A common human desire is to live a better life. It is why we strive hard, work, educate, travel and raise our children to dream.
I am no different, although in some ways, the admission that I want to live a better life makes me bristle. It feels like a ‘western world’ and spoiled kind of thing to say. So about 12 years ago, I changed my lens to want to live exceptionally in lieu of wanting to live a better life. Step no. 1 of living exceptionally included attending Saïd Business School, but the time leading up to that decision was foundational in developing a philosophy that has endured the 10 years since graduating from business school – and will do so forever.
I was living in Australia, working in finance, married, had a beautiful son and great health. Everything looked easy but life had become routine. I had spent 8 years in the same company, and had thrived, but I was longing for new perspectives, travel and something more meaningful. I was also looking to transition from finance into an operating role and to become a leader of something impactful. I was already managing people but knew that leading global organisations was where I wanted to be.
Enter the idea of going to Oxford and joining the MBA program at Saïd. To do this, we would quit our jobs, sell everything and move overseas. The reasons not to do so were many: financial costs, travelling with children is hard, stability is safer, we might fail. But the upside was endless. 6 months later and our little family was living on Woodstock Road in Oxford and preparing for the year ahead. We arrived in July of 2004, purchased bikes, wandered Port Meadow during the day and savoured the charm of the 16th century pubs by night.
Come September, the start of Michaelmas term, and the reality of dropping off my 3 year old son at daycare (on my bike) before pedalling my heart out to get to class on time, attending classes all day, and joining study groups during breaks, before trying to meet the 5pm pick up time at daycare was a jarring but welcome change to life back home. The diversity of the Saïd students, the quality of the teaching and the sense of endless possibility was intoxicating.
The journey from that first day at Saïd until now has been nothing short of exceptional with all its ups and downs – from new geographies and roles to financial crises and being in London during the 2005 bombings to being in NYC during Hurricane Sandy and riding the economic recovery in the years since 2011. Every moment has played a role in shaping the adventure positively.
The decision to attend Saïd, and therefore leave our safe jobs, home and family was easy because we had decided that to us, living exceptionally meant being free, globally-minded and open to the next chapter. It meant meeting people that we otherwise might not have and having experiences that would be seared into our memories. The very definition of exceptional is “atypical” and in our minds, living exceptionally also meant making decisions that fall into the outer ranges of what others might do. We weren’t trying to be rebellious, just trying to challenge ourselves.
Step 1 was a success. From my first study group with Jesus Carrasco Abad and Sam Wood, our new business development project with Andrew Philpott, Stephen Coakley, Rich Brennan and Tim Senior, our summer project with Cameron Turner and Catrina Funk to the last hurrah and final exam, we forged lifelong friendships with people from South Africa, Barbados, Australia, Japan and too many other nationalities to list. Step 2 was finding a role that fit my newly raised bar of living exceptionally…Back to top of article