Property Angel Investor Helen Chorley: Part One
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About This Episode
Today's guest is Helen Chorley. Helen is a former investment banker turned full-time property investor who helps people navigate the world of property investment but most importantly, she's my friend.
In Part One of our conversation, we talk about Helen's early life, getting into Oxford University and ending up on the trading floor at J.P Morgan.
We talk about discovering personal development and spirituality after the trading floor took its toll on her health after the financial crash of 2008.
This is one of my favourite episodes so far and I'm sure you'll get a lot from this one.
In This Episode, You'll Learn:
- Who was young Helen's inspiration during her formative years?
- About Helen's early successes in the world of competitive dancing
- How Helen achieved her dream of attending Oxford University and successfully navigating the class divide
- Helen's thoughts on being a woman and staying herself in the male-dominated world of investment banking
- The story of Helen's perfectly-time departure from J.P Morgan before the financial market oblivion of 2008
And so much more...
Resource Mentioned In This Episode:
Skye Khilji 0:02
Welcome to The Free The Wage Slave Podcast. The podcast dedicated to helping frustrated nine to fivers. Get out of the rat race and succeed working for themselves. I'm Skye Khilji, a former corporate insurance wage slave who now travels the world year round working from my laptop.
In today's podcast, we talk to one of my dear friends Helen Chorley. Helen's a full time property investor with projects across Europe. Each of those projects ranges from £800,000 to up to £16 million in value. That's a lot of due diligence and Helen is incredibly experienced in property as you can tell, she spends her time managing her property investments surrounding herself with some of the world's most inspirational teachers, and dividing her time between London, Malta and Bermuda. But it didn't start with a rich family and access to the best schools, Helen built everything from the ground up.
In part one of our interview, you'll hear about the childhood that created the curiosity and competitiveness in the young Helen, you'll hear about her career in dancing and becoming British ballet champion, attending Oxford University, the height of education in the UK, and navigating the class divide and the male dominated subjects that she chose.
You’ll hear about Helen stepping onto the trading floor of J.P Morgan. Helens view of women and how they succeed in male industries and the catalyst moment where Helen realized she had to leave the banking industry and leave behind her lucrative career as a vice president at J.P Morgan.
Last of all, and best of all, you'll hear the story of how she got out just a few months before the 2008 crash of the financial markets. There's so much in this episode, I'm really excited for you to hear it. Let's get into it.
Skye Khilji: 1:47
So I'm really, really happy to be joined today by my good friend, Helen. We've known each other for what maybe three, four years now? How long was it?
Helen Chorley 1:56
Oh, yeah, yeah, well, at least that yes. Yeah. Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.
Skye Khilji 2:01
It's a pleasure. We tried to do this a little while ago at the start of COVID. And we just had tech problems. We had to use old laptops and all of that stuff prevented it. But it's the time now finally, I'm very happy.
Helen Chorley 2:13
We did, we did that's very on brand for me and my lack of technical skills. Yeah, it was a shame we couldn't get it done that day. But actually, I'm even happier to be doing it now because I'm back home in Malta and I'm kind of nice and relaxed and busy. But yeah, I'm a better version of me here. So hopefully, it'll be a good chat today.
Skye Khilji 2:34
Absolutely. Hey, we've all changed through the COVID situations, in a good place over here as well, at the right time to share your story. And it's a story I've wanted to share for so long. I've kind of learned things about Helen over the years and every time I get another little tidbit it just continues to impress me more and more. And I just knew this is a story that my audience needs to hear. So I'm so happy to bring that to everybody today.
Helen Chorley 3:00
Oh, bless you. That's very kind.
Skye Khilji 3:02
So let's start with that story. And typically, I like to go all the way back. So let's talk about who Helen was as a girl, who Helen was when she was growing up.
Helen Chorley 3:12
Oh, sure. So as you can probably tell from my accent, I'm from the north of England, the Northwest, between Liverpool and Manchester. And I was, gosh, a very lively, curious child. It's really funny that people used to say to me, I don't know where you get your energy from, which is quite funny when, when you hear the rest of my story, and the challenges that I have had with energy, but I was quite geeky or is quite not sure. I was like whatever one of those kids that really fitted in so I guess that's part of my story is I had to make my own box, I was never going to fit in a box that anybody else wanted me to fit in.
