Jo Becker
Taj Mahal, India

!! My Story

How I came to Be Stubborn about pursuing the things that matter most to me, after my turbulent twenties.

Jo Becker | coach for creative business owners - Disability & Inclusion advisor - marketing consultant |

It all began in marketing...

I never had a strong idea of what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’, but after getting a job on a graduate scheme at Transport for London, I found my way into the marketing department. I quickly realised that I loved communicating with people, trying to help them every day in small ways through things like road safety campaigns, and later launching contactless payment for travel.

Five years of this, plus managing a large team, helped me to understand people and how to best communicate with them. I learned how to put the audiences’ needs first, sharing information and advice, influencing customer behaviours, and delivering complex and often political messages.

Before starting my first business in 2015...

Then a friend suggested setting up a side-business, which soon became a successful pop-up events agency. We worked incredibly hard to deliver for our clients, and much of our early success was thanks to our backgrounds in marketing. We knew how to share our ideas clearly, how to vary our tone depending on the audience, and how to pitch to clients.

I loved learning how to create, grow and run my own business. From doing everything ourselves to hiring employees; from serving drinks at tiny food festivals to writing event strategies for big corporate clients... it was a thrilling and educational three years.

But the business had grown based on client demands rather than our values, and I started to realise that the work wasn't fulfilling me. In addition, the friendship I had with my business partner deteriorated. I was increasingly unhappy, and having learned first-hand that life really is too short (see below), I knew that I needed to make a change. I was determined to do what I needed to do to feel okay again, and hard as the truth was, that meant that I had to leave my own business. I had to start over.

Meanwhile: illness, death and more illness.

Tennyson quote | Joanne Becker | Be Stubborn | Coaching | small business, creative coaching, resources, content creator

My twenties taught me time and again that life is unpredictable, and so pursuing happiness should never ‘wait until later’.

At 23, I suddenly became a carer when my long-term boyfriend was diagnosed with Leukaemia. Over three years I supported him through treatment, recovery, remission and horrifyingly, relapse. Once he was better he betrayed me before ending the relationship, and I lost the life and future I thought we’d have together.

But I was in my mid-twenties so I worked through this, and we remained close. So I was there for him and his family when he unexpectedly relapsed for a second time. This time he lost his fight.

As I worked rebuild my life, I noticed that my own body wasn’t working in the way that it should. After a period of time dealing with mystery illnesses including a severe vitamin B12 deficiency and a haematological condition that required daily injections to thin my blood, I was diagnosed with GNE Myopathy, a rare and untreatable form of Muscular Dystrophy that progressively weakens my legs and arms. Once again, I was thrown into crisis mode, and it took me a long time to accept what was happening to my body.

I’m doing the best I can, with what I have…

Today, I can’t get about without the help of at least a walking stick. I’ll need a wheelchair within a decade, and increasing physical support as I age. And it can be assumed that I am now halfway through my life. This diagnosis, and knowledge of my future health, was hard to come to terms with and it feels sometimes like I am racing the clock to pack in everything I want to do. It has felt like the options and possibilities I thought would always be open to me have diminished.

But… have they? Yes, some. However, some of those options and possibilities might still be there if I just look at things a little differently. I’ll need more tenacity and patience than I ever expected, but aren’t the greatest things worth the effort? And it turns out that feeling like I am living life on a deadline has helped me to focus on the things that matter most to me.

I have also learned that:

  • I am more than my legs. More than my arms. More than my body. I might not be able to walk in the future, but I am still worthy and I can still make a contribution.

  • I don’t need to settle: despite my health, it is worth being stubborn enough to pursue what makes me happy.

And I’m being stubborn.

And so here I am… I’ve developed the courage to walk away from situations that made me miserable. The resilience to cope with the daily trials of a progressive disease. And the strength to keep moving forward and pursuing happiness, especially in my work.

I now use everything I have learned to help others to create work and a life that they love, particularly those who want or have their own small business.

It’s been a difficult road, but I feel like I reached a place of contentment and found the overarching peace that I have been craving (I say overarching because, like everyone, I have my blips!). And little has felt as satisfying as creating this completely intentional business, with which I hope to make a difference to people like you. I aim to help others to choose themselves, feel fulfilled, happy and like they’ve really pursued what matters to them.

Please do join me in stubbornly pursuing what makes you happy.

Want to chat? Let’s do it!

I was diagnosed with GNE Myopathy, a rare adult-onset form of Muscular Dystrophy, in 2016 following three years of strange symptoms and testing. At the time I was a senior marketing and communications practitioner at Transport for London, managing a large team, even larger budgets, and responsible for all marketing campaigns relating to London’s roads, river and buses. 

I loved my job, but the shock of my diagnosis left me craving the freedom to travel, explore and experiment while I was at my strongest, and so I did these things while starting my own business. Taking this leap of faith opened my eyes to another world: the start-up mentality, making an impact with little budget, being open to new opportunities and creative about finding solutions to unexpected problems. 

This period, in which I also learned more about the realities of my diagnosis as my muscles weakened, taught me a lot about myself. I came to better understand my values, and the work I want to do; I love communicating, feeling like I am helping people, and trying to do something good. Working at TfL had given me this as I tried to improve the experience of customers travelling on the network (granted – not always possible!), and I wanted to continue to pursue those values elsewhere.  

Fast-forward a few years and I have developed what might be called a ‘portfolio career’, comprised of coaching others to develop their own heartfelt small businesses, creating content and writing about my experiences, and consulting other cities and organisations about their customer marketing and communications – particularly in relation to travel, events and accessibility – for which I have created bespoke strategies.