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Information on creating your best life, finding your deep passions, defining your dimensions of balance and meaning, etc. after you’ve done all the things you fantasized about as “retirement.”

Greetings from Lazarus…

Greetings from Lazarus…

photo by Peter Pryharski, unsplash.com

About six years ago, I went from a cocky, exuberant, in-your-face active “senior she-jock” to a physical basket case. Every day became a struggle just to get the simple things like laundry done. I took naps morning, noon, and sometimes in the evening, and still fell into bed exhausted. I woke myself up moaning in pain.

My healthcare team were involved but pretty much useless. All the tests came back normal. “You’re doing really well for someone your age” may have been well intended, but it stung like hell. What seemed so acceptable to them as my new lifestyle was lightyears away from what I had been doing recently. And enjoying immensely. Most of them never grasped that.

Instead, they were firm in trying to make me believe all that was over. “You are just going to have to do less”….”Get used to being less active”….”This is the way your body needs you to live now”…etc. Given as professional advice. Stunningly clueless. And nowhere close to what I needed.

Eventually, the right resources came into the picture. I am grateful for them. But I am also proud of my own dogged persistence in not accepting all the wrong things I was told along the way and continuing to search for the real answers instead.

It’s tempting to go through a litany of the things they decided I had that were not the case, to give you a long list of the tests we did and describe the heavy emptiness that came from not knowing what to do next when each “maybe” came back normal and ended in silence from the doctor who’d ordered it. It was hell, and I won’t pretend it wasn’t. But it was my hell and one I had to walk through it to learn what it was time to learn. My job, so I could get past it, was to get honest about who I am, what’s really important to me, and what it is I’m here to do. That took six long years. It was worth every second of it.

This website and my commitment to living the last third of life on fire and growing went dormant while I did that work. There was a TON of doubt that I would ever again have enough of a life to be able to enjoy living it, much less have anything to offer for others to use in living theirs well.

I don’t need to go into the details of this quest–at least not right now. But I do need to point to what’s different about Mining Silver as of today.

Today we launch a completely revised version of the website, which has been around since 2008. When I started, I was in lock-step with the marketing and online gurus, focused on “what I had to sell”–my books and availability to speak, do seminars, etc. Now the emphasis is on providing information and insights to spark conversation, either by comments posted here or in real life after you read something here.

This is not about making money for me. This isn’t even about creating a following. I want to do what I can to raise awareness about what’s possible, reasonable, and worth pursuing in the last third of a life. That will be a work in progress until I take my last breath and a collaborative effort with anyone willing to be involved. As of this moment, there are new pages (the permanent information that stays in the same place on the site) plus ten years of blog posts about living this stage of life well (a list that gets longer every time I add something new). The site is content rich. That’s ALL it is–content…ideas, information, observations–you get the drift. Please explore. (And comment!)

Online Dating Scam — Field Notes

Online Dating Scam — Field Notes

Okay, this has happened twice. Time to say something. I don’t know if it happens to guys (probably), but here’s what it looked like for an older, heterosexual woman:

OMG. Dreams DO come true! This amazing guy contacts you. He’s beyond your wildest dreams…handsome, cosmopolitan–and European, experienced with the world in ways you aren’t, fun, and very very interested in getting to know you. He’s protective before he’s even met you, worrying that you might be working too hard or that you were at risk with some minor bold thing you mentioned doing.

He gushes about how wonderful you are–ordinary you!–and goes on and on about your beauty (heady balm coming from a guy 7 years younger than you). At his most polished, he transports you to a romantic world that leaves you breathless with delight. He gets me!

When executed by someone less practiced, it comes across a bit more like clunky job interview–lot’s of questions in quick sequence without much chance to reply. But you see that as his earnestness about wanting to know more and still buy in. And you give him the benefit of the doubt with the way he phrases things because “he wasn’t born here”.

He hits all the right notes: He wants a deep, loving, trusting relationship. He wants to make you his queen. He wants to give you the finest things in life–and has the money to do that. He wants to travel all over the world with YOU.