So I loved school. I loved learning. I still love learning and you know, that's a passion both you and I share. I just love to understand things and know how things work and, um, you know, I definitely still have that geeky interest. So I did well at school, but I did, did well because I loved it and I enjoyed it. My interest and my passion as a child was dancing. I danced from being gosh, quite small 4 ish and I don't mean to sound boastful, but it's just the fact I was British ballet champion by then I was Northwest Champion by the age of 10 or 11 and then I was British champion by the age of 12.
And I'm not saying that to impress people, but just that was my character. I'm like, I'm all in if I do something I'm all in so yeah, and so dance and ballet and that discipline gave me a lot. It really did. You don't realize at the time but that's built in life skills and confidence and flexibility. Not just physically but mentally to, to kind of deal with the things that I am, that I went on to do and maybe gave me some of the robustness that I had to have to go on to do the careers that I've done as well. So, yes, that was a great, great training ground for me.
Skye Khilji 5:16
Definitely, definitely think there's something in those early days, those experiences that we have they cultivate something in us and I can understand where the ballet routine and having to show up every day, you know, has a carry over into your life. But where do you think that curiosity came in? Was there someone or something that kind of prompted that search inside you when you were younger?
Helen Chorley 5:40
Oh, definitely my Granddad. He was you know, and then the Chris Tarrant program was on, I always used to say this when he was alive, and he died a number of years ago. Now he is 94, I think when he died, and to this day, still, if he was alive, he would be my phone a friend, there is nothing that man didn't know about, about everything. And he left school, God bless him when he was, I think 11 or 12.
So he wasn't an educated man in the official sense. But this curiosity and love of learning, he just absorbed and retained the information as well. He just wherever we were, whatever we would do, and I spent like hours in the garden with him. And he'd be talking to me about plants and how you grow, you know, vegetables, and then this type of tree and what the insects do. And, you know, and then we will always sit down and we would watch the news together, at least, you know, once a day, he watched the news, every time it was on, and would explain to me and about what was going on in the world.
And, and I just maybe I felt a kind of like passion for that. And I guess I loved the attention that when he spoke to me and was explaining all these concepts. I loved that too. So yeah, from him, probably. And I also think maybe, because he didn't, you know, have the formal education that actually thought he really would have liked, he really believed strongly in education. My mom, you know, he really kind of pushed down a nice way to excel at school. And, you know, she kind of did that with me and was very, you know, kept my nose to the grindstone certainly, in my academic studies. So
Skye Khilji 7:29
I can relate to that. For me, it was my grandma, who got that curiosity going, who kind of sparked in me. And, you know, I think we came from a fairly similar background, I was from a working class background, also, that prompted me to want to go beyond my circumstances. And in the same way as your granddad, you know, for me, I realized it's not where you're from, if I work hard enough, I can get somewhere. But I struggled with school because of the rules and the rigidity, and I had freedom as and I still have freedom is my highest value. Yeah, you seem to excel in school and within that system, and that structure, talk to me a little bit about that.
Helen Chorley 8:08
It's a really good point, because, as you say, now, freedom and autonomy and not being told, what to do is yeah, is right at the top of my values list. I do think that is and you know, almost a compensation for perhaps that rigidity of childhood. So maybe I just worked within the parameters that I had, but I think it's done me Well, in terms of Now I know what I really don't want I don't like being told what to do. I like to be the decision maker, unless I'm asking for input. But yeah, I also think, you know, my Mum, most of the, My Dad was very strict, growing up as well. And, you know, she did have kind of boundaries. And, you know, I really, really had to toe the line. So I don't know that that rebelliousness came out till I think that probably kicked in, in my teenage years, thinking about sets. And I certainly pushed the boundaries, then I don't think that's unusual. I think we all try it at that age, don't wait. But then from then on it, it never went away. So yeah.
Skye Khilji 9:26
And when you look back, I find it really interesting. There's that old New York Times article where they took two kids that grew up together, and they went on two different trajectories. And it was actually an ad, and The New York Times used it to say the kid that read The New York Times went on to be successful, and the other one didn't. And I find it interesting to look back at, who was I hanging around with at that age? And what was the trajectory that I was supposed to go on versus the one that I did. When you look back at Helen at that age and you see where you went and where your peers went, do you notice anything interesting or anything significant in that?
Helen Chorley 10:00
Oh, that's a really good question, I guess. And it links into kind of what you just brought up, I guess I knew from being I mean, literally, gosh, as little as I can remember three or four, I knew I was going to university. Because I had the trajectory, that trajectory set out for me, my mom had done, had gone back to college, and done her degree when she had a full time job. She had two small children, I think I was two when she started it. And my brother was 10. But she had a family, a husband, a full time job to do. And, you know, she wanted to get her degree she wanted to fulfill, you know, that part of her potential.
