Funny

(1 year later) Lessons learned from reclaiming Middle Aged Me

career change 40

A while ago, I encountered someone who will forever be called “Middle Aged Me”.

He was close to broken, drowning in a culture that was eroding him to the core. His honest awareness about his situation and where it was headed blew me away but he hadn’t reached his tipping point yet. He needed a big sign. A giant sign that kicked him into take action.

Sadly the sign came. Happily, he was well enough to react.

Here’re what he learned on his mid-life career change journey. If haven’t read his first article - you might like to start here.

Author:                Anonymous

A quick recap 

This is a follow-up to “Reclaiming Middle Aged Me” which Lucia published in March 2018. 

As a quick reminder, my company had been taken over by new investors and I found myself in a culture which conflicted with my personal values and work practices.  This in turn had a detrimental impact on my health, welfare and overall life in general. 

Nonetheless, it still took me a number of years before I did anything about it. 

Ultimately, a serious health scare forced the issued and I resigned without a job to go to.

When Lucia published my article she depicted me as a drowning man.  It still resonates with me today as it captured the totality of my situation and how I felt at the time.    

A number of months have now passed and this follow-up tells the story of what I have experienced and learned since making that momentous decision to leave.  Some things I had predicted, whereas others came as a surprise. 

Hopefully sharing these experiences will provide some insight into what may be expected after leaving the workplace and possibly help others to formulate their own thinking when contemplating the same.  Everyone may of course react differently, but this is my story.

The initial stages

The most immediate feeling was that of enormous relief.  I had escaped and an overpowering weight was lifted. 

I hate mondays

I no longer had to dread the arrival of Monday which so often surfaced as soon as I woke on a Sunday. 

Despite the relief, I wasn’t able to throw myself into lots of new exciting activities to fill my new found freedom.  It was very clear that my energy levels had been sapped from years of pushing myself too hard in a toxic environment and my body simply needed a rest.  There really was nothing left in the tank and I sat for long periods of time just watching the television or doing absolutely nothing.

To be fair, I thoroughly enjoyed this time of relaxation.  It’s amazing how many re-runs of “The Professionals” and “Tales of the Unexpected” you can get through when you put your mind to it.  I wasn’t allowed to watch these when I was growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s (apparently I was too young), but at least they now serve to demonstrate my true middle aged credentials!  

Days continued to come and go and I also soon learned that the time taken to do things expands with the time available.  Breakfast for example can take up to an hour.

Now, I’ve just said that I wasn’t able to throw myself into lots of new exciting activities.  Well, that wasn’t only because of the lack of energy.  It was also because I didn’t really have any hobbies, passions or leisure pastimes in my old life.  This was quite an enlightening (and in hindsight worrying) revelation. 

I now realised that work had become so all-encompassing and time consuming that my personal life had fallen by the wayside at the expense of the corporate world.  Put simply, there had been no work-life balance for many years.  The lesson here is to take a step back now and make sure there are things in your life outside of work.  Don’t let work become the sole purpose of your existence.

Having discovered that I didn’t have any real hobbies, I then set about trying to find some. 

Many years ago I was a keen football player and also enjoyed running to keep fit.  I ruled out a return to football quite quickly (I’m middle aged remember), but running to regain my fitness definitely appealed.  Over the years, my ratio of cake intake to energy burned had become slightly imbalanced and I definitely needed to lose a few pounds. 

However, another lesson was about to land. 

Namely, do give some thought as to what time of year you leave the workplace.  I didn’t really have much choice due to my health scare, but many people won’t have that catalyst and can plan a bit more effectively.  I’m a big fan of hot weather and the sun (especially when it involves sitting in the garden with a beer), but I left work at the beginning of winter.  It was cold, wet and generally miserable for many months. 

Umberella.jpg

My rekindled desire to run again was put on hold as I looked out of the window on many occasions and the little willpower I had simply evaporated.  I know I could have joined a gym, but running on a treadmill was never something I enjoyed.  Another excuse of course, but keep in mind the mental state I had been reduced to.  Things needed to be easy and “right” for me. 

It also goes without saying that sitting in the garden in the rain with a beer is not quite so appealing. 

