Author: Kim Forbes

It’s your second act – a chance to follow your dreams

The USA is seeing a trend in entrepreneurship that is encouraging for those approaching or in retirement, and who still look forward to working.

Fifty-five to sixty-four year olds account for 26% of new entrepreneurs, says journalist and author, Chris Farrell, citing a Kauffmann Foundation study.

“Second-act entrepreneurs launch (their ideas) despite critics because they are passionate about following their passions”, says Farrell.

Farrell shares four lessons from those business starters who have shared their stories on NextAvenue.org.

1. Minimise minus factors

It’s a good idea to test your ideas before you make the transition out of your current career, if you are still working. Start working on it on the side. Research, explore, upskill in your new area of interest, if necessary – there are so many online courses available, and some for free. Here are a few sources:

Farrell gives the example of a couple who started a BnB. The general rule regarding such a business is that it takes seven rooms to make a living. The couple made the top floor their residence and this reduction in living costs compensated for the fact that they had only three suites for potential income. The husband still worked part-time as an engineer.

“Assess if there is a demand beyond your friends and family,” advises Kimberly Eddleston, a university entrepreneurship professor, in a NextAvenue.org article by Leslie Hunter-Gadsden.

Mary Pender Greene, author of Creative Mentorship and Career-Building Strategies, concurs. “Launching a business perhaps one to five years before retiring from your current one provides the chance to test the market for your product or service.” She recommends at least a year to plan before you leave your current role.

2. Love what you do

See this time as an opportunity to be creative, for your work to be something that really gives you joy every day. You don’t have to follow the same route as your first or most recent career, nor do you have to command the same salary. Aim for significance and joy, so as not to find yourself held by the rigor of a too-busy schedule again. Work part-time, or consult, but according to your own schedule.

3. Anchor yourself in your community

Be it your neighbourhood, religious community, education alumni, work-friendship group, small business forums, these networks can be a rich source of advice, encouragement, support, and connections. Farrell cites the example of a woman who started a publishing company, and who found that so many people in her community wanted to tell their stories, and these stories were worth reading and a legacy to the children. The BnB owners enjoyed helping their guest learn about their city, and have built a network of local suppliers for their business.

Mary Pender Greene recommends having “a wide swath of contacts”, as “there are always transferable skills”.

4. Plan for challenges but be nimble

You may need to change course, advises Farrell. If your business growth or direction creates the need for additional help or skills, be open to hiring someone. If you need to change your costing structure, do so to make your business sustainable.

Be prepared to fail is the watchword, but fail cheaply. Don’t put your retirement savings and investments at risk.

Nevertheless, planning is essential. Leslie Hunter-Gadsden suggests asking these questions about your new career:

  • What will your day look like?
  • What time commitment will be required from you (once full-time)?
  • Will it provide the profit margins you need?

“A part of what makes it successful during the transition is to keep your focus open,” says Pender Greene. “If you hold to tightly to a goal, you might not see the new opportunities.”

Here is to new opportunities in your second act!

@ Chartered House Event

How to invest wisely when our economy is stuck in low gear was the theme of the 2020 Old Mutual presentation to Chartered Wealth Solutions clients.

This annual event took place at Chartered House on 18 February this year. The presentation, entitled ‘Breaking the Holding Pattern’, aimed to respond to investors’ queries about managing a well-diversified portfolio – across local and global asset classes – when equities have been treading water for some time.

The Old Mutual presentation by Monene Watson, Chief Investment Officer of Old Mutual Multi Managers, offered answers to these complex questions to help clients navigate the investment landscape in 2020.

Use your skills to secure a career shift

How a former CEO harnessed his corporate expertise to segue into a thriving new career

When Michael Blain first visited Chartered, he was facing a significant life shift, as do many of our clients. Little did he know that his career up to that time would pave a new path for him to work and give back to the South African community. Michael shares his journey in this interview with Kim Forbes.

Tell us about your career change.

During my articles as a Chartered Accountant I had exposure to insurance and reinsurance companies, and it is in this sector that I established my career.

After a two-year secondment to KPMG in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, I returned to South Africa and filled leadership positions in various financial services companies. I was CEO of the Centriq group for seven years, and Managing Director of Altrisk. I finally joined a business that direct marketed insurance products.

By the end of 2017, I had overseen two phases of retrenchments following the rightsizing of the business. I was emotionally exhausted and a little disillusioned with corporate life. I wanted an opportunity to make a difference and improve the lives of all South Africans.

I developed a website to help people plan for their death and to record their legacy for their family and heirs.

