would pop into my head.

Were there particular moments when you had to take huge steps of faith?

Around the time I started writing the syllabus, another children’s pastor started inviting me to speak at workshops and conferences with her. That really was a huge step of faith for me. Now we plan and run the workshops and conferences together. Working with her has taught me how to jump out of the boat and walk on the water… and keep focussing on Jesus!

My current huge step of faith is trusting God to give me more opportunities to mentor and train others in the area of Children’s ministry. I feel that I have a wealth of experience and I would like to walk alongside and help others who are starting out or feeling a little stuck or overwhelmed. It is a difficult ministry to be in, as often you have to give up attending church with the rest of your family to do it. It can feel very lonely and isolating.


Steepest learning curve?

Let’s just say that there were some very stressful moments when my husband was trying to teach me new computer skills . . . However, my computer skills dramatically increased, so I’m grateful!

My current learning curve is how to market and sell my material. I have no business training, so I am having to figure things out as I go. It’s been really difficult ‘putting myself out there’ and promoting my syllabus. Charging people for my work doesn’t come naturally to me, although I understand that people put more value to something that they have paid for, and to create a good product costs money, because you need to pay for editing and illustrations, etcetera.

Any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share for those who aspire to make a difference or feel called to ministry?

Chat to people who are already doing what you’d like to do. Ask for help or direction when you need it. Pray and spend time with God to get His direction. Do whatever God gives you to do, even if it isn’t exactly what you had in mind to do. You never know what one thing will lead to.

Also, don’t try to be someone else. God has made you you, with your specific gifting and skill set, and even your wacky personality and traits. Work with what you’ve got, not what you wish you had.

As well as being a children’s pastor, syllabus creator/writer, wife, mother, conference and workshop speaker (do you sleep??) — I understand you volunteer with another pretty special ministry?

For the last ten years I have been fortunate enough to be part of a non-profit organisation called I am Special. It is staffed by volunteers who go into schools and tell children that Jesus loves them, and that God has a plan for their lives. We each have a specific school that we visit. Every Monday morning I spend 30 minutes in each of the six Grade 3 classes, and teach them about Jesus.

Many of the children at the school are from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s always so rewarding when the children are excited to see me and greet me with huge enthusiasm. I say: ‘Good morning, children’, and they reply with: ‘Good morning, I am Special’. The great thing about the name of the programme is that they are speaking the fact that they are special over themselves every time they say the name.

Ally and students

Moments that have ‘made your day’?

I got a voice note from a mom whose children come to our children’s church. She wanted to know which songs we did at church the previous Sunday, because her three-year-old son keeps singing this one song, and she doesn’t recognise it. After several messages back and forth, we finally found the right one. It’s good to know that what we do on a Sunday doesn’t stay at church, but goes home with the children.

One of my highlights is spending time with my ‘children’ when they are all grown up. Many of the children I ministered to when I first started are adults now, and some have started families of their own. I’m still ‘Aunty Lynette’ to them, and I feel honoured that they still want to connect with me.

Lynette, you are a dollop of pure sunshine and I’m honoured to know you and call you my good friend. May God continue to bless you mightily in this powerful work you do.

For anyone interested in Lynette’s amazing syllabus for children’s church, there’s a 3 for 2 SPECIAL on her Living Clay website — only until the end of November!

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

Work with what you’ve got, not what you wish you had.

Pursue your passion, follow your heart.

You are unique, special, amazing!


Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

More inspiration, motivation & hope.

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

CHANGING LANES AFTER 50: how to handle a mid-life career switch

CHANGING LANES AFTER 50: how to handle a mid-life career switch

Alex Doy is a formidable human being.

Having been raised on a farm in Lincolnshire, UK, Alex is no stranger to hard work. This woman’s got grit – tons of it. From the age of nine she was a logistics manager with a checklist a mile long. By the time she hit 16, she was independently forging her way in the world, working various jobs locally and abroad. At age 39 she bought a franchise business. Eight and a half years later she sold it at a profit and purchased a buy-to-let property. For the next three years, to pay the bills, Alex happily took on a smorgasbord of regular part-time jobs.