So I remember talking about this, and her lesson to me was, you do this when you're young, you know, you get that out of the way, once you've got your degree, you can do whatever you like, but make no mistake, this is your trajectory, you go to school, you get your a levels, you go to university, then then it's almost then you choose your own path. But so I didn't really maybe have a choice. And perhaps I just always accepted that that was the path. Albeit there was a couple of times, I didn't want that to be the path. But actually, it served me really, really well. So I don't regret that at all. And I completely understand what she wanted for me. She wanted better for me than she had so interested when you look back, isn't it?
Skye Khilji 11:34
Yeah, I think a lot of parents go through that thing. It's not living through your child, but you want your child to have more options than you did. Yeah, I think for some of us, we can be pushed in a direction where we perhaps resent that and then others, it gives you that structure that you perhaps can't find for yourself at that impressionable age.
Helen Chorley 11:54
Yeah, I mean, you know, talking about kind of what my peers did, I certainly had a kind of envy of them, two or three points in my life, like my dancing buddies, when I was 12, two of the girls in my my dance school went off and got places at the Royal Ballet, they went up to white, large, and I just that for me as a what a 10 year old, I think, when they went that, for me was like a dream, you know, I really would have loved to do that I was nowhere near good enough to be able to go there. But I don't think I knew that. And probably best that I didn't, to be honest. But I would have loved to do that.
And I went to the library and I got all these books about the Royal Ballet and about, you know what life was like there and being a ballerina, and satin read those and had real? Yeah, real envy, I guess in a nice way, I was very pleased for them. But at the same I guess at 16 as well, lots of my friends went off to dancing college dental school or, you know, kind of theatre art schools and went off and became professional dancers. And, and by that point, I think I could have done that. If I would have, you know, if I'd been allowed to choose that. I wasn't allowed to do that.
But again, there's part of me that would have loved to do that. You know, my mom had it very clear that, you know, that wasn't an option. And, and by that point as well, I think I knew I needed mental stimulation, as much as I loved the kind of dancing and the expression. And maybe that's where I had my freedom. And my self expression was in the dance, kind of rather than, you know, kind of finding my way or kind of on the academic stuff. She was kind of the antithesis of one of those pushy, you know, stage school moms she was. She just let me get on with it. And if I was one that was great. And if I came last she didn't care, as long as I was enjoying it. So I had real freedom. And I did that because I wanted to do it. So that was a nice balance, actually, when I look at it that way.
Skye Khilji 14:01
Yeah, definitely. As you were saying that I was thinking about that right brain logical, intellectual side being overly stimulating. We do need the creative expression side. So you were dancing throughout that whole time you said right?
Helen Chorley 14:15
Oh, yeah, I dance non stop from being four. I started doing competitions when I was about maybe in Hell, I can't remember exactly. maybe eight something like that. And yeah, it just got more and more intense, spent more time doing it more classes, you know, more hardcore as I kind of went up through the levels and did all the exams in ballet tap modern. And, you know, every holiday every weekend in the summer, certainly we were always at a dance competition. Got blessing, my dad got dragged round.
So all these dance competitions up and down the country and, you know, actually, you know, well, he seemed to enjoy it he'd you know, kind of take the photos or just sit there and read his book and He never complained, he was super, super supportive, which was really Yeah, really, really made a difference to me that they were both there. It wasn't just me and mum time my dad was there, too. It was, it was lovely.
Skye Khilji 15:13
Yeah, something so interesting, what you're sharing is the fact that there's competition, which is a way for you to assess yourself and your performance. For me, I have martial arts, and you have a belt system, or you're in the gym. And you know, this is my personal best that you know, lifted before. And it gives you a way to gauge your performance. And what I find is missing a lot in a lot of the young people I talk to is this participation culture, which is good for many reasons. But it's removed that ability for us to assess where we are against everybody else. And I think that's something that's important in the world. Because when we get out into working in a university, the world is a series of auditions and tests.
Helen Chorley 15:55
Yeah, it really is actually. And as much as you know, I think as adults, we strive kind of not to compare ourselves, or use comparison as a tool to beat ourselves up. In terms of kind of, you know, assessing where you are, and setting out a path for progress, it can be really, really useful. And it almost kind of sets goals. I always knew what the next goal was, I passed grade one, then I wanted to pass grade two. And actually, by grade three, I wanted to get a better result than I'd got for grade two. So yeah, having that kind of structure of goals, setting those goals, achieving them, knowing what it took, you know, what it would take to get there, I think exactly, I think was very helpful.
