Jack of all trades, Master of Maths
Most parents want to give their kids all of the opportunities that they never had. My parent literally gave me ALL of the opportunities that she never had. There were ballet classes, violin lessons, swimming training, piano lessons, karate classes, french lessons, tap, flute, Irish dancing, jazz, singing, competitive egg painting, athletics, maths, gymnastics… and that was just Monday. But all of this wasn’t just the result of an ambitious parent but also that of a single-parent working mother. My mother was fortunate enough to have a lot of great friends who kindly volunteered to take me in whenever she was working late, but there are only so many hours a week you can inflict an irritating ten-year-old on your friends before they start to hate you so, wisely, she found another way and her way was enrolling me into every single extra-curricular activity in town.
So that was me… club kid. The serial clubber. The Queen of Clubs. You may think that a childhood shouldn’t be so…clubby. That kids should have more freedom but, actually, it was brilliant! I had plenty of time to climb trees and eat slugs, because if you have to fit a lot into your schedule you have to be more organised, and if you’re more organised then you end up with free time rather than wasted time. Also, I was an only child and as most of the clubs were group activities, I got the chance to spend my evenings hanging out with other kids rather than in my room playing against myself in games that required a second player. The benefits lasted well into my teenage years. Instead of spending my days inventing new ways to eat cheese (which I am prone to do when I'm bored), I was getting good at things. Not like, 12-hours-of-practise-a-day-virtuoso-good, just good. Good enough to get into a good dance school and graduate from a good university. Good enough to speak a bit of French in France and play carols at Christmas. Good good good. But never outstanding. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t bitterness or ingratitude (or bragging). I’m whole-heartedly grateful and entirely indebted to my mother for the incredible opportunities that she worked so hard to provide. But a few years ago, I had something of an existential crisis.
There I was, having recently graduated with a Master’s in maths and I had absolutely no idea what to do next. You see, I didn’t choose to study maths because of the career opportunities it would provide. I chose it because I enjoyed it and I was good at it. But I was good at a lot of things. (I think I’ve already mentioned that). So which one did I pick? What was my main ‘thing’? My stand-out ‘thing’? I didn’t have one. I had lots of little things, and that didn’t seem very helpful. I started to feel regret. If I had just focused on the piano, I could become a concert pianist. If I had just focused on dancing, I might have been a professional dancer by now. If I had just concentrated on one thing, perhaps I would have some idea about what to do next. And then I met Jack.
Jack had moved down to London to pursue a career as an actor. Jack had a ‘thing’ - acting. Good for Jack. But I soon discovered that Jack had other things too. He was a fantastic filmmaker, a talented graphic designer, a technological wizard. The appropriately named Jack was, like me, a Jack of all trades. (I should have named this post ‘The Queen of Clubs and the Jack of Trades’). Although Jack had seemingly chosen acting (and to this day he is still working as a professional actor), I got the impression that acting wasn’t the only thing he wanted to do. It wasn’t long before we started making films together. It turned out that a lot of the skills I had picked up along the way were very transferrable. Not just the creative skills either. Organisational skills, budgeting skills, writing skills: they were all essential and so Lanther Films was born. Things were looking up.
Once you’ve set the ball rolling, the ball often has a funny way of rolling off in a direction that you hadn’t anticipated. And that’s sort of how we ended up opening a business as greeting card publishers. (In hindsight, this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Considering that Jack's parents are greeting card publishers themselves and much of my spare time as a teenager was engaged in making cards and forcing my friends and neighbours to pay me for them, this seems like a totally obvious thing for us to do. But I can assure you, it never crossed our minds until it happened!) But yet again, surprise surprise, those transferrable skills just keep cropping up. Artwork, accounts, marketing, website design, brochures. Admittedly we’re not experts in any of these fields and we still have a lot more to learn, but so far we seem to have had enough ability to muddle through. (Sadly the egg painting skills haven’t proven their worth yet, but there’s still time.) And whilst muddling through, I’ve had an epiphany. I’ve realised that the reason I didn’t become a professional pianist was because I didn’t want to. I was a very independent child and my mother wasn’t a tyrant. If I had wanted to quit 29 clubs in favour of concentrating solely on the 30th, I would have done. But I didn’t, because I have always enjoyed variety. I have always gained a great deal of pleasure from learning new skills and discovering how they might complement each other. I’ve always felt that there’s so much to do in life and I want to try it all! And running a business is allowing me to do just that.
Sometimes adulthood can look like a terrifying place. We’re expected to know who we are and what we want to do before we’ve even had a chance to step out and explore the world. It took a lot of little events to help me to discover where I want to be right now and looking back there’s no possible way I could have predicted that at 12 or 16 or even 21. I’m glad that I didn’t specialise in my youth because I think that if I had, I’d now be wearing a shoe that didn’t fit. I’m really happy to be a jack of all trades and I’m going to keep collecting skills for as long as I’m able, because who know where my ball might roll to next. Things have a funny way of working out.