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You’re A Failure If You Aren’t Doing What You Absolutely Love. Or Are You?

Author Brianna West recently wrote in Medium Daily Digest “We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate between what they really love and what they love “the idea of”.

In doing so, she reminded me of the diversity of purposes for work among my clients and the courage it takes to pursue the right fit whether it’s what they love or not.

Doing, of course, can be a huge, sort of collective verb. It can mean anything from professional activity to avocational experiences to caring for others to stealing time for yourself and doing absolutely nothing with it if that’s your intention. Having to love what you do as a condition of validation can be such a burden!

For purposes of this blog, I’m going to confine myself to Professional Activity as the designated form of doing. And I’m going to tell three short stories.

Bella is 59 and involuntarily retired 6 years ago when her job was eliminated. Her husband, Bob, died last year and when he did she lost the medical insurance benefits that went with his employment. She qualified for Cobra, but it was nearly beyond her means. Her solution: take a lower paying, ¾ time job that would be accompanied by health care benefits until she qualifies at 65 for Medicare. She had already had a high pressure retail career. She didn’t want that again. In the years since her involuntary retirement Bella had grown used to having discretionary time and was loathe to return to having none. She had interests but was leery of passions because every earlier time in her life she had pursued them they ended up owning her instead of the other way around. Instead, she wanted to sell what she wanted to offer: experience, maturity, reliability, good critical thinking skills, and the ability to get along with all kinds of people.

As Bella and I created her vocational search action plan together, we were both clear that she wanted “Right Fit Employment” that would meet her needs but NOT look or feel like her next, all consuming career. This meant her story would be different, her networking would be different, and her resume(s) would have to be tailored to the opportunities she discovered. In the end she discovered 3 job opportunities that met all of her needs and she knew she could have a fine time at any of them. She chose the best one, free of the burden of failing or having made a bad choice if she didn’t absolutely LOVE her work. She – and her new employer – had made a fine, best-fit-work job.

Kevin, 47, was the “survivor” of several different high tech jobs. His wife, Lisa, was too. Between them they had amassed a fair amount of savings. They were both hard working professionals with absolutely no expectation of permanent employment. And they thought they needed to take a year off regularly, maybe not the same year for both of them. In our work together to create a dual vocational plan, we discovered that they both wanted “shorter term” jobs of 2 years max followed by a year off followed by another couple of years of work. They weren’t worried about not being able to re-enter the workplace and they also weren’t worried about whether or not they totally loved their work. Their network was full of younger people not confined by the old employment rules. Instead they were, frankly, motivated by money and the opportunity to participate in something that could be built and sold. Their passion was focused on the end, transition state of the game, not the 2 years it would take to get there. In fact, they were incredulous about the notion that they should LOVE their work. Being good at it plus the financial end state were what motivated them. And they really liked the idea that they would have different years off so that whoever wasn’t working could be home with the kids, maintaining their home, and being supportive of the working one.

In the end we developed a model of “right fit” employment that rotated, allowing each of them to work and then take time off from work. And they weren’t driven by the total love of their work. This was true for their friends and colleagues, too, one of the possible freedoms of high tech and entrepreneurial lives.

Rhia, 60, is a family law attorney. She thought making Partner in a big firm would be the epitome of success and she could coast from there. She would love her life. That was 18 years ago. What she knows now is that loving her work isn’t the primary metric.   Instead the primary metrics are 1. Building/being in control of her own calendar and work load, 2. Having her clients write her performance review through referrals rather than the Managing Partner doing it, and 3. Finding some greater work/life balance than she was experiencing.

When we did the vocational work together, we were not particularly surprised to discover that she had lost her need to love or dislike her work, as if those were the only two categories. Instead she wanted “best fit” work that matched her primary metrics. She was tired of other attorneys asking her if she was burned out.  She no longer needed  to love or hate it. Instead she wanted it to be a match for her now.

In the end Rhia chose to leave the partnership and join a national online law firm.    Kind of like a private practice with colleagues and referral systems. It has turned out to be a great solution for her.

If you LOVE your work that’s great. We are all happy for you. If you like it but don’t want to measure that part of your life by the LOVE Standard, you won’t be alone. You have lots of options.

What role does LOVE serve in your professional life and how is it a benefit or a burden?     If it isn’t love, what are the best metrics for you now in your work life?