Skye Khilji 16:39
Definitely. So you're doing your dancing, you've got the intellectual side. And I know from a previous conversation that you were playing piano at that point. And that, interestingly, also led to you going to one of the highest points of academia, talk us through that story.
Helen Chorley 16:55
Oh, this is funny yeah. I learned the piano for years and years and years and I was so bad at it. I never even I never even got to take grade one. I was like, spectacularly bad at the practical, which for somebody that was kind of coordinated, you know, still kind of bemuses me. I don't know why I didn't get it. But I just didn't get it. On the other hand, I flew through the very exams, no, I don't know, I passed, like, as high as I think up to grade eight got those, like, no problem cycled through those. But actually playing the damn thing was an entirely different kettle of fish. But yeah, how that plays into my story is that my piano teacher was actually the daughter of one of my mom's work colleagues. And she was a really, really, really lovely girl and she got a place at Oxford University and she'd come home still and teach me in the summer holidays.
She’d tell me about it and they'll tell me what life was like, and how beautiful it was, and all these colleges, and you know, that they dressed up to take their exams, you know, because we were this kind of specialist called Sub fusc, we were this kind of black and white, you know, like the traditional gown, if you will, to sit exams, but also for formal dinners on Sunday, when she tells me all these tales, and this just, it really captured my imagination. And I just decided, like, this sounds cool. I'm gonna go there. And I didn't know what Oxford was. I probably hadn't heard of Cambridge, you know, I didn't understand the kind of the process or the selection of it. In those days, it was very, you know, different these days.
In those days, it was very heavily biased towards kind of privately educated or public, if you will, education, so to have ambitions to go to Oxford, as a kid, at a Northern comprehensive, who nobody in her family had been to university and was, you know, was ambitious at best. And I remember, at school in fifth form, it's all different as they call it something else. But I was 15. It was just before GCSEs we were having to have career counseling and guidance, and what do you want to do? And I told this guy, I'm gonna go to Oxford, and he laughed at me.
And I just, I, it didn't actually, at the time, even insult me, it only insulted me. with hindsight, like, how do you know how dare you laugh at some child's ambitions, particularly if you looked at the capability of that child? Like, how dare you stamp on that dream? But I didn't take it as that. I just took it as like, Listen, this is what is done. There was no question. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going there and you know, he just didn't get it. So I'm glad I had that. It was a naivety of attitude to be honest. But I'm glad I had that. And actually, you know, turns out I was right, right?
Skye Khilji 20:09
Yeah, absolutely. When I hear my mom talk about, you know, the 70s and the 80s, there seems to be this thing of the people in authority, we will believe their opinion over our own sometimes. What do you think gave you that resilience to say, “well, I don't care if that person is in authority, or, or that person, you know, doesn't believe in me. I know what I can achieve.” Where does that come from?
Helen Chorley 20:32
I think generally, you know, exactly, I did have a reverence for authority that wasn't always June. But on that topic, there was a knowingness inherent. And as I'm saying, this, I'm gonna like, touch in my heart, there was this inner knowingness that I just knew I was going to get there. I'd wanted it since I was 10. You know, so I'd thought about it, I dreamed about it, I'd read books about it, you know, this is a, this wasn't a kind of spur of the moment when, Oh, that sounds like a good place to go, I'll give it a go.
I'd set the intention for it. thought about it, dreamed about it, you know, planned for it. And by six by 1516, I knew what it took to get there. And I knew it was within my capabilities. And I don't think I was an arrogant child. I hope I'm not coming across as arrogant. But I just, it's what I wanted to do. I didn't know there was no other, you know, I was actually kind of disappointed on the application form where you have to apply for more than one university. And like, but what's the point? Because that's where I'm going? And it really was I that was single minded about it. So funny, isn't it?
Skye Khilji 21:52
So the determination pays off, we get to Oxford. I'm interested in the dynamic of Oxford, you mentioned that there's a class divide on one hand, and then you went into to study politics, philosophy and economics, which are typically male dominated industries, or perhaps were at that point. So what were the dynamics at play during your experience at Oxford studying those subjects?
