One year ago, I quit my job.

One year ago, I left my job.

How did I envisage myself one year on?
Am I happy with where I have gotten to?
What did I hope for?

I genuinely had no idea what I was hoping for, nor what the next year would bring. The aim was simply to make my lifestyle sustainable and then to grow from there (wherever ‘there’ was). I was without a clear plan for moving forwards, I just had to start walking and see where I ended up.

I’d decided to live off fear. There was fear in anticipation of the decision, but on leaving It was amazing how quickly that sense subsided over that of liberation.

I lived purely off adrenaline for the first couple of months, everyday held a plethora of activities I’d committed to with no idea whether I could actually do them. A crust of bravery concealed a core of terror. Things happened slowly at first, searching for and taking all and any opportunities. Soon enough life started to get busy. Opportunities turned into commitments and time started to get short. Relief and euphoria replaced the nerves as I completed things I’d never have thought. This was a highly rewarding process.

Looking back at the road I have carved, how do I feel about it?

Proud? It is incredibly easy to underestimate what has happened in a year, caught up in an infinite list of to do’s. It is hard to remember that awe and admiration I felt for people who’d gone it alone and started their own company, longing and hoping to do the same. One year ago, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Here we are with serious offers of funding, national media coverage, a regular schedule of events and 800 participants since January. Putting it like that, I suppose I have a few things to be proud of.

Expected this outcome? I quit my job alone. I am now working with an amazing team. It is easy to forget I expected to be slogging it alone and regrettably easy to take working with Rosemary for granted. Looking back at the week when I managed to pull Rosemary into Rabble, I realise how stupidly lucky I was. I can’t even imagine how different things would have been without that moment. Rabble is all the better for it. And now we have also have Daria, could we have asked for a better team?

Richer? Ha ha, hell no – in the financial sense. One year of draining my savings is really kicking home now. Fortunately that bears little importance, as I’m richer in experience, knowledge, purpose and love for life.

Risky? The overt feeling of risk subsided rapidly as I realised I can survive without a formal job. But the underlying sense of not yet being sustainable definitely remains somewhere in my subconscious. But let’s say it all fell through tomorrow (not planning on this!), gains would heavily outweigh the losses: in experience, learning, excitement, friendships and personal development.

Loving life? Absolutely. I’m driving along a path that I’m building, towards an outcome I really believe in. I have far more purpose, I’m not doing a job ‘I fell into’, because I needed a job. 

Stressed? Absolutely. I have a lot at stake. I’m currently losing money month on month. Uncertain when the outflow will be stemmed. I wear many different hats to attempt to stem the loss, a biology teacher, maths tutor, sports coach as well as rabble founder. I ‘work’ most hours in the day. But I need stress, I’m in trouble with out it.

Exciting? Totally. I have no idea what’s going to happen next and it’s always something I never expect! It’s the thrill of new experiences that form the fabric of life.

Learning? On a second by second basis. In many ways I’d hoped but in many ways I’d not forecast. Picking up a huge amount about myself and my behaviour in addition to general business learnings. And still have SO far to go..

People? I doubt I’ve ever met so many diverse and interesting people. From our participants who make rabble what it is, brightening my days on a regular basis. To generous and challenging investors and other contributors, friends and entrepreneurs who’ve offered help in various forms during this process. SO many new inspirators.

Recommend? Without a second of hesitation. Ask yourself are you living? How much of your life is predictable? Will you look back and think, I made the most of what I had, I really chased my dreams?

Regrets? Never.

Future? Who knows? I’m just as vague as I was when I started out. Just keep doing the things that matter and how can it go wrong.
With THANKS to everyone who has supported us over the last year, by coming to a session, offering advice or helping in any other way. Rabble is a product of the help we have recieved..

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Why voting for the Cambridge Sports review is like voting for UKIP

There is plenty to be improved within the sports system at Cambridge. It is vastly underfunded and has been over relying on the dedication of some committed individuals for decades. It is ridiculously far from representing the world leading institution and epitome of excellence that Cambridge University claims to represent.