One thing I did find very rewarding in the early days was the additional time I was able to spend with my family.  My wife and I had more lunches out in the space of a few weeks than we had done for years! 

I went to every school event on the calendar and also spent a lot of time with my Mum.  She lives a long way away, but I was no longer constrained by weekends and could visit her for several days at a time in the week.  These visits to my Mum highlighted another important lesson.  She’s elderly and I would spend my time with her doing lots of jobs around the house and garden that she wasn’t able to do herself. 

Why am i here.png

This added something incredibly important to my life.  I had a purpose again.

Think about it.  We spend decades in the workplace and then (for any number of reasons) we no longer go to work.  It might be short term or it might be permanent.  Either way, my experience is that I began to question my purpose in life. 

When I was at work, I was a senior finance professional doing a responsible job for a large company.  I had “status” (whatever that is) and the respect of my colleagues.  I was also the “provider” for my family.  People relied on me, both at work and at home. 

My exit from the workplace took these roles (which had been in place for decades) away from me. 

The lesson here is to not underestimate the potential to feel a little lost at times following the decision (and ultimate action) to leave.  Try to have something in mind to focus on and give you a purpose to replace that which is left behind.  Better to be prepared than to have a surprise as it was for me.

This rather helpfully leads me on to another surprise to share, albeit the surprise wasn’t mine alone.  It was also for my wife, who is a “stay at home Mum”.  All of a sudden, her daily environment was impacted by another person (middle aged me) with helpful views on what needed doing, how it should be done, who should do it (and most importantly) how quickly it should be done.  Yes, well, that took a little bit of adjusting to for both of us. 

Nothing more to say, it’s all about “give and take” in the end, but just have it on your radar if you have a similar scenario!     

As time progressed

Over time, my mental and physical strength began to return and I felt ready to explore the “what next?” question.  I spent many hours and days looking at new possibilities for the future. 

One avenue involved a complete break from my financial background by dipping my big toe into the world of writing.  I met with various people already established in this world and discovered a number of important things. 

First, while my writing is OK, it’s not quite up to the standard to be a professional (although I could have trained to achieve this). 

Second, it takes a long time to become established and earn a living. 

Third (and most important for me), you spend most of your time on your own in front of a computer.

This set alarms bells ringing as it correlated with another learning I had already experienced.  It’s something quite fundamental, but it hadn’t appeared on my radar before I left work. 

Very simply (and from a very early stage), I experienced social isolation. 

Despite the fact my work environment had become aggressive and unpleasant; I still had friends and colleagues to talk to every day, to discuss the ways of the world and to generally banter with.  This was now gone and at times I felt lonely.  A writing career was not for me.

At the same time as I was having my Shakespearian potential dispelled, I also started to pursue a long held interest in a particular volunteering position.  It’s something that requires a lot of dedication and the various interview processes are both lengthy and rigorous. 

That goes a long way to explain why I hadn’t been able to pursue it when I was in a corporate environment which seemed to absorb all my time.  I refer back to an earlier comment. 

I should have made time for it.  

Suffice to say, I was successful in my pursuit of the role and I now have something in my “non-paid” work life which provides personal reward and enjoyment.

In terms of pursuing some paid work activities (it seemed prudent), I took it upon myself to drive around the local area and make notes of all the companies that were close by.  I was adamant that whatever I did next, it wouldn’t involve a long commute like I’d had in the past. 

I researched the companies to see whether the industry was of interest to me and whether I thought my natural skills (or “superpowers” to use Lucia’s terminology) could be utilised by them.  I also deliberately focussed on smaller companies and was able to narrow my initial list of around 50, down to a potential of 10. 

My career has been spent in large multi-nationals with a heavy demand for the type of work I do.  In contrast, smaller companies don’t tend to have my role as a dedicated resource, but they would benefit from a “short blast” of expertise in my area which could then be taken forward by their incumbent finance teams. 

So, the potential to set up my own company was formed in my mind.  In essence, I would act as a “trouble shooter” who parachutes in for a short period of time, assesses their capabilities, recommends a course of action for improvement and then either departs at that point (letting the incumbents implement the recommendations) or stays to help with the implementation. 

I think it might work as a USP, but I won’t get the chance to find out (at least for a while).  I’ll explain.