Helen Chorley 22:18
I have to say, I don't think I was prepared for, kind of, what Oxford was going to be and at that time, there was certainly a huge class divide there. Like I remember, rocking up on the first day, and queuing up to get all our bits of pieces of paper and paraphernalia and everything and somebody asking me what school I went to. I didn't even understand the question. I took the question, you know, very much as I do these days, I took the question on face value. So I told him what school I went to, you know, in St. Helens, and clearly they'd never heard of it, because when they asked me what school I went to, they meant, did I go to a, you know, one of one of the public schools, one of the well known, you know, the girls, private, you know, public schools.
And I, you know, at that time, I probably could have even named one. So I was a little naïve to that. And I would say, I probably had a slight kind of chip on my shoulder in terms of, you know, well, maybe I felt kind of looked down on. Yeah, so there's a slight chip on my shoulder, and that kind of about that. So I found it very difficult. To be honest. It really was a whole new world for me, being away from home as well. marchers. Gosh, by 17, I was desperate to get away from home, I had ticked all those boxes, I had jumped all those fences, everything that they wanted me to do, I'd done it, I'd achieved it and more. And at that point, I'm like, right now, this is me, this is my time, this is I get to do what I want to do and be who I want to be. So yeah, it was very interesting.
But it was also interesting that the college that I chose, particularly, and this was part of the reason as well, to be honest, was it was very well known for having a great rugby team, which, obviously is part of my history work, you know, where I'm from, because I'm from St. Helens, and was very heavily dominated, you know, there was like, a 75% guys and 25% girls, at least, probably even more than that, at that time. So I was interested in that, that theme then carried on throughout my career as well. So I do actually, you know, much as i didn't enjoy it, a lot of the time. Again, it was a great training ground, and I can see how it served me. The parts of the experience that I did enjoy, we're actually every summer term. I really loved that. I really enjoyed that. You know, it was all day, the parties and the social lives and yes, there are exams involved as well. But you have been, you know, quite social and quite people oriented. I've really loved that I've really, really enjoyed all those events.
Skye Khilji 25:08
Yeah. So you ended up on the trading floor and the financial industry. But before you arrived there, you chose politics, philosophy and economics. We chose those subjects, did you have an idea of the trajectory or the industry or career that you wanted to go into? And did that stay true? Or did it pivot at some point?
Helen Chorley 25:27
Oh, that's a good question. Yeah, I chose PPA. We call it PP, which is funny, because PPA has a very different conversation and videos, lockdown and COVID days. But I chose that because I did economics as a new level. And I really, really did enjoy that I loved learning about, you know, how kind of supply and demand work and how all these forces interact and kind of the theory, but also kind of how that theory did or didn't translate into kind of the real world, and how, you know, lots of other factors played into kind of what's going on in the world. So for me to survive, so I applied to LSE London School of Economics, which is kind of actually, you know, I would have been very, very happy there. Because I think maybe I'd have enjoyed the course there, a little bit more.
Oxford was in those days, a little old fashioned, bless it. But the diversity of having the economics, the philosophy, and the politics was really interesting. I didn't get the philosophy, I have to say, I don't think I had the maturity. At that age, I think I was a young, you know, kind of what, however old I was 17 or 18, when I went but I was a young, kind of immature teenager at that age. And I didn't get the question to didn't kind of resonate with me. So I found those hard. The one bit of a philosophy that I did really enjoy is philosophy of mind. Because it was very, it was almost kind of psychology, it was understanding kind of behaviour and why people do what they do.
So, you know, the seeds were definitely so mad for all the kind of human behaviour and, and stuff that I've gone on to study since and, you know, funnily enough, it's, I don't know, gosh, most Well, a lot of the books that I choose to read I'm not a fiction fiction reader by any means. I'm literally I'm sat looking at a book of Schopenhauer, you know, so I love reading about philosophy and particularly I kind of stoicism and, and those type of things these days. So it obviously did sow some seeds, even though I didn't necessarily resonate with that so much at those days. But in terms of career, I got, you know, kind of at the end of my time, and I, I didn't know what I wanted to do, I guess I was being I was used to being told what to do.
And my mom had left that but from then on up to me, so I knew lots of things I didn't want to do, you know, I, Gosh, I, my energy in those days, I knew,, sitting me at a desk, you know, I thought about kind of Accountancy, actually I thought about being a chartered surveyor, so I wasn't far off on the property stuff as well at those times, by just need to know I needed something dynamics and fin, you know, when No two days are the same, something very, very stimulating. And my boyfriend at the time, who was Oxford as well, who had been Oxford, was working for Citibank. So he was also in foreign exchange on the trading floor there as a derivatives trader, and he would come home and kind of, you know, gain Tell me about his day, and explain how all this when and you know, in those days, particularly there were always, you know, stories about kind of the antics that used to go on the trading floor. And I just thought like, that sounds like my cup of tea. It's, you know, you get paid well, if you perform, you know, No two days are the same. And it sounds like fun. And fun is a really big part of my life and of what I do and what I tried to bring to things as well. I think if you enjoy what you do, and you can know it, honestly, it's one of my principles of investing, make making money fun, you bring a whole different energy to it.