 

Inspiration Might Be Sitting On Your Left

I’ve just come back to the office from a deeply inspiring lunch meeting. For all our important work with “Seniors” and the services many of them need, I think we tend to carelessly lump then together, regularly falling into the trap of no longer seeing them as individuals and very, very bright people with full biographies. The fact is lots of “Seniors” are still trucking along admirably with significant humor, vigor, and insightful thinking. Chronological age is clearly not the primary determinant of much of anything.

I am fortunate enough to belong to an almost 70-year-old professional media and journalism-oriented organization. It is made up of retired print and broadcast executives and professionals, along with the rest of us still working in several forms of journalism and media.

These older men and women were heavy hitters with long careers in exciting times for their industry, complete with opportunities that are now unlikely if not impossible.   It’s always a revelation to occasionally experience myself as one of the youngest people in a room full of really articulate, experienced, passionate people. How often do my peers and I get that chance for inspiration?

Essentially, the organization is a luncheon club where we come together at a common table with microphones available to review and discuss a wide variety of topics from journalism and media perspectives. We discuss current issues of local, national, and international importance (political positions and religion are not permitted). This isn’t a bunch of geezers telling war stories and reminiscing. This is a group of thoughtful, experienced minds coming together for highly informed discussions. About 45 of us gather each time, both men and women. The membership is larger than that, so the attendance is slightly different at each meeting.

What did I find inspiring today, you ask? I’m glad you inquired.

A woman in her late 70s (an unrepentant thespian) played her instrument-studded washboard and sang everything from Jazz to Rap as warmup entertainment. She remarked on her pig tails and wrinkles, and then announced that all it took was moderate musical prowess and, blessedly – no longer having much sense of shame – an increased capacity for joy. She knew how to seize a point and get it across, grabbing our attention without doing or being anyone we would usually expect. And all the while her significant dignity shone through. How many of us can do that well, I ask you?

The gentleman on my left, 93, remarked about having written a piece with his daughter announcing his wife’s recent death for posting on his Facebook page.

Two men in their early eighties got into a heated debate about where journalism ends and media begins. Journalism and media, although we often mash them together, are not synonymous as we all know.

Today there was a general discussion about the November 13 letter to New York Times readers from the Publisher and the Senior Editor reflecting on issues with their campaign and election coverage. Full article HERE .

A famous elections polling analyst/scientist and journalist, easily in his late 70s, talked about the intelligent limits of polling and how they can miss what’s really going on.

I’m not some voyeur at these lunches. When it was my turn, I talked about my notion that we had all been prisoners of the images and language of local/regional/identity politics and, therefore, unwilling and unable to think and behave otherwise. It’s my opinion that we, as a nation, HAVE AN EXCESS OF LANGUAGES AND IMAGES THAT SEPARATE US AND are missing the ALTERNATIVE language and images to understand commonly shared pain and hope, without which we have little opportunity to actually create an inclusive dialogue. I’d like us to do a journalistic investigation of this without having to have another September 11 to pull us all together again.

The lady to my right, in her middle 70’s, is so alert and attentive that her eyes sparkle. She worked with Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, among others, and clearly understood the historic nuances in all of the remarks.

It’s my experience that many of us suffer from absence of intelligent intergenerational engagement and the inspiration that can accompany it.   My grandchildren regularly teach me important information I might otherwise miss entirely. When I say intergenerational engagement, I’m not talking about 3 or 4 generations showing up for a big holiday meal and watching sports on television rather than actually interacting. I’m talking about seizing the opportunity to look to my right and my left and observe the wisdom and perspective each generation brings from the lives they have led, regardless of age.

I’m inspired and this came from accomplished professionals senior to me.

What do you do for inspiration in your own life, especially multigenerational inspiration?

SOME OF THE MANY FACES OF RETIREMENT

There was a time when you said the word “Retirement” and everyone knew what it meant.

There was a consensual definition and set of expectations that looked like this: You had worked for years, probably at the same company, reasonably assured that you could move “up the ladder” as the people above you retired or transferred and made room for you. It was a stable company in which the organizational structure, job titles/descriptions, and experience/skills tended to have long shelf lives. Retirement was something to look forward to; a new and discrete stage of life. The time came at 65 when, after years of service, you were entitled to a parting gift, a recognition party, a pension check (large or small), and the final reward of entering your golden years of endless leisure. Some younger person stepped into your job and overnight you were free of responsibility for the first time in your adult life. You could be and do anything you wanted. It sounded like the ideal situation, although it often didn’t play out that way in practice in the lives of retirees.

