I have always known that I was different. And by different, I don’t mean ‘special’ in a narcissistic way, I literally mean different. I grew up in the very academic city of Cambridge surrounded by son’s and daughters of world leading scientists and professors of the university, but I am the daughter of a wild Irish hippy painter and musician and a quirky genius doctor. I remember a wonderful feminist music sociologist lecturer when I was at University once explaining to us that the schooling system here in the UK was built on and designed for a Victorian male brain, but that what is linear and ordered for that kind of a brain, would naturally not be ordered at all to a female brain - and certainly not for a creative female brain.
I am a musician, and a bonkers creative Entrepreneur and so I spent most of my childhood feeling like I didn’t fit in. I was told at school that I should consider having a more normal job for a back up plan and that one should never take risks. At home however, it was different. My father taught me to approach things analytically but also to always think outside the box and my mother luckily taught me to just be who I am and to wildly pursue my dreams without holding back. I think the combination has made for quite a journey, but definitely one that has involved a lot of risk taking and metaphorical cliff jumping.
I have always believed that on the flip side of your greatest strengths you will find your greatest weaknesses.
The very character strengths that can lead you to greatness, when mis-managed, can be your greatest downfall. I was thinking about this recently when googling the definitions and symptoms of ‘Dyspraxia’ and wondering if I had it. It annoyed me that the symptoms were all focused on the negative traits so I began googling ‘Strengths of Dyspraxia’ and eventually I found a wonderful list of strengths including things like ‘people with Dyspraxia are often leaders and pioneers, they think outside the box because they don’t know where or what the box even is’. I don’t know if I have Dyspraxia or not but I’m definitely someone that likes to think outside the box and attempt to jump “impossible” cliffs!
I have learned to celebrate that I am different, but I’ve also found some other crazy creative types to share the journey with and balance out the issue a bit. Somehow I find it easy to risk everything for the things I believe in and am passionate for. It makes for a rocky and sometimes very stressful road but at least I know that I will never look back and ask myself "if only I had gone for that dream, I wonder what would have happened". This is how we ended up risking everything to start up a TV & Film production company and launch a new music TV show, my latest wild adventure.
The first adventure was choosing a career in music. I remember my (doctor) father asking me aged 14 what my ‘back up plan career’ was going to be in case music didn’t work out for me. In reply, I sang an Ella Fitzgerald quote at him with the lyrics “I’m putting all my eggs in one basket” to which my mother laughed and raised her eyebrows at my dad. To my satisfaction, he accepted my answer and has always attended all my gigs despite being from a different generation and mindset himself.
There were a few occasions as a session singer that I ate nothing but lentils for days on end while money was tight and trying to launch myself as a solo artist but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Next with that career up and running, was when my husband and I decided to start and run in our ‘spare’ time (not that we really had any of that!) a charity providing music and arts opportunities for young people in the South London area with absolutely zero experience in charity work. That was an incredible learning experience in managing people and money as well as other things.
Then after a string of bad experiences in my music career being controlled by music industry business people, I decided to simply launch my own record label to release my own records which was exciting and incredibly freeing, and then there was the TV show. This has been the hardest of the lot and required everything from us. We’ve even re-mortgaged our house to pay for it! Again, we had absolutely zero experience in Television or running this kind of company.
When your heart leads you somewhere I believe you have to follow that call and jump from whatever scary cliff that presents itself with the faith that somehow you will find a soft landing.
Somehow our TV company and new show is now up and running and we are on our second series actually broadcasting on the SKY network. I still can’t believe we’ve pulled it off! It just goes to show that literally ANYTHING is possible when you believe in it and give it your all.
Life is too short to leave room for regrets, and whilst I am aware my ‘risk all’ approach to life could have a dangerous flip side if I don’t plan things out properly, I try to focus on how to manage my strengths so they can’t turn to weaknesses.
This is a guest post from Ayala. She is a Singer, Songwriter, Performer & Presenter of Music TV Show The Ayala Show.