Back in 2007 I filed away a New York Times special section on retirement. Today I found it in an old file and read an article in that section, “Helping Chart a Career’s Turning Point”. For all blog readers poised for reinvention, this caught my attention.
The article mentions a book that sounds like a must read: “Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose and Passion After 50”. I love the book’s basic premise: author David Corbett developed and trademarked the concept of a life portfolio—a mix of paid work, leisure, travel, lifelong learning, volunteering or community service and time for family and friends.
Corbett’s philosophy is that “Like a financial portfolio, you diversify and rebalance your portfolio as long as you live”. And with that rebalancing comes a lot of analysis and introspection.
The book encourages a holistic view of life goals and often inspires career transformation: engineers who become sculptors, investors who take up organic farming and many other leaps from point A to point B. Corbett believes that portfolio planning helps you rediscover—and get the courage and direction to pursue—your long held, but often long buried passions.
Though I’ve never engaged in Corbett’s life portfolio planning, it would have been a handy tool well before I launched this 9 Lives venture. For several years I had felt increasingly stagnant and tied to a job function I found unreasonably difficult and unsatisfying. Last summer I gave myself a change of scenery, and spent three introspective months in a resort town. Getting out of my usual routine, parking my computer in another place, and seeing my work with fresh eyes sparked a career change that was long overdue.
As Corbett suggests, change can indeed require courage. I had many tentative moments as I inched toward reinvention, but I kept moving because I knew that I was headed toward writing—a longtime passion. Now that I’m back on a more fulfilling path, work is lighter, easier and more fun. Every day another interesting door opens because I’m doing what I truly want to do.
My coaching experience tells me that discovering what you truly want to do is usually a very difficult task. I started my writing career as the editor of the 5th grade “Inky Press”, but few know their passion at such a young age. It’s a big world out there filled with endless possibilities that can overwhelm and confuse.
If you find your mind wandering aimlessly as you search for your next act, my best advice is to search first for a planning structure. Once you have a way to capture and organize your thinking, it’s much easier to zero in on how you want to spend your time. Corbett’s life portfolio structure is one that could very possibly raise your stock in a long, fulfilling, diversified life.
- Follow the advice of Peggy Northrop, former editor-in-chief of both Reader’s Digest and More magazine. She is now in the midst of her own reinvention as the editor-in-chief of a new AARP/Linkedin web site collaboration to be launched in June –WorkReimagined.org. Peggy told me she color codes her calendar so that it’s easy to see—and balance—the time she spends each week on family, friends, work, exercise, etc.
- Listen to nagging feelings about any current work dissatisfaction before you explode and run toward a new, but not ideal, situation.
- Think hard about whether you can make a living—not necessarily a killing–pursuing your real passions.
- Get out of the line of fire for a few days or longer. You can’t fully analyze your life portfolio when your usual routine relentlessly carries on.