Charles Wookey - Reinvent Yourself
Charles Wookey is unusual. He's also the CEO of an unusual charity. Blueprint for Business is an independent charity whose purpose is to create a better society through better business. Charles has had an eclectic career. You would be hard-pressed at any point to guess his next career move. Finance, politics, economics, God and purpose-driven business are in the collection so far and the next chapter is brewing. Charles' story is one of quiet confidence, curiosity and charm and it teaches us that leading yourself, finding your own path and not the one that others expect of you, is a path worth exploring.
Boarding school from the age of six is a mixed blessing. It's certainly not what he wanted for his children put it that way. Philosophy and Physics at Oxford followed school and then into KPMG to become an Accountant and that's when he started to make up his own mind. The obvious path was to fit in and work his nuts off for the next ten to fifteen years and become a partner. Two weeks after qualifying, at the moment his salary would have doubled, he left because he could see the future and it meant becoming someone he didn't want to become.
What followed has been a career of curiosity. A few years at the House of Commons before leaving to spend three months on a silent retreat in North Wales which alerted him to the fact he's got one crack at life. The dark bit was confronting himself and his conclusion that "there are things that are real and there are things that are illusory and I wanted to live in a way that makes sense of what's real. I do not want to have regrets."
Charles' comments remind me of Bronnie Ware's work. Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care. Her patients we those who had gone home to die. She was with them in their last three to twelve weeks of their life. Conversations in those final weeks were highly emotional. When asked about any regrets or what they would have done differently, common themes surfaced again and again. The most common regret was "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
Charles has that courage. The confidence to know when it's time to move on. The confidence to overcome imposter syndrome. The confidence to step into the unknown.
After his retreat, Charles, worked for Institute of Fiscal Studies where he was the guy who knew nothing about economics and then having met a nun, he ended up in the God business, working for Cardinal Basil Hume. This role and his affection for Hume satisfied his curiosity for eleven years at which point he stepped into the unknown again. This time it was business. More specifically a Blueprint for Better Business which he's been leading since 2011.
In Spring 2022 Charles steps down as CEO to go on another, as yet undecided adventure. Don't be surprised if you see him on The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury sometime soon 😉