Is it Ever Too Late or Too Difficult for your Next WorkLife Chapter?
“If not now, when?” Ronald Reagan
Longevity means there is space for many new WorkLife chapters, but is it ever too late? I do not think so. Let me share John’s story, who at 69 wanted to consider his next WorkLife chapter.
A Case Study
John’s WorkLife Longevity Story
John’s WorkLife began in the forces where he was an engineer before moving into production management in the computer industry. From there he moved into design and manufacturing in the telecoms industry, then on to Operations Director in the pharmaceutical industry, before moving into consultancy work in the tobacco industry. His work took him all over the world, and along the way he undertook various pieces of research and development and also worked closely with HR departments delivering training and development.
Then he decided to retire and move to the South of France. But a few months and many gastronomic delights later John was beginning to become a little bored, and wondered if he had retired just a little too early. Not one to sit on his laurels he undertook a building development project, which led to another, and before he knew it he was sourcing French properties for folks back in the UK and project managing the development work.
So as you can appreciate John is a man of many talents and when we began our work together he wanted to figure out what he wanted to do that would fit into semi-retirement – keep him mentally stimulated, but also give him the scope to do nothing if he chose to. Nothing other than developing his appreciation for fine wines, fine food and fine art that is –and learning to perfect his French and playing boules.
This was no ordinary job-search campaign and we soon agreed his best plan of action was to connect with people he had met throughout his WorkLife, just by way of catching up for a coffee or beer and having a chat about things in general. Well no sooner did he do this when an opportunity arose for him to deliver some very specialist consultancy training work, whereby he was training the consultancy firm’s consultants for this specific field-based work.
He has now established himself as the person they come to when they bring new consultants on board, and he has also been asked to be a Non-Executive Director supporting the development of talent with a commitment of one day a month over ten months of the year. Un coup de chance? (a stroke of good luck?) Maybe a little luck, but I have come to learn that the better we are the luckier we become! And John is top of the game in terms of being good.
So, it is never too late to begin your next WorkLife chapter, and the wealth of your skills and experience will be of great value whether you are joining a company or you are starting a venture of your own.
A Case Study
It was the Worst of Times and Then it got Even Worse: The Story of the Waltons in the Most Difficult of Times
There have been many difficult times throughout history, perhaps none more so than the Great Depression followed closely by World War II. The Waltons TV series set during these times demonstrated how the family navigated their WorkLives during these difficult times.
When The Waltons first came to our screens it was set in the time of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, companies were closing down, and people needed to be creative in their thinking when it came to finding themselves a job or set up in business. Not so different to how it is now, really.
Then the storyline moved to World War II, which deeply affected the family. Their WorkLives became very different. It forced them to put aspects of their WorkLives aside or on hold. They had to diversify in line with the demands of the time. It was also formative in charting their immediate and pursuing WorkLife chapters.
What might have made it even more difficult for the Waltons was that they lived in a very small community, and so perhaps there was not a lot of scope for enterprise. However when they did venture further afield to the bigger towns, there may have been more opportunities. But there was also more competition, again not so different to how things are now.
And yet they all managed to find work when they needed to. They were quite inventive about it really and managed to utilise, embrace and nurture their unique talents, skills and attributes, whether that was in their small community or when up against the competition in the bigger towns and cities.
The grandparents and parents instilled strong values in the children, along with a strong belief that they could achieve their heart’s desire. They recognised and encouraged the unique talents, skills and attributes within each child, and gave them a supportive push in striving towards their goals.
They did not have the financial capacity to fund their education; but the belief they instilled in each child provided a greater capability to achieve the WorkLife they aspired to, far more than funding their education would ever have done. Each one worked hard for what they wanted, which resulted in even greater appreciation and gratification. I think the old adage of ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat well today, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat well for the rest of his life’ is appropriate here.
The grandparents, parents and in turn the siblings were a great support to each other along their WorkLife journeys. They were, I think, both mentors and mentees at various stages as they all supported each other in their learning, growth and development. As much as we have evolved since the time of the great depression, and World War II, and organisations are becoming more international and global, many things remain the same.
