What I learned by leaving school at 14 (that has helped me in business)

What I learned by leaving school at 14 (that has helped me in business)

What I learned by leaving school at 14? I’ve shared about this before but today, I’m writing about how it helps business.

The background to why I left school at 14 (in 1997) 

At 14 we moved 150 miles away from Haverhill to Cheltenham, it’s beautiful. My sister was 10 months old and my brother was in his first year of Uni. 

I did not cope well.

Why I struggled

I missed my brother and was disconnected from my mum. My relationship with dad was always terrible and I was far away from friends and family.

Here’s the kicker. There were some major differences in the curriculum. This meant I had a whole year to catch up on in all my subjects new and old without any teacher guidance.

Exhaustion was overwhelming. It felt insurmountable.

The breakdown

What I learned, mental health abstract

At this time my anxiety went through the roof. Even leaving the house caused panic attacks.

I now understand that I had a breakdown. When I was in it, I just thought I was broken.

Symptoms: Insomnia, over thinking, withdrawing, crying. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and prescribed Prozac. At 14 I was on Prozac

How would I be able to follow my plan? Would I be able to go to Uni, study English and become a journalist? (Want to see what I did with my life? check out my about page.

After many discussions between the school, local authority and my parents I was de-registered with a view to doing the ‘resits’ course at our local 6th form college, this never transpired and just months later my parents decided to move back to the town we had originally left.

I was devastated.

Truth time; I was happy not having to go to school and I loved the town. But, I still wanted to become a journalist.

It was a pivotal moment in my life.

I discovered that sometimes, the world around you spins differently to your expectation and knocks you off your intended course. It’s had some real effects both positive and negative and I believe that it has been instrumental in where I find myself today.

The discoveries I talk about here can be applied to your freelance business, small business or pivot in your career. Here is what I learned.

What I learned was – Don’t limit yourself to just 1 type of education

It’s not necessary to follow the path traditionally laid out and well trodden by others all the time. You don’t have to stick to only knowing what you know or only learning what you’re innately talented at. Particularly now, the digital world has opened up a plethora of learning opportunities that mean you can diversify your knowledge and expand your joy at the click of a mouse.

Learning is available for everyone in everything, you can and should explore different things.

It’s good practice to self reflect, here’s what I learned

What I learned is a woman self reflecting with notebook

Sometimes, there are circumstances beyond your control.

It’s absolutely normal to get caught up in the frustrations of this. Whether it’s a ‘big deal’ like my situation or lots of small day to day ones like most of us experience. Set some time aside and really think about who you are and who you want to be and when you do reflect, you’ll find you know exactly what you need to let go of in order to do so. It’s a way to recharge AND re-calibrate. 

Figure out what and who inspires you

When things are up and down like a wild wave it can be hard to see the safety of dry land. It’s this time when you most need to feel engaged and inspired. I hope that you all find things within yourself that inspire and motivate you and ignite your spark but undoubtedly there will be times when that’s too difficult. It’s important to have a medicine bag of things, places, people and activities that inspire you so that when you need it you have easy access to it.

Be open to unusual opportunities

When you have been pivoted of course in the way I was you really learn to open up to possibilities. It has been allowing myself to be open to doing something different that ultimately has led to some of the most amazing experiences of my life. So stay open, you never know what’s around the corner.

What I learned? When in doubt, action it out

Action, Jumping

I’ve written about having a bias for action before but this is key. When you are pivoted for reasons beyond your control it can feed into your self esteem and raise the ugly head of self doubt. I find that always, this is lessened by simply doing something. The act of doing is the medication for self doubt.

I needed more help than I got when I was trying to find my way. Does that resonate? Get my Set Up For Success Guide. It’s free!

Catch you later,

Amy x

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Self employed life? The confidence crusher that is ‘what to wear’

Self employed life? The confidence crusher that is ‘what to wear’


In 1993/4 I was 11/12. I was also just about to hit 6ft 2 with a mop of unruly curly hair and size 9 feet. I felt like Godzilla.

Buying clothes was tough, what I could get was extremely expensive and way too grown up for my tender age to feel comfortable in. I lived in mens clothes that were as baggy as possible and my Reebok classics. My school uniform consisted of a sweatshirt my nan knitted and black mens joggers. 

During my teens and particularly as I started working and flirting 😉 I began to hate going to clothes shops. I wore cropped trousers (full length regular) and nearly always tied a jumper around my waist to hide the gap in my midriff. I had no idea how to dress that would make me look the way other girls did. 

I either felt like a boy or like a frump. There was never an in-between.

Did I always feel that way? 

Around 15 I remember being told that I should dress for the job I want and so, off we went to Long Tall Sally. We bought a pair of black figure hugging bootleg trousers, a minty green button up blouse and a black blazer. It was my first experience of feeling professional, smart and womanly (I thought my bum looked pretty ok in those trousers).

I got the job I wanted and I remember having my ID photo taken wearing that very same mint green blouse. I was the epitome of dressed to impress in my eyes.

Whenever I wore that outfit I felt smart, professional and capable of anything. It was like putting on a costume or a suit of armour – wearing it filled me with confidence in my ability to do my job, just like wonder womans bracelets or Batmans suit.

I got older, life changed, I stayed in the offices and worked my way up to senior management. On my best days I felt good in my clothes, smart and like I was taken seriously. 

I wasn’t smarter because of my clothes, I was more confident because of the way I presented myself. My confidence meant that I was able to better manage whatever the day threw at me and better management made me more confident. It was a self-fulfilling circle.

Then and now

Since then I have traded boardrooms, call centres, building sites and corporate offices for a little home office that is just off of my bedroom. I am decidedly heavier and my tummy can be really sensitive what with being full of benign tumours and cysts. 

Whilst brainstorming my content earlier this week (video will feature quite substantially) as well as planning in some in person 1-1 sessions, a full day event and some other real life connections I realised that I feel like that schoolgirl again, the one with the knitted school jumper and mens jogging bottoms. 

My mind wanders relentlessly to the ‘how to dress myself saga’ that I have created in my mind. If I’m honest it’s not just been recently it’s been for a long long time.

It seems like such a small thing but expressing yourself with your appearance is exactly what we all do, whether it be our hairstyle, our sense of fashion or whether we wear make-up or not. For me, it’s about the outside reflecting my personality and professionalism in perfect synergy but since I work from home and rarely see other people in real life I’m not sure what that looks like anymore. 

If I take that old advice and I dress for the job I want then I would live in my pj’s because my business is exactly what I want and I work from home, mostly unseen. 

Taking action, almost any action, will help get you through a confidence issue or emotional barrier <Click to tweet!

I don’t plan on worrying about it for too long, like with anything the way to move through it is to take action. So I have a make up lesson to book (Thanks to a Christmas gift voucher) and I can sort through my clothes but I do ask myself how much of this is because of the way I want to present myself and how much of this is because I want other people to like the way I present myself?

Struggling with figuring out who you want to be in your business? If you want to chat about anything feel free to email me amy@theamyjohnson.com

Catch you later, Amy x