Life Lessons Learned
Welcome to Career2Retirement. As a seasoned professional development practitioner and certified coach, I help individuals advance their potential. I view personal growth and development as a lifelong journey, rather than a destination. What’s more, I believe that, through this journey, learning becomes holistic, encompassing the complete person and how they think, feel, perceive, and behave.
Here are some highlights of my personal journey, and lessons that I have learned along the way.
My 30s. Experiment and Experience.
With college and my first job in the rear-view mirror, married with kids, and having purchased our first house, I recognized two patterns in my life: Getting–Gaining and Learning–Earning. I recall constantly feeling impatient, starving for the next opportunity, chance or experience.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Learning from a Mentor. For a seven-year period, I was fortunate to have a client about twenty-five years my senior. He enlightened me with his stories and his role as father of a large family with children of high school and college age. I took mental notes of the breadth and depth of experiences in his life and career journey. His wisdom and knowledge seemed rooted stronger than an elm tree standing for decades against all the elements. Early Career Mentors often open new doors and make introductions critical to early career success. They share a relationship that can be game changing.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Preparing for Life’s “What ifs.” From my impatience in the form of learning and earning, I found myself looking ahead, typically five or ten years, asking myself the “what if” questions. What will my career and family look like? Will I be financially prepared for the next chapter of my life? What should I do to afford college for our two sons? How can I invest enough? How will life change when the nest is empty? Finding my way forward by thinking ahead enabled me to view these questions as life choices. Today, some thirty years later, this viewpoint fuels my passion for visioning and strategic thinking. My retirement coaching is all about helping my clients align their life choices with their values.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Preferred Learning Styles. I understood another source of learning was my preferred learning style. Reading was, and still is, my preferred learning style. I learned I could read and reread an idea or theme any number of times, then chew on it for days or weeks or longer if I liked. I could also seek another author or expert and look at many viewpoints. Today, My Learning Path leverages your preferred learning style.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: The Answer Within. I established a Human Resources (HR) consulting practice in my thirties, working with 200 global insurance/financial service firms. Among other expertise, I provided three to six months of transition coaching for hundreds of displaced employees, in the form of my corporate outplacement practice. I enabled the employees to take ownership of and solve life challenges as significant as their loss of employment. I quickly learned that I did not need to hold the answer, that they had the answers all along. Through my coaching, I provide the environment and forward-looking space for your transitional journey.
My 40s. Intentional Learning Environments.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Mindset Matters. The decade of my 40s provided me with growth and opportunity in direct relation to my growth mindset. At age 40, a transition choice in the form of corporate relocation from an expensive area provided not only welcome financial relief, but also vast opportunities. I discovered that abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. The power of a growth mindset ignited my love of learning. Experiential learning was a new skill I started to understand and apply to accelerate my career growth. Mindset and drive together soon yield to ability and achievement.
My “coach and develop” style advanced further when my employer, a company with 25,000 employees worldwide, was acquired by a company with 5,000 domestic employees. Talk about transitions! 25,000 long-term employees were asked to shift their thinking and being to the approach of a smaller organization. As one of their HR directors for the next seven years, I traveled the country, coaching 200 corporate leaders toward a new understanding of corporate performance standards, and a new perspective of life—or in the direction of other opportunities. Through multiple additional corporate acquisitions, I worked with hundreds of employees as they evaluated their life choices and next steps.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: When is Enough, Enough? Traveling the country working seventy-five hours a week, I started to question why. Stuck on the earn-and-spend treadmill, I began to ask myself when is enough, enough? How much, and how many possessions, do I really need in life? Approaching these questions helped me to sort through my needs and wants, and to understand the emotional costs behind material possessions. Such awareness is critical to reaching retirement goals, and is a frequent question of coaching clients.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Recognition of Character Strengths. Leveraging my top two character strengths—love of learning and creativity—I served as Senior HR Manager and designed a new role, Senior Organizational Effectiveness Manager, with a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company. This enabled me to create a space where dialog and introspection could occur. I co-developed an internal coaching practice with ten coaches-in-training, presented leader development courses, and provided individual leader coaching through seven stress-filled years with rigorous government oversight.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: More Mentors and My Coaches. During my 40s, two more mentors came into my life—a Senior Vice President of HR, and an Industrial Psychologist who consulted leadership on all people matters. The experience of deep, impactful one-on-one dialogs with these two-people expanded my perspective and enabled me to see other points of view. These mentors created an environment of trust and candor, and left nothing sugar-coated. They provided guidance on in-house practices, navigating the politics, and the new business culture—critical when 25,000 employees are joining a 5,000-employee company and a new large corporate experience knocks at the front door of your career. Today, 70% of F500 companies have either formal or informal mentor opportunities. I also worked with my own coaches, who singularly focused on my individual development needs. Mentoring and coaching (separate and distinct) are effective when used appropriately. Often confused or misunderstood, in a word, mentoring is telling and coaching is inquiry.
