Finding the Courage to Start – Again, Part 2
A four-part series on older adults starting new careers
The Rev. Dr. Brenda Walker offers insights into finding the courage and practical tips for starting again, second-act stories from people who have experienced challenge and success. Part 1 provided insights from a mental health counselor and life coach. In Part 2, she presents tips for starting again – lessons from an inventor and a writer.
When I hear “pursue your passion in retirement,” I imagine happy couples kayaking, relaxing on a cruise ship, sipping wine with friends. It’s not that easy. Even as we deal with what life might throw at us – health issues, financial challenges, loss of a parent, loss of a partner, children at a distance, children close by, no children – we have the hurdle of what’s happening inside our own heads. Uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear accompany every transition, and after almost four decades of experience in my field, along with the accompanying degrees, titles, and confidence, assuming the role of a novice amplified those reactions.
To help us overcome the mental and emotional hurdles that could block pursuit of an encore career, I spoke with experts in job transitions. In this second installment of my Finding the Courage to Start series, inventor Jeffrey Nash and award-winning novelist Alma Katsu share three techniques that launched their second-career success.
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and three decades as a clothing salesman, Jeffrey Nash invented the Juppy, a baby walker that allows adults to assist children learning to walk without straining their backs. His moment of inspiration came as he watched his grandchild play soccer; nearby, a parent hunched over to clasp her child’s hands as the toddler took tentative steps. The idea was born. However, Nash had never invented anything.
Break challenges into manageable steps.
“At times I felt inadequate and not capable of overcoming the challenges ahead,” Nash confides. “What got me through it was taking time out and meditating, and then coming to the realization that I had to sometimes take small bites to get the job done.”
Breaking challenges into manageable steps enabled Nash to achieve his dream. He designed a prototype, contracted manufacturers, and built a company to produce his invention. He is now CEO of Juppy, which has sold over a million baby walkers.
Establish a network that inspires you.
Nash offers valuable insight for staying the course: “The fear and uncertainty that one has when deciding to make a career transition is understandable. What I did to help me stay fierce and committed to my goal was to every day saturate my mind with reading and listening to motivational speakers that inspired me. They would provide me with hope, because they seemed to know precisely what I was experiencing at the time.”
Hope can quiet our negative inner chatter and resist the voices that would convince us to abandon our paths. Nash emphasizes that the messages that surround us have a real impact on our outcome. “I was very diligent when it came to not allowing naysayers anywhere in my sphere.”
Alma Katsu, who sold her first novel at age 50 while still working full-time as an intelligence analyst, also believes it is important to have a supportive peer group. “Put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. Talk to people in the business, see if you can convince one or two to mentor you, and grow a network in the field.”
As I’ve worked toward publication of my memoir, I’ve learned that publishing isn’t a field for the faint of heart, a sentiment Katsu shares. “Getting your first book published is really tough. The hardest part is, probably, feeling like you have no control. Either an agent or publisher likes your book or he/she doesn’t. When it’s rejected, you often get absolutely no feedback whatsoever. And you go into it knowing that most people will never get an offer for their book.”
Set the right goal, one that is within your control and can grow with you.
When going into a career filled with uncertainty, Katsu says that taking control of what you can brings a measure of confidence. “Make sure you have the right goal. When I returned to writing fiction, getting published was not my goal. Getting a contract from a publisher is not something you can control. My goal was to learn how to write a great novel. Learning, and working to get better, is something you can control. It’s also never-ending: I’m constantly trying to learn how to do it better from other writers.” Katsu’s focus on writing a great book has served her well; her six novels have won numerous awards and her most recent, Red Widow, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice.
“Make sure your goals are realistic,” she advises. “Develop a plan that has reasonable milestones, including setting new goals as your encore career progresses.” Advice Ms. Katsu has followed herself: at the age of 61 she’s about to embark on her third career as an executive producer for a TV series based on Red Widow.
We will inevitably feel inadequate and be subjected to naysayers along the way, but by focusing on manageable steps and connecting with those who inspire us, we can clarify a goal that is realistic, grows with us, and is tied to our own actions and values.
In my next installment of Finding the Courage to Start, I’ll share advice from Elaine Kiziah, a psychologist turned life coach and founder of Joybook, and Bonnie Miller, Licensed Professional Counselor at The BrownMiller Group, a career counseling firm.
The profiles of those providing tips for starting again
Alma Katsu sold her first novel at age 50 while still working full-time as an intelligence analyst. Her six novels have won numerous awards and her most recent, Red Widow, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice. At the age of 61 she’s about to embark on her third career as an executive producer for a TV series based on Red Widow. Visit her website, AlmaKatsuBooks.com.
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and three decades as a clothing salesman, Jeffrey Nash invented the Juppy, a baby walker that allows adults to assist children learning to walk without straining their backs. He is now CEO of Juppy, which has sold over a million baby walkers. Learn more about the Juppy at TheJuppy.com.
Rev. Dr. Brenda Walker is the author of the forthcoming Martine: A Memoir, which tells of her transformation into a trans ally as she discovers that her oldest sibling, who died in 1982 under mysterious circumstances, was transgender. Share your thoughts on second careers and connect with Brenda.