On this journey, I met Lianne Barlon who was running her own small funeral business. I was intrigued by some of her frustrations and assisted her with restructuring her company – we shared a similar business vision and ethos. This vision connected us with Sonja Smith, owner and founder of the Sonja Smith Elite Funeral Group, and we became owners of a Sonja Smith franchise in Fourways.

What is the appeal of this new career?

I certainly never envisaged myself as a funeral director or being so closely involved in the funeral industry. For a long time, I looked for a way to add tangible benefits to life insurance pay-outs, to assist families to deal with the fallout of unplanned deaths. A family caught up in emotions and grief following a loved one’s death often can’t focus on selecting a funeral undertaker or knowing what to do next. They can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators or make decisions they later regret.

In addition to the funeral franchise, we established Soul Café, a retail, bereavement and support centre for those struggling with grief and loss. We intentionally chose our location in the heart of our community, not hidden in the back streets of town or a cemetery. Our offices’ design ensures people feel welcome and comfortable. We mix a retail space with a training area and have informal lounges and private consultation spaces – all to remove the fear and stigma associated with death and grief. We offer an entirely new experience in planning a funeral or seeking counselling and support.

By bringing fairness, professionalism, compassion and dignity to the funeral planning process, we assist families to make informed decisions and to ensure they celebrate their loved one’s life in a fitting tribute, without regrets or added stress. It is so rewarding to serve families during this difficult time and see the difference we make in their grief recovery process. I feel a strong sense of purpose as my work gives me meaning.

The impact from our daily activities and decisions brings us immense satisfaction. I enjoy seeing the steady gains from our intense and time-consuming marketing.

How did you manage this reinvention so successfully?

My greatest challenge was to step away from my personal self-image of a corporate executive, to roll up my sleeves and become a funeral planner and director of a small business. Many people look down on this industry; it’s seen as scary, seedy and staffed by societal misfits. As in all industries, you find the good and the bad. The difficulty is discerning the differences when short of time, in turmoil and under emotional pressure. We received huge support when we aligned with the Sonja Smith Group. Sonja is a highly principled, ethical businesswoman and entrepreneur, with extremely high standards across all her business operations.

I learned to accept myself as a funeral director without the status and trappings of a corporate executive title. I also had to ignore being enticed back into the corporate world and perceived safety of a fixed salary.

Which of your skills support you now?

My leadership skills from my corporate background come to bear in this business: empathy, listening skills, problem solving and project planning. You get only one chance to get it right – everything must be done properly and in the right sequence. You carry much responsibility to ensure someone’s memories of their loved one’s funeral are positive and comforting.

My experience of implementing the Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) framework in financial services allows me to apply those same principles as we engage with our clients, ensuring our families are given the best possible advice and service for a fair and reasonable fee.

My accounting and administrative experience has been invaluable in setting up a small business. I am honing my marketing skills, especially in digital media.

What advice could you have given yourself before the shift, in retrospect?

A start-up business process takes longer than expected, requiring fortitude and patience. You require capital resources to see you through the early years. Building awareness and brand recognition takes much longer and is harder than you initially think. You can become frustrated and disillusioned when results are not immediate. If you believe in your core purpose, though, and are true to your values, then you are more resilient when disappointed. A great sense of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile.

A final comment?

Soul Café has been well received by our clients because funeral parlours often only deal with the first part of the grief journey. We walk the long road with our clients: from the time their loved ones fall ill to the funeral or memorial through to attending our grief support groups. This is healthy for both the client and for Lianne and me. We comfort them and are comforted – we know our clients are not grieving alone. They meet new people who empathise and form bonds with others experiencing similar pain. I believe we are changing the industry with our holistic and realistic approach to living and dying. We encourage people to grieve and to seek support as they need it. We believe ours is a healthier and kinder business model.

Map your own ageing journey

It can take a health crisis to remind us that we have more control over our health than we may think … and then to take those steps to ensure we stay well for as long as we can.

Research¹ shows that globally, people are living longer, but not better. In fact, the gap between their longevity and their wellness averages 10 years. So, it is more important than ever that we recognise our own power in determining how we age.

My 82-year old father has always been an example of healthy ageing. As testimony to his physical resilience, he celebrated his 80th birthday by hiking the five-day Whale Trail in De Hoop Reserve along with his long-standing hiking buddies.

It was therefore a matter of concern for us that he has been experiencing a few months of feeling unwell. Despite urgings from his family members, he resisted attempts to get him to the doctor. Whatever the excuse, it was clear that he was nervous about what the doctor might discover.

