The diary said it was always going to be a busy day with a tight schedule….. like many portfolio days! But this was a special Portfolio day. I was going to meet the far-sighted man who first defined ‘portfolio life’; the man whose books had helped me to take that career leap, and now inspired me to write a ‘how to’ book for fellow portfolio travellers.

Together with my co-authors, I was going to Putney to visit Charles Handy and his wife Liz for breakfast. And after that, to visit the wife of one of the co-authors in hospital, and then to see an opera at the end of the day. The schedule worked well on paper and was achievable ‘if nothing went wrong’……how often have we all said that!

  • 08:00 breakfast with Charles Handy and his wife in Putney
  • 11:00 plan and edit content for the book Building a Portfolio Career at Richmond
  • 12:30 rendezvous with my wife, at Victoria station
  • 12:45 take bus from Victoria Bus station to Oxford to visit hospital
  • 19:00 arrive back in London for dinner and then opera at Colosseum

All timed and mapped out!

What I hadn’t anticipated was that the most important bit of the day would be what I learnt on Richmond station at 11:30!

Getting up at 6:15 didn't seem to be a problem, before driving in nervous anticipation to Putney to get there precisely at 8:00; a very inspiring discussion with Charles Handy and Liz about their views on portfolio life, and the work we were doing to prepare our book. ‘You’re writing a ‘how to’ book’ he said ‘I get lots of people who’ve read my books asking me how they can fill their portfolio’

Back in the car full of good vibes and wisdom…a quick visit to the outside loo on the corner of Putney Heath Lane……. then to Richmond Golf Club to talk and agree the next stages in getting our own book finished (now to include the guru’s wise words!).

Couldn’t overrun at Richmond because I had to meet my wife at 12:30 at Victoria station. But I’d checked the tube map and the District line would get me there, if the meeting finished on time. My co-author was giving me a lift to Richmond and I impatiently paced the car park waiting for him to start the car for 11:45.

I knew I just needed to take the District line from Richmond to Victoria, that should take 30 minutes; might be tight but I should get there.

It got more tight when we arrived at 12:07; a race across the platform to the ticket machine, I need to get that train; the machine doesn’t accept £20 notes for a fare less than £10, there are no other machines, there’s no ticket office. Rising panic. The train is leaving at 12:12. Thank God, there's a ticket collector - I’ve got to catch that train - he slowly keys in the ticket - don't worry about the change I’ve got to go – I say thrusting a £20 note into his hand; racing for the platform only to see the train pulling out. Panic. The next train is not until 1224. The schedule is broken. I’ll have to get a taxi; there's a price to be paid for an overloaded day. Racing back past the ticket collector (who gives me the change having sorted it out slowly) – ‘I’ve got to get to Victoria’ I squeaked, ‘missed the train, now I’m going to have to take a taxi, where’s the rank?’

He looked at me with a rueful smile : ‘Why didn’t you say you wanted Victoria? There’s an overground train coming in now for Waterloo; you can change at Clapham Junction’ He'd seen it all before – more haste, less speed. ‘It's coming in now’, hurry, perhaps I won’t be as late as I thought. Puffing and sweating and recovering in the seat, very shortly, hey here we are arriving at Clapham Junction at 12:25; there’s a Victoria line train coming in on the neighbouring platform; I’m in Victoria at 12:32. Unbelievable - from despair and panic to triumph and good timing courtesy of Network Rail !

The schedule was restored, the rest of the day met the timetable. Home after the opera and an 18 hour day, the learnings from Richmond station came back to me.

There was always a way to get there on time, but I presumed I had the best route and stuck to it. There was always a better way but I had asked the wrong question and not looked for advice. Once II shared my objective with the ticket collector, he knew the answer on how to get there.

Take the blinkers off, find the informed person, ask the right question, and serendipity will work for you. As Goethe is supposed to have said :

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

Yes, I thought, I’ll make sure that’s in the book!....and it is!

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