Professionally, I earned the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification (SPHR), and served as local instructor for the PHR/SPHR certification courses with The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). I also served as adjunct faculty in human resources and organizational development at the college level for a few years.
My 50s. Midlife, the Gateway to the New World.
Many would say that midlife, in your 50s, is the most productive period of your life. I agreed when I shifted my definition of “productive.” As I coached and worked to develop others, “productive” became the journey rather than an endpoint. Who did I want to be, rather than what? Realizing my passion, my entire being was dedicated toward helping others reach their fullest potential. This is where I remain today, ever more devoted to this new coaching practice.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Life is a Series of Transitions. At this point in my career journey, I was described by others as transformational. While I typically carried relevant knowledge of technical subjects, I now had the opportunity to help others explore their life experiences and transitions. I coached both individuals and leadership teams to help them find the hidden meanings and pitfalls of their transitions. Helping clients connect the dots of the numerous transition points through which they have traveled creates in them a new awareness and knowledge. As a coach, I create the space for reflection and new awareness to occur.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Generativity, Guiding the Next Generation. In my early 50s, I noticed a pattern developing. Working with successive organizations during this decade, I saw that my team members were frequently bestowed honors and awards for their outstanding contributions. Creating an environment of trust and bringing out the best in others became one of my guiding principles. By developing a rich and powerful connection with individuals and fostering a synergistic flow of creative energy, I enabled them to achieve goals beyond their dreams. Active listening, meeting individuals where they are, and demonstrating unconditional respect opened the dialog for a deeper stretch and personal growth. Success seemed to follow. In midlife, I was lighting the path for others.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: The Journey, not the Destination. As I became less compelled to compete, I found I could “stretch” by developing myself in leadership roles in organizations across multiple industries. Reinventing my skills took precedence as I strove toward new and unique opportunities. Once again, the power of first time experience proved critical. During this decade, I also enjoyed collaborating with several authors, contributing professional and personal development expertise to their books, including Knock ’em Dead: Secrets and Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World (Yate,) Lessons from a CEO’s Journal (Ruyle) and The Management Map (Avrin.)
A few years after the passing of the psychologist who had been my mentor, I completed my second Master’s degree, this time in Industrial Organizational Psychology. I also served as a national volunteer on the Special Expert Organizational Development Panel for the Society for Human Resource Management, where I frequently contributed blog posts and articles for the benefit of 275,000 members worldwide.
I had accumulated academic credentials, professional certifications, and experience in the form of many unique roles. However, as I looked ahead, asking the “what-if” questions, I knew it was time to start preparing for the journey of my 60s. According to Carl Jung “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego; the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” Learning that life is a series of transitions enabled me to start letting go of status, labels, and achievements which I had perceived as my persona.
My 60s. My Here and Now.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Looking Ahead a Few Years, Asking the “What If” Questions. Being a certified coach requires rigorous re-certification and ongoing training. To co-create my own path to “retirement” in my 60s, I earned a retirement coaching certification and joined a large network of retirement coaches. This provided a sort of test drive as my wife and I “looked ahead, asking those ‘what-if’ questions.” By seeking coaches and tools in the retirement coaching community, I worked through the fears, anxiety, and uneasiness of the unknown. I am celebrating past career achievements and role titles acquired along my journey and LETTING THEM GO! I am ready once again to learn my way forward through another transition.
My earlier life lessons taught me that a growth mindset really matters. To align my actions with my personal values, I completed training using The VIA Institute on Character. In my coaching, I bring forward my top strengths, love of learning and creativity, so that I can enable clients to develop strategic options and choices. My preferred learning path will always be that of a life-long learner.
Career2Retirement Life Lesson: Embrace Uncertainty and Be Open to New Opportunities.
In my individual journey, meaningful work became very personal, no longer something measured by the company time clock, but an endeavor where I can deeply invest in purpose, passion, learning, and creativity. Past productivity of the 9-5 workday has now been replaced by purpose and passion in the form of Career2Retirement. It is no longer a question of what I am going to do in my “retirement,” but who I want to be!
No life journey is a linear path. There are going to be many bumps and bruises, difficulties and disappointments, as well as many learning opportunities along the way. My journey is no exception. But rest assured, as your coach I will meet you wherever you are in your journey and help you light your path.
The youthful impatience of getting–gaining, learning–earning has now shifted to serving others as a transition coach, helping every individual client develop new ideas, visualize new goals, embrace new strategies, and acquire new skills to pursue their growth opportunities along their own Career2Retirement.