And it just makes life easier if you enjoy what you're doing. So yeah, that's how I ended up. Or that's how I chose banking. And why I chose J.P Morgan specifically, again, gosh, we've shown how competitive I am. Oh, I used to be the he really wanted to go to J.P Morgan because J.P Morgan at the time was renowned as having the best training program. But he didn't get in. So he went to Citibank instead. And I thought, right, I thought you I'm gonna do this. And I'm gonna make sure I get in there as Yes, that determination game paid off and yeah, I got accepted.
Skye Khilji 29:57
It's such a great thread that goes through your story, You arrive at Oxford, there's a class divide. It's a male dominated industry. in Oxford, you study politics, philosophy and economics. And then you move into the banking industry, which has a class divide, is typically male dominated. And those financial markets are moved by what the politicians do. They're moved by the psychology of the masses. Oh, yeah, course economics is a huge part of that. So there's such a trend and a theme going through that. So you get to J.P Morgan, you, you qualify again, there's a kind of a test that heaven passes that others can't and that resilience, you then go through the training program? Where does that take you next? What are those first days, like on the trading floor?
Helen Chorley 30:45
It was brilliant. It was super exciting. We, you know, there was a whole group of graduates that were taken in together, and we all kind of were doing different roles in different parts of the bank, but there was a real kind of camaraderie between the graduates. So that was really nice. But let me tell you, you know, you didn't walk in as this kind of privileged, kind of, you know, graduate, oh, kind of welcome.
Let's roll out the red carpet is literally you're in there like, right? You sit with a desk assistant, you learn what they do, you go to the back office, and you learn how this nitty gritty works. So literally, you know, it wasn't going to sit down day one and kind of start talking to clients, it was like you learn this stuff from the bottom up. And I love that, in fact, to my best friend to this day, where our desk assistance that we had, because in those days, you know, this is pre automation, and on the desk assistants would sit and kind of input manually all the trades that we did, and I loved that I am you know, I think that's, that's something that I mean, I like being like it, but also I can't change it. I just am very down to earth. And I don't know if that's because I know and I don't know if that's just part of my personality, I don't know. But I liked them, because they were just real as well.
Skye Khilji 32:04
So I was asking you about the first few days, and you're talking about the desk assistants. And what comes to my mind, as you're talking about that is The Wolf of Wall Street, or the big show where they're just collecting phone calls? Is that what it's like? Well, you don't really have the respect yet you have to earn it, and you really start at the bottom and then kind of grow as you go.
Helen Chorley 32:25
Oh, yeah, yeah, gosh, yes, it's very intense. And in those days, kind of the, the trading aspect and executing the deals wasn't automated at all. So we'd if you know, somebody had a big deal to do, it was literally all your traders would stand up and be on phones executing this deal. And the energy in that was electric and was, was really exhilarating. So yeah, we, you know, we weren't let loose, obviously, on clients or doing deals, you know, until we'd, you know, got to a kind of a certain level, but just being part of that, you know, again, you know, it was set your directory was kind of sets out, right, that's, you know, where you're heading to, you know, and you knew you wanted to be like this salesperson, or like that person or, and you know, the ones you didn't want to be like, but it was, yeah, they it's a it's, it's very, you know, fast paced, dynamic, full of big personalities.
You know, being in a rookie college had been great training, to be honest, for being on the trading floor, and managing all those egos, there is so much test, or there was the time, so much testosterone on that trading floor. It was, you know, something you have to navigate. And I do think you have to be a particular kind of person, particularly a particular kind of woman to be able to deal with that, you know, a wallflower isn't gonna thrive, thrive in that environment. You know, to be honest, you've got to be able to take banter, you have to be able to give banter. And that's how you kind of establish respect and a working relationship. And, and yeah, you know, I still I love working with, I love working with women, but I particularly love working with men as well, because, yeah, that's what I'm used to. And yeah, they were great days.
Skye Khilji 34:10
We've talked about that before in the past in the property space you're in now and in the banking space. Many women find that they have to kind of out alpha men, they have to become a masculine version of themselves to thrive and survive there. And what I've always found interesting with you is that you've retained that empathetic side, that feminine side, was that something you always had back then? Or is that something that you've cultivated over time?
