We live in a world where we are encouraged to follow the crowd, and although we love the idea of thinking outside the box, being adventurous and taking risks; in reality it's the 'idea' that we love ... nothing more.
After finishing high-school I did the usual thing and followed the crowd to university. After university, I then followed the crowd to a full-time corporate job as an accountant. Things were looking good .. I was ticking the boxes.
Landing the 'dream job' wasn't an issue for me. I had a few interviews and the human resources people seemed to like me. They thought I was interesting because of my various adventure stories and tales from the wilderness. They considered my outgoing personality and my ability to talk to people to be valuable traits for their business.
You beauty! I'd landed a job because my new employer liked me for who I was.
There was only one problem and that was the fact that 95% of my new job involved sitting at a desk in an office tower and not talking to a soul for 9 hours a day, then studying all weekend to complete the exams required for official accreditation.
Over the years I've climbed tall mountains; run ultra-marathons; slept in the freezing cold and spent many gruelling hours in the saddle on multi-day cycling expeditions. None of these experiences come close to the challenges I faced as a graduate accountant.
To cut a long story short, it sucked and it just wasn't for me. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I worked with talented business owners and learnt from them; I made some great friends and developed a professional network; I had a good time when I could and I walked away with my Chartered Accountant accreditation which has been an invaluable tool for understanding the inner workings of a business.
After four years I'd had enough. I'd made the decision that I didn't want to be one of those miserable middle-aged office workers who turned up each day to a job that they didn't enjoy. I was ready to take action but I had no idea what I wanted to do.
I had started the Alton Goods business with a friend a few years earlier and I enjoyed it. The business was born at the intersection of two passions; adventure in the outdoors and retail. My mate and I had enjoyed working in retail since we were young and we'd spent most of our free time chasing adventures in the outdoors. The idea of the Kerouac Hammock came up one night after a few beers around the campfire and next thing we knew, we had an outdoor goods retail business.
Alton Goods was only ever a hobby though. It was a creative outlet for maintaining sanity after a long day of doing something I didn't really enjoy. It never really made much money. We designed products, had them manufactured, then sold them ... mostly breaking even.
After desperately searching for a new job I realised that the my dream was standing right in front of me. At a young age when I was less influenced by the world around me I was drawn to retail because I loved talking to people and I was attracted to the outdoors because I loved adventure. Alton Goods was the manifestation of these two passions and it was begging for me to throw everything I had at it.
After running away to the powdery ski slopes of Hakuba for a few weeks I came back to Brisbane, quit my job and agreed with my mate that I would take over the business.
It has been seven months since that day and I am still here. I'm still not really making much money but I am genuinely happy. I can confidently say that I love what I do.
I'm living off instant noodles and tins of tuna and my mind is constantly at work trying to figure out how we can make the best outdoor gear on the market. It sounds less than ideaI but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Every morning I wake up inspired and excited. I get a huge buzz every time I chat to my customers about their experiences with the Alton Goods products and I get to spend lots of time testing gear out in the bush.
I know I'm not alone in my experience and that there are so many people out there who want to take the plunge and chase their dreams. My advice is to do it sooner rather than later. It might be hard to begin with; there will be challenges and there is no guarantee that you will succeed. But you wont know unless you have a go.
I still don't know ... but I'm not going to sit around waiting to find out.
'Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.'