Years ago I remember hearing a factoid that suggested the average person changed careers 3 to 4 times in a lifetime.
Not jobs, but careers.
I have absolutely no interest in trying to track the source of that tidbit down, nor do I care whether it’s really true or not. I’ve always believed that it was and for the longest time marvelled at how that could ever be possible.
The problem, with me, that is, was that I was looking at it with my own perspective. After all why kind of career change does a Dentist make? Sure some go on to specialize, as if that’s really a change.
In the past, I’d thought of pursuing a Law degree on an MBA, but the likelihood would be that armed with either of those, I’d probably still be involved in some aspect of healthcare, so it wouldn’t be much of a change.
In my own sort of smug way I could envision a guy pumping gas in New Jersey switching careers and perhaps instead loading shipments with funny sounding names in an IKEA dock,
Now that’s a career change.
The other day, as I do just about everyday after first checking the futures, the New York Times Obituary pages and Dilbert, I read James Altucher’s blog.
I’ve mentioned and referred to him a number of imes before, so I won’t do it all over again, except to say that his recent blog “My Lawyer is Dead” struck me with a single line:
“….this is what I do. It’s too late for me to do anything else.”
I don’t know how old the professionally unhappy attorney was at the time of that comment, but Altucher readers know that by age 49 he was gone.
As in “dead.”
I don’t really believe in coincidences, but all last week, one of my new favorite financial news shows, Bloomberg Rewind, hosted by Matt Miller had been featuring ex-Wall Street professionals who had left The Sreet behind, voluntarily or otherwise, in order to re-invent themselves.
The series was called “Life After Wall Street.”
One such story featured an individual that opened up a doggie day care center in Westchester County, New York. One of our best friends, who was also in healthcare did just that about 20 years ago, again coincidentally enough, in Westchester.
There must be something about high powered types living in Westchester, many of whom are probably employed on Wall Street, that engenders guilt about leaving the family pet at home while they and their 1% friends are at play or work.
That’s why I had to leave. And once we did, we got our first dog and left him at home all the time. Otherwise, the dog sitters would have been a total waste.
Our friend subsequently sold the business as it became incredibly busy and less joyful for her, albeit highly profitable.
The grass was green, as were the books but there had to be something else to life.
Time for yet another career change in her case she decided to pursue a lifelong dream of being a docent at the famed Bronx Zoo and giving guided tours to school aged children.
She reached that dream and has never been happier.
Maybe we should follow the routine outlined in that classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and just chime the bells each time a career is changed.
But the segment that really caught my interest happened to be on the same day as Altucher’s poignant blog.
Appearing were Rob Symington and Mike Howe, two of the three principals behindf “Escape the City.” Actually, it’s altogether possible that one of those two was actually Dom Jackman, but as a typical male, I really wasn’t paying that much attention, given that those resources are limited.
What attentive resources I do still retain were just enough for me to learn that Escape the City is an organization formed on the basis of a simple thought “Surely there is more to life than this.”
Where have I heard that before?
That can also be in the form of a question.
Somewhat maddingly, the site uses the same spelling rules as does my Smartphone’s auto-spell, yet I still was impressed with their organisation, although I still dislike being referred to as a Paediatric Dentist, even if in the past tense.
Anyway, “Escape the City” is designed with helping people rediscover their humanity. Re-inventing themselves or just doing something completely different with whatever tools and talents they have developed in the corporate world.
Their past lives.
What I especially liked was a Tweet that I received in response to one that I sent following their appearance on Bloomberg Rewind:
In response to “Sigh. If I only had skills, motivation and life expectancy I’d sign up. Great concept to restore man’s humanity, ” I received “he he. I’m handing out free slaps to anyone who says they’re too old to make a change.”
And then there was this poor 49 year old lawyer. He could have used one of those slaps.
About 15 years ago a very vibrant and successful guy, who was about 20 years older than me, but infinitely more alive, told me that you have to re-invent yourself every 10 years.
Chinese publicly traded companies do it all the time through reverse mergers. Why can’t we learn from them?
Hard to understand, but who knows if that life lesson could have helped an unhappy attorney who felt trapped and who wrongly believed that it was too late to change.
I re-invented myself about 9 years ago to a lesser extent and then again, this time fully, 3 years ago. Despite a successful career it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my productive life.
I’ve never looked back. I’m 57 now and eagerly looking forward to the next re-invention, even though I haven’t the slightest clue of where that road will begin or take me.
What I’ve come to realize (realise) is that you become empowered as coming to the correct observation that you’re a better steward of your destiny than your job, employer or career will ever be.
Now what kind of a financial blog would this be if I didn’t extend that lesson to stocks?
This segue is easy. It’s as easy as the difference between investing and trading.
It’s as easy as the difference between buy and hold and anything but buy and hold.
I never really thought about it, but my personal re-invention was done on the back of a philosophy that continually re-invented a stock portfolio. One that did away with any kind of emotional attachment to a stock or the thought that my activities had to be done a certain way, because that was the way it had always been done.
Yes, I’ll take a capital loss on shares that I held for a week just becasue it gave me a great option premium for having sold calls to someone who may or may not hate what they’re doing, knowing that the odds of a successful call option purchasing strategy are small.
To quote my Tweeting friend from Escape the City. “he he.”
On Monday, we begin the first options cycle for 2012.
I will have lost a small portion of my ProShares UltraShort Silver ETF shares, half of my Dow Chemical and all of my Sallie Mae shares. Actually, as far as most months and weeks go, the re-invention will be somewhat lessened this Monday, but not by my choice.
It was an efficient market that now tells me what to do.
The shares that I’ll be losing were good to me and as with each cycle and facing assignment, I feel that I’ve learned something, gained more skills and am altogether happy with the experience.
But it’s time to move on.
Like the old saying “you got to leave the dance with the one what brung you there,” I’m certain that I’ll return to ownership of all of those someday, but with cash in my account and just a little more experience to boot, it’s time to restore just a bit more of the humanity and move on to something else.
I registered with Escape the CIty but then realized that I really don’t have any skills or talents that anyone else would want.
Then I also remembered that I enjoy not working, although Sugar Momma worries that the sloth, as it sets in, will never retreat.
It’s entirely possible that for me, re-invention has led me to a dead end, but at that dead end I may have found the “more” that there is to life.
The humanity. The freedom from a prescribed track.
Altucher and the crew at Escape the City have it right. There is more to life.
Re-invent yourself now. 49 is just right around the corner or maybe even a couple of blocks back.