I was frustrated whilst a student with the general level of arrogance shown by the university towards student services and experience (in not only the sports domain). There appeared almost no interest or effort in aspiring to be better. The view: The reputation and history of Cambridge is enough to attract strong candidates and it is doing just fine. So why try to better ourselves?

It is important because as I was told by a resisting senior member of the university whilst campaigning for improvement; ‘We are not competing with Leeds, we are competing with Harvard.’ Apart from the staggering arrogance and narrow mindedness of the comment, perhaps it’s time for the university to review the competition and see what they offer to their students? And they should probably start with Leeds! American students give back to their universities, not surprisingly this is correlated with quality of experience and giving culture instilled. Lifestyle factors are important and are hugely overlooked. Google don’t invest in beautiful offices, the best tools, a free canteen and an array of lifestyle opportunities for no reason? Student satisfaction and well-being are not on the agenda of the university.

As an injured student representing Cambridge at a pretty serious level, with no indoor sports hall, let alone swimming pool and fed up of talk, I tried to change the situation. I founded the campaign ‘800 years with no sports centre.’ After 2 years of pushing with help (notably that of Tom Chigbo), I’d found the root of much stalling, politics and underhand play. In a big push for transparency, as to why a sports centre that had been promised for the previous 10 years was never going to get funded. I became party to a meeting whereby the university came to meet us part way, agreeing to loan themselves some of the money to build facilities to bring them in line with most primary schools.

A mini victory, however I was fully aware that this was still far from a strong position. A basic facility, with no money more being raised and no aspirations or structure in place to keep growing Cambridge Sport.

So unsurprisingly 6 years after I began my campaign in 2008, I see generally sports clubs in Cambridge are still struggling and the sports centre is far from being supported by the central university but being crippled by loans and interest. So at first sight when I saw that there was a general movement to improve the Cambridge sports scene I responded favorably, but on closer glance I wonder whether this movement will have such a positive impact.

A review of sport has been completed. The headline: Sport should be taken into the central university’s administration. The report upon which this review was undertaken is not available for public viewing. Strange?

Reading the compendium of evidence submitted to the report, the overwhelmingly strong theme was improved funding, facilities and recognition. But this is not the focus of the review. Strange?

Those people currently living and breathing Cambridge sport (the PE Department and members of the sports syndicate) were not invited to participate in the report nor contribute to the review. Strange?

Thus the new sports committee analogises well with UKIP, a strong stance in opposition to the current  system. There are powerful messages of change but lacking experience in delivery and detail in plans to back up promises made.

UKIP’s policies see some sensible suggestions alongside ludicrous suggestions; ‘all student societies should be brought under the sports committee’? Anyone so hasty to sign away the powers of the PE Dept and the sports clubs to the UAS should responsibly want to know the answers to some of the below questions:

-Why is the original report from which the review was born from not available for public review?

-Why is the focus of the review not on exactly how Cambridge will seriously and sustainably raise money to make sport a success and help clubs in Cambridge survive?

-Why has there been very limited cooperation with the existing PE Dept and Sports Syndicate?

-Why will sports people and students not be adequately represented on the new sports committee?

-Why has there been no open discussion or debate surrounding this topic?

-The UAS plans to govern sport. If they were supporting Cambridge sport why are they draining cash from Cambridge Sport currently in paying loans (and interest!!!) back to themselves for the sports centre? Why if the UAS is supportive of sport, do they not write this loan or at least the interest off?

-Without a PE Dept, who will lead any academic sports research?

-Why is there such a scaremongering campaign and rush (especially in Cambridge university terms) to implement the new review? These issues have been a problem for a long time. A compromise has been suggested by the opposition (full agreement except on power take over by UAS and the lack of student reps on the committee) and has been dismissed without discussion.

Once more it is the lack of transparency and the absence of detailed plan for Cambridge sport that is worrying and it is the scaremongering & the speed and pressure for change from the pro-review side that is extremely concerning. I absolutely believe that change is essential but the focus should be on exactly how we are going to raise the profile and some serious sustainable money to improve the lives of Cambridge sports participants at whatever level. All evidence to date indicates that the university sees sport as an irrelevant money drain, so I struggle to see how offering all decision making powers to the university could possibly improve the lives of Cambridge sportspeople.