Fast forward to Retirement today:

Bill and Doris Green both worked for the same company straight out of college beginning in 1975. When the kids came along, Doris left to be a stay at home mom. Bill changed employers twice, both times for significant promotions in manufacturing management. Pensions and defined benefit plans had, of course, gone away. In their place the Greens made it a priority to put money into 401Ks and employer matching plans as well as building a significant equity in their home over time. When he was 54, with two kids in college, Bill’s company was sold, his job was declared “redundant”, and he was laid off. Despite his best efforts, Bill was unable to land another comparable position in the decreasing pool of such jobs. They lived on their savings. Eventually Doris went to work in retail and Bill went back to school for retraining in technologies. It was a tough time. Their kids are now out of college. Both Doris and Bill are employed. Tearfully, they sold their house at the top of the market and now rent an apartment, which to their great surprise, has proven to be a happy change. They have rebuilt some of their savings but certainly not enough to stop working. As they look toward “Retirement” it looks increasingly like eventual part time work for both of them, indefinitely combined with local interests and activities. Their biggest retirement worry is outliving their money. Retirement isn’t a new and discrete phase of life in their future. It’s an integrated and logical extension of the decisions they are making and the life they are living now.

Barbara Kushner thought she and her husband had it all together financially and personally. They had just retired to Arizona from Ohio. She was looking forward to music and golf – a life of volunteering and good works. Then her husband, Tom, died suddenly. Barbara had never paid attention to the financial side of their lives. Tom took care of all of that. When he died she was suddenly propelled into a relationship with a financial advisor she didn’t know, a set of financial concepts and languages she didn’t understand, and a combination of decisions she wasn’t prepared to make yet couldn’t delay. It turned out that Tom had made two unwise investments that had recently eliminated a large portion of their net worth. She certainly isn’t going to lose the house nor is she going to be destitute. However, she will have to downscale her life style in order to live within her means. For Barbara, retirement looks like learning a whole body of financial knowledge she should have learned earlier, working part time, and gathering her friends and family around her to help her make the necessary transitions.

Carol Folsom and Rick Smedley met in law school years ago. Married early, they both pursued high powered, well paid professional careers. When their daughter came along, they readily adapted to sharing responsibility for her combined with a full time nanny. Their daughter grown and gone, they are both at the top of their careers and beginning to execute on their retirement plan. Carol and Rick had worked intensely hard for years, largely buffered by their professions from the business roller coaster beyond their doors. They are going to keep their condo in Chicago but have also purchased a condo in Florida. They plan winters in Florida and summers at home. Money is not an issue. Having been active and financially able philanthropists for years, they are moving a portion of their money to a Community Foundation in Florida, which will automatically make them members of an elite community of donors and non-profit board members. Rick is buying a boat. Carol is joining a tennis club. They are both planning on taking Lifelong Learning classes. Retirement for Rick and Carol looks like the ability to step into communities and interests that will provide them with new stimulation and friendships.

Ted Dawson failed retirement. Twice. Divorced and unsettled at 60; he jumped on the opportunity to retire, thinking it would be a fresh and wonderful relaunch for him. With his kids’ support, he visited 15 of the cities featured in 99 Best Places To Retire, chose the best one for him, bought a house and moved. This all happened quickly after the announcement was made that he was retiring from dentistry. During the first year in his new home and city, Ted volunteered widely. He worked at developing non-profit board expertise. He threw small dinner parties for other retirees in his neighborhood. Eventually he realized that part time volunteering wasn’t enough in his case and that he needed to find a full time job. For two years he became the Executive Director of a local non-profit. When he had taken the organization as far as he could take it, he retired again. Six months later, he felt as if he was floundering again, clearly wanting something he could own. The solution turned out to come with an opportunity to buy into a local dental practice and work 3 days a week, effectively job sharing with another dentist who wanted ownership and part time practice too. For Ted retirement looks like a combination of ownership, part time practice, volunteering, and uncommitted time.

There was a time when the word “retirement” was a bit like the word “apple”. Say either word and immediately almost everyone had a common image of it in their minds.