Of course, the inevitable day arrived when the ongoing feeling of something “not right” overcame his reluctance, and he went for the necessary tests and booked his appointment with the doctor. He was subsequently referred to an oncologist and has had one consultation with her.

I expected to see a rise in my father’s anxiety. After all, his test results are not what we all hope for when we anxiously await results: a clear bill of health. His attitude, in fact, suggests relief, and therein lies the lesson.

Knowing where you stand – be it regarding your health, your finances, your job – is so empowering, even if it is not where you want to be. It’s far better than living in that limbo of uncertainty, imagining what the reality COULD be, or suppressing feelings of fear that find their way to the surface when the pressure is on. I liken it to a ball bobbing on the water – you can push it down underwater with as much force as you can apply, but it will shoot up somewhere else.

Secondly, the doctor to whom he was referred was just the right person. Factual in her approach, she was nevertheless empathetic and positive.

We all have a choice – to take control of our journey into ageing, or to abdicate, and hope that everything will just work itself out.

But a reality check is that, if you have reasonably good health up to age 65 or 70, you have dodged one of the chronic illnesses that often prove fatal: heart failure, stroke, lung disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.

So, you may be looking forward to robust health for a good few years yet, and it becomes even more crucial that you take control of your health. You want to enjoy the next chapter, so don’t succumb to the notion that ageing equals ill health. Yes, there will be progressive problems as you age, and ultimately, some kind of disability and the need for care. But take control now to reduce the possibility of having to manage a chronic condition earlier than necessary.

Regular health checks, regular exercise and healthy eating are a given. Cut out smoking, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Forgive, yourself first, and then others and the world for not being perfect. And let go of what does not serve you and the world.

MD and author, Sam Harrington captures this in his recommendation: “Study and embrace aging and chronic illness. Take control of your final chapter. Be there when it happens.”

¹The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017

Harnessing the power of When

No matter your age, personal reinvention is possible

If you felt – or are feeling – a dip in your contentment in your 50s or 60s, you are living true to life’s timing.

So says author, Daniel pink, in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Pink does not subscribe to the notion of a midlife crisis. “It’s a myth, not supported by evidence,” he asserts.

What does hold validity, in Pink’s opinion, is the U-shaped Curve of Happiness, the subject of an increasing number of books (notably, The Happiness Curve by Jonathan Rauch), articles and blogs.

Because the fifties are also known as the ‘empty nesting years’, there is a sense of sadness and loss, a dip in the U-shaped curve of happiness. It’s not a drastic dip, says Pink, but it is noticeable. The good news is that reaching a mid-point of a pursuit signals a change – a psychological alarm is sounded.

What is your clarion call saying, at whatever point you find yourself now?

According to Pink, the advantage at this stage is that there is still time to change – to reinvent yourself. If you have always longed to play an instrument, always wanted to impact your community through strategically volunteering your skills and time, if you have long recognised that you have always wanted to teach – now is the time. You have a carte blanche to reinvent yourself, your relationships and your career.

What to do about that purposeless feeling

Pink advocates finding a mentor, the benefits of which are clear. Having someone who has walked the path help you find or shape your own gives you insight and reassurance that you can take the risk, strike out on your own, take the initiative to heal that relationship.

Pink draws on Buffett’s five-twenty-five principle. First, write down your top 25 goals for your life (personally, I prefer the notion of self-improvement to goals, or Twyla Tharp’s Pledge – never reached, always inviting you to the next adventure); second, highlight the top five and focus on those only until you feel you have achieved them.

Third, decide what you need to say ‘Yes’ to, and, equally important, ‘No’ to in order to achieve these Top Five. Take time to determine this – write it down. This will give you the clear vision (2020 vision?) that will cause confusion and muddled thinking to evaporate.

What’s your ‘When’ horizon?

Finally, can you allow yourself time? Not everything needs to happen now. Will you allow yourself imperfection? Change ‘destination’ to ‘journey’ – you are always growing, learning and evolving. Self-acceptance and serenity may hold the secret to the contentment that you seek.

To live fully, choose amplitude, not age, to define you

“Breathe deeply, put your shoulders back, and allow your body to take up space.”

This is how renowned choreographer, Twyla Tharp, defines amplitude. With age, she says, “we start to retreat, retract, become protective, secluded and start to ossify.”

With her mantra that age is not the enemy, but stagnation is as her motivation, Twyla has captured her positive message in a new book entitled: Keep It Moving: lessons for the rest of your life.

