In episode #33 of the infinite pie connection podcast Alan Fawcett talks with Nigel “Fennel” Hudson, Founder of Fennels Priory. Nigel highlights the pivotal moments in his life and more importantly, the lessons that he has learned from them. Lessons that have brought him to this current chapter. Nigel admits that he has 2 sides. There is corporate Nigel Hudson, holding a senior role within a global organisation and then there is traditionalist Nigel “Fennel” Hudson, who loves fishing, gardening, writing, nature and the outdoors. Nigel finds that his traditionalist outlook and applying his guiding principles of “Stop, Unplug, Escape, Enjoy” provides him with balance and energy for every other aspect of his life.
Nigel “Fennel” Hudson is the side of his character that discovered Fennels Priory, founded Fennel Journal, and who went on a journey to discover what he calls the quiet fields. The places where you can close your eyes and find a bit of calm. A physical location that you can disconnect.
Nigel lives his life around 4 key words –
Nigel believes that everyone would benefit from learning the ability to stop and get off the treadmill and take some time out to find out who you are. Take the time to find out about yourself, your passions and what brings you to life. Unplugging is based on the fact that Nigel is a traditionalist and feels that modern life is travelling too fast. This includes the smart phone world and being permanently connected to e-mails, messages etc. He says that if you take the time to escape from these trappings occasionally, that you actually find the moments in which you can truly enjoy life.
Nigel acknowledges that on reflection he has always had this outlook on life, even in childhood, however there was a period in his life where he lost sight of it.
Nigel had read previously that by the time you are 14 all of your values sets are in place and make up who you are. No matter what happens to you after that period those values are still in place.
As a youngster, Nigel was very much a country lad in rural England. His parents were sustainable, self sufficient small holders. Nigel was loner, loved connecting with nature and was a gardener. With a desire to earn a little bit of pocket money, he would go to the local houses and would work with the land. This became his life for 17 years, and he reflects back on this as the happiest time in his professional life.
A pivotal moment arrived in Nigel’s life at age 28, when he was featured in a magazine called Horticulture Week, positioning him as the UK’s top horticultural plant marketer. However Nigel’s response was to think that if this was the limit, and he had reached the top, it was not a great place to be. A key factor in this outlook was based on the fact that Nigel was not earning a great deal of money. At the same time that he was being held up as the top of his game, he was called in by his bank manager, who gave him a lecture on his lack of earning potential and the impact it had on his prospects.
Whilst up to this point, Nigel had been happy to live in estate cottages and lead a simple life, he was easily influenced by the man in a position of authority. He took this time to change course, retrain, and to become a marketer. Nigel took all his Institute of Marketing exams, became a Chartered Marketer, and got a master degree.
This set him on a fast track to oblivion. He was sought out to provide his guidance and advice to many. He found himself hiding behind an image of pin stipe suits, diamond cufflinks and slick hair cuts and surrounding himself with fake friends who did not have his interests at heart. You could not get further away from the original Nigel, who was truly at home in a garden with a pair of shears in his hands.
It all came to a head in 2003, when Nigel was living the high life with all the trappings, engaged to a lady and working hard. In fact there was a time when he worked 700 hours in a 5 week period in preparation for his wedding and honeymoon. His intention was to ensure that he could “free up” some time to go away. However the world was to fall away when he came home to a note, 2 weeks before the wedding saying “I have left you”. Nigel shares how this hit him hard and ended up affecting his behaviour more than he realised. This resulted with him not just losing his job but also creating a massive financial burden that was impossible to manage.
Feeling like he had lost everything, including his relationships, his home and a lot of his belongings, he became very ill. Taken back to the family home of his parents, Nigel feels like he lost 6 months of his life as he has completely blocked it from his memory.
The turning point for Nigel was meeting someone new. Lauren Simmons got in touch with Nigel and they arranged to go out for a date. This was a complete wake up call for Nigel and created the compelling reason for him to change. It was the flash of life that brought him back. It was the fact that someone saw him for who he truly was, not the image he had been portraying. During their initial date, Lauren gave Nigel the key piece of advice “Be yourself”. Nigel admits that this is great advice however, as he had spent 4 years “being” someone else, this was not so easy to do.
Nigel reflects back on the fact that he had 2 key mentors in his life that saw great potential in him and took time to shape and teach him new skills. However, Nigel acknowledges that when it came time to move from being taught to actually applying the learning and to do something, he cowered away and turned his back on it. This has been a big lesson in itself.
Lauren, who is now Nigel’s wife, is the one of the key influential people in his life. Lauren followed the advice of “be yourself” with “you need to find yourself”. This made Nigel revisit who he is, and what he stands for. Over the period of 2 years, he would piece together what has now become Fennels Priory. Based on the upbringing he had, he returned to traditional values, about connecting with nature and surrounding himself with beautiful things. This really helped shape who Nigel really wanted to be. Nigel explains how over this period he found his voice.
Of course this was not all smooth and he did not get it right straight away. Nigel also recognised that he needed to be practical, so he returned to his marketing consultancy and started to get his life back in control and in order. However before long there was another key turning point, which included a knock back but also an opportunity.
The philosophy of the Priory is about escapism, but it is not about turning your back on everything. It is very easy to think that leaving the rat race is to resign from your job and go and live in a tent. However, when Nigel did this, he admits that he did not find what he was looking for. It is finding somewhere, that you can in essence “reboot” even if it is only for moments, to come back recharged. Nigel sees the Priory as his treasured place, a place that provides balance to his day job as a Global bid manager of the worlds biggest telecommunication company.
Nigel feels that biggest challenge is not the technology we use but it is our ability to live at that pace that can create.
Nigel would love to connect with Monty Don about his story and how he rebuilt and reinvented his life.
Nigel would suggest that I connect with Marcus Child and Richard Newman as they both have a message about being strong and true to yourself.
Nigel “Fennel” Hudson Top Tip – Be true to yourself and in doing so, know yourself. Have courage to be different and stand out.
If you have enjoyed this episode then make sure you check out some of our previous guests. There are great stories, fantastic tips and some incredible advice. Join the other infinite pie thinkers and let me know your story. We love to get to know the people behind the numbers and of course, make sure you are creating connections that count.