Sunday, July 20, 2014

Career Reinvention at 52

Today is my Birthday, I am 52 years old.  When I graduated from high school my mother was 42, at that time I couldn't contemplate ever being 42 much less 52.  My goals at 18 were to get as far away from my family farm in western Wisconsin as possible and to live a life as unlike my mother's as I could.  I envisioned my life to be much like my high school French teacher's. She lived, what seemed to me, a cultured life in Madison, Wisconsin and traveled to Europe each summer. Unfortunately my life didn't turn out quite like that.

Instead all I do is work.  When I'm not working I'm thinking about work or not sleeping because I'm stressed about work.  As you may recall last year I didn't use nine of my earned vacation days and this year I'm heading in the same direction.  It is always something - a deadline I am required to meet, an audit that needs my attention or a meeting I am required to attend. This week I went in while sick to calculate commissions that were too difficult to explain over the phone. Part of the problem is my company's A-type work culture and part is my ingrained dairy farmer work ethic. A small dairy farmer never takes a vacation day and has to milk the cows even when sick.

My only plan of escape is to retire early.  If all goes well that will be six years from today.  One of my former co-workers retired early last November.  He too had an over-developed work ethic. As a stress reliever he began counting down his work days until retirement.  Instead of answering the phone with hello he would say "232 days."  The other day while commiserating with another co-worker about our heavy workloads I said, "6 years and 3 days."   He replied, "Don't start that."  He thought our retired co-worker's count down was super annoying.

I don't want to become the annoying co-worker with the bad attitude and besides 6 years is a long time to be miserable.  It is also a long time to never take a vacation day and to work while sick. Plus, I don't think I'm the type of person who could lounge in retirement bliss. I will want to do something. Instead I need to figure this out and somehow reinvent my career. Ever since I started blogging I've had visions of living where ever I want and making a living in some fashion from my laptop. Doing what is the question.

My favorite career reinvention post is James Altucher's The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself. He says it takes five years to reinvent yourself.  Here is his recommended five-year plan:
  • Year One: you’re flailing and reading everything and just starting to DO.
  • Year Two: you know who you need to talk to and network with. You’re Doing every day. You finally know what the monopoly board looks like in your new endeavors.
  • Year Three: you’re good enough to start making money. It might not be a living yet.
  • Year Four: you’re making a good living
  • Year Five: you’re making wealth
So in my 52nd year I plan to read everything and start to Do.  Altucher claims reading 200-500 books are equal to one good mentor. I'm not going to write about how difficult it is to find time to read.  I love reading, so I'm just going to get busy and read.  I will keep you informed about what I learn.

I also plan to continue my career interview series.  My interviewees have been informative, passionate and helpful. If you would like to be part of this series please email me at

Have you reinvented your career?  If so, what helped you the most? 


  1. I wish this could apply to my blog, the part about year 3 you are starting to make money. I too am in a process of reinventing myself. I will follow your lead and start with step one.

  2. Sheila,
    I would be curious to know what you are unhappy with in your current career/life. I've often thought when my website makes it big I would hire you to write about exercise...we shall see. Also, if you read a book you think would be helpful let me know.
    Coming up with a list of 200 books might be a start to a mentorship blog/website.

  3. i love this post, especially your dairy farm analogy! someone's gotta milk the cows! i didn't take any vacation prior to having my baby and i totally regretted that. it's like time i will never get back because now i'm so sleep-deprived, i wouldn't even be able to enjoy it.

    i too have visions of retiring early...with the hopes that our real estate investments will help.

    my mom is retiring this year (at the age of 66) and her work has begged her to stick around. they said she could work in a consultant capacity. maybe that's something that you can do?! the laptop lifestyle at the beach seems like something i could definitely do!

  4. Wow…we are about the same age, both from WI, and your story reads a lot like mine except I made the decision to bail in my early 40's. And it was because I had an unexpected pregnancy. That being said, I have reinvented myself and am in the process of doing it again. It does not take as long as that timeline if you go after it! But the networking is key. Sending positive energy your way, you are too young to retire!

  5. Catherine,
    One of my real-life friends sent me an email saying I need a spa-vacation. He is probably right. Being an introvert I really need some time away from work to decompress and work on my reinvention. You are so right - similar to your situation I will never get this time back.

    I have thought of working as a consultant during the transition. I would want a replacement in place and then help with training and busy time periods. If not I will be a full-time consultant with no beneifts.

  6. Parent your business,
    I've been thinking about reinvention quite a bit this week and realized I've actually reinvented my life - I mean complete overhaul - 4 times - leaving the farm for college - moving to Milwaukee - changing jobs and returning to school - getting married, changing jobs and moving to suburbia.

    I can't give up my salary yet, but one thing I've learned this week from Sheila Simmons is that so much of reinvention is about networking. So I am adding another networking to my year one challenge too.

  7. I love the five year plan! It's a great way to focus on what you need to do now instead of stressing about the future.

  8. Savvy this is exciting - reinvention is exciting - the chance to start fresh, making the life you don't want to vacation from, that is exciting. I knew I never wanted to stay in corporate America. That culture you referred to, the constant office hours, it drives me insane. My life is not my work - at least not at this point. I want to be a published author. My passions lie in activism and helping "the little guy," but I am not lawyer material. So I write. I write for others, I write for myself. I've made some money writing for others, but certainly not enough to be considered "a living." Here's to reinvention - I am with you every step of the way!

  9. Midnight Cowboy,
    I like that too. I need to make today more manageable rather than focusing on where I want to be five years from now.

  10. I think reinventing yourself is a wonderful thing to do, but waiting five years is such a loooong process. Why would you want to to stay somewhere that makes you unhappy for that long? I know you need to pay the bills, but I think I'd start applying for anything else you could get and maybe you might stumble across something really wonderful. It certainly couldn't be much worse. By the way, if you want to interview me, that would be fine. I am on year 23 with the same company, but I also worked a lot of interesting places prior to this - DeLorean, Coca Cola, and Allergan to name a few. #SITSSharefest

  11. Hi Jennifer,
    I wish I was a better writer. Maybe that is something I should work on. I would love to work for the little guy. That is kind of what I try to do with this blog, but don't always have the answers. Looking forward to watching your reinvention.

  12. Adrian,
    That is a very good question. My husband and I have a plan - he is either retiring or switching to a contract employee at the end of this year. 5 years is the amount of time we feel we need my salary. I don't want to start over with a similar job to the one I have. I want to do something new. In the mean time I need to work on balance. Also, I would love to interview you. I'm already thinking of questions...

  13. This is so intriguing to me! Have you read Ariana Huffington's book Thrive? I'm currently reading that and I feel like you might enjoy it.

    I just started my current career as a high school English teacher. I always thought teaching was my dream job but now that I'm doing it, I notice so many people feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Many of them don't feel or see much joy in their lives. I don't want that to happen for me so I've been trying to explore my options. I don't know if I'll necessarily shift my career focus but I do know I have to draw barriers and find things other than my job to fulfill myself.

  14. I am so happy to hear about your early retirement plans and career reinvention!

    Thanks for linking up for #FlashbackFriday. I have pinned your post on the new #FlashbackFriday Pinterest board.

  15. Thanks for the post. Right now I'm taking a free class online at that has been really interesting. I majored in English Teaching and so a class on digestion and nutrition is so new for me.