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Dream on…

In the first of two extracts from her amazing new book Top To Toe, Nicky Hambleton-Jones reveals the inspiration behind her success.

I was made redundant three times in the space of two years. Not a great situation to be in and I have to confess it did start to get a little embarrassing when friends phoned to say, ‘Not again?’
After the first two redundancies I felt deeply embarrassed and such a failure. But when it happened for the third time in February 2001, my whole perception changed. Instead of feeling humiliated I’d answer, ‘Well, I’m obviously being groomed for greatness, my coping skills are as slick as they’re going to get – so there must be a big plan for me out there!’ That would make my friends laugh and call me crazy, but I knew deep down they admired my courage to survive. It doesn’t mean I never shed any tears along the way; there were a lot of those. But I’ll go into more detail about that later.

I think the worst thing about redundancy is the way you’re treated like a leper as soon as the deed is done. Everyone starts awkwardly jumping around as if you’re contagious. I was frogmarched into IT where the IT guy cleared everything from my PC and muttered words of condolence to me. On parting, I turned back to him and said, ‘Watch this space – I’ll be famous one day!’ To which he replied, ‘I’ve no doubt you will.’ That was just before I was escorted out of the building into the world outside.

Famous? Who was I fooling? I was two weeks away from my 30th birthday with a CV that resembled an unfinished patchwork quilt; I had no job, no man and a mortgage. Any sane person would tell you I didn’t have a hope of being anything more than desperate.

But, somewhere deep inside me, even though there wasn’t any evidence to support it, I believed that I was special, that I was different and destined for greatness (whatever shape or form that took). I also knew I didn’t want to live a life of predictability and monotony that would end and be forgotten as if it had never begun.

My first port of call was Paradise Cove in Mauritius.
It was the middle of February and I certainly didn’t want to endure another Valentine’s Day single and unemployed. I packed my bags and two days after being made redundant I was on a plane heading south. A little sunshine was just what I needed to cheer up my spirits and give me time to think, I decided. Who would have thought that Paradise Cove would appeal to so many loved-up honeymooners?

Despite the happy couples, that holiday was a defining moment in my life. I spent my days lazing on the beach dreaming of the life I wanted to create – and writing. I wrote descriptions of my ideal job, my ideal lifestyle, my ideal man.

At the time they were nothing more than pipe dreams, but it helped me focus on the things I really wanted. Throughout this book I will share some of those descriptions with you and I should add that I am still marvelling at how, in less than five years, most of those dreams became reality.

One thing was for sure, three redundancies had to be a sign that I was as sure as hell never going back to the corporate world. I had to make it on my own; the question was how?
By October 2001 I was down to my last £100. I had an overdraft limit of £1,000 so at least I knew I could cover one month’s mortgage payment – but then what? The euphoric feeling of freedom and purpose at the idea of being self-employed was slowly starting to seep away as reality ever so slowly tightened its grip. (I was trying to set up my personal stylist business, Tramp2Vamp at the time.)‰

Living the dream
Thinking back to that time of my life still sends shivers down my spine. I’ll be honest, it’s not somewhere I’d like to visit again, but then I wouldn’t have half the satisfaction and appreciation for every living moment of my life now if I hadn’t experienced the other side.

Making the decision to change my job was the best thing I’ve ever done. But like any other journey you embark on, with the good also comes the bad – the tough, trying, nail-biting times when all you want to do is jump ship and get back to dry land. It was in those times that I asked myself: ‘What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t work out and you get another job.’ There are no guarantees with anything. Some people succeed, others don’t. The point is, it’s not the outcome that’s important. The journey of self-discovery is worth far more than the destination. But one thing I can guarantee is that, if you continue to persevere, you will get there. It might not be exactly what you first set out to achieve, but if you tap into the lessons you will learn along the way, success will find you before you find it.

The sky’s the limit
At first I had the idea that I wanted global domination; I wanted to be the next Richard Branson (the female version). Everyone laughed; men ran a mile. The façade of a blonde, attractive female seemed to be masking a hidden madwoman.

Undeterred, I persevered – I wanted to create a global brand that was transferable to any number of products from make-up to clothes. I quickly realised that local domination would be a feat in itself considering I had no money and the only employee was myself, but there’s no harm in aiming for the sky. Five years on, and global domination is the furthest thing from my mind, but back then it gave me the inspiration and the energy I needed to keep going. You’ve got to aim high in the hope you’ll get somewhere in between. What that is may be what you set out to achieve or it may be totally different. One thing is for sure, it will never be worse – it will only get better.

Anyone can do it
In my mind all you need to change your life is belief and determination. Belief in yourself and your dream, and the determination to get out of bed every day no matter how tough it gets, or how low you feel. Never, ever give up.

This may sound easy but it takes a lot of grit and determination. Ask yourself: do you believe you’re worth something better? While the answer is no, maybe, not sure, then you’ll never change: you simply don’t want it badly enough. That’s why it’s so important to really focus on that self-belief – it’s the thing that will keep you going. And that’s what I’m here to help you do.

Determination for change rises up like a fiery volcano from the pit of your stomach. It’s the fuel that keeps you firing every day. It’s the energy that gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s the knowledge that you’re special; that you have what it takes to be different – and you already are.

My mission for you
Changing your life, whether it’s your job or the way you look, can be one of the most rewarding, exhilarating experiences you’ll ever have. But let’s face it, the prospect of change can also be terrifying. So scary, in fact, that many choose to ignore those feelings that life really could be better than this. Sometimes we just need a little push to take the plunge.

I want this book to be your catalyst, the spark that ignites the fire within your soul. I want you to feel breathless with excitement at the prospect of change, a new beginning, a fresh start. Whether it’s simply changing the way you look or totally changing what you do.

You have to feel excited, you have to feel passionate, you have to feel energised. You are about to embark on the roller coaster ride of your life, full of extreme highs and terrifying lows; but your passion, determination and belief will remain with you and get you through no matter what.

Are you ready?

Excerpt taken from Nicky’s new book TOP TO TOE, available now, priced £16.99, published by Hodder and Stoughton. © 2008 Nicky Hambleton-Jones photos Nicky Johnston & Shutterstock

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