Helen Chorley 34:36
It's a very good question. And it's kind of difficult for me to see in myself, because I think I mean, I certainly agree with you and I did see a lot of that. Yeah, kind of women trying to be men and I'm sure I fell into that category as well. My adrenals and kind of what happened next will tell you that I tried to live you know and tried to kind of like be manage and Deal, you know, deal with things like that that way. But when I saw kind of winning behave like that, there was just such a repulsion to me that I just knew I wasn't capable of that. Almost from like a soul level. And I probably could have been a lot better gone a lot farther got paid a lot more to be quite frank, if I had played that game, but it just, it just couldn't be that I just couldn't. I couldn't do that, you know. And that's not to say, you know, everyone's like that it's not I've got some fabulous, you know, women that I worked with, from banking, again, that are still my friends to these days.
But the examples where you did see that, which is a bargain to me. Yeah, I remember kind of purposefully, I remember seeing an example. And I remember distinctly, like, looking at that example and thinking, I do not want to be like that. And almost like, actually, my ambition died. In that moment, I got to a certain level. And my ambition died because I looked at, like what this woman had done. I just thought, I can't do that. I can't be that. But I know maybe that did me a favour. Maybe I retained my own authenticity that way.
Skye Khilji 36:30
Yes, it's such an interesting and pivotal moment. Because I imagine there's a conflict we achieve, when a part of you says, “I don't care what anyone else says, I want to get to the height of that”. Yeah. But as you said, you use the word soul. Is that knowing inside of, “is this my lane? Do I fit there?” So was there some strife and internal conflict at that point?
Helen Chorley 36:50
Oh, definitely. Yeah, yeah. Remember, like, I was a VP. And the next kind of step on from that is or was at the time as MD, and that's not a quick nor an easy process. But that was certainly, you know, like, right. Okay, how do we get there? What do I need to do? And, you know, no, saying I would have got there or I even had the potential to get there.
But I looked at it was a woman MD at the time. And I just thought, if that is what you have to do, to get to that position as a woman, I'm just not back. Like, that's my boundary. That's my line, and we're not crossing it. And I'm afraid I'm just going to have to give up on that dream. Because I won't go there. Now, you know, maybe I should have been a bit more resourceful, and tried to do it my own way. But that wasn't the decision I made. And you know, I didn't do too bad anyway.
Skye Khilji 37:45
Yeah, definitely not. My version of that is, you know, I was in corporate for 12 years in a couple of Fortune 500’s and at some point, I had the same thing where I looked at the directors years older than me, and I said, “Do I want to be in my 50s working 90 hours a week?” Yes, I have a home in the country, but I'm so stressed. Even when I go there. My kids don't know me. But one of those things, if I projected myself 20 years in the future, and I just knew I didn't want it. And what I later learned was my value on freedoms, my highest value. Yeah, it was what was causing that conflict. So now that you know, your values through the Demartini work, yeah. Do you think that was driving the decision? But even though there's conflict, I'm comfortable to move in that direction of what feels right for me?
Helen Chorley 38:29
Oh, that is a good question. Because I was kind of happy that in my role, I had a boss at the time, who was amazing, he was incredibly supportive, appreciative of what I did, and we worked together, literally kind of sat side by side day in day out for seven years. So I wasn't unhappy, kind of in the role or even, but you know, what, actually, now I'm thinking about it.
So do you know what he did? He gave me an enormous amount of free rein. Yes, there's some things I had to do. And we know if we had this project, and that project needs to be delivered, for example, because I was kind of more on the manage side of it, but by that side, by that time, but he just let me get on with it. There was no micromanaging, which I had seen. And yes, so I did have freedom, or be it in the corporate world. So I was living in, in my values in and kind of with my values, or be it in, you know, kind of what looks as kind of a was a box, but I had a lot of freedom in that box. And maybe I would have got to the position where actually I just needed to spread my wings and really pursue, you know, kind of freedom and autonomy myself. But, you know, as the story happens, my, my body took over and made that decision for me. So
Skye Khilji 39:56
Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that. What I want to ask you here Is this kind of pressure cooker environment it manifests for different people in different ways. It creates this resilience where you need to be strong and that it kind of navigates you through that process. But what I see in a lot of the people I talked to, is that it also creates some level of trauma or a breakdown in the health of the body. Did you recognize or did you realize at any point that that process last they helped you. Also, there was the other side of the equation where it caused some issues or caused your body to just kind of break down.
