My name's Chris; I'm 39 years-old, come from Dartford, and I work as Head of Core Operations for one of the world's largest reinsurance brokers: Marsh & McLennan Companies. I'm responsible for 150 staff members, handle a budget of 15 million a year, and in my spare time, I'm a motivational speaker in schools, events and corporate environments.
How did I get here, you ask?!
My start in life was anything but easy, and I've had to work hard to get to where I am today. For the first 14 years of my childhood, I was in and out of foster care, always moving schools. As a result, my education was pretty poor. Eventually, I was sent to a boarding school where I was completely illiterate and, hating every moment, got myself expelled.
I left school with absolutely no qualifications...
It didn't help that I lost my dad when I was only 16, but it prepared me for what was to be a whole host of bereavement. In the past 20 years, I've lost five people who were extremely close to me. Having lost so many people who never got to fulfil their potential, I was driven to make something of myself.
I wanted to be the best version of myself I could be, for them, because life felt so short.
From climbing mountains to completing CrossFit challenges, I've always been outdoorsy and active because exercise helped me through the hardest times. As a young adult, I entered the army but, unfortunately, was discharged after only serving one year because of a dislocated knee.
I made a full recovery and turned my energy into running my first marathon, raising money for the homeless charity St Gile's Trust. My story got picked up by an editor at the Metro and made a front-page cover (as a young 21-year-old in the year 2000 this felt like fame)!
This was the start of my journey - I realised I could push myself to achieve and make a difference at the same time.
9 years ago, I started researching life coaching as a career, but people told me it was a stupid idea. Now, I call these people 'dream stealers' because they made me feel like my dream was a waste of time. Ignoring them and going my own way has completely changed my life.
It was time to better explore and understand myself, so that I could use my story to help others.
That's when I found Oxbridge and enrolled on their Level 3 Life Coaching course. Home learning fit around my lifestyle and suited my needs whilst I continued my professional career. Aside from my own ambitions, my main reason for enroling was to set an example for my 17 and 7-year-old sons.
The course was a game-changer for me because I was able to apply the knowledge I learnt to my own outlook on life.
I learnt that making positive affirmations everyday actually rewires part of your brain...
It's called neuroplasticity and it was one of my favourite parts of my course because it changed how I managed my own thought processes. In the past, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and my course also had a section about triggers.
It was useful to understand what triggers my PTSD, as I didn't previously know enough about the psychology behind what I was experiencing. Now I know what to look for and how to recognise the triggers before I find myself in difficult situations, so I can take control of it rather than letting it take over me.
It's all in your mindset.
During my first experience of distance learning, I was in hospital with a severe virus that left me dangerously ill for weeks on end. I lost my job due to the illness and was ready to completely give up. A qualification just didn't seem like an important priority.
I decided there were two ways to look at it feel sorry for myself, or, use my coursework as a positive distraction while I recovered.
Instead of focusing on my current situation, I focused on my end goal getting qualified.
Now I use my Life Coaching qualification to help others as a motivational speaker. From running goal-setting classes with GCSE and A-Level students to delivering talks in corporate workplaces, my theme is overcoming adversity. I talk to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those from broken homes, foster care, unemployment, and homelessness.
This is all voluntary, using my annual leave to make the time to give talks.
Recently, I spoke at an amazing event in London called She Can Be, hosted by the Lord Mayor of London and sponsored by many girl guide groups, girl's schools and big corporate names. The aim of the event was to break down the boundaries for women to work in the city, teaching them the tools they needed to enter the corporate world.
I talked about my struggles and how I came out the other side, stronger and more determined, teaching the girls that nothing should hold them back.
Before Christmas, I was invited to give a talk at the secondary school Haberdashers Askes on their 'Rewards Day.' My talk focused on how I myself have overcome many setbacks, but also how I learnt to nurture my mental health during hard times, because I think children should feel like it's OK to talk about their struggles.
After my talk, one pupil rushed up to me to say how I had described similar experiences he has gone through.
Before he could finish his story, he burst into tears. He said he was struggling with his homework because of his ADHD and Autism diagnosis, so I gave him some advice and spoke to his teacher about giving me the opportunity to return and mentor this student.
I was granted permission and he is already doing so much better at school and in how he feels about himself. That boy is the reason I do what I do.
Home learning enabled me to be in control of setting my own goals and deadlines. My secret is always having a plan b to allow for flexibility. Due to the nature of my job, I always have strict deadlines but learning to manage expectations is the key.
Problems are not problems, they're opportunities for solutions. I call it my 'fall forward plan' because it doesn't matter if you fall forward as long as you aren't going backwards.
Now thinking about the bigger picture and reflecting on everything I've done so far, both academically and professionally, I'd say I'm exactly where I want to be in life. But if you asked me what's next, I'd say to have a self-titled book published so I can reach more people, share my story and hopefully inspire others to get the most out of life.
Oxbridge helped me to create a ladder of opportunities to care, coach and motivate other people in similar positions.
I want to prove that no matter how many setbacks life throws your way, you can always find a way to rise above. That's why I love motivational speaking.
It gives people the confidence and mental tools they need to say "I can. I will."
Maybe you've got a story to share too? We'd love to hear it! Give yourself a voice and shout about something you're proud of on our social media, using the hashtag #IcanIwill
If the Amry section of Chris' story resonated with you, we offer ELCAS courses.