Now the word “retirement” is more akin to the word “shoe”. There are hundreds of images and we all need to find/create the right fit for ourselves.

What do you imagine the right retirement fit will look like for you?

The After 50 Goal Shift – From Validation to OK Anyway

Aging, let it be acknowledged, seldom arrives in our lives all at once. Instead, it appears in large and small changes in our environment. I was recently on a crowded metropolitan bus and a very polite teenager stood up and offered her seat. At first I looked around to see where her gestures were directed and was flabbergasted to realize…she was offering her seat to ME.

Gray hair. Loss of longtime friends. Fine print getting smaller (Surely it can’t be our eyes!). Consonants or vowels becoming more elusive in fast paced vocal music.  Widespread challenges to our iconic values and beliefs (like permanent employment, home ownership, the relevance and place of a college education, our alliances with one political party or another). Our precious little grandchildren turning into people as tall (or taller) than we are, with strong opinions and positions of their own. Loss of muscle tone and skin suppleness. The winnowing of what’s important to us and how we continue to reassure ourselves of our potency and efficacy.  Openness (or the opposite) to new experiences.   The tectonic shifts in what we aspire to and what these aspirations mean to us.

All of this is offset, at least in part, by some magical combination of having little left to prove, greater patience with ourselves and others, a much shorter list of things we think of as life and death issues, the reward of longtime friends to whom we don’t have to explain a thing, and new friends who bring fresh ideas and interests to the mix of our lives.

If we’re paying attention this can be an amazingly rich period of life regardless of the national elections and turmoil.

Which brings me to our increasingly tricky relationship with goals After 50.

Earlier in our lives goals were a part of a complex approach to our personal development, and focusing primarily on our goals could be a kind of roller coaster. Still, If things didn’t work out we had lots of recuperative years left to move on and conquer something else. Goals were often irretrievably intertwined with our validation.

Example: Being a salesperson with significant, monthly territory sales goals. If you made your numbers you were on top of the world, but you were only as good as this month’s numbers. Next month you had to prove yourself all over again.

Example: Being a parent whose sense of successful parenting depended upon kids’ grades, athletic prowess, and college admissions. If your kid did well in your eyes, you had achieved your parental goal. If your kid did not do well there was something wrong with both of you. And you couldn’t be really OK until your kid was.

Example: Taking off 25 pounds and fitting into that dress or suit for your high school or college reunion. You were often only as good, at least for that evening, as your weight loss achievement.

Note in each example the direct correlation between your goal achievement and your sense of your own OKness.

Linda and I have friends (a married couple) who are serial entrepreneurs. They worked together in each business across the decades. Two years ago, for the first time, they disagreed. Her goal was to retire. His goal was to start a brand new entrepreneurial business. Eventually the wife capitulated. It was a struggle. He was only going to be as OK as his new venture was successful. How did they get through?  For the first time in their lives together it was OK to have goals BUT NOT to hook their personal OKness to goal achievement. Their OKness had to be hooked to something else or, like the salesperson example above, they could only be as OK as their latest performance and results. Not the ideal condition for high quality of later life.

We also have long time friends who set up an elaborate set of travel goals. They had just retired and were so happy together. Their sense of self-esteem was closely coupled to the goals of being able to check each of the continents off their bucket list until none remained. Quite suddenly the husband died of lung cancer. Was it great that they had goals? Yes. Was it great that, as a widow, the wife’s OKness was uniformly tied to her husband and their shared bucket list of goals? No. She had to do the painful work of creating new goals for herself and not tying her ultimate OKness to them.

This all comes up for me now because I’ve just realized one of my biggest goals. I have signed a contract with a national publisher to publish my new book. Manuscript is due 12/15/16. Publication date is around July 1, 2017.  What’s different for me – and somehow paradoxical – is that I can and do have goals but no longer have the luxury of letting them define my OKness. It’s not easy to give up the success/failure paradigm. I’d have to be pretty much OK whichever way the publication hammer falls.  This is a huge shift in my relationship to goals.

What are your goals now?

What do you do to create your consistent OKness that isn’t tied to goal achievement?

 

When Passive Income Isn’t So Passive

The data is in, and it isn’t pretty. The vast majority of people over 50 don’t have sufficient retirement savings.  On top of that, they don’t have enough time left to save their way out of trouble.