But…. he’s busy with important things. So he can’t meet. He wants your phone number and email so you can “go faster” than with the messaging the dating app provides. He promises you will meet “soon”….when his work situation calms down….when he’s had time to tie up this important deal….when he has this big professional event he’s working on planned.

Before “soon” arrives, there’s an emergency, perhaps due to what he’s attempting with his exotic business. Before “soon”, you will have developed enough of an appetite for his attention that you’re tempted to give him that money. Very tempted, even if you’ve been 60% sure it’s a scam from the very beginning.

This romance is not something online dating can do for you. Online dating is just a way to MEET people you want to date. You have to take it from there to build a relationship. If your dream guy is suddenly there and acting like you two are in fully committed relationship as just an online dating profile, you’re not looking at the real thing.

You have to meet before you know if it’s going to go anywhere. When you get wound up in a 100% online romance, you’ve taken a detour into Fantasyland. IT IS NOT REAL. And don’t think that because he has a business website and/or a LinkedIn profile it confirms what he told that he’s legitimate. ALL of it can be faked.

Don’t blow off discrepancies. First he spouts Bible verses like a devout fundamentalist Christian, then he says he’s a lapsed Catholic who hasn’t been to church since his wife died five years ago. His profile says he’s 6’3 but when you ask him, he says he’s 5’10. He sends you a photo (of someone else) and says he’s making coffee in his office when the kitchen pantry is open right behind him. We all want to give people the benefit of the doubt with little mistakes. But if they keep happening, pay attention. If the person running the scam is part of a big operation, they’re going to have trouble keeping the details straight. If they’re operating in a foreign country, the difference between what we call an “office” and a “kitchen” might not be apparent.

Be wary of a guy whose use of English is off. I’ve communicated online with an “Italian” and a “German” who both turned out to be fake. Neither was good with English, particularly grammar and syntax. I tolerated this, because “he wasn’t born here.” But looking back, that wasn’t justified. Both had mentioned that their last 30 or more years had been spent in English speaking countries and that they ran successful businesses there. You have to speak good English to do that. I’ve also met real online dates, one who left Hungary at age 13 and one who arrived from Kenya about 10 years ago,. Both spoke perfect English. This is not about “spurning immigrants”.  It’s about paying attention to whether his backstory and his performance match.

Be sure he’s still on the dating site. If you suddenly can’t find his profile when you go to remind yourself of something in it, get suspicious. He might have taken it down so you can’t check details or the dating site may have recognized it wasn’t a legitimate profile. If his (her) profile disappears, back away! Also be wary if he wants to jump to texting or email right away instead of using the messaging site for your initial interaction. Messaging on the site it safer.

Don’t buy excuses for not meeting in person. He may claim he wants to wait so that meeting to be special (and then wax eloquent about how he will treat you when the time comes). He may say he’s swamped with work and just doesn’t have time right now. He may claim he’s stuck in a foreign country. (This one is a great set-up for the pitch–“I need money to get home because….” .) When you push him to meet, he (she) will accuse you of not trusting him as a deep relationship demands–to make you think you are wrong. Real date material wants to meet you. Neither of you have anything to gain by doing the pen pal routine any longer than it takes to decide if you are interested in meeting each other.

The first time this happened to me, I was too curious to walk away quickly. I sensed it was very likely a scam, but I wanted to know how it worked. Was it a group doing it or just one sociopathic romeo? Does a scammer request photos from his marks (which both did) so he can use them to create personas for new cons? Was a woman or man the mastermind? (I’m guessing women write the scripts. They are uncanny in saying what women deeply want to hear.) Was it a foreign operation or a homegrown version of despicable?

When it happened again a few days ago, I only had one question: Am I being romanced to finance a Russian troll farm? Are some “troll farmers” spending their entire shifts cooing sweet nothings in the electronic ears of well-heeled older Americans looking for love online and vulnerable in their generosity. (Yeah….repulsive.)

I don’t have answers to any of these questions, and it’s wiser to leave it at that. The more important thing is sound the alarm so you don’t get caught up in it in the first place.

If the situation is a full blown romance before you’ve even met–and the other person keeps postponing meeting, shut it down and move on. The longer you let it go on, the more tempted you’ll be to give him (her) that money when the inevitable pitch comes. JUST STOP!

