Before you consider your next job change or even career change, you must look at the kind of lifestyle you want today and in the future. As you determine the course of your career path, you’ll discover that other facets of your life will enter into the picture as well–where your life, how you spend your money, how you spend your free time. This career-planning time is also time to think about life planning. When I meet with my clients for the first time, before I ask them what they want to do, I ask them what kind of life they want to live.
Even in carefree Hawaii, there’s an expression – Pau Hana–meaning “after work,” Until the last decade, most of our lives were built around work and after work. It always seemed upside-down to me that our society encourages us to work long hours at something we hate to get a few hours to do something we love. When I grew up in the Midwest, it was the highest of compliments to be referred to as a ‘good’ worker or ‘hard’ worker.
Our days are typically divided into getting ready for work, going to work, working, working lunches, working late, going home from work, dinner and doing the work we took home to do and then planning for the next day of work.
And so day in and day out, 50 weeks a year with two weeks off, we follow this cycle. And we join–you guessed it–the “rat race” until we are so worn out that we have to be retired.
As we’ve already discussed, you’ll probably have as many as seven careers (or more) in your lifetime. As my mom said so succinctly when I told her the title of this book, “Yes, no more one job.” If you are value-driven and lifestyle-driven, you’ll find it much easier to create a rewarding career, when it fits in with your lifestyle.
Integrate your life/work choice: not starting over -starting ‘better’!
Just remember, this time, you’re not starting over–you’re starting “better”. In writing this chapter, I wanted to include spectacular stories of people who would inspire you to believe that you could trade your tie for a lasso and ride the open range or sell your BMW and spend the next season of your life climbing Mt. Everest. But, when I looked at the case histories, I found that some of them are indeed spectacular, but others may appear more ordinary for “getting a life, not just a job” is a highly personal venture.
Here are three examples of how people not only changed their careers but integrated their choices into their lives:
I had the good fortune to work with international baseball hero Sadahara Oh, “the Japanese Babe Ruth”. Oh San, as he is called, retired from baseball and yearned to give back to the people some of the joy of the game he had so loved. It was my honor to work with him to set up the World Children’s Baseball Foundation, a camp where kids around the world meet to play ball for a few weeks each year. By sharing what he loved, he created a new career for himself in the process. But he didn’t do it alone. I worked with him to create a board of advisors ranging from Hollywood celebrities to business leaders to other athletes to help make his dream come true. Now he can travel around the world each summer visiting his baseball camps in foreign lands.
Another extraordinary man was already integrating his career with his lifestyles while he was still in his 20’s. I met Douglas Heir while working with Olympians Mary Lou Retton and
Bob Richards on the Wheaties Search for Champions – a national quest for outstanding amateur athletes. The heir was a member of the U.S. Olympic team wheelchair division. He won four medals at the World Olympic Wheelchair games in the javelin and discus competitions. At the time I met him, Heir was also a law student and teaching assistant at Rutger’s University. He would not settle for just one career but rather combined his athletic prowess with his quest for the law.
Gina, another client, discovered that her true calling was in social work. “There is nothing more fulfilling than helping build a community center brick by brick, board by board with your own hands,” she explains. A stint as a volunteer on a local crisis line led her to go back to school at 35 to get her master’s degree in social work. After she lost her job Enron, thought the world was over but volunteered at the local YWCA. It was there, working with their ‘displaced homemaker’ program, she realized that just getting another corporate job in Human Resources would not be enough.
Too old to change your life?
Many people worry that they are too old to start over. Yet, I’ve found that my clients successfully career at all ages. San Francisco actor and writer Dean Goodman dreamed his whole life of doing films, and in his 70’s broke in as a co-star on a Francis Ford Coppola movie.
In researching this book, I came across an interesting fact about illustrator H.A. Rey, noted for his charming drawings of Curious George, the nosey little monkey who is always getting himself in and out of trouble. Rey, who lived from 1898 to 1977, sold bathtubs up and down the Amazon River from the age of 26 to 38 until he married his wife, Margaret. Then he embarked on an artistic career that produced the wonderful “Curious George” book series. From bathtub salesman on the Amazon to children’s book illustrator with books now on Amazon.com Quite a lifestyle change!
Life changes brought on by a crisis
Not all career changes are planned, many start by accident or when people like you and me go through tough times–divorce, downsizing, and even financial crisis.Actor Ed O’Neil, probably best known as Al Bundy on the classic television show “Married with Children” was a professional football player at one time. After being cut from the pro team, he decided to take a break (like many of my clients do) and stay in Florida where he had been in spring training. He supported himself as a bellboy coincidentally at the same hotel he had stayed at as a ballplayer.
He needed what I call a “station break” in life. This is not an easy time for most of my clients. And in fact, making a transition is often filled with a potpourri of emotions–confusion, anger, regret, and hope. And challenges. As a bellboy, O’Neil was called to the front desk one day to carry the bags of some of his former team members who were back in town to play football. Can you imagine what kind of razzing he must have taken? He reports that he kidded them right back – using that sarcastic brand of humor that would become his trademark on TV in the future. And he also accepted the tips. Of all the qualities that help during a transition, I’ve found that the ability to ‘lighten up’ is one of the best. And to realize as O’Neil did then, that this limbo period is not permanent. Someday, you, like O’Neil will move onto the next episode and maybe even a ‘starring’ role.