Building enduring income streams is clearly a smart answer, as finance reporter Abby Hayes wrote in a recent piece called “4 Ways to Create a Passive Income in Retirement.”  The trouble is that what she considers passive is anything but. She suggests investing in rental property, dividend stocks and peer-to-peer lending, and also starting a side business.  All sound ideas, but all require work . . . and in some cases, as much work as a part-time job. Here’s why.

  1. Rental property. If you rent a house you will actively have to work with suppliers and repair people, not to mention rental agents and tenants. Sure, you can hire a management company to find and vet tenants, collect the rent and stay on top of repairs and other issues, but you still have to manage the managers. There’s an extra schedule to file on your income tax, too, plus additional insurance to research and buy, and upkeep to do that can eat into your revenue stream.  And if you have trouble with renters, you can be looking at stiff lawyer’s fees. It can take months or longer to get rid of a deadbeat tenant, so that’s no income for however many months they’re in arrears, along with thousands of dollars to evict.
  2. Dividend stocks.  Great idea, especially in this low-interest-rate environment. But deciding which equities (or funds) to invest in requires research, discipline and monitoring. Accounting work, too, at tax time.
  3. Create a side business. What startup in any field is passive? If you have a weekend/evening business in retail, for example, passive isn’t even a possibility. Drive an Uber? The definition of active. Want to be a successful blogger? You will still need to put in many hours every week—plus work with editors, designers and other professionals before you can even think of generating any revenue from it.
  4. Peer-to-peer lending.  If you join a lending network as an investor, you’ll still need to do the homework to decide whose loan to fund, and periodic tracking to make sure it’s working out.

The only kind of passive income streams I’m aware of involve giving your money or assets to someone else to manage for you. Except for periodic performance reviews, that’s my idea of singularly passive.  The rest, I’m afraid, requires a lot of work.

If you are older than 50 without enough set by to “retire” or support yourself for the rest of your life, no action now isn’t an option.  Certainly you can continue to save, but unless you’re saving many thousands each month you won’t have enough time to accrue what you’ll need.  Now is the time to examine the various income stream possibilities that will be best fits for you now and down the road.  You can even begin a business or rental property investment now, keep it small, and build it over time.

Not acting is what got many of us into the retirement savings hole.  Inaction now can only make matters worse.

What passive income streams have you started, or are considering starting? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Read Hayes’ full article HERE 

Rethinking the Retirement Savings Strategy

“Should You Save Enough to Live to 100?”  Liz Weston, writing in NerdWallet, recently posed this question. “First,” she wrote, “you were supposed to die at 85. Then 90. Now 95 and even 100 are common defaults when financial planners tell people how much to save for retirement.  Except that’s nuts. In the U.S., the typical man at age 65 is expected to live another 18 years. The typical woman, about 20. Yet many financial planners contend we should save as if we’re all going to be centenarians.”

According to Ms. Weston’s research, if a 35-year-old wanted to replace 60% of her current $60,000 income at age 65, she would need about $1.2 million in savings (assuming 3% average annual inflation and 7% return on investments) if she expects to live to age 85.  Bump that up to $1.7 million ($5,700 per month) if she lives to be 100.

That’s a tall order for most people, since the average 60-something falls far short of the target, and many people don’t have anything saved for retirement.

This isn’t necessarily because of reckless spending.  Consider Ron and Lisa, a couple who came to me for career strategy work.  They’re both in their 40s, and knew, given the current expenses of three pre-teen kids combined with future weddings and college educations and life enrichment (travel, etc.) that there is zero possibility of them saving their way into financial security when they’re past 70.

When we were strategizing, the subject of “retirement” never came up.  Instead they wanted advice on building additional, part-time income streams and risk assessment support to decide whether Ron or Nancy might be in the better position to leave “permanent employment” and take the chance of making a lot more money over time in a freelance/self-employed situation.  They knew that the future for at least one, if not both, of them would probably mean giving up the illusion of a secure job they could hold indefinitely, while taking responsibility for building income streams they could better control well into their 60s, 70s and beyond.  I asked Nancy and Ron what they were willing to give up.   “Nothing!” was their response. “We just want to be a lot more proactive and a lot smarter about our personal and professional lives.”

