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It took Jack Craven 20 years to realize that running his family’s wholesale business selling merchandise to discount stores was not how he wanted to spend the second half of his life. He also realized that his ever-increasing unhappiness had impacted his relationships with his loved ones.
“I realized that I didn’t own what I really wanted,” says Craven, who lives in suburban Chicago. “I was more focused on blaming others.”
So how did he manage to get to the other side?
The pandemic’s ‘great resignation’ has been accompanied by a ‘great reinvention’ as more people of all ages quit their jobs and find themselves pondering the meaningful work-life balance to their life. Sometimes it turns into a side hustle like Mr. Craven did. In other cases, it is the pursuit of a long dormant dream. Moreover, it is a total surprise.
After a stint as a litigator and then taking over the reins of the business founded by his father, Mr Craven says he had no idea what he really wanted. It was then that he turned to a holistic leadership retreat and delved into every aspect of his life.
The retreat has evolved into a long-term support system of like-minded business people offering both direction and support. In 2015, from the emotional work he did on himself, was born his new full-time job as an executive coach, helping business leaders and presidents of companies and organizations get through things. which bog them down. Turns out, he says, helping others was exactly what he needed.
“Being vulnerable is definitely the first step,” Craven says.
His family shut down the business after he left, but not all second acts — also called second curves — need be full life overhauls.
Michal Strahilevitz of Moraga, Calif., has a Ph.D. and has been a professor of marketing for more than 20 years.
“At one point I loved it and found it exciting,” she says. “More recently I was doing it because it was what I had always done. Then Covid hit and so many of my students were suffering from anxiety and depression. Truth be told, I was struggling too. I wanted to do something more significant.”
It was then that she developed a course on the science of happiness and well-being, where all homework was designed to make her students happier and healthier. She also did the homework.
“My advice for anyone considering a second curve is to make sure it’s something that really lights you up and lets you shine and grow,” Ms. Strahilevitz says. “If I won $1 billion in a crazy lottery, I would still be doing it. I don’t expect to ever look for a third curve. This is the curve I was made for.
Whether it’s a new job or changes to roles in your current job, “people all over the world are looking for greater fulfillment and more happiness,” she says. “We are no longer willing to settle for a simple paycheck.”
When Ms. Strahilevitz turned around (she also still teaches marketing), she embraced a burgeoning field of social research: happiness with a capital H.
No one does it quite like Arthur C Brooks, first a professional classical French horn player, then president of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute and now a faculty member at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. He is also an author, happiness podcaster and editor of How to Build a Life on Atlantic.
Mr. Brooks has amassed extensive research on happiness and the second half of life in his latest book, Better and better.
A social scientist, he filled the book with explanations and theories about how the brain works and its ups and downs over time, and anecdotes about the abilities of some of history’s most famous figures. , from Charles Darwin to Linus Pauling, a rare winner of two different Nobel Prizes. Prize — one for Chemistry and one for Peace.
Mr. Brooks describes two types of intelligence, one that declines with age and one that increases and remains high.
“In the beginning, we have fluid intelligence, which is a kind of raw intelligence and ability to focus,” he says. “The harder you work, the better you get in your first career. This tends to decrease in the 40s and 50s. The second curve is your ability to understand what things mean, to combine ideas, to teach, to form teams. This is your wisdom curve.
The latter, he says, increases between 40 and 50 years and remains high between 60 and 70 years. “It’s really, really important that you manage to transition from one to the other if you want to stay strong and happy,” Brooks says.
For wrestlers, these deficits are what they fear most. “People are always afraid of decline,” he says. “But for aspirants truly invested in professional excellence, it’s their fear of death.”
Facing that fear is another step, he says. According to Mr. Brooks, it’s also essential to embrace weakness in a way that turns it into strength. He calls satisfaction “one of the three macronutrients of happiness,” the others being pleasure and purpose.
“You need all three and plenty of balance, but satisfaction isn’t the hardest part to get. It’s the hardest part to keep,” Brooks says.
Rita Goodroe, 45, who lives in suburban Washington, knows exactly what Mr. Brooks is talking about. His pivot came earlier than most.
Before becoming a full-time entrepreneur, working as a business strategist, sales coach and speaker, she spent 13 years as a lawyer, including long stints in the real estate world and under contract with the Department of United States Justice, a job she fell when her dream of becoming a lawyer in the entertainment industry failed to materialize.
“All my life people have said, you’re going to be a lawyer,” Ms Goodroe says, adding that her transition was slow.
“It was a series of moments and they all build. And I think it’s really important to note that. Everyone is waiting for the sign. At the moment, here’s that sign that I should stop and do something else, whether it’s leaving a relationship or quitting a job. Either way, and it’s not like that,” she says.
His road was not straight. In 2006, while still practicing law, she started a Meetup group for singles like herself in the Washington area that quickly gained members and sponsors.
Soon she met a guy, but he broke up with her just before her 35th birthday after dating for five years. That’s when she decided to pivot again, blogging about dating 35 guys in 35 days to mark her birthday.
“The goal for me at that time was not to find love,” Ms Goodroe says.
“It was to meet people that I wouldn’t normally meet and do things that I normally wouldn’t do, so I had to be really uncomfortable and see how I reacted and what my habits and flaws were so that I could learn about myself. It was the moment of “Oh my God, things have to change”.
Her revelations (“I realized how much I was letting fear hold me back”) led her to quit law for good and embark on her own endeavors, including a stretch as a dating coach. She then started talking to groups and organizations about her dating project and found that she was good at it.
It was easy to focus on self-doubt at first after giving up a regular paycheck. By projecting this out into the world, Ms Goodroe says, she made it difficult for others to support her.
However, Mr. Brooks points out that not all second acts are about business. A second act could be a spiritual journey or a commitment to long-term voluntary work, he says. Either way, it’s not an easy quest.
“You need a life full of problems if you want to have lots of opportunities,” he says. “If you have smooth navigation, if you get everything you want, you’re going to be bored to death.”
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Updated: May 06, 2022, 05:00