I think it is fair that before voting for change, that you should understand what and how that change will come about. The anti-review campaign is asking for answers. Why are we rushing for change that we don’t understand? Perhaps the switch of power to the UAS will be the best thing Cambridge sport ever does. But from what I have seen to date, I have absolutely no reason to believe this. Please as a Cambridge sportsperson, think carefully before you vote in favour of this change.

I have just read my own book.

Someone has written a book about me.
Ok so it’s not my book, it’s a book about me.
Just me.
Something I’m still trying to get my head around for a whole range of reasons.
Many a journalist has taken an interest in my story. I’ve recounted it for newspapers, magazines and online platforms across a number of contexts. Some made it to publish, many did not.
I’m more than happy to give interviews, it’s flattering that even one person is interested, but I expect little to come of my words. So when I receive a call asking for my perspective on Oxbridge sport I’m more than happy to oblige. I have no idea what I said on the call but an opportunity lit up in the mind of one of the most perceptive journalists I’ve ever met, Danae Mercer.
‘I think I can place your story elsewhere -can I try?’ Having heard this before, with limited success, I respond:
‘Yea sure.’ Expecting that to be the last I’d heard of it.
When I received a call to say that the Guardian were interested in the story, I was pretty surprised.
So in true Danae style – it happened:
The bizarre thing was that it was years after the event. In my head, I was no longer media interest. At the time many a local paper printed my story, with no national interest. So why now? I was a construction manager, playing in amateur rugby in the local second team. I was posing as an ordinary person. It was cool. Most that I worked and socialised with knew nothing of my past.
People who thought they knew me were confused or perhaps frustrated that they had no idea. But how do you tell that story? Without sounding like you have an uncontrollable ego. I wanted to have friends who liked me for who I was in the present, not what I’d done in the past. I was also wrestling at the time with my decision to leave the world of competitive sport behind. It wasn’t easy. I was defined a sports person. I am a wasted talent.
A couple of days after the article, when I am still catching up with my past, Danae is telling me that the Guardian are talking about pushing this into a book, I was yet further taken aback by the level of interest. But still skeptical.
Danae got me wrong again, she won the commission. Still slightly in the dark about the process, I just went along with whatever was required.
There was actually relatively little contact with Danae during the writing process. We had two longer interviews and then a series of small question exchanges. Whilst she quietly dug into my life, most material coming from others, friends, family and supporters. In reality the people most qualified to comment.
I imagine I was also difficult to interview. Danae was trying to work me out, pick at my motivations for my actions.
‘Can you just explain to me why you did xxx?’
‘Errrr… I have no idea. I just sort of did. Wait let me think…’
I am also guarded. I make friends slowly, I prefer to watch and decide whether to engage rather than jump straight in. I found this a very unnatural process, I know Danae only because I’m required talk about me, in a sickeningly one-dimensional and one-way sense. It was weird and I felt uncomfortable talking about myself for so long without knowing really who I was talking to. Danae was always extremely positive and very nice. Too nice.. I was suspicious of her thoughts behind what I believed to be a wall of tact and diplomacy.
Several months into this process, I worked her out. Invited on one of Danae’s more arduous journalist tasks (reviewing afternoon tea’s across London), we sat in a 5 star hotel and were showered with expensive treats. It’s a tough place to be, she knew everything about my life including things I didn’t know myself and will probably never know, whilst I barely knew her. I’ve no idea how she’d processed this information or what conclusion she had drawn of me. I barely spoke about the book or it’s context.. I didn’t know how or what to say or even if it was a topic that could be discussed! Here, I finally got under her skin abit, getting the opportunity to have a more normal two way exchange. I discovered her nice facade was a genuine trait. She’s a positive and intelligent people person with an optimistic outlook. I relaxed, hoping this would actually be a friendship extending beyond our strange meeting scenario. Sadly Danae used this opportunity to explain she’d snapped up an incredible opportunity in Dubai.
The book is now released. I read a first draft, I didn’t input, I did cry (the quotes of others experiences caught me off guard!). It’s not for me to correct, change or frame what Danae has found. It is her work, she is to decide the narrative and tone, I am merely the subject. The views of others are far more valuable in describing me.
So how do I feel about it? The way in which the book is written is very, very clever. Drawing parallels across my journeys in my motivations rather than my actions and linking them together. Clearly much time, thought and many subjects have built a picture of me that Danae had distilled. So I guess the narrative is true. How can I argue? Would I have described myself in this way? No. But I have all the details to hand, it’s hard to aggregate into a high level description. It’s hard to see yourself, again it seems I come out as a highly determined individual. In my own view of myself I’m less serious, concealing my drive in humour. As much I see my goal, I am flexible enough to accept and even expect failure.
Was I worried about what would be written? No. If people report negative qualities about me it then how can I argue? If a trait was flagged that I did not recognise and did not like, then presumably everyone would already know it existed. So it would be purely a personal problem to tackle. I’m not afraid of that, an opportunity to make myself a better person.
Now I have a strange experience of people opening up to me. I have been exposed publicly, it seems this makes it easier to connect with me and perhaps understand me so I’m spontaneously told things they may not necessarily otherwise have. Depth of relationship it appears is an exchange, the more you reveal to others, the more they will share with you, both with those I know and those I don’t. It is a nice but thought provoking experience. I am touched. But touched the most by those who know me deeply. Pringle sees me and my faults everyday. I get a message ‘I am so proud.’ It means a lot. Struggle to admit it as I may.
But judge for yourself. Let me know what you think. I am as human as the rest.
All royalites are directed to the Air Ambulance that saved my life.