So here’s the big question to ponder: Why are we so fixated on that seven-figure lump sum, and worry (now and later) whether it will last as long as we do? Why aren’t we focusing more, as Ron and Nancy are doing, on setting up reliable income streams as well as saving as much as we can?

The point is that we need to overhaul our entire retirement-finance strategy, based on assumptions that reflect the new reality. We certainly should be asking more questions, starting with:

  • What we can do if we don’t have a big enough nest egg if we live into our 90s or longer?
  • How we can live well on less than 60% of our current income?
  • Is 60% of current income even the right parameter?
  • Is 90 the right default age for financial planning calculators?

What are other questions you think we should be asking ourselves – individually and collectively – on the way to creating a more appropriate plan for financial security as we age? Please leave your suggestions in Comments.

Here’s the link to Liz Weston’s article: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/plan-live-100

Rethinking the 4-Stage Life Model

 

Remember the four-stage life model?

1. Childhood

2. Education

3. Work and Family

4. Retirement

It seemed to work so well for our parents and grandparents.  But our world is very different from theirs.  So is this model obsolete?

For many, if not most of us, I believe the answer is a resounding YES.

 

Why?  Let me count some of the ways.

  1. Many of us are living far longer than our parents’ generation, and with those additional years (even decades) our needs and expectations will be different than in generations past.   Will you live longer and healthier than your parents?
  2. The famous financial planning three-legged stool may require a fourth leg.  The first leg, the planned benefit retirement with pensions, is growing scarce.  The second, Social Security,  may be at risk, at least in the form it is now.  The third, retirement savings, is, in the majority of households, grossly insufficient.  Many people will need extended, if smaller, income streams from some type of work for pay to bring some stability to the weakened legs of the stool.   Do/will you have all three legs in place and absolutely assured?   How long will you have to work for pay at what you are doing now?  Might you need or want additional income stream(s)?
  3. The elimination of entire segments of jobs, companies, and industries puts income security at risk.  What we studied in college and learned in the jobs we later held are no longer a guarantee of employability in the future.  How solid is the match between your skills/expertise and the emerging, in-demand jobs/gigs in today’s world of work for pay?   What have you done to update your employability and skill set?
  4. Many of our institutions—marriage, churches, healthcare systems, employee/employer partnerships, governments—have transformed, and in so doing weakened traditional safety nets.  With later-in-life divorces on the rise, the perceived value of churchgoing on the wane, healthcare costs rising, employers showing little loyalty to employees and government programs inadequate, that support has weakened. Can anyone or any institution be more responsible for you than you are?  Upon which institutions can you depend for your future?

The alternative

If the four-stage life model is outmoded, what should take its place?

I propose a six-stage model:

1. Childhood

2. Work/Education

3. Work/Family

4. Work/Extended Mid Life

5. Work/Leisure, and

6. Needs Help Elderly

What?  No retirement?   How unfair!   Well, not really.    Let’s get real here, one stage at a time.

Childhood.  Childhood used to be simple to identify.  Children were young and shorter and less mature.  And with years and height and experience, they grew out of it.  And left home.  Now it’s much more complicated.  Kids move out and often move back in, not always alone.   Employment problems, financial difficulty, marital problems, and saving money for education are only a few contributing factors.  While these kids may also be grownups, and living with parents on an extended basis prolongs the parent/kid bond, the jury is still out on the long-term impact on both the adult children and the aging parents.  For purposes of this blog I would like to define children as those dependent upon their parents for financial support, judgment and critical thinking, and guidance about crucial life choices.

Work/Education.  At some point in high school or before/during college, some experience of the world can make a huge contribution to the quality of learning and depth of maturity.  Malia Obama is going to take a “gap year” before going to Harvard as a freshman.   Gap year doesn’t mean empty time or a traditional job.  It means the space for transformative learning between academics-dominated periods of time.   Ms. Obama is not average, I admit, but she isn’t non-representative either.  My own 17-year-old granddaughter, Laura, will be living with my wife Linda and me this summer (a gap summer!) between her junior and senior years of high school.  She will be volunteering 2 days a week at a marine biology center and interning 3 days a week at a regional Women’s Resource Center.

In my day, work and education were considered separate realms.  Today, with technologies and integrated learning, I think they do and must overlap.

