After matriculating in 1999, three friends and I moved to London for a Gap year before starting at University. It was one of the most exciting things I could have done as an 18-year old: move to a foreign country, gain my freedom and be fully responsible for myself. Yet, after 5 months and too many expensive phone calls to my girlfriend in South Africa (not smart!) I only had £500 to my name. This was an issue because my mates and I had planned a 3-month trip around Europe, and we each needed £1,500 to complete the trip. They had the cash, and I didn't. As a teenager, there's not much worse than being left out! So I had to find a way to earn the extra money in 4 weeks, and the data entry job I had paying £7 an hour wasn't going to cut it.
I decided to sell my services as a web designer. I had only dabbled in websites at this point, but I didn't have many options and this seemed like a sensible one, particularly if I could charge a few hundred quid for a single website. And so, Sam Paddock & Associates was born. Only, without any associates :)
It's hard to believe this today, but back in 2000 most businesses didn't have a website. One of the businesses I got interest from, after hundreds of cold calls, was a dentist in Carnaby Street. And after 2 nerve-wracking meetings, in which I think I compared myself to a painter who could produce any look for his website that he wanted, he agreed to spend £500 on a website with me. I was ecstatic!
I have a vivid memory of walking out of his dental rooms, shooting straight across the street to the local Pret a Manger (the same store is still there today) and treating myself to a deluxe sandwich. I think this was a first for me, and a major departure from Tesco's baked beans! Then I walked boldly down the road and called my father from my cellphone to share the story of my sales success. As I think back on that day, I realise that it's one of the defining moments of my life. I put myself out there in an area I wasn't familiar with, and someone bought what I was selling. For more money than I could have imagined.
Fast forward to the present.
And so this week, while visiting London for meetings to look at the expansion of GetSmarter into the UK, I stumbled upon Carnaby Street while doing some shopping for my wife. I quickly retraced my steps of some 13 years ago and felt a warm nostalgic feeling as I did. It was a powerful experience to re-live that feeling of success I felt 13 years ago. I got a little caught up in the moment and decided to take a photo of the Dentist's rooms - pictured below:
The experience has made me think about the value of reflecting on the past as a means of appreciating the present. It was an amazing experience to see how far I've come in 13 years. It was like having a two-way conversation with my 18-year-old self. I really enjoyed it. And I want to do more of it.
What a great trip down Carnaby Street. I mean... memory lane.