When you think about how you’ve learned what you’ve needed to get through life, I’m sure you picked up a few things in school… and I’m sure you learned a lot from your family. But really, think about how much we learn from stories!
We tell ourselves (and others) stories about how to live our lives, work through our career, or raise our families. But what happens when you get to the next chapter of your story—when the kids leave…when you’re facing retirement…when it is simply time for a change…you have to figure out the “what’s next?”
When I walked away from a successful market research business that I had acquired, developed, and merged, it was an opportunity to write a new story for myself. It was time to try something different, but I had a lot of questions, questions that other leaders and executives were also struggling to answer. For example, what led me to the decision to leave? More importantly, how did I decide what would be next?
It didn’t take many rounds of coffee and lunches to understand the very successful executives and business owners I was meeting with were not wondering about my exit plans. They were wondering about theirs. Like me, some were at the top of their respective careers and nearing age-driven considerations.
Those conversations and questions were fascinating—and overwhelming. But before long, my expertise and experience as a consumer behaviorist in market research took over.
I knew that getting people together to talk about it might offer some clues on how to answer these questions. I put together an experimental workshop where I brought together a group of executives to explore the rational and emotional underpinnings of exiting a career.
First, it was clear from the discussion redesigning life wouldn’t be an event; it would be a process. Second, there was great power in community. Several in that workshop said they felt so relieved talking with their peers, people like them, who didn’t have clear answers, but being with one another seemed to give many of them a sense of hope and courage.
The more I spoke to business owners and leaders, the more I saw patterns in how they tackled their own process of renewal and reinvention.
Here are just a few of the stories of women who found a new way to their “Life 2.0.”:
I was at the top of my game in the advertising and marketing world. I’d managed advertising for some of the most well recognized brands in the U.S and around the world. I’d served as president and COO of an agency. It was great, but I was ready for a change. For years, I’d split my time between working and volunteering for more than ten arts and culture nonprofits. As I was thinking about leaving behind my career, I knew that I was really interested in moving away from working for money to working for meaning. Just before I left the corporate world, I put a plan in place to let the non-profit community know that I was interested in making a move. Sure enough, the years of experience working in volunteer roles served me well as I stepped up to lead other volunteers. On top of that, all my years in the professional world gave me the skills to find an organization that’s going to fit my purpose and passion. –Advertising Executive and Advocate for the Arts
For over 30-plus years, I’d owned a very successful training development company, and I was getting ready to sell it. I was totally prepared and ready to move on to new ventures. After due diligence, I had several promising buyers—but I was never so surprised as when my daughter, who was a teacher, asked if I would consider selling the business to her! And that’s exactly what happened. I’m still available for consulting, but the business is now fully my daughters. After I passed it on to her, I took three months off to enjoy the beach and host a wedding and I’m now back in the game of starting up a new business. Assuming the concept takes off, I’m hoping to build it and sell it, but not to become consumed by it. –Business Owner and Entrepreneur
I enjoyed the kind of high-flying career many dream about – I was working in the entertainment industry, and over the years, I’d developed a business that was doing a billion dollars in gross sales with a workforce of only fifty people. Lean and mean! But after a merger, my division became part of a larger entity, and the new management wasn’t all that great. I told my financial advisor about this, who said, “Do what you want. You’re well-set enough that you don’t have to work.” Well—so I did it. I started an organization to point girls toward careers in politics, something that had always been a life-long passion. It’s been great to make this into something big, but that’s not the end of the story! I’m transitioning away from the day-to day handling of the organization and getting back into the world of entertainment. This time, it’s on my own terms, where I can keep my freedom and do exactly what I want to do in that space. –Entertainment Executive and Youth Leadership Developer
Things seemed pretty good—I owned a small business, and life and work seemed to be churning along at a rapid but comfortable clip. At least it seemed like that until the day that my husband told me he no longer wanted to be married to me. Apparently, he’d always felt lost in my shadow and was looking for a different life and life partnership. About three years later came the breast cancer diagnosis. Surgery followed, and thirty rounds of radiation plus three months of chemo. I never imagined this would be part of my life. It completely changed my outlook, and while I’m still devoted to my business, I think much more carefully about what I’m getting out of my work. All this experience led me to pursue the dream of holding semi-annual retreats for women centered on developing better self-care: physically, spiritually, and mentally. –Business Partner, Facilitator and Survivor
Those are just a few stories, but they show that these women are redefining what “retirement” is. It’s much more about writing a new story, recalibrating to a new reality rather than retiring! By blending a purpose and a passion, there are so many possibilities for finding your Life 2.0., and I wish you the best as you start your own process of reinvention and recalibration.