My very very strange year … of being myself

The very first full blog on this site ‘Disruption Sucks’ just days after myself and my entire team, and many other people, were made redundant from their jobs, I wrote:

“When you get to the end of any road – whether you ran there or had the stop sign shoved in front of you – you have two choices.

  1. Look back – at all the potholes and gravel and twists and turns that marked that road – and feel weary and angry and scared.
  2. Look forward – feel all your new muscles and sharper instincts, gained from navigating those potholes and twists and turns – and start a new journey.

After a few days, and a few bottles of wine, I chose option 2.”

Today, more than a year later, I have to say that was a bit of a lie. I didn’t just choose ‘option 2’. I chose both. And that’s OK. Sometimes you need to look back, as well as forwards (and sideways and upside down) in order to get a good view of where you are. Like all of us who only post the ‘happy’ photos on Facebook – giving a snapshot of our lives that seem full of endless BBQs, and cocktails and always happy families. The ‘relentlessly positive’ assertion – is always a lie. Especially when we all know, it is when we fuck up that we learn the most.

The light at the end of the tunnel only appears because the tunnel was there in the first place. (that is so trite – I can’t believe I wrote that – fuck it, I’m keeping it, it’s my blog 🙂 )

I started this blog for a number of reasons. Following what I tend to refer to as ‘the bloodbath at St. Katherine’s Dock‘, I knew I needed to take control of my own narrative. I had spent the previous two years working with someone, and then near someone, who cast me in his own narrative. I was a character in his story line, told under the guise of weekly chats and Slack DMs, that bore no relation to my reality. This fictional creation of someone else’s story told more about his own failings and insecurities than would ever tell of my own.

I needed to take control.

As soon as I started writing, I realised, for me, this blog was about so much more. It was a personal story that didn’t start in the lobby of RBS three years ago. It didn’t start in Barcelona, four year ago, when I stopped running through a exhibit hall the size of five football fields with the sharp stinging knowledge that I was risking a heart attack for a company that didn’t give a damn about me.

It started long ago.

It started with a little girl, alone and helpless in a hospital bed.

It grew within a chubby girl from the suburbs, struggling to succeed in an office in a Soho loft in New York.

It blossomed into a woman who spent her entire life working at startups. 

This blog breaks all the rules. It isn’t consistent or regular. There is no overarching theme (unless you count the narcissistic  theme of ‘oneself’). It is an indulgence. It is venting. It is therapy.

But I learned long ago, when my story was still in its first chapters, rules rarely make sense. And as a woman, those rules were, most likely, never written with your success in mind.

So I spent a year, being myself. I spent a year exploring, writing and speaking. I spent a year figuring out who I was.

I speak at conferences a lot. I am often asked: ‘Who do you work for? What is your job title?’ 

‘Well, I’m Liz, I’m Liz Lumley.’

‘Yes, but what do you do?’

‘I’m been sitting in the middle of financial technology for 25 years. I have spoken to more people at banks and big tech firms and seen more startup pitches than you have had hot dinners. I watched FinTech firms hold parties in a penthouse at the top of the New York Hilton, holding up the front cover of the Financial Times claiming that they will ‘take down a giant’. And then watched at they went bankrupt the following week. I have sat and watched approximately 2,577 keynote presentations asking whether this ‘FinTech nonsense’ is a ‘Threat or Opportunity’. I have gotten drunk with both founders of companies with a handful of staff, and men who oversee thousands of people for a global team at a bank – and watched as they wrung their hands and downed their drinks and allowed themselves a brief, late night moment of despair. I get stopped at airports and sitting having a quiet coffee outside an event by people I do not know who say they ‘follow me on Twitter’ or how they saw me on a video or how much they enjoyed by last guest appearance in a podcast. What do I do? I’m Liz Lumley.”

As you can tell, that made it rather hard for me to find ‘a job’. (or get an event badge printed). If getting ‘a job’ was even something I was looking for.

Yes, I wrote some reports. I attended a few events to ‘blog’. I helped out with an event agenda. (You can take a year off to find yourself – but you still need to pay the bills). But recently I started talking to people about my vision. My view of FinTech – based on all of the above. I started talking to people not about ‘hiring me’ for a project or for ‘a job’ but bringing me in, to help build a new vision, and create a new concept.

Recently, I sat down with two people and found that our ‘visions’ were pretty much aligned – there were ‘synergies’ and complementary ideas. We looked at each other and said ‘ why don’t we join forces?’

Next Monday, I will be getting on the 7:51 Southeastern Train heading north not to start a job, but to join forces.

Girl, Disrupted is not a story with a start an middle and an end – it is an ongoing journey with many more adventures to create.



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