A trip down Carnaby Street, I mean... memory lane

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:

Picture of the Dentist's office on Carnaby street.

Picture of the Dentist's office on Carnaby street.

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.