September 06, 2020

Four years on – Part 2 : Why did I walk away?

A reflection on our entrepreneurial journey as we are about to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Nishe.

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ― Ann Lander


Why did I walk away from my position as an Assurance Director with PwC Dubai?

I keep getting this question. It’s an extremely difficult one to answer. Just as walking away was an extremely difficult decision to make. It was in fact the most painful decision that I have ever had to make. When I submitted my resignation in the June of 2016, my mindset was not unlike that of the British who voted for Brexit – 52% for, 48% against.

Born and brought up in a conventional Muslim family, married at 19, a child at 21, completed ACCA at 24, joined PwC at 26, Assurance Director at 35, resigned at 37 and started Nishe. This is my brief life history.

PwC was a revelation for me. It opened up to the hitherto naive me a world of possibilities. The learning and exposure that I gained there was tremendous. And I met and worked with so many inspiring people who have influenced me in so many ways.

So why did I walk away then?

I have spent the last four years trying to come up with a succinct response to that question, but have miserably failed. So here’s one, but mind you, it’s over-simplified.

Have you heard of the flow model? It categorises people into four types based on their skill-set and the level of challenge they are experiencing in their work.

Here’s a simple summary of the four categories in the flow model:

1.     Apathetic – low skill, low challenge

2.     Boredom – high skill, low challenge

3.     Anxiety, fear – low skill, high challenge

4.     Flow – high skill, high challenge

You can of course do an internet search if you would like to know more about the model. (I actually stumbled on the model when I once Googled “I hate timesheets” several years ago.)

When I read about the flow model, it reminded me of my initial years in PwC when I truly felt like I was in a flow. Work was tough, challenging and required long hours, but I loved it. But over the years, I had slowly stopped enjoying it so much, was possibly reaching the threshold of a “browned-out” stage. I longed to get back to the “flow” stage.

When we are really enjoying something, the issues that we face don’t bother us much. If anything, they appear as challenges to overcome. But when we stop enjoying, even small issues start stressing us out. I guess that’s human nature – plain and simple.

When I realised that I had gotten to a point where work didn’t excite me anymore as much as it used to, and that my mind was flustered by lots of things – some small and some seemingly big, I started thinking, worrying, about my life, my attitude, my future. I couldn’t conceive the possibility of living out the rest of my life without enjoying what I spend pretty much all of my waking hours on.

Being a whiner was, is, never a choice for me. In my view, if you are not happy in a given set of circumstances, there are three possible options in front of you – try to change the circumstances that make you unhappy, learn to adjust to the circumstances, or move out of those circumstances.

Having thought long and hard on these options, I felt the third option – a fresh start – might help me in getting back to the “flow”. When I say long and hard, I have to emphasise that it was years long and nerve-wrackingly hard.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I say that it sometimes felt like I am jumping off the safety of a ship into the unknown sea.

Or like walking into the unknown desert, unaided.

[For Part 1, please click Four years on – Part 1]

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