My MA in Nothing.

Tomorrow I graduate for my MA. It’s in nothing.

Comprehensive schooled, female, northerner from broken home receives Cambridge MA. The dream story of a quota driven state. And one which could easily misportray the truth. I have been congratulated on my upcoming graduation by many. When asked, in what I will be graduating and I reply: nothing. I am not being modest, mysterious or rebellious. I have genuinely done no work whatsoever for this degree (less than usual), nothing academic has passed me since my Bachelor of Arts; in Neuroscience. Spotting a few inconsistencies above?

Doesn’t sound fair, right? Many people on learning that an MA Cantab/Oxon has required no study, protest at its injustice. True. Many graduates with the opportunity to take such a degree decline it on this farcical basis (Rosemary included). Never one to miss a protest, it might also be expected of me. But actually my protest is in taking it and proudly.

To shy from my MA Cantab, would be to say that my BA Cantab was equivalent to all other BA’s on the market, same name and thus assumed the same level of qualification. It’s just that my bachelors degree in science comprised of Monday-Saturday lectures, 30hrs+ a week of contact, with 4 essays/examples papers per week and four individual classes to showcase your lack of attention. Alternatively there was the bachelor of science that I could have picked up elsewhere off four hours per week for the same price. Mine doesn’t sound like a smart decision to me.

My lack of faith in the educational system as a whole is broad. At school, I was like marmite, teachers loved or hated me. Massaging their end of year pass statistics but also not a stranger to Wednesday detentions.

I often question what I picked up from education, what is it possible to pick up? Even if you apply yourself. A degree is generally deemed useful to indicate you have a particular level of competency. But even graduates with career matched degrees are reeducated on entry to industry. My major skills equipping me for life were those I found in parallel to education. Those where I just got on with plugging a gap in a service not provided.

Education is archaic and in desperate need of modern day reform to improve its everyday relevance. Take medical degrees, five years of basic training as if you will become the medieval village practitioner. Giving drugs in the morning, delivering babies at lunch and surgery in the afternoon. This never happens. Doctors undergo 10+ years of training to operate just on hands. Sounds reassuring but most of the training was not relevant to the hand, or surgical techniques applicable to the hand. Of course there is some benefit to broader knowledge, but not years of it. I would challenge an untrained apprentice to take it up and see in how long they became proficient. When was the last time the entire degree was reviewed in relevance. And why not? Because it takes a lot of effort and because there’s an industry in certification.

My MA is another example of an ancient hangover in the academic system.

Fair? No. But important? Also no.

