Changing Careers

Learning from Mistakes

Be bold, if you're going to make an error, make it a doozy. Don't be afraid to hit the ball.
Billie Jean King.
Life had its ups and downs. Keep swinging.
Hank Aaron

Taking Risks

Did you see the Brené Brown #BrenéBrown “Call to Courage” video on Netflix?  It’s about vulnerability, courage, and risk taking.  When’s the last time you took a risk?  How did it turn out?

Failing Forward

I taught a workshop this week on learning from failure or failing forward.  We talked about difficult situations that had unexpected benefits.  I had plenty of examples.  I thought getting divorced would be catastrophic, but I’m so much happier now.  I’ve lost many jobs, but almost always landed in better ones.  I’ve led projects that failed, but I learned lessons about leadership and how my attitude impacted the outcomes.

Now that I’m older, I can see that some of “my mistakes” came from passive-aggressive behavior when I was unhappy with someone or the organization.  Too bad that I lacked the maturity to see what I was doing at the time.

Mistakes cause us to reflect.  They give us feedback about our lives.  We learn and grow…and become more mature.  I hate to think where I would be now if I hadn’t taken some risks and made lots of mistakes.

Big Changes

My girlfriend just called to tell me that she’s worried because her daughter is moving to Los Angeles on her own; she’s leaving the college town she’s lived in since college graduation.  L.A. is the perfect place for the young woman to pursue her career, but it also takes courage to leave friends and family behind.  Her family may feel she’s making a mistake, but this is how she’ll grow and mature.

Procrastination

My girlfriend’s boyfriend plans to remodel is bathroom, but he’s afraid he’ll use the wrong tiles or paint color so he’s procrastinating.  We all do this to some degree.  We wait and wait for inspiration or certainty.  I’m learning that if I make a mistake, I can usually fix it.  It might take time and money, but it’s better than taking no action.

Where have you been procrastinating?  Now is the time to move forward.  If you need support, let me know.

Take a chance.  I want to hear how it goes.

Be Honest with Yourself

I am a believer in positive thinking.  I’m also a believer in being realistic.  What this means is that even if you have a clear goal, you still need to rationally assess your current situation and readiness to attain the goal.

In my coaching practice I talk to people in their 60’s and 70’s who want to return to full-time work in the profession they had in their 50’s.  Some of my clients are successful at “going back,” especially if they work in healthcare where seniors are often hired.  On the other hand, an honest discussion often reveals that a backup plan or a modified goal will lead to a better outcome.  Here’s what I mean:

Suppose David, who is 70, wants to return to full-time corporate training.   We will talk about David’s health and energy level, since the employer will look at this.  We will discuss David’s plan for staying up-to-date on corporate training needs and strategies.  For example, which online software programs is he skilled at using for developing training?  Does David need additional training to be competitive?  We need to consider David’s networking contact list.  What is David’s communication and marketing strategy?

I can help David prepare for the job search, but I need David to be clear and honest about his goal.  Is he truly healthy enough for full-time work?  Is he still mentally sharp?  Will his current skills allow him to “talk the talk” of younger and “up-to-date” colleagues?  How well does he work with younger people? Has David maintained his professional contacts, and, if not, how can he build new ones?

During an honest discussion, if David says that his health is not optimal, and his skill level is not where it was, then David and I can explore suitable goals.  For example, perhaps David can enhance his skills and then work part-time for established training companies that use hourly or daily contractors.  Depending on his interests, perhaps David can develop his own training programs and market them through social media.  David could reengage with professional and networking groups.

There are many possible goals and next steps.  The key is to be honest about the current situation.  Working with a coach can help you move from hopeful, positive thinking to realistic thinking that results in positive outcomes.

Renewal and Reinvention after the Sonoma County Fires

A year after the devastation of the Sonoma County, California fires, friends who have lost their homes and most of their material possessions spoke to me about gratitude – gratitude for the outpouring of gifts and support from both friends and strangers.

It doesn’t erase the pain of the loss, but one friend shared that small events will long be remembered, such as gong to community garage “sales” where you are told to take anything that fits or is useful…maybe a new pair of earrings or a sweater or even a bicycle – for free.

I recently spoke with a Sonoma artist at a local art festival.  He lost most of his paintings when his studio burned in the fire.  I looked at photos of his lost paintings and then felt exhilarated by his fresh, new paintings.  He has worked through the trauma and come out the other side with stunning, gorgeous images.

My friend Annie calls this “getting pruned.”  She says it’s like cutting back a rose bush and being rewarded with even more stunning rose blossoms.

This metaphor reminded me that in the 1980’s I lost my home in a mudslide in Sausalito, California.  I’m grateful I got out alive and was able to rescue some possessions.  I realize now that the loss and trauma was a turning point for me.  It forced me to re-evaluate my life and eventually led to a better romantic partnership, and work in coaching and training that was more aligned with my values.

In fact, one couple I know announced their engagement shortly after she lost her home in one of the fires.  Maybe they would have announced it at that time anyway, but experience tells me that after facing the possibility of losing your life, some decisions become very clear.

Another friend told me that when the fire destroyed her home, she decided to move closer to San Francisco where most of the family works.  The shorter commute has resulted in greater family togetherness, which she loves.

I certainly don’t want to minimize the pain and trauma of major loses; however, as we remember the fires, it’s good to recognize that sometimes life calls for us to reinvent ourselves…and that can be a good thing.