Showing the Way

Showing the Way 150 150 Ben Coker

Showing the Way

The ‘mid-life crisis’ came upon me after I turned 30. My partner Sue had left the business, and me, to pursue other interests and I was beginning to become aware that change was in the offing.

I’d learnt to Scuba dive and was really enthusiastic about it and thought this might be the ‘way forward’. I ‘put my heart and soul’ into it soon becoming an Advanced Instructor and Diving Officer of the local branch of the BSAC.

It’s not a cheap sport but I managed to sustain it by doing some typesetting work for a few of my former printing customers. Diving revived my interest and enthusiasm for teaching, and I relished the opportunity to help people learn to dive safely.

One of the things I learned during my diving career which continued for several more years alongside other occupations was the skill of helping folk adapt to different circumstances while understanding they may not see things in the same way as I.

I felt completely at home under the water from day one, most of the people I trained and taught didn’t.

I suppose as a printer my role was similar to that of a web designer or IT support person in the current era. My customers didn’t need to know how the process worked – they just needed a good job done although there was some discussion up front about how best to produce the outcome they were looking for.

I think that’s where I began to develop my marketing skills because it wasn’t just about ink on paper.

With diver training it was different because even as a recreational diver you do need to know how being underwater affects the body and how to use the equipment properly to avoid a possible life threatening situation.

Meanwhile (I had a few timelines running) one of my ‘staff’ at Anvil Press had introduced me to spirituality, known then as ‘the occult’, and I began reading avidly all I could find on the subject of who we really are and how we ‘work’. Early days, but the path I’m now on started then and thanks to Blair for pointing me in this direction.

A lot of things came together and fell apart for me personally over about four years from 1977 – a number of short term relationships and the acquisition of an Irish Setter and eventually setting an intention to ‘get married’.

I’m not sure I knew what I was doing but application of some of the learning I’d gained from the spiritual books led me to apply to a ‘computer dating’ agency as I wasn’t really ‘meeting’ anyone in Liverpool at the time.

One of the six ladies I was introduced to, took a liking to me and I soon found myself married and living with her and her two children in Knutsford.

The ‘backdrop’ of my life changed from being part of a vibrant city ‘scene’ to a quiet and sedate ‘posh’ Cheshire town. Something of a culture shock!

Back in the ‘real world’ I decided I needed to learn about and understand this new fangled ‘computer stuff’ and that’s where I headed next to the Bolton Institute of Higher Education.

A newly qualified Systems Analyst I found employment at United Biscuits, back in Liverpool of all places! This and my subsequent post at ICL in Manchester continued my theme of ‘showing the way’.

Helping the systems engineers and programmers understand what it was the customers wanted them to do, and what the outcome was the customers wanted – which was usually much at odds with what the engineers thought they wanted or they should have!

‘Herding cats’ for about ten years as Senior Programme Manager did rather help develop my management skills.

Although I wasn’t really aware of it during this time, I was learning a lot about myself and about life. The spiritual studies had stopped when I married, although, rebranded as ‘personal development’ they did come back later.

I was made redundant from ICL on my 45th birthday. For me this was a great release and I never took up formal employment again, instead forming my own company as a project and information management consultant.

ICL had been good enough to pay for me to study and graduate with an MBA from Warwick Business School definitely helping establish my consulting career especially as they employed me part time as a marketing and information studies tutor on their MBA programme for 20 years.

I spent the next 10 years or so working mainly with the UK rail industry after the break up of British Rail, helping to show them the ‘way’ forward (railway pun intended).

There’s been a lot in this about ‘my story’ but I’ve only described about a tenth of it.

In developing ‘My Way’ a large part of it has become ‘Showing the Way’.

Then, I came to the second life crisis, the one when we ask ourselves “Is this ‘it’? Is this all there is?

I’ll describe how I answered next time.

Meanwhile – do you know your Way, and is anyone helping you find it?