Do YOU celebrate?

Do YOU celebrate?

Night before last, I went to a funny, holiday-themed play at a community theater with a group of friends.  On the way home, I learned that two of the women with us were turning 80 within a few days of each other at the end/beginning of the year.  They are both vibrant, engaged, and living real lives.  I had to admit I was surprised.  (We have the stereotypes on this so wrong as a society!)

What was more interesting though was how they were seeing the milestone.  The difference between the two of them could not have been more dramatic.  One was going to San Diego (from the Seattle area) for two weeks of assorted celebrating.  She was excited about the coming decade and ready for it to be her “best decade” just as her grandmother had admitted of her 70’s a generation before.

The other was dreading it.

They are both virtually the same age.  Are they going to have the same quality of life?

The “dreader” saw the need to redirect herself as we finished the ride, which is the great news in this.  But what about the ones who don’t get the innoculation of someone else’s happier approach?

You’re gonna turn 80 either way (at least if you are lucky enough to get that far).  Seeing the pluses is a whole lot more fun.  And ignoring the ridiculously inaccurate set of expectations we are bombarded with from the culture is critical.

I always make a big deal over the “zero” birthdays.  It’s my excuse to do something particularly grand and/or self-loving when they are mine.  I also love to mark 75 for women friends.  Party, fresh flower crown, BIG deal fun.

But celebrating doesn’t have to be reserved for certain birthdays.   There are unique milestones that also warrant some festivity.  (At the moment, I am looking forward to the last day of my online dating subscription….)

What does celebrating accomplish?  At its very core, a celebration says “There are things going on in  my life.  I have completed something important.  And I am happy about that.”

It also says “Life is good!”

But the most important thing it says is “I am not done yet!”  Oh yeah.  I will celebrate that again and again and again.

Are You in Retirement Jail?

Are You in Retirement Jail?

Okay, you’ve been retired for long enough that you’ve done all the things you “didn’t have time for” plus a few.  None of it is as exciting as it used to be.  The “good life” seems like it’s outside a window with bars, and all you get in your own day is weak gruel and the tantalizing but unreachable view of that beyond.  What happened?

Retirement was supposed to be this glorious never-ending vacation.  You could do whatever you wanted.  Go when you wanted.  Sleep in.  Hang out.  Let up.  It’s all about you you you, and it was going to be soooo lovely.  What happened?

Relax.  This is normal.  The traditional version of retirement works at first, for most of us anyway.  Then, for a lot of us, it doesn’t anymore.  All those versions of play get stale and depressing, bereft of meaning and woefully short on a sense of connection.  Why?  Because humans are wired for more than that.  We need to be productive members of a tribe–working together to solve problems that have an impact beyond our own day-to-day needs.  All this “go off and play by yourselves” can be toxic in high doses–sometimes within a year of retirement.

NOW WHAT????

Well…  First, realize that “retirement” is not this homogenous string of days stretching to the end of your life with the same fun the same way with the same people.  The counterpoint to that is also not true.  You aren’t meant to spend all day every day doing work other people need done–but without pay–because you “have time”.

Retirement is likely to be a big chunk of your life and has stages within the stage itself.  The initial years are usually about “doing all the things I didn’t have time for when I was working”.  That may be learning something you’ve always been intrigued by or traveling to places you’ve wanted to see or just sitting on the deck drinking coffee (or a glass of wine…) while your former coworkers slog through traffic.  It may be all of the above and more, including getting involved in some kind of volunteer work to “give back.”

Typically, this evolves to a second stage though.  Some of those interests don’t pan out.  Travel starts to become “same old same old,” and the volunteering gig goes sour for whatever reason (lack of stimulating work, difficult organizational dynamics, or a change in the direction of the entity with whom you are involved, for example).

No need to panic.  It’s just time to rework the plan. THIS is what an effective retirement strategy is best at–acknowledging when what you’ve planned is not what you need and doing the work to come up with something that is.

