Whenever I watch shows like Dragon's Den (Shark Tank in the USA) - it always strikes me that investors often tell entrepreneurs that they need to give up their day job and just focus on their business. I always think that is easier said than done - I am sure it is a much easier notion with a few million quid in the bank. As many of you know, I share my life in perfumery with my work as an NHS emergency doctor and also an actor on stage and TV. I have often wondered if giving up everything but perfumery might have seen Rook grow faster than it has but then I sit and realise that Rook would not exist at all if I didn't make the choices I have.
Escape is the word of the day here. Medicine is a wonderful but exhausting career. After several years of giving it my all, I needed some escape. I needed to remind myself of the three dimensional person that arrived at medical school in 2004 that was spat out in two dimensions in 2010. I stopped and reminded myself that I had talents and passions that made me feel complete and I can say whole heartedly that keeping those going in tandem has made me better at them all. Had I not needed a different headspace to escape to, I am not sure I would ever have started a business.
No one really focuses on just one thing. When I am at the hospital, I may be juggling 5 or 6 very sick patients at the same time. When a Dragon takes 40% of a business, they are also focusing on the 500 others they have invested in. This is via a tier of teams who are also claiming to be laser focused, whilst also being pulled in a million different directions.
I have no doubt that spending years juggling the high stakes care of many patients simultaneously has given me the skillset to set up a business in perfumery. It has honed the ability to single handedly take on all the roles that many other business have multiple dedicated teams to manage. I have no doubt that the instant rapport required to work with fellow actors has fuelled my ability to build instant rapport with patients when they are at their most vulnerable. I have no doubt that having a variety of things to focus on stops me being jaded by any of them and leaves me more productive in the time I do have to dedicate to each. A lot of people spend a long time doing nothing - sort of like sitting on the biceps machine at the gym for 30 minutes but spending 15 of those watching cat videos.
I remember being told by an acting teacher when I trained at LAMDA that there was no way that I could work in professional theatre AND medicine at the same time - I would love to go back in time and say to him "No, you can't." He in fact had no right to give me that advice. Albeit meant with fatherly kindness rather than judgement.
The moral of this story is don't let other people tell you what you can do. Why? Because in many cases it only reflects the ceiling they have placed on their own potential. There is of course nothing wrong with being laser focused if that's what suits you - I am sure someone like Elon Musk would disagree with this whole article and our respective bank balances are very different. For me the wealth comes from living a life filled with variety and challenge and I would not want it any other way.