I would argue its not any less fair than many other elements of the academic system. It seems no more ridiculous than a recent 6week qualification I passed with one day of study and submission of a totally blank coursework portfolio. The education INDUSTRY is self serving and as self fulfilling as arguably many others with far less scrupulous reputations (banking, politics etc). What does the academic system give to society? To what extent does society support them vs they support society. And to what/who are they accountable to? I’ve read many paper stating the obvious, many with experimental/statistical flaws and many which are nice but wholly subjective.

I would like to see an education system with less emphasis on regurgitation and 100% correctness and more emphasis on solution seeking, getting out there giving it a go and failing.

Regardless of all the above. My MA is undeniably an excellent CV embellisher for those who are interested in acknowledging such things. As much as I’m skeptical I’m not going to fight the system unnecessarily. It is also an excellent reunion opportunity and a fun day of feasting, parading and celebrating with friends & family as they did 800 years ago.
Count me in.

Charlotte Roach MA (Cantab)

My Brand, time to rethink.

Ever heard yourself speak? I mean as others do, via digital replay. And it doesn’t sound like you? As you thought you sounded. I’ve certainly changed accent a number of times (getting posher of course), hearing myself on the radio, I realise I’ve left my mental projection of myself behind the reality.

Ever had yourself described? What is it that people associate with you? If they had to pull a few words together to encompass you, what would they be? What is your brand? Would you recognise yourself? And would you buy into your principles?

I was subject to this analysis on several independent occasions over the past week. Both unexpectedly and both times I was surprised by the results.

On completion of an intensive two week youth business course, participants reflected on each other. Sending well wishes and thanks to others in a couple of lines. This was then to be summarised by the most potent line by the person to my left. That person was Rosemary, so when she read: ‘Charlotte is like kryptonite to bullshit and infectiously but reassuringly upbeat.’
I assumed this was simply the most entertaining quote on the page.

When I received all of the comments, there were three overwhelming themes, in order of potency. The first: strong minded, courageous, driven, aggressive, determined & stubborn. The second: positivity & optimism and the third: honesty.

Several days later when struggling to understand the algorithm that underpins a ‘brand’, a seemly fluffy word that I can’t easily build. Rosemary was asked to describe me: wacky, determined, joker, stubborn, caring, strong minded, opportunistic, aggressive.

Her summary was cut down by our mentor. You only need two words:

Determined and aggressive.

I’m assuming this is not news to those of you who know me. This is presumably the brand of myself I project to you. But I was left slightly taken aback and also slightly disconcerted. I didn’t overtly recognise myself. Ok these qualities I understood to possess but not as my overriding picture. Was this who I wanted to be? The bullish aggressive who will trample on any to achieve.
This is certainly not as I’d view myself, nor the brand I want to project. Ironically I’d see myself as generally easy going, opportunistic and flexible joker.

People and experience are FAR more important to me than success (however one wishes to define this). But that’s clearly either not true or not what I project.
What I project terrifies me.
What I project likely terrifies others.

Maybe I need a rebrand.
Maybe I need to check myself.
Or maybe I just crack on.

I cannot just rebrand. That’s something uncomfortable teenagers do to up their social status. Maybe on the basis of the above I need to change fundamentally what I’m about.

On discussion with others who’ve known me longer. I am determined, but I’m also a loyal, funmaker. Famously described as the most secretly caring person known. So as offputting as my brand is, it’s perhaps confused. Determined I am, but not at all costs. Fun is also often seen but beneath is an honest loyalty open to those who can sidestep the shield. An aggressive determination is a lonely, one dimensional picture, even if it is optimistic, it is without colour. This is not what I strive for. But people seem to tolerate me in spite of this. I like to challenge, understand and engage people, not to shut them down.

I’m not going to change. I’ve always been the same. I do clearly need to take care as to how I come across. Ie my brand could do with some work but hopefully the product is worth discovering.

My deepest insecurity

We have had much unexpected success this week, riding off discovering my deepest known insecurity.

Easter Sunday, I’m in tears. Not a state to which I’m easily reduced nor comfortable publicly. For what?

