Genesis of the project

When I speak about the lifelab project, people usually tell me that they have never heard about something similar before.

« Humm, what are you going to do exactly ? »

And by the way, it was VERY funny to see how the word spread in my company. You know, the grapevine effect – « téléphone arabe » for the French readers – yes, I also learnt a new word ! ;). I had told about it to some people, who talked about it to others, expressing what they remembered or what drew their attention most.

So, some colleagues would tell me :

« Oh, so you’re leaving, Julia ? So you are going to live in a monastery ? », with a somehow worried smile.

Or « Oh, I heard you are going to take a year off to write a thesis about relaxation ? ».

Haha ! Well, not exactly. But I see the initial fragments of reality !

End of the digression.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

So, once I have explained what I am going to do and why – and actually, I explain the why before the what – people ask me : « HOW did you come to this idea ?! »                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

So, here is the story…

A story about an incontrollable urge for meaning and contribution and self-fulfillment. About a striking moment of intuition. About an epiphany that I decided to use to really become an entrepreneur of my life.

Last summer, almost one year ago, I went on a roadtrip in Scotland with my friends Julie and Benjamin. Sheeps, ferries, distilleries, fish and chips, wild nature. One night, as I could not sleep, I started thinking about my future. About my professional next step.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Some context : my professional background

I had been working for 4 years as a Recruiter and then Human Ressources Business Partner in a Luxury Perfumes and Cosmetics company.

My current job was to help managers dealing with HR issues in their teams (mainly recruitment and people development), to be the adviser and key contact on HR issues for employees, and to contribute to varied projects related to the HR strategy – such as talent acquisition, integration of employees, internal training, management, the future of HR, development of an entrepreneurial and creative mindset…

The company is (REALLY) wonderful : a unique history and heritage, products that are like works of art, and above all, what was mostly important to me : the company culture based on strong values and the talented, passionate, human and kind people.

Surrounded by generous and empowering managers, I learnt immensely and grew up a lot.

I developed self-confidence through time and experience. I learnt about me : what I loved and what I liked less. Where I was making a difference and, on the contrary, what required many efforts from me, for not so much added-value.

We had agreed with my management that the carrier plan for me was to move on an HR Manager position abroad.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Is the plan what I really dream of ?

That Scottish night, I think about what I want my professional life to be. Yes, I want to live abroad. Yes, I love the “people development” part of my job.

However, an HR Manager position in a subsidiary is not only about that. Am I certain that I want the whole package, which includes a big part of tasks I don’t like to do and I am not really good at, just because it is the classic path and the unique one that exists ?

It would be very comfortable, of course.

But I must recognize that deep inside, I feel – I know – that the answer is no.

Because now that I know what I am good at and what I am passionate about, I want to use my talent, time and energy to make a meaningful and strong contribution, doing things I really love doing.                                                                           

Ouch. The plan is no longer a plan. What do I do now ?

As I have just clarified with myself that it is not an option anymore to follow the path that was determined, I go through a panic moment.

What will I do, then ?

Of course, my whole body, along with my mind, is going through a deep internal storm. I feel emotions. I feel tension. My heart beats with more pressure. In my stomach, I feel the pain associated to stress.

The first question is : what about opportunities outside my company, then ?

It is an evidence to me that in order to be happy in the present of a job – especially in a big company, one needs to know what he/she is building for the future, what can be the next steps. This is my philosophy in HR management, and I naturally apply it to me in the first place.

So previously, when I had reflected about what kind of job I wanted to do next, I had explored possibilities both in my company and outside – looking at job opportunities on LinkedIn or in companies I found interesting. Result : no job opportunity seemed more attractive to me than my own job.

No clear opportunity outside my company. That night, I become fully aware of the fact that I have to look for new ideas.

So I ask myself : “What do I really want ? What is really important to me ?”

I know that learning is one of my strongest drivers. So I think about taking a year-off to study again. And immediately I understand that existing formats would be limiting. I am interested by many specific topics : entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity, positive psychology, management and coaching…

I want to learn. But there are many other dreams I have : I know that I want to travel and spend time abroad. I want to step out of my comfort zone. I want to do things I love : yoga, reading, connect and share with inspiring people. I want to contribute and feel useful.

Brainstorming with myself

My brain becomes a full blast opportunity-seeker and an endless possibility creator ! Something magic is happening. It is as if my survival is at stake.

My superexcited brain was very helpful.

I came to the conclusion that if nothing existed, I had to create… something.

I remember that I thought about this revolutionary Ted talk by an extraordinarily mature 13 years-old guy, Logan Laplante, who created his own, very complete education program – he calls it “hackschooling”.

And – haha ! I confess – I also thought about “Eat Pray Love”, the romance movie with Julia Roberts. Her character organizes a tailor-made journey for herself. She goes to Rome to reconnect to her senses (eating pasta, among others), to India to find a spiritual path (in an ashram), and then, she goes to Bali where she falls in love – I do not remember why she decided to go to Bali at first. But the important thing is that she falls in love, right ?

There were many other sources of inspiration, but I won’t mention them all here…                                                                           

What about creating a “taylor-made MBA” ?

The result of this « night-time survival self-brainstorm » is the idea to create my own professional and personal one-year development experience. A home-made, tailor-made program to travel, learn and experiment.

Being free and making choices about what to do, where to go, who I want to work and spend time with. Creating my own experiences.

This idea is incredibly exciting ! – remember, we’re in the middle of the night.

I think of the money issue – of course. I had planned to buy an apartment some day, but I had never seriously thought about taking a year-off to « explore and experiment ».

I come to the conclusion that I can find ways not to spend too much money, and that this project is really worth it. Some people pay a lot of money to do MBAs… My home-made version will be much cheaper. I decide to consider that it is an investment for my future professional life.

A professional life in which I will do what I love to do, using my talents to contribute to have a positive impact on the world. I feel peaceful. I feel relieved.

Now you know about the genesis. I will write later about how I felt the next morning and how I transformed the dream into reality…

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