We all have the capacity to be both mentors and mentees, to share our knowledge, wisdom and expertise, and even among the international and global organisations there is space for the values and beliefs demonstrated in the Walton family. Simple perhaps, but as I think many of us have come to realise in an increasingly complex world ‘simplicity’ is becoming a key value.
The Waltons TV series was based on the book Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr. He based the characters off his own family.
From a young boy he had a passion to become a writer, and began by recording his thoughts about his family, friends and circumstances, writing stories in a journal. He wrote and published his community and college newspaper. On graduating he moved to New York to fulfil his dream of becoming an author. After the attack on Pearl Harbour he enlisted in the military, and wrote as a war correspondent for the US Army’s newspaper Stars and Stripes. After the war ended, he returned to New York and turned his attention to reporting news. He went on to become a novelist.
Enjoyed composing music for harmonica, guitar and piano. He attended the Kleinberg Conservatory of Music. He joined the National Guard, and during the war became a sergeant in the army. He landed a job playing honkytonk piano at a local tavern, which he later came to own.
Followed her ambition to go into medicine, gained an education as a medical worker and became a nurse. Ending up taking care of people out in the country by herself, she concluded they needed more medical expertise than she could offer, and so she continued studying medicine until she succeeded in becoming a doctor.
Had an entrepreneurial spirit and embarked on various schemes, some more successful than others. He also fought in the war and was taken prisoner by the Japanese. Between times he ran the family sawmill in partnership with his father.
Worked as a telephone operator while finishing school. She struggled to find her place, as she was not an academic like John-Boy, or musical like Jason, interested in medicine like Mary-Ellen, or entrepreneurial like Ben. She took a part-time job at a business college, and when the owner saw her helping out at the unattended front desk answering and assisting callers, allowed her to work her way through the business school. She went on to become an executive secretary, then personnel manager, going on to become the plant’s assistant manager. Later in life she earned a teaching certificate leading her to become a school principal.
Was fascinated by aeroplanes and aspired to become a pilot. However increasingly poor eyesight forced him to give up this dream. He went on to become a mechanic and opened his own business.
Had an inquisitive mind and a talent for writing. She joined the Peace Corp. A free spirit she struggled to settle down and travelled the globe looking for adventure.
Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters
When you do not know what to expect, have great expectations for your next WorkLife chapters.
Navigate the In Between Assignment
What one word, phrase or sentence describes how you want your WorkLife to be. For John it was: “To keep him mentally stimulated but also give him the scope to do nothing if he choose to.”
For the Waltons it was: “To utilise, nurture and embrace their unique talents, skills, and attributes.”
Next you enrol in the greatest seminar in the world. *The seminar of your everyday life. To be a student you must pay attention to the teacher; experience itself, and when you do the learning process begins.
There are many reasons to engage in this seminar. The desire to learn is as fundamental to our being as the desire to survive. We are changed by the way in which we work. We develop qualities as well as skills. Intellectual, emotional, creative and intuitive capacities are developed through our WorkLife experiences. Determination, courage, commitment, empathy, imagination and a host of communication skills are built.
Remain observant and curious to the world around you, to learning about the unknown, and opportunities will present themselves. You can set learning goals when you know what you want and need to learn. Be as clear as you can about what you want to learn and why, then be prepared to follow your interest and be open to the unexpected.
Moral of this Story
Your next WorkLife chapter is waiting for you. The key is not to force it. Instead look at it from another angle, or just pause and see what comes to the surface. Think of this as an active pause, where you change your routine, or put yourself in different situations. Ideas and opportunities will present themselves. They may appear to come from nowhere, but the truth is you will have created them.
Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback
During your active pause be open to experiences that require creative thinking: yours and other people’s. Let this guide you to learning what you need to learn, and to knowing what you can do with the learning you already have within you, in a new and different context.
Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning
Pay attention to the opportunities you are discovering. This will prompt questions to allow you to know what to do next to make the most of this WorkLife experience. Ask:
What do I already know that I can adapt to this WorkLife experience?
What parts of this WorkLife experience are best suited to teach me what I want and need to learn?
Words of Wisdom
You are the author of your WorkLife story. This is not the end, it is just the beginning.
*The seminar of your everyday life has been adapted from The Inner Game of Work by Timothy Gallwey.
© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated
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