And now?

Now, at age 52, Alex has changed lanes again. And she’s relishing every minute.

Corporate look

Alex, what persuaded you to purchase a franchise business, and why did you give it up?

I’ve always worked in the service industry in some capacity: from waitressing and bartending to event coordination and management. So when the opportunity arose in 2009 for me to buy my own franchise – the UK’s no. 1 dog-sitting service – I dove in.

My ‘business owner’ journey was fantastic; there were many points I loved about the franchise and I was very successful with it. But it also had some negatives. It nearly killed me.

When I got to the stage where I was completely burnt out, I realised I needed to get out. And also, I was aware of where the business was at that time: it was running at an excellent capacity and it was in a very profitable state. And businesses don’t always remain profitable for any length of time. So I felt it was the right time to sell – and I successfully sold it in 2017.

The moment I stepped away from the dog-care franchise, I made the decision to never again put myself in that position – where it nearly kills you. A lot of that was based on the 24/7 communication that customers now expect in the 21st century.

Good point. So you re-evaluated your life?

Yes. Once I realised that for my mental state I needed to change careers, I vowed not to get caught in that rut again.

What was the result of your life re-evaluation?

I realised I wanted a job without the full responsibility I’d had with my own business. Also, I knew, after driving 22,000 miles a year – as much as I love driving – I was happier to be in a job where I could cycle to work; I get a great deal out of it.

Like a lot of people, I have bills to pay and I solely rely on myself. But although I could have taken on a regular nine-to-five job in Nottingham city and earned good money, I still wanted to be able to step back a bit and not rush straight into something like that. I didn’t want a full-on, fulltime career straight after selling the business. So I decided to mix many roles to make up my working week.

Magically, I was able to create enough hours through different roles. Variety is key! Also, by having several roles, you’re not placing all your eggs in one basket. And in the current climate, that’s very important.

All of the roles were fulfilling in the short term. My main source of income came from being a part-time delivery driver for a local supermarket – a set contracted period of three shifts per week. But the rest of the week was made up of roles I could say yes or no to (an important feature when you’re used to being responsible for yourself), e.g.: working at outdoor catering events, doing weddings, driving cars through a local auction house, event management relief…

Ally grins

Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

These were all small contracts (a set amount of hours per day or week) where I was providing a service, but it was not my sole responsibility. I was just a part of the team support, and that was important to me. When I left each job at the end of the day, I didn’t give it another thought. For my mental state and peace of mind, this was the break I needed from life. And I pursued this path for three years.

An Empty Head When You Go To Bed.

During those three years you weren’t pursuing your passion, though, right? So what did you do in your time off that made you happy? For example, you woke up every morning and thought: I can’t wait to… today?

Well, because my mind wasn’t so challenged and overly busy as it had been when I was running a business, for a while I just really enjoyed having an empty head. And an empty head when you go to bed is all you’ll ever need.

The role at the supermarket was a means to an end, satisfying enough; it ticked enough boxes. So although, yes, driving for the supermarket wasn’t a massive passion, I got a great deal of satisfaction from what it gave me in life: money to pay my bills, an empty head, time to enjoy various outlets, like running, yoga, kayaking… and the ability to be present.

Throughout the time I had the dog-care business, I was never present in the moment. On holiday, out for dinner with friends, etc. – the phone would be going. There would be a request from a customer and my mind would be elsewhere. And now that I’ve been able to step back from that, I can see it in other people, when they’re doing it with their businesses, and I know I don’t ever want to be in that state again. So the gift from selling the business, and doing a job I wasn’t passionate about for a while, was getting my mental state back to where it should be.

Fit and fab

Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

Absolutely. You finally got to live, to be there. That’s so important. We don’t have to keep striving non-stop and be motivated to do, do, do. We’re human beings, after all, not human doings.

Exactly! So, whenever life is not perfect, a certain richness – a quality of life – can always be found in other areas, in other ways of living. And I certainly have gained that. When I read a book now, I enjoy every moment. Whereas, before, my mind would be so filled, I can’t say I absolutely enjoyed the book.