As I sit here today

Bounce trainers.jpg

I’m healthy again, both mentally and physically

When spring finally arrived I started running properly and have lost much of the weight I’d gained over the years.  There’s still some way to go, largely because (and just to recap), I’m middle aged and it takes longer to shift these days.  It’s a great excuse and one to be fully exploited.  Also, for those who remember my first article, I’ve come off much of the prescribed medication I talked about at the time. 

My new company idea is on hold at the moment because of an exciting development in the last couple of months. 

In my original article I talked about the possibility of returning to do what I do in another company, but in an environment which aligned with my values and work practices.  Well, I kept an eye on the market and I will shortly go back to work in an exciting industry which is located very close to home.  The culture is friendly and welcoming and I’ve been given a free reign to shape the future in my area of finance. 

My bounce is back (not that middle aged accountants are renowned for their bounciness), but I am genuinely excited by what lies ahead.


A final comment

I made the right decision to leave

A year ago I was in a bad way, both mentally and physically. 

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I genuinely believe I was close to “going under” or worse.  My mind and body were compromised and at the edge of their tolerance levels.  A serious health scare provided the catalyst for me to leave, but I still needed the willpower and strength to make that final decision. 

My counsel is simple to say, but harder to enact.  Nonetheless, it’s maybe something to contemplate and reflect on. 

It’s only seven words. 

“Jump while you still have the strength.”

 

Daddy playing sillohette daughter.jpg
 

If this story resonated with you, please sign up to the “You’re not too old and it’s not too late” newsletter to receive twice monthly articles, real stories and strategies on how to begin your own career overhaul - while you still have the energy. Click the image below.

career change at 40, career change at 50, career change at 60

The insanity of changing career at 40, 50 or 60...celebrity mid-life career changers who might inspire you to give it a go.

Crazy Erin Drawing

Changing careers at 40, 50 or 60 can appear to others to be one step away from lunacy. Why change at this time of your life? Why not just sit tight? Better to do a job that you don’t enjoy until you feel ready to retire and then start really enjoying life with all that free time? Who LOVES THEIR JOB anyway?

That attitude might have worked for you 30 years ago. It might work for you in today’s climate if you work in a company surrounded by 50 and 60 year old peers. 

Have a look around you. Have a think about your business as a whole.  Define the age profile of your peers? Define the age profile of your team? Define the age profile of any international counterparts. For most companies, the playing field starts to look a little sparse even in the 45+ demographic.   

Check out these statistics: According to a report published by the Department of Work & Pensions, out of 10.2 million people aged between 50 and the state pension age, 2.9 million (28%) are out of work. Of the 2.9 million, only 0.7 million see themselves as “retired”, yet 1.7 million think it is "unlikely that they will ever work again".

Let’s consider that for a moment…1.7million?

Crikey.  I don’t know about you but that last statistic FRIGHTENS THE LIFE OUT OF ME.   I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I might say or even feel that “it is unlikely that I will ever work again”.  Even writing it down gives me the heebie geebies. There is something about this phrase that feels so powerless.  But apparently 1.7million people ticked that box. What a senseless waste of talent and experience.  

But what if there was a different way? 

distance between insanity

What if you took your own career back into your own hands? What if you could change career and do something that you would find more fulfilling for the long-term rather than sitting it out, waiting and watching the ever-thinning 45plus demographic in your company?

Here are some fairly famous people who took control of their careers even though they were half-way through a completely different career.

·        Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before entering the world of fashion at the age of 40.

·        Arnold Schwarzenegger – musclebound Hollywood actor to governor of California aged 56.

·        John Grisham was a lawyer for the first half of his career before he crafted a writing career writing legal thrillers.

·        Toni Morrison was a teacher before she published her first novel at 40 and became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (for Beloved)

·        Harland (Colonel) Sanders was a manual labourer before bought his first restaurant at 40 where he perfected his ‘finger lickin good’ chicken recipe and franchised it aged 65.

·        Ronald Regan transformed from Hollywood actor to Governor of California in his early fifties and then on to US president aged 69.

·        Julia Child wrote her first cook book aged 50 after careers in advertising, media and a stint as an intelligence officer.