Hailed as one of the great choreographers of our age, Twyla, at 78, continues to choreograph at the American Ballet Theatre, and continues to redefine ageing with it. “Don’t accept the rumour that the body becomes less,” she protests. “It becomes different, hopefully more.”

She acknowledges that a career as a professional dancer is short lived, with 35 years of age signalling the end. “Ageing is the last taboo,” she claims. “We will do everything we can to deny that we have turned the corner. I knew that I would have to confront and wrestle with this issue of ageing, or I would be stopped … and I am not interested in being stopped; I worked too long and too hard for that.”

Twyla rejects the notion that we should feel guilty for ageing, or try to deny it to be a full human being. “You’re just not attractive as you used to be,” she says, “I’m different from what I used to be. Age is a change, not a disease, so be curious and don’t be afraid.”

“I wrote this book to help others believe that you are constantly evolving,” she explains. “We have had the notion of stagnation laid on us by our culture.” She encourages each of us to bring our physical intelligence to bear, especially as we age, so that we are reminded constantly to be in motion.

How do we do this, you ask. Twyla says that it is optimism that she looks for in a dancer – “you can do it, and if you can’t now, you will” – and it is the same attitude that will allow us to ‘keep moving’.

Twyla recommends making a pledge rather than setting goals. “A goal is something that you can accomplish,” according to Twyla. “A pledge, however, is something that you are working constantly towards that will never be finished.” The implications of this distinction is that you will always be drawn forward into a new adventure when you have made a pledge.

You can watch Twyla’s interview by clicking here.

What a mentor means to you

Stew Lithgow authored an article for the Retire Successfully community on creating a new career of his passion for flying (you can read the article by clicking here).

There is perhaps no greater metaphor for how this wonderful man lived his life – freely flying into the endless blue skies of hope, of dreams, of possibility. And passing on this love of life was part of his purpose also.

This legacy from Stew is captured in the tribute to him posted on the Retire Successfully website by his friend, Sven Heyrowsky:
Rest in peace my friend. Stew passed away in December 2019. Always you will remain my idol as a pilot.

Sven reminds us of the value of surrounding ourselves with those who will help us pilot our lives significantly. His words are reminiscent of Chip Conley’s reflections on the quest for wisdom:

Seeking wisdom is a tricky business.

We think we need all kinds of degrees and certificates, or bells and whistles. Spend a weekend walking on burning coals with Tony Robbins or binge-watch Oprah’s SuperSoul Sundays. Maybe a good Deepak Chopra book has our answers. The truth is, wisdom is much closer. Perhaps right next to us.

Imagine your wisest friend for a few minutes:

  • How do they go about creating a purposeful life?
  • What qualities do you most admire in them?
  • How could you emulate them beginning today?
  • Better yet, when was the last time you reached out and asked them for advice?

Chip Conley, author of ‘Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder

Who are your mentors? Take time to connect with them this week.

See differently to live differently

Have 2020 vision for a fulfilling new year

Yes, I am one of those who makes new year’s resolutions. Who’s with me?

I relish the sense of refreshing and hope that comes with a new year. I feel sure that these ‘self-promises’ reflect our longing to improve, to create a more contented life for ourselves, those we love, and those whose lives we can touch positively. The goal may be to lose those five kilograms (or 10!), sign up for a course of learning, or be a better friend – whatever it is, it sets an expectation of a better year.

I know that many people pooh-pooh this habit, mostly because we so often fail to sustain our resolve. Check your inbox and you’ll find any number of articles suggesting ways to stick to our intentions: create small steps, write it down, form an accountability group.

It seems to me, though, that 2020 lends itself to the notion of fresh vision – and if we want an improved life, a renewed view of ourselves, our relationships and the world can be freeing and empowering.

Change your view

Professor Adam Brandenburger, in a Harvard Business Review article, encourages us to ‘defamiliarise’ our way of seeing – “to stop seeing the world in the familiar way and start seeing it in unfamiliar and generative ways”.

He expands: “When we look at the world, we should not just examine, but examine with a deliberately different perspective. Not just name what is around us, but come up with new names. Not just consider the whole, but break things up (or down) into pieces. These techniques can help us see our way to the new and revolutionary”.

How does this new habit help us create a meaningful life?

Avid birdwatchers, or regular bush trekkers understand Branderburger’s advice: taking that moment to enjoy, not only identify the bird, but admiring its colour, its wing formation, its song, makes that moment beautiful.

Consider those things you take for granted, that are now ‘habituated’ and live in our peripheral vision. This applies to our relationships, work, hobbies, and daily rituals.