When we walk out the door of work for the last time, we don’t know where the health monsters lurk.  We don’t know what we’ll like of what we want to try.  We don’t know what’s ahead with our relationships.  (They aren’t static.   At some point, someone you’ve been with will either die or leave or someone you didn’t expect will walk in and take a place in your heart.) You don’t know who you might meet, if a best friend will move away, or whether you’ll decide you need to move yourself for whatever reason.  All these things are part of life.  Ignoring them is what puts you in that jail.

The standard assumption is that what’s outside the original plan is always negative.  Let’s take a better look at that.  If what you thought would satisfy you doesn’t (like playing golf three times a week when you really only need one round to scratch that itch), do something else.  You know more now that you’ve been living the plan.  It’s time to look at “What do I want to do now?” again.  And this time, the answer just might be quieter, more serene, and probably more focused on community, connection, and commitment, than the grand adventures of the first stretch of this stage of life.  Or you might decide you need to be more adventuresome.  The point is that you need to ask yourself and then listen for what you heart tells you.

Life changes on a dime at this point.  That’s not all bad.  To thrive, we need to keep growing to our very last breath.  Starting over (again….and again) is an excellent way to do that.

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

It’s time to admit something important. At some point, someone is going to have to deal with your “stuff”. We don’t seem to be aware of this as we keep adding belongings.  Clutter is just a fact of life, right?

We keep stuff for all kinds of reasons–  “I might need it…”  “It was Grandma’s…” “I might decide to go back into that…”  But the ongoing accumulation of “things” is a slow motion disaster.  A few weeks ago, a woman in Connecticut was killed when the floor of her house collapsed—because of the weight of the stuff she had on it.  They didn’t find her until two days later; the volume was so massive that it looked like the floor was still there when the police checked initially.

That’s an extreme case, but we’re all affected by “stuff.” If you haven’t had to deal with someone else’s after they’ve died, count yourself lucky. If you have, you know what I’m talking about. But here’s the deal. If you can’t face dealing with it, how can someone else—who knows a whole lot less about it–manage to do it after you’re gone?

My family just went through this. Six siblings plus a dear and unflinching sister-in-law hauled load after load out of my youngest brother’s 900-square-foot home for five full days. We got rid of over 100 cubic yards of “stuff.” Don’t naively assume it was just a case of walking it to the dumpster again and again either. Landfills have rules these days. You must dispose of electronics, assorted batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, oil-based paint, other hazardous materials, etc. in very specific ways—or face a fine. There’s a whole different routine for latex paint. Plus, if those doing the disposing have half a conscience about environmental stewardship, there will be trips to the local food bank, Goodwill or a similar second-hand store, and perhaps the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to donate appropriate “stuff.” And there will be lots of trips to the recycle center.

Accumulated “stuff” is not the benign, minor flaw we want to believe it is. Letting stuff you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t care about pile up leaves less space, resources, and time for what could bring you joy now. Holding onto too many things from the past means you don’t have faith in the present–or the future. It’s also a waste of money if you’re insuring, maintaining, paying for space to keep, and otherwise lavishing resources on all that “stuff.”

My loved one didn’t set out to leave a huge mess for the rest of us to clean up. He felt he needed everything he acquired. That’s how we usually amass stuff…a teeny bit at a time, time after time. But “stuff” doesn’t go away on its own. Somebody is going to have to deal with it eventually.

All six of us siblings came home vowing “I’m not going to do that to anybody!” so I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do make getting rid of my “stuff” less of a burden when I depart. Everyone’s list will be unique, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Clean out the file drawers! Going through files is huge time sink for next of kin, and I can find most of what I’m keeping online if I do need it.
2. Make sure my kids really want what I’m keeping for them.
3. Whenever I learn someone needs what I’ve discovered I have (and don’t need), give it to them.
4. Mark the contents of boxes I do keep. Include a “Get rid of after ___” date to avoid going through boxes again myself when I can.
5. Donate to the food bank from my pantry. (This gets food I bought for a unique reason and then didn’t use onto someone’s plate rather than sitting on my pantry shelf until it expires.)
6. Dispose of the old paint immediately when I repaint. (But do keep the new paint for repairs.)
7. Be honest with stuff I get as gifts. If I’m not going to use it, return it, donate it, or regift it.
8. Remove anything I haven’t worn in the last year from my closet. Donate what I’m willing to part with. Put the rest in a separate stack. If I don’t wear it in another 12 months, donate it then.
9. Go through my bookshelves quarterly. Pass on anything I don’t expect to read again.
10. Leave notes for my loved ones about what’s what and how to get rid of it.