Where will you live?
Where you live need not be driven by career choice, but by “personal” decision. With a plan of action, the right technology, a bit of capital and lots of ingenui9ty, you can choose to live in the mountains, in the city, on both coasts or abroad–no matter what profession you want to practice. You may want to choose where you live before you consider what you want to do.
BEST PLACES TO LIVE AND WORK?
Just what are the best places in America to live? MONEY magazine publishes it’s new list each summer, comparing about 300 different areas across the country.
Check your library for other reference books or search the Internet. According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the best cities for jobs were (in alphabetical order) Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington C. No wonder so many ‘dot-com’ alumni moved to the Sunbelt cities.
SMALL TOWN OR BIG CITY: TECH TAKES WORK ANYWHERE.
If you’re raising kids, you’ll want to choose a family-oriented community. The organization Zero Population Growth considers 10 factors including population stability, crowding, child health, crime, education, air quality and water resources in determining their top cities. But you may want to find out where the best hiking trails are where the best fishing ponds are located so that you can enjoy your favorite hobbies together with your family.
Remember, “bigger isn’t always better”. A Zero Population growth spokesperson says, “We found a strong correlation between the size of a city or metropolitan area and the overall stress on children”.
To find out more about other areas of the country and even job opportunities in Europe or Asia, check with chambers of commerce and online. Many will send you sophisticated packages including fancy DVDs of their town. Some chambers and Economic Development groups will refer you to local recruiters for their area if you have a skill they need. Or just head to the area you’re interested in for a quick weekend. Recently, while staying at a bed and breakfast in a small rural town, the owner tried to get one of my career clients to change her life and help start a local museum with her. All my clients had intended to do was visit the area where her grandparents had owned a farm, but the weekend trip turned quickly into a career and life opportunity.
Matching what you want to do with where you want to live can be a creative process. Think about “your” career and life choices. How could you make them happen in a big city? In a small town? Let’s look at these two options with a few different career choices.
1. Want to be a writer/novelist or screenwriter?
Big city: You may choose to be a tech writer at a major computer firm by day and write science fiction tomes by night. You may want to hit New York and get an old college
roommate who lives there to underwrite your off-off-Broadway play. Or look up that college celebrity you went to grade school with and head to Hollywood to see if you can get a gig writing for her new reality show.
Small town: Consider turning your family’s Mountain cabin into a writer’s retreat and bring in some old professors to lead some seminars – go ahead, be brave moderate some of the short story workshops yourself. You can telecommute to your company’s headquarter’s in Denver from your ski chalet in Aspen. Think ‘outside-the-box’, love Yosemite -go ahead and set up a regional theatre repertory program on weekends and work as a forest ranger during the week. Who knows one of the highly-stressed tourists you meet may be a Broadway talent agent.
2. Yearn to be a travel tour leader or a river rafting guide?
Big city: You may choose to create ‘arm-chair’ multimedia adventures for local travel firms
or get a gig with your local cable station and start your travel show.
Small town: Check out the scores of caverns, caves or other natural resources nearby and
become a tour guide for adventure trips. Organize a 21st Century travel blog online linking
handicapped travelers together for the adventures of their lifetime.
3. Want to own your own business?
Big city: Are you a great barbecue chef? Consider setting up your weekend barbecue
catering business as fund-raisers for schools and other non-profits.
Small town: Open up a summer-time only open-air barbecue pit near the largest campground
in the area. In the winter, find a major food conglomerate to buy your family secret barbecue
4. Want to sail around the world?
Big city: head to the nearest marina and open up a ‘time-share’ visit for other would-be sailors who can help finance the boat of your dreams. Borrow a pal’s Digital Video camera and document wealthy yacht owners special occasions. You get to sail for free while you sharpen your film prowess.
Small town: Teach sailing to the scouting troupes in the area or design a senior’s only class for everyone who shares your dream.
To challenge your creativity, consider small-town/big-city options for the following careers and lifestyles:
* Contributing to the world.
*Preserving local history.
*Share a love of gardening and landscaping.
As you consider your lifestyle choices and where you’d like to live, there are other factors you may want to weigh:
*Your family situation. Do you have a spouse? Do you want one? Children? Are you a single parent? Does an ex-spouse have visitation rights? Are you single looking for a new partner? Do you have any family commitments that might keep you in a certain area?
*Your bank account. Do you have at least six months of living expenses to get you started in your new community? Keep in mind that the cost of living varies from community to city. Six months bed and board in a small town might total only $10,000 or less, while in a big metropolitan city that might not even cover moving expenses for a family of four.
*Your hobbies and leisure life. Can’t live without a quiet walk in the country each weekend? Do you thrive on theatre and nightlife? Whether it’s rock climbing or rodeo wrangling, make sure you choose a locale that’s compatible with your recreational interests or be prepared to start your rodeo.
