When Life Gives You 19 Socks – Make A Sock Puppet!


Yesterday I bought 10 pairs of black socks….

As an opening pitch it’s not exactly “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” but every story has to start somewhere.

I wouldn’t consider myself a desperately demanding individual, however there are certain things you come to expect in life. Things like being made to stay quiet between 9pm and 10pm so as not to disturb Love Island or that when you put a beer in the freezer to ‘chill quickly’ you find it 3 weeks later stuck in time like a small tinned Vesuvius. And I certainly expect when buying 10 pairs of socks to have 20 in total. It’s one of those things you just rely on.

So imagine my surprise when I opened said packet of socks this morning to find I’d been shorted. This was the kind of surprise you can’t keep to yourself. Being a caring husband who values open communication with my wife this felt like an important moment to share.

“Becca,” I whispered “Are you awake?”. To help with context for readers who don’t know me, I have a voice that makes some ocean liner fog horns sound underwhelming. Needless to say, a whisper quickly got her attention.

“What do you want?” she replied, doing a poor job of showing her appreciation for this conversation.

“I’ve only got 19 socks” I muttered.

“That’s fine,” she said “we’ll just make a sock puppet”. And with that she was asleep again.

I’m not sure why but that sentence stuck with me. It may have been because she was half asleep and I normally get better conversation at this time in the morning from the cat but more likely because it’s felt like a 19 sock couple of weeks.
I’ve spent the last three months stepping up to do the biggest job I’ve ever taken on. 120 stores, 4,500 colleagues, 1/2 billion pound of yearly turnover. But half way through the company has announced a re-structure and when I interviewed for the vacant job I didn’t get it. I failed. I’m not job less,. I move into a fantastic new role in London with 20 store around Kings Cross, Kentish Town and Camden. But to me it still feels like failure.
I’ve never failed before. I’ve had a 16 year career where I’ve got every job, passed every interview and met every goal I’ve ever set myself. But this time I didn’t. Never mind the fact that all applicants failed (the company is now looking external) or that the job doubled in size to over 200 stores through the re-structure. I’d set myself up to win, and I didn’t.
The weird counter-balance to this is I’m not desperately ambitious in the traditional sense. I don’t dream of running companies or earning massive salaries. I’m not a fan of status or hierarchy. I dream of job satisfaction and being able to support my family whilst being proud of the differences I make.
So why the disappointment? Was I worried about how it would make me look or my reputation? Did I think I was losing my touch or might be laughed out of town. No, when I sat down and really thought about it I was disappointed because it has often been my career success that has defined me. When my friends were studying and using the pub as a second home I was in management at 19. I have always been the youngest amongst my peers in the workplace. I’ve relocated with work, taken jobs no one else would, made brave choices about moving companies. This has been the sub story to my life. I perform and don’t fail.
So when I’m really honest with myself the disappointed the was not in the job but in myself. The fact that I have always used my work success to define me.
Time to make some socks puppets.
I have more to be grateful for in 32 years than most would have in a lifetime. I could fill this page with things I’m lucky to have or be. My career is such a small part of who I am but has become such a large part of how I see myself.
So time to re-focus. This has given me the biggest opportunity I have had in many years. The chance to do a job I enjoy but one that doesn’t stretch my to capacity all the time. It changes my world from being one of sitting in traffic all day to commuting into London by train. I now have time in abundance and a chance to be able to talk to people about things that aren’t just work.
So let’s talk sock puppets.
I’m going to get more time than ever to spend with Becca and it feels like the time to get out and see some of the world. We’ve already started planning a three month trip around Europe. This would never have happened if I’d got the new job. It’s time to go exploring!
I’m determined to learn a foreign language and commuting time gives me this chance. I’ve got a small grasp of French, so seems like the right place to start. I’ve loaded up Duolingo and I’m on a 12-day streak already! Going to take alot of focus but starting to get the basics right already.
I want to write more. Whether it’s music, travel writing, reviews or random posts like this there’s something that feels good to me about getting thoughts on paper. Taking words and assembling them in an order that no one has done before, creating a unique piece that starts with an idea and a flashing cursor is an achievement that’s there for everyone to see (or no one depending on how well you do!). The new experiences and commuting time I have ahead of me give me the perfect chance to do more.
Get to know our Capital City. I’ve traveled all over Europe, Barcelona, Paris, Lisbon, Prague and many more amazing cities. It’s never really registered in my head that possibly the greatest one of all is sat 40 miles from home. I’m going to walk as much as possible, take a different route between my stores whenever I can, look up at the buildings, smile at strangers and take as many photos as I can. When I’m not in my stores I’m going to embrace London like a tourist.
And finally I’m hoping I can do my job better than ever before. Inspire and engage my team, create more loyalty for my customers and find ways to deliver the bottom line to help secure my part of this Co-Operative Society for future generations. Three months of stretch has given me more skills than ever to allow me to do this.
Note To Self: If life gives you 19 socks, make sock puppets (but to be honest, if you look hard enough it’s probably given you 20 anyway*!)
*This isn’t just a philosophical statement, I didn’t count them right. There were actually, *ahem* 20 socks all along. So not only did I start with a shit first line, but I’ve been lying all along 🙂