I want to do this right. From what I’ve seen lately, it’s a really good way to say “I love you.”

 

Beginnings Are Messy

Beginnings Are Messy

The farther you move through life, the more tempting it is to want to have everything under control.  Bad plan.  That strategy is a nice straight road to boredom.  Being a beginner until the day you die is an important piece of creating a good life.  And beginnings are not controlled situations.  Beginnings are messy.

When you move, things are total chaos for a while.  When you start an art project, everything you might need gets hauled out of drawers and closets.  To renovate your yard, you usually create a mud bog at some point in the process.

To make something better, most often, you need to make a total mess of what you already have.

And that’s okay.

In fact, it may be an essential piece of appreciating what you have once you’ve completed the change.  My mom’s yearly version of this process was the family camping trip.  Dad was great about getting everything needed by a family of nine packed in–and on–the car, getting us there, getting the tent set up, etc.  He was really good at making order of the inevitable chaos.

Mom, however, was better at appreciating the chaos.  “Going camping” was our vacation and that meant new adventures for us kids and the chance to break from the routine for our parents.  But “going camping” also made us all appreciate that routine when we got home and had everything put away.

The disruption and confusion of going in a new direction can be unnerving–and almost always is when you change anything significant.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it.  It’s just wise to realize what you’re getting into.

Beginnings involve going in the wrong direction.  When  you start something new, even if you have a full set of instructions (which most things in life don’t have), you make mistakes because the whole idea is new and a challenge to grasp.  Mistakes are every bit as much a part of getting things to go the way you want as the things you get right the first time.  Wrong turns help define the context of what you’re doing and help make it work well.  They’re most valuable if you use them–figure out what they’ve taught you and then move past them.  But if you can’t get that far about what went wrong, at least relax about the fact that they happen.  When you start something new, there are going to be mistakes.  Sometimes lots of them.

Beginnings usually involve a few restarts.  Thinking that it’s going to be smooth sailing from the get-go just invites frustration.  Redirects are inevitable. Sometimes, you don’t even know where you are trying to go when you start out.   And when you need to change course, you often need to just plain stop before you do so.  So if the project doesn’t keep going at a steady pace, don’t be surprised.  And for heaven’s sake don’t get all torqued about it.  Starting something new takes courage.  Finishing something new takes patience and tolerance–for clutter, confusion, and starting again….and sometimes again and again.

Beginnings often don’t look like beginnings.  Starting in a new direction is often disguised as something old ending.  This probably makes the messiness of a beginning even harder to endure.  When what you had worked for  you and was not something you wanted to change, it’s very hard to get on with the messiness of starting over.  That old reliable version of life was…well…yours, whether it was with a mate who died–or left, a job you lost, or health you took for granted. Pining for what was makes getting on with what’s next a lot more difficult.  Letting go of what you don’t have any more and stepping into the chaos of a new start is the only way to get on with your life.

Know that the disruption is essential and temporary. It’s easy to begin to feel like the turmoil is never going to go away, but that’s not what’s going on.  Psychologically, being able to predict what’s going to happen is as calming as being able to control it.   Reminding yourself that there’s an end point to the chaos gives you that predictability.

Beginnings are essential.   Beginnings can be intimidating simply because of the disorder and confusion they engender.  Begin anyway.  Having a good life is not a matter of having everything under control.  You need to keep your world expanding and to do that, you have to begin something new.  Again and again and again.

 

Kindness: The Low Cost Miracle Cure

Kindness: The Low Cost Miracle Cure

Try a little kindness when things aren’t going well. It’s amazing what you can get back on track with just a little dose—as the giver rather than the receiver.

For some reason, kindness tends to take a back seat when difficulties mount and that’s too bad.  That’s when we need to use it most—and I do mean give it not get it.  (Though being on the receiving end is nice….)

