As the recession bites, increasing the risk of unemployment and putting greater strain on relationships, one man’s story is proof that there is hope for the future, even when life hits rock bottom.
Within a matter of months, Richard Cockell lost his father, was made redundant from the job he had held for 23 years, split up from his wife and discovered that his mother was suffering from breast cancer, leaving him in despair and virtually penniless.
Depressed and seemingly without a reason to live, he found himself sitting on a rock, staring at the bottom of the ocean with the waves lapping around his legs.
But, remarkably, a seemingly innocuous event prompted a shard of humour to break through his depression and set him on the road back from the brink. And he is now keen to share his story to provide hope for others.
The fall into despair had been quick. Divorce had left him living in the back room at his parents’ home in Wakefield and then, one day, his mum went to the doctors for a routine breast scan and discovered that she had all the signs of breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and a month after she came out of hospital Richard’s dad passed away after a long deterioration in his health.
Then the management team announced redundancies at the plant where the father-of-two worked. He said:
“My blood ran cold when I went to the allotted room. ‘Would they really get rid of me after 23 years of service?’. “The answer was ‘yes’. I sat quietly whilst I was told that I was going to lose my job as a buyer. I am normally quite a controlled person and yet, at that point, tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t stop shaking. Afterwards I wasn’t angry or sad. I just felt numb. I was just so stunned at the news.
“When I received the letter that would provide details of my redundancy payment I once again felt stunned as I stared at the figure on the page – £6,079.00 for 23 years service – with no discretionary payment at all.
“So there I was, marriage over, father dead, mother recovering from breast cancer, no job and a cheque for £6,079.00, which mostly went on some outstanding bills from my divorce.
Richard, 55, who now lives in Harrogate, said: “Appropriately, I was sitting on a rock when I hit rock bottom.
“I had gone to a place on the coast which held happy memories and started to reflect on all the stuff that had happened to me.
“And I found myself saying out loud: ‘Well Richard, your dad has died, your mum has had breast cancer, and you’ve no job and nothing in the bank!”
“And I found myself replying: ‘Well Richard, things can’t get any worse!’
“That small drop of humour pulled me round.
“Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed a rock. This rock was round – tan in colour – and was rolling in the surf. It inspired me somehow. I waded into the waves and picked it out of the water and put it in the car.
“I was later to realise that, just as that rock had been shaped by other elements, such as contact with other rocks and the action of the waves, my life had been shaped by other people, others’ needs and others’ expectations. I had been moulded into something that I was not.
“That day on the beach was the beginning of me taking control of my life for the first time.”
Richard was born at his parents’ home in Pinderfields Road, Wakefield, in 1958 and was a pupil at Thornes House Comprehensive, Wakefield.
He spent 23 years working for Linpac Plastics, in Wakefield Road, Featherstone and was married with two children when his life began to go off the rails. But, after hitting rock bottom during the trip to Beaumaris, Anglesey, Richard’s life began to improve. In 2005 he was working as a security officer based at the Emmerdale television set in the grounds of Harewood House.
He was looking for further inspiration when he got hold of a Neuro Linguistic Programming Diploma course leaflet run by a company in Harrogate – it intrigued him.
NLP uses the power of positive thinking and visualisation to improve people’s lives as well as improving businesses’ performance by aiding team work and communication. One Friday night fate played a part in helping to complete Richard’s journey from despair to happiness. Some of the cast and crew went for a drink after work and invited him along as his shift had finished. In the pub, he bumped into the owner of the company whose leaflet he had picked up just a few days earlier – Sonia Saxton, of Saxton Partners Ltd.
Richard said: “I did an NLP diploma and started to make the connections about people and their behaviour and what we do to ourselves in our heads. Out of the blue I thought of my rock. The one I’d retrieved from the sea and that’s when I realized what that moment had meant to me.
“Now, with my learning and new set of NLP tools, I have taken control of me. I shape me and what I do – no-one else.
“I saw how I could change my future. I grasped that future and have moulded it the way I want it. Now, I help other people to get to where they need to be by One-to-One Coaching, and delivering NLP courses.”
And the owner of the company, Sonia Saxton, is the woman he now shares his life with after they fell in love whilst working together. It’s a far cry from the dark days and, with the recession hitting people hard, Richard has some timely advice for people going through tough times, at work and in their personal life.
He said: “Somewhere you will have your own rock. All you need to do is shape your own future and not wait for someone else to shape a future that, after all, belongs to you.
So the moral of the story is – if I can do it, so can you.
FOOTNOTE – Richard is now am Internationally Qualified Coach and Master Practitioner in NLP Coaching and Mentoring. Helping others to reach their true potential at Saxton Partners – Harrogate – UK