He urges us to counter our built-in tendency to habituate, to sink into familiar ways of seeing and experiencing.

“One way in which great artists, entrepreneurs, and creators of all kinds come up with the insights that enable them to change the world is that, very literally, they do not see the way that most of us do. By seeing differently, we can end up seeing what no-one else has yet seen. That is how the future is built,” he concludes.

Your year of seeing differently

So, what will you see differently this year? What needs renaming in your world?

A starting point for me is to change the term “new year’s resolutions” to “steps in making personal progress” – it has a much more active ring to it!

How can you redefine ‘success’ to encourage self-acceptance and gratitude?

I love Arianna Huffington’s thoughts in her book Thrive:

We now know through the latest scientific findings that if we worship money, we’ll never feel truly abundant. If we worship power, recognition and fame, we’ll never feel we have enough. And if we live our lives madly rushing around, trying to find and save time, we’ll always find ourselves living in a time famine, frazzled and stressed.

There’s a collective longing to stop living in the shallows, to stop hurting our health and our relationships by striving so relentlessly after success as the world defines it — and instead tap into the riches, joy and amazing possibilities our lives embody.

Finally, I am recognising that much of the contentment I seek is what I already have; it’s just having the eyes to see it – faith, hope and love. I take the words of Thomas Merton, monk, scholar and social activist. I hope they will serve you also for fresh vision in 2020:

We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we slow down and be still, it will make itself known to us.

Kim Forbes is the Writer and a Life Coach at Chartered Wealth Solutions.

You’re too old to be doing this!

A celebrated chef I will never be, but I do persevere with trying to be a half-way decent cook. I often wonder, though, when deciphering a new recipe in the hope of producing a culinary masterpiece, if I should just give the whole thing up. Stop trying to master the cooking skill and succumb to the Woolies Food run and resultant pocket drain.

Then, I was encouraged by Chip Conley’s article and gained two insights: learning is good for me, and so is letting go of measuring my cooking against everyone else’s.

Chip Conley, founder of Modern Elder Academy and author of Wisdom at Work, shares his experience of his journey to learn Spanish.

“My first half-dozen classes were brutal,” he confesses.

Frequently, he says, the feelings of stupidity would overwhelm him on the journey home, as he replayed the message in his mind: “You’re too old to be doing this!”

After watching a TED Talk, he came to realise that we, as adults, take ourselves far too seriously.

A corollary to this is that this can hamper our learning. “The fastest way to metabolise something new – whether it’s learning a language, trying to stand up on a surfboard, or joining a different industry – is to have fun with it,” he advises.

“And you can’t have fun when you are constantly worrying about how you are measuring up,” he adds. “This is essential 21st century wisdom as our most important midlife skill in a constantly changing world – learning how to learn again.”

Chip found he could laugh with his Spanish teacher, and they could talk about a range of subjects. Suddenly, the learning “felt less like walking on a balance beam and more like climbing on a jungle gym”, he says.

It was not a surprise then, that his Spanish improved, and he leaves us with this challenge for 2020:
What’s something new you could try with less seriousness and a lighter heart?

Here is this TED video that Chip Conley found so freeing.

What are the differences between Perfectionism and Excellence

And why Excellence is a better for you and everyone else!

Aiming for perfection always in our lives – our expectations of reality, our expectations of ourselves, our tasks, our relationships. Excellence, experts and psychologists suggest, is a healthier goal. It allows us to meet high standards and still leave room for mistakes. This article highlights contrasts in the influence and effects of each approach:

(source: Psychology Today – Dr Barbara Markway; Forbes – Angela Civitella)


PERFECTIONISTS


PURSUERS OF EXCELLENCE

Strive for impossible goalsEnjoy meeting high standards within reach
Value themselves by what they doValue themselves by who they are
When they run into difficulty, they get easily overwhelmed and give upExperience temporary disappointment, but keep going
Can be devastated by failureLearns from failure
Remember mistakes, dwell on themCorrect mistakes and learns from them
Wants to be number oneCan live with not being the best, especially when they know they’ve tried their hardest
Hates criticismSee criticism as a way to learn
Have to win to keep high self-esteemCan finish second and still feel good about themselves
How things appear to others and whether they’re done rightHave a reason for actions, being driven by that purpose to achieve success
Sets up for failure, drains, causes pain and the disillusionment of not being up to parRazor-sharp focus to execute and accomplish what matters and what needs to get done to achieve
No gain, little reward, no joy or sense of accomplishment; only disillusionmentAllows you to be productive, stay the course, keep the end goal in sight