Being kind is not a matter of having money to throw around.  It’s more a case of noticing what you can give—a smile, a nod of recognition, your place in line if you really aren’t in a hurry.  Kindness is a simple, effective way to connect with the rest of the world.  And that, quite often, is what we need, even if the pain comes in different packaging—like a frustrating job search, bad news from the doctor, or mean-spiritedness from someone in your life.

One of my best experiences with the magic of simple kindness was in Scotland almost two decades ago.  I went out for a walk one morning in Edinburgh and passed a white-haired man also out for a morning walk.  I smiled at him.  Then came the magic.  I didn’t just get a simple smile in return.  The man’s whole face lit up with appreciation at being acknowledged as a fellow human.  Him showing me that moment of happiness made me delightfully happy.  All in literally seconds, with just the use of a few facial muscles.

That’s the biggest deal about kindness.  It’s not something you “do for someone else.”  Yes, your effort is usually extended toward someone else, but the benefits go both ways.  I smile again every time I think of that man’s reaction.  I feel good about being human and being alive again and again because of that one experience—where I made the easy effort to connect by smiling at him.

This isn’t just something to do in large, sophisticated foreign cities on morning walks.  Opportunities for little acts of kindness abound for all of us every day.  Pulling the neighbor’s garbage can out of the road when it blew there.  Trying to keep your car as far as you can from the cyclist you’re passing on a city street.   Letting mistakes go unmentioned when noting them is not going to improve the outcome.

So much of our energy these days seems to be focused on making sure other people know there’s something wrong with them.  Congress for sure.  But even with friends.  A dear woman I’ve been hiking with for over five years told me Sunday that my feet turn too far out when I walk.  What was the point of that observation?  (They’ve been this way for 65 years, and I walk fine unless I try to turn them in the way hers go.)

What would happen if we started an epidemic of kindness?  I’m not talking about huge acts of generosity like funding schools or building hospitals in Somalia.  If each of us decided to do five small acts of kindness everyday, my how things would change!

In part, we’d all feel better about ourselves, I suspect.  Most of those “this is wrong with you” comments stem from I-don’t-feel-so-good-about-myself thoughts.  Rather than trying to build yourself up by knocking someone else, do something kind.  It doesn’t even have to be for that person.  The resulting sense of peace alone is worth the effort.  Plus that other person might then be motivated to do some other kindness.

Kindness affects the receiver but defines the giver:  “I am well enough off that I can be kind.”  That sense of abundance doesn’t flow from the size of your investment account.  It comes from the strength of your character.  We can all be rich enough to be kind.  We just have to choose it.  Every day.

Do the Next Thing

Do the Next Thing

Whether it’s building a business, finding a job, creating the life you really want, the best advice is “Do the next thing.”  Too often, we do one thing and stop.  Then we wait for the reaction on that thing–the email or phone call expressing interest, the dreaded form rejection letter, the suggestion that a prospective client wants to hear more.

Doing it that way means you spend a lot of your time waiting for what someone else may or may not do.  Waiting is a passive process.  So you lose momentum.  And you feel less effective because…well..nothing’s happening while you are doing all that waiting.

In other cases, you capitalize on one opportunity and call it good.  The chance to speak to a group or have coffee with someone who’s willing to mentor you.  Instead of using that as a springboard for doing more things, we consider ourselves done once we’ve written the thank you note.

Why do we do this?  I think it’s because it’s easier to handle life in little tidbits–to do one thing and then…well….rest.   The problem with this approach is that you start from the point of inertia every time and have to work up the moxie to do that one thing again and again.  You have to talk yourself into it and then get yourself going over and over.

If you look for the next thing with everything you do, you don’t have that acceleration challenge because you’re already moving.  You don’t have to talk yourself into it because you’re still finishing the last thing so you’re already in “do it” mode.

But even better, those “next things” can hold some pretty fun magic.  A year ago,  a career counselor on the other side of the country contacted me about reviewing my book on her blog.  Of course, I was delighted to send a review copy, and she did a wonderful write-up of what I had to say.   End of story, right?

