Life is funny. Not in a humorous way - although I have thought that a few times. It's funny in a 'you never know what's going to happen' way. The uber-aware may scoff at this thought with the 'well of course you're never going to know' attitude. But seriously, every time something happens and I'm caught off guard, I think, "How could I have not seen that coming?"
When major life events happen and we think about our next move, more often than not we come up blank. As much as we think we can plan our life, it often takes over and says 'check'. No-one is immune. Even wealth and fame cannot provide protection. However, what separates those who live their lives from those who merely exist is the search for and subsequent awareness of The Awakening.
It was designer Tom Ford who first told me about The Awakening. After more than a dozen years at Gucci, building it up from virtual bankruptcy to multi-billion dollar business, the decision to leave was a hard one. Differences of opinion and vision between Ford and Gucci's parent company, PPR meant something had to give and Ford made a dramatic exit.
The fashion world was stunned. Tom Ford was the man women wanted and men wanted to be. It wasn't just his talent that had made Gucci a desirable luxury brand, his ability to direct the timing of fashion is something he describes as a gift. The irony is, while he was able to dictate the timing of his industry, his work dictated the timing of his life. He expected to be at Gucci for much longer, but Life had other plans.
"I felt lost. Whenever you get to a point when you can't see your future, if you're someone like me who always has to have a plan, and always has to know where they are going, oh my god, if you can't see your future, you start thinking, well maybe I don't have one."
Talking to him, it's hard to ever imagine such a strong, confident man has ever felt lost. The dramatic gear change in Tom Ford's career was all over the fashion and business worlds. But when you strip it down to its bare bones, Tom Ford's own life changed. Sure he was in a comfortable position financially but for him, as it is for all of us at some point, it was about "what now?"
"It was really terrible. I think it came at a time in my life when I was possibly due a mid-life crisis anyway. I worked so hard all my life to get to a certain point and there's a wonderful quote about mid-life crisis that a mid life crisis is when you get to the top of the ladder only to find out that it's against the wrong wall...Even though I didn't want to leave Gucci at that time and it was quite traumatic for me, I tried to learn something from it. The thing I learnt was that I never ever in my life want to retire."
Ford told me that once he realized what he wanted to do he started mapping out his vision and his plans. Sheer determination is what led him to where he is now. But the one thing from our conversation that stands out for me is his belief that life at Gucci was a prelude to life now. There is something we can all learn from Tom Ford's experiences. It's a comforting thought that even someone as successful as Tom Ford can have tough times and feel lost but come out of it bigger and better. Most important for me was the notion that Gucci didn't ruin his career or, ultimately, his confidence.
But it's not easy. We all can't take time out to find ourselves. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed and are dependent on that paycheck.
Perhaps though to ease the sense of frustration and the loss of direction is the knowledge somewhere deep down inside that all will be well. I'm learning to have faith not only in Life but also in myself, that I too will have an Awakening when I need it.
I just hope I'll remember that when Life decides to have some fun at my expense.