Oozing with charisma and energy, it is safe to say that Jacob Aldridge is one of a kind. Having chaired one of our most memorable generationYOU events, his unique approach to doing business and life is what sets him (and his story) apart.
Name: Jacob Aldridge
Current role: Director of Advisory, businessDEPOT
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey?
I like to say that my first job was working alongside Audrey Hepburn and Arnold Schwarzenegger, because I worked in a video store. I actually only worked one shift – the store burnt down that night, after an electrical fault ignited the bookstore next door. I’m definitely showing my age by admitting I worked in a video store next to a book shop … and I think both of them burning to the ground is a perfect metaphor for both the 1990s, and the career aspirations many people have in a time of rapid change.
My career journey is a varied tale, from the desk at Video Ezy to my current role as Advisory Director at businessDEPOT. I’ve always envied those people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, or lucked into a clear career path.
Post school, I went to university and studied Journalism and Arts (English and History major).
The Journalism was because I could write pretty, and the Arts was to make it a four year degree – I liked the idea of an extra year of drinking. I guess I wanted to be a Journalist, but by the time I graduated I had given up on that idea – too much sacrifice for not enough money, and I have enormous respect for my peers who were successful because I know how hard they had to work.
When I graduated I was working part-time in a real estate office, and I really liked the industry and the team, so when they offered me a full time job I grabbed it. I’ve had a few great bosses over the years, and my boss there was one of them, though I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. I had a role with some marketing (I could still write pretty) tasks, but also a bit of office management. He could see my strengths, and so even though I didn’t leverage them fully at the time (I later quit that job, then had a terrible tv show, and then ended up on the Gold Coast with a super boring job, before I finally landed a proper job as the State Operations Manager for a real estate franchise) that gave me a solid career grounding.
That Operations Manager job taught me a lot about what I wanted – I enjoyed being on the road for work, and working with a different business (in that case, franchisees) each day – and what I didn’t like (not having a clear career progression). That helped me focus on my next step, which ended up being a business coaching company with exceptional training (both workshops and on-the-ground), which eventually led to me having my own business coaching business. As a business owner I had the autonomy and flexibility I wanted – my beautiful wife and I even moved to London for a few years, and I started a coaching business over there.
In 2016, I merged my business with the bigger team at businessDEPOT, which is the latest step on my journey.
I sometimes say that there are ‘high school jobs’ that everyone knows about at school – accountant, lawyer, police officer – but probably half the jobs out there are ‘non-high school jobs’ that we have no idea existed. Some of these we even get to create for ourselves.
Now that you have reflected on your career journey, what’s your one piece of advice you would give to our young(er) audience?
Create Systems in your life that give you multiple options for your future, rather than having a single goal you’re working towards.
Let me explain…
When we’re taught about history, we often see a straight line of causes and effects – September 11 led to the Iraq War which led to the Global Financial Crisis and so on. But when we look at our future, all we see are a confusing mess of options. So we feel like we’re the mess, because everyone before us (ie, history) had this straight line. But there was never a straight line, just a whole confusing mess of alternatives that ultimately happened in a specific way.
Goals are about straight lines – I want to have this job / career, be this rich, get married and have kids. But life often gets in the way of our plans, so if we’re not prepared to be flexible we’ll just end up being disappointed. ‘Systems’ are about being flexible – things like regularly reading great newsletters, going to events and workshops to learn, meeting new people and maintaining relationships with people we already know, are all systems that set us up in life. It’s useful to have an idea of where you want your life to go, but more about who you want to be as a person and how you want to feel – if that’s clear and you build some systems (habits), you’ll be amazed at the opportunities it creates for you.
There’s one specific moment in my life that changed my life.
And it was set in motion in 1978, three years before I was born. The film director Stanley Kubrick asked cinemas to stop showing his movie A Clockwork Orange because he wasn’t happy about how it was being perceived. As a result of this, when Kubrick died in 1999 the film was re-released – my university cinema got a copy in early 2000, so I stayed late after lectures one night to watch it. This was before smartphones, so I had time to kill – I read the jobs board on the student union wall, and there was an ad for a casual receptionist in a real estate office, which I applied for and won. That was the office that ended up being my first full-time job, which led to the real estate management career, which led to business coaching and now being a Director of a medium-sized business.
See how I can tell that story like a pre-ordained straight line?
My career ultimately rested on some auteur’s ego from before I was born … but in reality, it was a random (or lucky) incident, surrounded by some of my habits. I watched the film because I was in the habit of going to lectures in person; I got the job because I liked to read, and I’d recently read a book about investing in real estate – that helped me stand out from other applicants in the interview; I was good at the job because I was happy to take responsibility for mistakes and keep asking for ways I could improve. And if this specific good fortune hadn’t occurred, chances are I would have created something else because of my habits.
So build habits, or systems, that help you learn more about the world and other people. That will create opportunities you never expected.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
I like my inspiration with a dash of ‘how do I actually do this’.
So my biggest inspirations tend to be people who are a little further ahead of me on their journey – not so far ahead that it’s fairyland, just far ahead so I can learn from their mistakes and see the next options I have in front of me.
I’ve always subscribed to a lot of writers and their email newsletters, but the specific ones change over time as I make decisions (like starting my own business; or moving to London; or merging with a larger company) and my needs and interests evolve. For example:
> Fifteen years ago I wanted to learn all about how money (and investing) worked – I loved Noel Whittaker, Anita Bell, John Burley, and the early Robert Kiyosaki books;
> Ten years ago I wanted to learn all about how business worked – I got to know Darren Shirlaw, read the Harvard Business Review, and went to heaps of conferences;
> Five years ago I was focused on digital marketing for small business – I had a healthy man-crush on Patrick Mackenzie, and still see writers like Anna Wickham as must-read;
> Right now I’m specifically obsessed with Financial and Location Independence – travelling the world and having sufficient investments so that I need never work again. So I love people like Mish Slade (Making it Anywhere), Jeremy Jacobson (Go Curry Cracker), and Nick & Dariece (the Goats on the Road).
I’m not jumping on a plane any time soon, but when I do it will be with their inspiration. Unless I make a different choice from the really cool options I have in front of me!