Not really.  After I thanked her for the review, I decided I needed to check out her website more thoroughly.  Among the many things she offers there were links to TV shows she’d done interviewing people who had switched careers after 50 and were thriving.  One  interview in particular intrigued me, and I asked her to e-introduce me to that person.  She graciously agreed.

Then the “next thing” was to contact him.  When I did, I discovered he was looking for experts to write for his web-based business.  In particular, he was looking for somene to cover the business perspective of employing older workers.  That’s an angle I’d been trying to find a way to work for a year.  Perfect.  And that was it, right?  Nope.

The next thing?  Well, there were two.  Through that contact I met another expert who’s focused on people who start their own businesses after 50.  That gave me another angle from which to promote better use of our “retirement” years, another way to expand my knowledge base, and one more platform for increasing my visibility.

The second thing?  I got a request to be a keynote speaker for a conference on the topic because of the articles I’ve been writing from the business perspective.

Here’s the point:  None of these opportunities would have developed had I not gone beyond “thank you” with the woman who offered to review my book.  Stopping at the first thing means you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

Doing the next thing gives you a sense of both control and movement.  Those are both vital and rare.

Do the next thing no matter what you are trying to do.  Go beyond what has to be done.  Look for what else might be worth the effort.  It will increase your chances of success dramatically.  And it will be more fun than waiting for the phone to ring or the tone that announces a new e-mail to chime on your computer.

 

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when life sucks and no one even notices.   It’s probably even easier at 50+.  But we’re big kids now and our fun—and a meaningful life—isn’t someone else’s job.  The “good life” is up to each of us individually.  You may think you’re doing all the right things to make friends and attract a special someone into your life.  But if it’s not happening, look at what you’re telling yourself.

“I’m bored…” 

Well, it’s good to notice this.  It’s bad to sit around waiting for someone else to fix it.  “Bored” is a danger signal.  You need to keep your world expanding to thrive.  Boredom means you aren’t doing that.  Figure out what interests you and pursue it.

Boredom is the first clue to understanding why you can’t make friends, find a sweetheart, or create that good life you’re yearning for, too.  Admitting that you’re bored with what you have going is a good step.  Continuing down that path is settling for being boring.  Boring is not interesting.  If you want a life, be interested—which makes you interesting.

“I want someone to…” 

Are you putting this in terms of what other people are supposed to do for you?  “I want a man to take care of me” is just plain lazy on many levels.  Same deal for “I want a woman to hang out with me.”  Why should other people want to be around you if you just want to use them?  If you want more in your life, you need to do the work to get it there.  Which means you need to be ready to give as well as receive.

The best way to find friends is to take that scary step of going solo to groups who do the things you want to be part of.  An organization probably already exists for what you want to do—some of them explicitly for singles.  Travel.  Sports.  Hobbies.  You name it.

Do some research online.  Check out the local listings of social groups.  And talk to people.   You might find your all-time favorite venue for rock ‘n roll dancing by talking to a guy at a singles dance.  (I did.)  Once you find the group, get active.  Go to the meetings, get involved in the events, volunteer to do what needs to be done.

As a general rule, the best way to beat a bout of the blues is to do something for someone else.  So think about that, too.  There are many ways to help and most of them will help you as much as whoever you’re assisting.  And you never know who you might meet while you’re doing it.

“My way or the highway…”

Another big mistake at this point in life is assuming that everyone you spend time with has to agree with your politics and your religious persuasion.  Good character and the party line are not the same thing.  This is another part of keeping your world expanding.  A good discussion with different points of view makes you think—and grow.  Respecting others’ right to their own views is a key piece of your own emotional development, too.

Being right is baloney.  There are so many shades of gray in what goes on in the world these days that insisting that whoever you talk to sees it exactly as you do is like assuming the entire world should be looking out the same 12” square window.  You’re building a bunker where a bridge belongs–a guaranteed way to feel lonely at the end of the day.

“I want my freedom…” 

One of the pluses of being alone after 50 is the bliss of doing everything the way you want, whether it’s popcorn for dinner, tai chi on the deck at sunrise, or never making the bed.  The hard truth about having other people in your life is you’ll have to let go of some of these “sovereign rights.”   If you want to do things with other people, you’re going have to agree to do it their way sometimes.  One-way streets are for cars not friendships.