·        Ray Kroc didn’t buy McDonald’s until he was 56 and had spent his first career as a milkshake-device salesman.

·        Donald Fisher was 40 when he opened his first Gap store with his wife in 1969 with zero previous retail experience.

·        Paul Newman, the actor, was 57 when he founded Newman’s Own Sauces, one of the first food companies to use all natural ingredients.

·        Susan Boyle was 48 in 2008 when that audition for Britain’s got Talent that went viral was recorded. Her net worth has been estimated at £30mil.

·        Linda McCartney was 50 when she launched her vegan food company, after her first career as a photographer.

·        Levi Roots was a reggae musician before his 2007 Dragon’s Den appearance which launched his multi-billion pound Reggae Reggae sauce business. 

The two things that everyone in this list had in common was that they wanted MORE from their work and that they felt BRAVE enough to give something different a try.

Some of my clients definitely want a complete over-haul of their career but many are simply stuck in a tight career spot where they struggle to see their future evolving positively and want someone to help them to figure it out.

If you’d like to have a conversation with me about taking the power back and unsticking your career, drop me an email at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.  If you are not quite ready but want access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com.

The 90s song that caused me to shut my career coaching business just as it was blossoming...almost

A client last week re-minded me of a song that I played incessantly in my youth. As soon as I came off the call I opened Spotify and MY HEART SANK.  I felt that my business would be doomed to fail if every 40-55 year old in my network heard this song.  I considered shutting up shop that day even though my career transformation business was growing beyond my expectations. 

I'd have zero clients if this song were to be re-released.

“No song can be that powerful” I hear you cry. 

Well, this one could have been…if human beings were capable of taking advice, that is.  Luckily (at least from a business perspective) I don’t believe we humans are actually capable of taking advice.

So...the song is called Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann. You know the one.  It starts “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97, wear sunscreen!” and Baz proceeds in a monotone voice to prescribe the most succinct and mind-blowing advice ever aimed specifically at young adults. 

Like most young adults in the 1990s (and probably today as well), my parents doled out advice to me on a daily basis but it totally washed over me.   “In one ear and out the other” was a commonly heard refrain pointed in my direction in my home. 

Yet, when I was bombing about the back roads of Co. Antrim in my parent’s light blue Citroen BX and this song came on the radio, I almost slumped into an open-eared trance.  I couldn’t get enough of this advice.  It made so much sense and was delivered in a cool, Californian, non-preachy way, supported by a funky beat.  I fully believed that this advice was going to change my life.

Check out just a couple of inarguable pieces of advice from the lyrics (full lyrics in the link below)

  • Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders...but trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself, and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked....
  • You’re not as fat as you imagine…
  • Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly…
  • Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble-gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday…”

Full lyrics here : https://www.letssingit.com/baz-luhrmann-lyrics-everybody-s-free-to-wear-sunscreen-4pbhw5n#ixzz4gfJX7Kg

Absolutely brilliant life advice - wouldn't you agree?  Needless to say, it didn’t change my life.

Even though I really loved ALL of the advice and even though I listened with open-ears, my psychological make-up would not allow me to take in ANY advice wholeheartedly.  My psychological make-up, as far as advice is concerned, is identical to yours. It’s the same psychological make-up as your children’s and the same as your parent’s. We are all the same in this aspect of life. We all find it nearly impossible to implement someone else’s advice into our own lives.

On the flip-side, it appears that most people really enjoy GIVING ADVICE, even if it is not requested.  Let’s face it, giving advice to others makes us feel helpful, knowledgeable and go on, be honest, often a little better about ourselves.  That’s just the problem.  Advice-giving is all about the advice-giver, not the advice-receiver.  And NOT giving advice is really, really difficult.

Don’t believe me?

dog glasses

TRY THIS and see how difficult it is for you:

1.    When your partner/colleague/child comes to discuss a problem with you this week ZIP YOUR LIP. 

2.     Listen with both ears and brain – this bit sounds easy.  BUT you are NOT going to offer ANY advice AT ALL.

3.    Instead, feel free to ask questions, make understanding noises, move parts of your face (eyebrows work nicely) at appropriate moments to encourage them to keep speaking. When your partner/colleague/child have COMPLETELY FINISHED TALKING, continue to empathise with their tricky situation and wish them well in finding the (be as specific as you can here) strength/confidence/creativity/etc (delete as appropriate) to be able to figure out the next moves to progress that situation along.