Atypically cutting to the point. The past couple of weeks have been difficult. Rosemary has been in Thailand, with sun, sand, a time difference and back of house business tasks. Front of house with one less limb and all remaining limbs concentrated on covering bases at half the rate and twice the exertion. Reducing the number of dedicated limbs to propulsion, I’ve been big on hopping. My left leg is now big and my neighbours sent an A4 typed noise complaint. Things improved, my three working limbs adapted, the sensitivity to pain in the leg decreased. But my crutches not up to the only task for which they are designed, have left me going back to hospital average twice per week for replacements. Infuriating.

Rosemary’s return was celebrated, with the presentation of chocolate coated durian (hideous SE Asian fruit, banned indoors due to its powerful lingering odour. Chocolate does not mask the problem). The parallels in this gift to our feelings were uncanny. Both feeling centrally, potently frustrated yet wrapped in happiness of return.

Our upset boils down to a misinterpretation of the other feelings. Pringle believing I felt she must be working non-stop, which in itself worries me. How am I coming across as a work Nazi? Aren’t I the shortcut king? Meanwhile I’m thinking Pringle is going to quit the venture to rejoin the paid, employed and conforming. Ludicrous as Pringle is one of the most committed I know (unhealthily so) 100% or out. The other misaligning point is that I trust Pringle as far as I’m capable, I also knew how she would react to this message. Yet we still felt as we did.

Are we both sufficiently blind sighted not to see the load the other is undertaking. Focused only on our own worlds of struggle. Are we not communicating sacrifices, perceived or otherwise? Are we being fair?

Why did this one hit so hard? Trying to reconcile my identified inconsistencies, I think this issue had struck something I guess, I am deeply afraid of. The fear of being left. Being fiercely independent has likely resulted from and makes me susceptible to feeding, this situation. We both own 50% of this company, we are tied (wed). My involvement existed long before shares were taken out and operating without a return position on the plate. I wont be giving up on this. If left, I would just face the challenge alone. Every time I set myself up for a challenge I look for support, often unsuitably. Perhaps because I am sociable, perhaps because I need a ‘hype girl’ rooted in a lack of courage. When partners bought in, then wanted out, I mentally wrestled with the situation. Then just got on and did it alone. Once I’ve reached this mindset, it’s an irreversible position, there’s no re-entry. Cycling from Beijing to London was not originally a solo venture, but it was something I was going to do. If it had to be alone, so be it.

Having spent years trying to bring people into this idea, Pringle had to sidestep it numerous times. I eventually came to the conclusion it was time to man up and go alone. But inadvertently won Pringle on side. Big celebrations! We are now tied together by sweat equity shares & now tears (lets hope we can steer clear of blood). We have been told numerous times we need each other and how perfect our partnership is. We both understand its beautifully rare. But I can’t shake my instinct to anticipate when she is going to leave and how to prepare myself for that time. I feel exposed because I have truly committed myself to this project, a position I rarely let others view, never mind share. In my insecurity, I accelerate the reality in my fear. My ability to trust has been questioned, another surprise. Actually, I need to trust myself, I have dealt with such a situation before, I need to relax and let events unfold. Knowing I can operate alone if I’m forced. Division is ultimately inevitable and could happen for a number of reasons but let’s stop reaching for it and let it happen only for the right reasons.

Seeing this came as a revelation to myself. I look at other areas of my life, I never tie myself down. Always ready to run or change direction, the loss minimal. Feeling weak in recognition of my vulnerability and in sharing it. This doesn’t feel like business, this feels like marriage (not that I am any kind of marriage expert!). And like any marriage this is based on three fundamentals trust, communication and mutual understanding and also true the work in the relationship doesn’t finish on the wedding day, it starts there. Looking to me like a foggy mess of irrational factors was described with clarity by another. ‘Ha, you’re sad your girlfriend’s going to leave you. You’re both upset because you wrongly felt the other felt. This is a misinterpretation of feelings and not a difference in fundamental beliefs, both normal and totally resolvable.”

We are justified to qualify our own feelings, but our assumptions of the others feelings and actions were misjudged and badly handled. The celebration this week came externally in real validation of our operations in hard cash as we were offered funding. But internally and more valuably is our own personal discovery.

I know that I’m afraid I will be left. And in acting to prevent this, I actively promote it. So perhaps I try to trust more in others and in myself. There will be a chance I end up fighting alone but maybe now it won’t be certain.