Work/Family.  Eventually Laura will complete college, find one or more good fits in the work for pay department (not necessarily a job), and join/form one or more bonded groups.   Some will be genetically connected and some won’t.   All may form a part of extended family.

Work/Extended Midlife.  If we’re going to live longer and healthier, we have a choice to make.  Do we want to add those years to our elderly period or would we like to add them to our midlife?  I vote for midlife.  Why?  Because the period between 50 and elderly can be the most rewarding of our lives.  We can do some of the most significant, creative, meaningful things in our lives at this time.  And we may want to consider a kind gap year for ourselves—not between high school and college or college and graduate school, but between careers.

Work/Leisure.  We may not be slowing down as we age, but there will be a shift in the balance between work (freelancing, entrepreneurial efforts, jobs) and leisure (volunteering, individual creative projects, athletics, hobbies, travel).  Certainly not a dead stop, as in one day fully employed, next day fully retired.   We’ll still be driven by the need for an income stream, extended belonging (which we often find at our place of work) and ongoing intellectual stimulation.

Needs Help/Older.  We may not be the first to realize we’ve reached the point where we need help in one or more aspects of our lives.  Regardless, denial may arise.  So may reality.  I think it’s a skill, certainly a graceful skill, to listen well to someone who thinks we need help and then make a clean, informed decision about it.  It’s an equally graceful skill to notice something about ourselves and ask for help.

The distribution of our lives over a longer time frame will require reorienting ourselves to altered realities and needs.  It will also mean surrendering models that are obsolete, and that can take tenacity and courage.

What are you doing in anticipation of your own future life?

 

The Real Future of Work – Part 2

This post is a follow up to my first blog on The Real Future of Work – Part 1, which you can read HERE if you’re interested.

I was intrigued by management consultant Ron Ashkenas’s article, Navigating The Emotional Side of a Career Transition, in the Harvard Business Review.  Ashkenas had worked for the same firm for 37 years, starting just after graduate school, and decided to try a new path.  He found himself struggling in ways he didn’t predict. He was facing three hurdles:

  • Sense of guilt
  • Adjusting his personal identity and sense of self
  • Letting go of old patterns and habits.

I think Mr. Ashkenas has hit the nail on the head when he talked about obstacles and solutions. I’d like to add the following to the conversation.

We will increasingly need to be the CEOs of our own professional lives. We can’t passively allow our employers to decide our careers; our professional success is not their main interest (our performance is), but it should be ours.

Accustomed as we may be to our one-professional-thing-identities (as in dentist, plumber, mechanic, attorney) we may not be able to make an adequateliving doing only one thing under one label in the future.  And we may not want to.  We still ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, reinforcing that the best answers are one-word answers.  That doesn’t work any morewhen you’re asking a kid. How many 12 or 22 year olds know what single work they will pursue for the rest of their lives?  We need a smarter question to ask ourselves as adults. What choices of work situations will give us the best and most remunerative experience in the next 3-5 years?  Beyond that we probably can’t predict with any accuracy.

Mr. Ashkenas’s experience will not be universally applicable.  Many of us have not had one job/employer/career.  We have had several. For lots of us, this variety can be a source of confidence.  We made major changes before and we can again.  On the other hand for lots of us, multiple job or career changes can make transitions worse because we blame ourselves for failing to find our one true calling to which we could devote our entire work lives.  I believe it’s a trap to believe that each of us had only a single career that should last a lifetime.  Maybe we have several which are concurrent or sequential.

Letting go of old patterns and habits will have to be bigger than shaking off the patterns and habits of a single, long-term profession or job.  The letting go must also include the willingness to NOT pursue a single replacement for what we’re letting go. We already know that many people older than 50 are statistically the last hired AND, given the hollowing out of the middle management tier, they are unlikely to be hired into a job of comparable status, responsibility and compensation than the one they left.  Seeking only a new job to replace the old one cuts them off from a substantial pool of emerging work possibilities.  And this presumes they have kept their skills and expertise not only current but leading edge.   And it presumes little if any age discrimination.

Welcome to the new world of work for pay.

I’m happy that unemployment rates are down and that the economy is doing well.  That said, now is the time to think not only about the next economic downturn but also how you can start now to build sustainable, small income streams so that being unemployed or searching for a scarce or non-existent job aren’t your only two options.

Click HERE to read Ashkenazi’s article.

 

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