I can’t recommend this enough – this taking time out. Anyone who is feeling burnt out and needs a break can spend at least two or three years enjoying this existence, as long as their ends meet financially…

Until the next challenge enters their mind. Which is what happened to me after three years. The drive came again: to want to do something, but not jump into the same sort of business.

That’s vital, isn’t it? Knowing what you don’t want out of life. There are so many people who haven’t a clue what they want to do – but perhaps a good place to start is: make a list of things you absolutely don’t want to do, or results you don’t want.

Correct. So many feel that the moment they finish one project they must rush on to another, or they’re not valued or successful in some way.

All I can say from experience is: taking time out, two or three years even, and making ends meet with a role that suits you, but also where you can find yourself again, is priceless.

Sage advice. Care to share any more?

It’s important to know: it’s not all about money. And there’s no rush. It will come to you. Because you’re creating the mind space to be able to look out at what’s around you and what’s working.

Well, it certainly worked for you. Tell us how your latest venture came about.

My latest venture, and hopefully my last, came about from trying to replicate some of the good things about the dog-sitting business; aspects I really enjoyed, like driving to different places, being out and about, meeting people, and being responsible for my own work. Also, the freedom the business at times could give you was another vital benefit. But I knew I definitely didn’t want to do something as emotional as the pet-care business.

There was also another important driving force: I lost my dog, Ruby, last year. And I knew that unless I changed my working environment, my goal of getting another dog would not be achievable.

Sometimes people get to junctions in their life where they realise they need to make a change in order to achieve something later in life. I was at that junction. I knew that eventually I couldn’t continue working for someone else, because generally when you’re working for somebody, or a company, you’re restricted in many ways. I knew I couldn’t take a dog to work with me. But if I became self-employed again, I could control my day-to-day routine. And if you want a dog, that’s important.

So I became an inventory clerk for letting agents and property owners.


That’s quite a change. Where did this idea come from? I get the feeling you didn’t just wake up one morning and think, Ah! I’ll be an inventory clerk!

I’ve always been interested in property, but I knew I didn’t want to become an estate agent, taking on full responsibility for the big picture – because that would put me in the same situation I was in when running my previous business. So I took a good, hard look at other roles in property.

At the same time, I made a list of my skills and strengths, as well as my likes and dislikes. For example: I enjoy working alone and managing my own time and processes; and one of my biggest strengths is logistics.

When did you discover this strength?

In my childhood: I used to go to gymkhanas with my ponies. My mum was a great mother, but she was so busy with my siblings that she would turn up just in time to jump into the car to drive my pony and myself to the competitions. So if I wanted to be on time, I had to do all the necessary work beforehand.

From the age of nine it was my responsibility to get the pony ready, and the equipment packed in the car… I had to make sure I’d packed all the tack – because if you’d just driven twenty miles to a field and you hadn’t got the saddle loaded, your day was over. Consequently, I’ve always had a checklist-type mind that naturally goes through the entire process of what I need.

What other personal strength of yours would you consider essential for an inventory clerk?

An eye for detail. And I’m fortunate: attention to detail comes naturally to me. The second time I spotted this strength was when I was in hospitality. While working in a restaurant, I could spot a salt or pepper pot missing off a table in the furthest corner of the room.

These things pop up in your life that make you realise your strengths. However, at an interview, when people ask me what my weaknesses are, I will also answer: Attention to detail. Because I believe in excellence – but I know it can get on some people’s nerves.

But it’s necessary, right? That’s what makes you stand out from the crowd. Attention to detail is what sets you apart from another inventory clerk who would, for example, forget to note the number of carbon monoxide alarms on their report.

Exactly. And I’m not saying I’m perfect, obviously. But my attention to detail is not forced – it’s easy; it comes naturally to me. I think if you don’t have attention to detail and you want a role that needs it, it would be difficult and forced. And your enjoyment in that respect would be dimmed.

So I took my strengths – logistics, driving, working alone, attention to detail – and my keen interest in property, and put them together. And out came the role: inventory clerk. It just made sense. An inventory clerk is only responsible for a section of property; a fraction of the property-letting process. Which is exactly what I was looking for.

The Key: Do Your Research.