*Your social life. True, you can meet terrific people just about everywhere you go. But you may find that your social life revolves around your church or synagogue. All too often many of my clients depend on work to spark their social activities, and when they change jobs they feel left out. Plan to hook up with local community organizations or your alumni chapters in the new location.
But what if you can’t afford to move?
Like many of my clients, you may feel limited by lack of resources – the green kind! But don’t worry, there are ways to beat the bank.
Consider house-swapping, There are lots of online websites that offer to formally swap homes in the country for skyscraper condos in the city. Be sure to check them out carefully to make sure the one you choose is legit. I’ve found that it’s often easier to just tell someone you’d like to swap your apartment for a mountain cabin -professional organizations like Women in Film or the manager of your gym may have a pal or relative yearning for just such an opportunity.
Investigate house-sitting in the city of your choice. If you’re handy, the absentee owner may even pay you a fee for your assistance in fixing that broken porch or mending the roof.
How about going international?
What if you’d love to live in Switzerland or deep-sea fish on an island in Micronesia? It’s possible to even on a budget. Before you jump off the deep-end, consider these options:
1) You may want to take a leave of absence from your teaching gig and live in Barbados for a month before you make the final commitment.
2) You may want to see if you can get a regular gig in the new locale, even if you yearn to buy a franchise in the region or set up your small biz. Having a job will give you time to check out the region without touching your capital.
3) You may want to work for an American company internationally that has offices or worksites in the locals you yearn to travel to in the future. Or explore the area first with shorter trips before packing your trunks for a permanent move.
4) You may want to keep a safety net back home–sublet your house, get a housemate for your home, keep an emergency nest egg in the bank where you come from.
Before you leap to foreign lands, prep for the trek:
Most of my clients spend more time planning a summer vacation than mapping out their life-plans. Even if you’re checking account is minimal, you can get a head-start on your dream for little or no cost by:
1) Studying the language in your spare time (most high schools offer low-cost evening classes).
2) Stopping by the consulate for the country of your choice, make friends with the office staff and see what suggestions they have for you.
3) Check out international trade associations such as the Australian Trade Commission which will be glad to meet with you while you’re still living in the U.S. and help you prep for your relocation.
4) Place an inexpensive ad in the English-speaking newspaper in Mexico City where you’re yearning to open a sailing school. You may be able to get students to sign up in advance. At least start a subscription or read the paper online or at your local library to see what the business climate is like in advance.
They did it, so can you!
Here are some lifestyle choices my clients and students have made:
1. From maid service owner in Los Angeles to diner operator in small Northwest town.
2. From high-pressure traveling sales executive to telephone sales J.O.B. (Just only a bridge) and musician at night at a beach resort town.
3. From manufacturing plant manager in the Midwest to handyman at a North Shore hotel in
Hawaii so he could surf all day.
4. From real estate investor in Texas to dating service owner in Los Angeles so she could be near her own “sweetie”.
5. From musician traveling with big celebrity bands to New Age psychic healing advisor in
6. From astrologer to therapist in a university town in Nebraska (after going back to school).
7. From university administrator at a college law school to a lawyer on Wall Street.
8. From copy editor to the environmental analyst in New Mexico.
9. From television anchor to speech therapist in Alaska.
10. From beauty queen in North Dakota to fitness counselor at a country club in Puerto Rico.
11. From barrio teacher to education writer in Washington, DC
12. From geologist to character actor at a Florida theme park.
13. From lawyer to off-Broadway play producer.
14. From a computer salesperson in Alaska to an interactive television engineer in San Francisco.
15. From soap opera actress to costume designer for regional theatre in New Mexico.
What advice do others offer?
“What you own is not as important as how you feel inside.” –salesman-turned-musician
“Allow plenty of spare time to do your own thing,” –a banker-turned kindergarten teacher
“Learn how to use a computer–no matter how old you are. It will change the way you work, the way you communicate and even who you meet. Be sure to buy a laptop so you can take it anywhere.” –real-estate entrepreneur-turned inner-city teacher
“Do your own thing until the money runs out, then keep doing it!” –stockbroker-turned-old-house renovator
“Don’t compromise – go for it even if it means making some sacrifices in how you live for a while” –ad executive-turned-film-writer.
You deserve a break!
Many of my clients find that they only rediscover their values and their lifestyle choices by taking some time off. Refreshed, renewed and revitalized, they start again.
Sometimes clients come to me after taking an ‘enforced” time out–because of family illness, an accident that immobilized them for months or a life-or-death crisis. They’re sure they don’t want to go back to their old jobs – and many times they don’t even have that option. But they’re afraid to go for their dreams because they’ve been out of the job market. This is the same challenge many women who have been raising children face when they want to return to the workplace.
I encourage these people to realize that they can live out their dreams. That they do have the “right” to dream. Life is not a punishment. It is here to be enjoyed. Go for it. GET A LIFE!
“In the long run,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, “when we shape our lives, we shape ourselves.”
The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make, are ultimately our responsibility.