Wanting to be different
My mother was born in a tiny village in Spain. 2,000 people — most of whom have never travelled outside the village, or own a passport.
Life in a place like that is very cyclical; you learn a trade, open a business, start a family and watch it grow. Then, when the butcher’s son is old enough, he takes over the business, and so will his son after him, and his son after him.
I was lucky I guess — and grateful, thinking back on it now — that my parents always pushed me to do more.
Taking that first big risk
When I was 16, I said yes to an internship in Hong Kong. It was the first time I flew anywhere without my parents, and everything was so new and exciting. Terrifying as well, because you take for granted how heavily you rely on the simple things, like knowing how to read signs and where to buy milk.
I reflect on that experience a lot, actually. If I’m struggling to make a decision or scared to take a risk, I think to myself, well, you went to China by yourself and survived, Marie. If you can do that, you can do this.
Even something as basic as a gym class! I’m like, come on Marie. You cycled from Paris to London, you climbed Kilimanjaro with a blinding headache. You can manage a 45-minute workout!
Friendships at high altitudes
For me, those experiences are as much about bonding with people as they are about the cycle, or the climb. I took on the tallest mountain in Africa with my best friends by my side. We saw the sun rise over the plains — how many people can say that?
Or how many opportunities do you get to backpack through Asia? Years ago, I was supposed to travel with a friend who had to cancel at the last minute, and he’s the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type. So, there wasn’t a plan. We didn’t have anything booked. Nothing. I had five hours to decide if I was jumping on a plane by myself, or turning around and heading home. And again, my brain went, you’ve taken leaps of faith like this before, and you’ve landed on your feet.
Being a perfectionist (and proud of it)
Every personality test I’ve ever taken has come back the same: high on activity. I’m always trying new things, and I hate wasting time, but after all this blah-blah-blah about being fearless, the thing I think which surprises people the most about me is that I tend to doubt myself a lot.
The other day, our CEO told me he appreciates my confidence in meetings with clients. He asked if that was real confidence, and I said no. Not 100% anyway. Maybe 80%. The truth is I try my best to look confident on the outside, where it counts. But inside, I overthink and I overanalyse. I’m a perfectionist.
The P word gets a bad rap, but I think it’s the ultimate motivator. It encourages you to work not only harder, but smarter. When I cycled from Paris to London, I knew, okay, this is the schedule, this is the medical kit, here’s where I’m going to rest. I didn’t have to ask myself what’s the worst that can happen, because I knew the answer already. I’d worked it all out beforehand.
I plan for the worst and hope for the best. That’s all any of us can do, no?
Over the years, I’ve found that the more prepared I am, the less I have to worry about, and the more confident I feel. It still won’t be 100% — but it’ll be close.
If Marie wasn’t a Senior Consultant at The Being Group, she’d be a Creative Director with great hair. (Essentially, Helen Hunt in What Women Want.)