4.    STOP.  Assess how hard that was for you.

HINT: You will know if you have been unsuccessful in avoiding advice-giving if you hear the words “Yes, but…” as a response to anything you say.

BEWARE: This has been known to have a very obvious transformational effect on children. Watch their body language change (if you can be very specific) after step 3.

A friend accused me of being too simplistic in recommending this technique.  All I'll say is...try it. It is a simple technique and if all it does is highlight how different it feels for you NOT giving advice, it will have made an impact.  Let me know what happens.

In my experience, it's also nearly impossible to take someone else’s career advice and point it at your own career.  

If you'd like to transform your career you will need to find a way to step far enough out of your current situation to view both it and you objectively so that you can CREATE YOUR OWN CAREER ADVICE.  Most people struggle seeing their own life from a different perspective. Sometimes a coach helps.

In my work, I don’t offer advice (although I am a human with failings and sometimes I catch myself mid-advice-offering.).  

What I do offer are structured, tried and tested techniques combined with psychological insights which take the guess-work out of making a career change.   Check out “The Decider” package on my website (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work) for more information on my style of advice-free coaching. While you’re there, why not sign up to my weekly newsletter for tips, resources, articles and real life stories of transformations?   (ps that last bit was a suggestion, not a piece of advice!)

 

3 things mid-lifers need to know about happy retirement

Retirement isn’t what is used to be...it’s a great deal better.  I keep hearing inspirational life transformation stories from retirees.  Take my in-laws for example - after retiring 4 or 5 years ago they are so busy that we have to book to visit them months in advance.  What are they up to?  This very normal ex-teaching and ex-IT couple are in fact working their way around the world teaching bridge on luxury cruises!  They combined a hobby and teaching skills to offer them joint retirement heaven.

They are not alone. Other inspiring stories I’ve heard recently include cycling around Majorca, helping to build a school in Kenya and signing up to an Italian cooking course in…Florence.  

In a word, I am jealous!

cyclist in mountain

                           

I totally understand that many retirees have worked and saved all their lives to enjoy their new-found freedom and I can’t help wanting a slice of the action.  BUT, I’m not ready to wait about 25 years to get it.

Last year, I wrote an article based on the latest research into how personality might impact retirement enjoyment and in the process I uncovered some global trends:

1.    Apparently, the more conscientious and agreeable you are as a personality, the more you are likely to enjoy your retirement (do we get more or less agreeable with age?);

2.    Taking part in new activities is very strongly linked to higher mental and physical health in retirement;

3.    The one specific activity which has the greatest impact on enhanced well-being, lower instances of illness and lower death rates in retirement is…volunteering.

The last point blew my mind, especially when we consider employment trends in the UK – how will we all have enough time to be volunteering if we are all still working through the supposedly healthy, vibrant, early retirement phase?

Let’s look at the numbers today.  According to the DWP, 10% of UK 70-74 year olds are in work (the highest figure since records began).  Almost 15% of men over the age of 65 are currently in employment.  These figures are forecast to rise substantially given advancing pension ages.  

Some might think that talking about retirement to mid-lifers is time wasted.  But, if we are all going to be working into late life, then mid-life is the perfect time to deliberately design the second-half of your career which might last another 20, 30 or even 40 years.  If we are still working, ideally it will because we are still enjoying our work or have designed it in a way that it fits around the really fun parts of our lives.  

Maybe there is a way to re-frame work as a more enjoyable part of your life by consciously designing work that really connects with your life? Work that doesn't feel like the part of life that just pays the bills and allows us the two week holiday to re-fresh and gain enough energy to head back to “the grindstone”.

Designing a new second half of life is possible to do by yourself but it will take time, research, deep thinking and an honesty about your own resources and limiting beliefs that is difficult to access by yourself.

Often, when I work with individuals, they say that they do not have a vision of their preferred future career but through questioning and exercises it soon becomes very clear.  To start your own career transformation go to www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com