Why do I do it? Over and over again, I ask myself this question: Why do I do it?
I am talking about putting myself through hell for no logical reason by taking on more responsibilities and challenges when I am already maxed out on responsibilities and challenges. Let me explain.
About two years ago, I had a casual conversation with someone who worked for The British Institute of Directors (I.o.D), a highly respected body that concerns itself with the world of business in the UK and internationally. As the name suggests, it is a form of a club for senior business people who for at least part of their time, they are involved in the boardrooms of companies small, medium and large.
The Institute is headquartered in the prestigious Pall Mall in London with branches in every major city in the UK. The magnificent Regency building they occupy belongs to the Queen of England who has been generous enough to allow them to use it for free provided they maintain it to the standard that befits a royal residence; as it was built in the early 19th Century, to accommodate the Crown Prince, by the renowned architect of that time John Nash who, amongst his many achievements, built the Brighton Pavilion and Marble Arch.
Anyway, back to my contact at the I.o.D. He casually mentioned that the Institute awarded a “Chartered Director” status to certain people who demonstrated competence in this field to the satisfaction of the Institute. Thinking that maybe one simply needed to fill a straightforward form, pay the fees and that would be that, I asked: I am already a director, what do I have to do to be awarded this status?
I had no idea that I opened a ‘Pandora’s Box’ for myself. It turned out you have to enrol on a course for 10 full days to cover Finance, Corporate Governance, Legal, Marketing & Strategy and Organisation. This would then culminate in a 3-hour exam to answer a battery of questions on those topics and you must pass each segment before you are awarded a ‘Certificate’.
If you wish, you can go further by attending more lectures followed by another 3-hour exam to consider a specific business case study then answer another bunch of devilish questions. Assuming you pass this next hurdle then you are awarded a ‘Diploma’.
If you are masochistic enough, you can then submit an application for a ‘Chartered Director’ accreditation. This is when it gets hard!
This last stage does not entail an exam, and you wish it did! It requires the submission of detailed evidence of what you do currently whereby you have to prove that a significant part of your work entails directorship of at least one entity for at least 5 years. The evidence requires the submission of annual reports, organisation charts, description of personal involvement in all of the above and more. Further submissions are demanded like a 20-page portfolio of experience detailing what you do and how you do it. When all of this is done to their satisfaction, you are invited to meet two senior members of the I.o.D who are already ‘Chartered Directors’ in order to discuss your submission. If both of them are satisfied (and this is not certain by any means), that you are the genuine article, then they recommend to a selection committee your accreditation as a ‘Chartered Director’. If the two don’t agree (one says yes and the other says no), then you have to be interviewed by another pair of worthy ‘Chartered Directors’.
For no logical reason at all, I enrolled on the Certificate course with the zeal of a teenager determined to devour an entire large pizza in one session!
So, I attended the 10 days of lectures diligently, revised over 1000 pages of documentation, sat through revision webinars, answered mock questions on-line and finally sat the exam, which I hated with passion as it made me feel like a 15-year old teenager all over again. I then had to wait for 6 weeks before I got the email that told me I passed my ‘Certificate’ Level; now I can use “Cert. I.o.D” after my name!
Months later, I attended the next set of lectures, revised the original set of notes plus additional notes, more webinars, more on-line mock exams, sat the real exam (which was more stressful than a visit to the dentist) and waited in agony for a few more weeks. I passed my ‘Diploma’ Level just before Christmas; I can now change the letters after my name to say “Dip. I.o.D”! That should have been enough for anyone but, not me!
When everyone was focused on having a great time with his or her family and friends over Christmas, I downloaded the application for Chartered Director and began the laborious business of form filling.
Now halfway through January and I am still filling forms, sending .pdf files of annual reports, wiring money for fees, responding to questions by email and waiting to be told I am legitimate enough to be invited for this hallowed interview, during which, I may or may not impress. If and when I am invited to the interview, it will be some 6 weeks before I am finally told whether or not I am one of them.
Back to my original question: Why do I do it? I have thought long and hard about this question and I am not entirely sure I have the true answer to this question. After all, I don’t need the whole thing; my job does not depend on it; my career is largely behind me already; I am not a particularly good student; I hate exams; nothing about my decision made sense. Further, this is not a cheap hobby, it already cost me over $15,000 in fees and about 30 days of precious personal time attending lectures, exams and revision time, not to mention the stress and anxiety I put myself through. The best explanation I can give you is as follows:
No matter how high or far we get in life, there is always another peak to climb, another hurdle to jump and another rainbow to chase. It’s just sometimes we get to an age or state of mind when we stop seeing these goals and as a result, we seize trying. Yes, it gets harder and less purposeful with age but; it can be done with more effort than the average young person needs. But, when we do accomplish a goal and reach another summit, boy does it feel great!
I am glad I began this journey a couple of years ago, it has been interesting, invigorating and very, very rewarding. Whoever you are, whatever your age is, may I offer this simple advice: keep looking for goals, keep searching for challenges and test yourself, it will be the making of you.
I now finally had my interview and was awarded ‘Chartered Director’ status however, I am left with a sense of anti-climax because I am at the end of one quest and I need to find something else to scare me.
I wonder how hard it is to learn Ancient Greek so I can read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in the original text. What do you think?