Finding people to spend time with and to love is a multifaceted challenge.  It’s also something you have to choose to do and then work at getting good at.  Your mother may have been willing to listen to you go on and on about “you,” but the rest of the world needs more give and take than that.   Get good at both.

To beat “lonely and blue,” get on with what you like to do, connect with others who enjoy those same things, and then get to know them without deciding how they are going to be what you need.  A vibrant life at any age requires that you think beyond yourself and what you “don’t have.”

 

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Crafting an effective resume when you’re over 50 has extra challenges. If you get it right, the whole world knows you’re good at what you do.  If you don’t, nothing happens.

One of the benefits of experience is that you can make difficult things look easy.  That’s a problem if you end up needing to convince someone new that you’re the right person for the job.   People who’ve been effective over the long haul often lose track of what it’s like to not be that effective.   That leads you to talk in terms of the job instead of how you did it.  Working from that perspective presents you as a plain vanilla anybody.  So before you write one word of that resume you really needed to have done yesterday, think through these questions.

What makes you a uniquely valuable hire?  The vast majority of us have an extremely difficult time putting this into words.  That may be because you’ve been taught not to brag or it may be a case of assuming everyone can do what you’re good at.  Either way, your next employer isn’t going to know that you have exactly what she needs until you get the information out there where she can see it.  Your first shot in that effort is with your resume.

The current jargon for what you need here is “personal brand.”  Knowing what makes you a valuable employee and being able to put that in five to ten words is important in a job search.  Ideally, you will have practiced these words enough that you come up with them as if on autopilot when needed, even in an unexpected place like at your kid’s basketball game or in line at the grocery store.   Having the first few words come out automatically makes it easier to deal with the rest of the conversation effectively.

What’s a resume for?  A resume is a marketing tool.  This is not the place to tell your life story or to go on at length about the minutia of what you did in each job you ever held.  Those of us with a lot of experience can easily shoot ourselves in the foot on this. The stereoype of aging that our culture holds associates longwindedness with mental decline.  Use only what’s important and be concise.

What does my next employer need to know most about me?  You will be way ahead of the competition if you write your resume so that it addresses how you can solve the hiring manager’s problem.  The best way to do that is to highlight how you’ve helped your previous employers get what they needed done.  Just mentioning that you served as the liaison with the Building Department is nowhere near as compelling as saying that you developed solid relationships with them and got permitting accomplished quickly.

What are the differences between the job description and how YOU performed the job?  Quite often, these two things get confused by resume writers.   Talking about the job instead of your performance obscures the value of your experience.  The duties of the job are what’s written on a formal job description.  It might be something like “handles walk in customer traffic.”  How you did the job probably goes beyond that in some unique way.   Were you effective at helping people figure out what they needed?  At dealing with volatile complaints?  At keeping track of clients’s preferences so they felt like they were “family” and became loyal to your place of business?

There’s a place for the job description language–in the experience section right under the company and job title listed.   Use no more than two lines for that description.  The rest of the space you allot for that job experience needs to focus on what you did particularly well.

How can I avoid being ignored because of my age?  The first step in this is to be sure you’re not setting yourself up with your own thinking. Are you making excuses for not learning new things (including technology!) because you are “too old?”  Are you telling yourself you don’t have the stamina you need for what you want to do next?  Neither of these things is a given consequence of getting older.  Change you lifestyle and stop telling yourself that you’re old.

In your resume, pay close attention to your choice of words. Use action verbs and short phrases to project energy. Consider an initial section that speaks in current terms–what you can do NOW–rather than putting everything in the past tense a chronological resume requires.  Avoid as many adjectives and adverbs as you can–they bog the writing down.  And avoid obsolete slang and phrases.

Having experience is a plus that has somehow become devalued in today’s job market.   You can’t expect to be valued for the seniority you had at another company.  But you can present yourself as a viable candidate because of how well you did the work.  You can create momentum to propell yourself into your next job by projecting energy and making a clear case for how you can help the next company better than those who’ve had less of a chance to learn how to get things done.