Helen Chorley 40:32
I think there were a number of factors that contributed to that. And so kind of what actually happened was, I got ill. I was having kind of fatigue issues, but not just oh, I'm tired. I mean, I couldn't stay awake. And I would sleep over weekends, I'd be sleeping at least 20 hours a day. And even during the week, you know, my boss was amazing, and amazingly supportive. And he'd let me get in at nine o'clock and leave at five o'clock, certainly towards the end, which you know, when a trade employee knows, just don't do that's not, that's not part of the deal. But that's literally, you know, kind of all I could manage, and to be honest, even managing that I'd have, you know, kind of Red Bull for my breakfast, however, many coffees probably have three or four coffees during the day.
And that was what was keeping me going, you know, I didn't know anything about kind of nutrition or that was actually just add in and, you know, make the situation even worse, but that's how we had lived our lives. And I was engaged by this point. And my fiancé at the time was a trader as well. And that was just what we did. You know, it was just kind of standard that you know, we had Red Bull for breakfast. We certainly knew if we were going out of a weekend. Now to stay awake. You know, if it was going to be a late night, you'd have a Red Bull before you went out. It was just that was just you know what you did? I don't know, we didn't, we never took anything stronger. So maybe maybe Red Bull was a better choice than some of the things that other people. But yeah, it was a very difficult time and process kind of, to feel Gosh, even kind of process really, it was, I'd been ill or I knew I wasn't right for at least a year.
And I've been to the doctors, and I've been to test and I've seen all these specialists. And I got tested for everything, literally. And everything came back as I was the picture of health. And like, believe me, I'm sleeping 20 hours a day of a weekend. This is not the picture of health. So it was very frustrating, because I just wanted to know what the label was. Because once you've defined the problem, then you can find a solution to it. You know, very left brain, what's the problem? Let's identify it, let's fix it. Right. And that's not how it happened. And the frustration of living with that. And trying to explore all these different avenues to find out what the issue was, was immensely frustrating. And I would every time a result came back saying no, no, this is okay. No, no, that's okay. No, no, these levels are within normal range. I would cry because, you know, it was another kind of roadblock to, to stop me getting an answer to stop me finding the solution. And actually, that's ultimately what it came to. My fibroid had been tested for they,
Oh, I got no, like umpteenth time when I lost track of how often that got tested. And it was fine. And I just burst out crying on the trading floor. Not cool. I said to my boss, I just can't do this. I just need to take a timeout. And actually before that my friend did also the other weekend before that. My friends had intervened and said how's you're gonna kill yourself if you carry on like this as well. So, you know, they'd watch me go through all this investigation. And at one point, gosh, talking about substances. They thought I had narcolepsy, you know, where you keep falling asleep because I couldn't stay awake. They thought I had narcolepsy. So they did put me on a kind of methamphetamine, you know, a proper pharmaceutical version.
But yeah, they had me on that. And it did keep me awake for a few weeks. But even after that I started sleeping. They're like, No, no, you shouldn't be able to sleep taking these. I'm like, Well, let me tell you. That's a habit. And they're like, okay, it's not that. So that was 2000. And at the beginning of 2008. And I had a month off and then yeah, never went back. You know that the markets also changed at that time and I put my hand. Yeah, exactly. And you know what, with hindsight, honestly, it was beautiful, but I put my hand up for redundancy And my boss was very kind and just said, Yep, you know, I recognize that this is what you need to do to look after you so.
Skye Khilji 45:09
Amazing. The fact that you asked probably a month or a few months before one of the biggest crashes that we had in the financial markets and they agreed to it when maybe they wouldn't have been able to a month later, the fact that the breakdown occurred view at that point is quite poetic, and talked to so many people. And there's this transition that I see where they're living the life that's not past congruent to who they've become. And the transition is one from medication to meditation is that intellectual to the emotional, there's the real masculine to the more feminine. And I definitely went through that to where I have to go into what am I actually feeling? Yeah.
Skye Khilji 45:53
Wow, what an interview. Helen is one of my favourite people anyway, but I think that might be one of my favourite interviews so far. We were having such a good time that we'd lost track of time and just kept the tape rolling, so to speak.
So we decided to split our chat into two parts. And I really, really hope you enjoyed part one. In part two, we pick up on Helen's life after investment banking, and the transformation and reinvention of Helen into the woman we all know and love today.
Make sure to subscribe to get notified when Part Two is released and we'll see you over there to continue the conversation.
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