Once you’d decided to become an inventory clerk, what were your next steps?

The first thing that came into my head was: do I need a qualification to do this? And how easy is it to achieve? Whenever you’re changing or starting a career, you need to do it to the right level or your business won’t be successful.

After discovering that there is no ‘Inventory Clerk’ qualification, I thought: well, anyone can do it; you just need to have the knowledge. So I had to find out how to go about learning all there is to know.

While researching a lot of different courses, I took into consideration the way I retain knowledge. (You know how you learn best, so this is one thing to look for: the manner in which the courses are being taught.) At my age, I’m only able to retain a certain amount of information at one time, so I needed a course that provided all the necessary information but also offered ongoing support as things came up.

I think anyone changing career, especially later in life, mustn’t just assume they can go off and do a weekend course and it’ll all come together; there will always be ongoing questions with anything you do.

Once I’d decided which course to do, I then had to purchase the necessary tools: software, the system I would need to use, etc. For guidance on this, I spoke with the course provider, as well as others in the industry.

The Key: do your research. Before I parted with any money, I was put in touch with several people who were already doing inventory work, and I picked their brains. Also, as I’d decided I wanted to be an independent clerk, I had to ring round a few property agents to ask if they ever used or would use independent clerks, or if they had their own in-house team. I needed to get an idea of how much work there was, or if they could ever be swayed into using an independent clerk.

How did you get your first client?

By accident! Before I even had a website, or had properly set myself up. All I had was the name: ADR Inventories.

I’d previously rented out a property through a local estate agent, so I took a chance and asked him if I could possibly get access to some empty properties he may have – just to practise my inventory work. And even though my property is no longer with him, he graciously gave me the opportunity to go and do an inventory report.

Unfortunately, I had an extremely limited time in which to do the report, as the tenant would be moving in rather quickly. In normal circumstances, I would have been very nervous. But as I wasn’t expecting the agent to even look at the report (he already had an inventory clerk he used regularly), I simply went in and did the job to the best of my ability.

I totally expected to keep the report to myself, so when the agent asked for it – and then decided to use it as the sole, official inventory report on that property! – I was elated.

That’s an incredible testimony to your attention to detail, as well as your conscientiousness. And also, a fabulous example of rising to the challenge. Unless you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and change direction, even slightly, you’re not going to discover your full potential, right?


Any last nuggets of advice you’d like to share with anyone who hasn’t known from a young age what they want to do – or anyone who hasn’t yet achieved their goals – or for those not content with their career choices?

I would say: first of all, don’t be negative about any of that. Accept that there will be many turns in the road – but they don’t need to be disasters or negatives in your life. You just continually need to do whatever makes you happy.

Re-evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. And as you get older and your wishes change, be prepared to sit and evaluate and decide to change course.

They may not be dramatic changes but just things you can do without, and things you want in life. Those are what you pursue.

And know that this is a positive thing. So instead of sitting in a negative job, thinking, I’m too old; or worrying about other people’s opinions or approval or disapproval… know that you have lots of other choices.

Take strengths and weaknesses out of every role, and think about what you’ve learned along the way. None of this is negative.

I think it’s important to note that mine was a very mild-mannered change. I didn’t go from being a street sweeper to a brain surgeon. I don’t find what I’ve done to be amazing. It’s more a case of being prepared to reflect – and I’m at a stage in life where I’m ready to reflect on, and accept, what I like and don’t like.

What I’ve done isn’t earth-shattering. I’m just continually searching for what gives me that empty head before bed. That’s all I’m ever trying to achieve.

Alex, thank you so much for your time. I’m looking forward to coming back in a year’s time to see how ADR Inventories has grown, and to find out if you’re still enjoying life and being present – or if it’s time to take another break and start a new venture.

I hope not! This role is taking me into my dotage.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

Look after your mental state; take time out.

Pursue your passion, follow your heart.

An empty head when you go to bed is all you ever need. 🙂 

You’re a human BEING, not a human ‘doing’. Be present. Stop. Breathe. Live!

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT MONTH on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A 53-year-old man who’s only just begun to pursue his Big Dream.

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