After years of focusing their attention on making money, on their careers and on raising a family, many people come to this stage of life unprepared. Even when people have chosen semi-retirement or retirement, they are surprised to experience conflicting emotions, such as loss and a sense of freedom. It is often difficult to let go of the familiar, the recognition you garnered for your expertise and your status, the familiarity of your routine, while at the same time embracing new and unfamiliar ways.
The challenge for many is that while the 50-plus generation was previously defined by its youthful boldness and achievement, now, for many, a new desire for change and conviction produces feelings of discomfort, fear or inappropriateness. There continues to be an underlying cultural belief in our society that people 50-plus should begin to slow down. This is often seen as a time to prepare for leisure and retreat, not a time to prepare for new challenges and fresh engagement.
In preparation for her book, author, Nancy Collamer conducted many interviews with people who were reinventing their Careers and Lives during semi-retirement and offers their insights and lessons learned. The career and life choices that people made were different; however, she noticed certain underlying themes that repeated over and over again:
1. Let Go To Grow. Many people fall into the trap of allowing society to define success. However, knowing and claiming what you really want, as opposed to what society claims you should want, is a critical link to success in the reinvention process.
2. Recognize that Adversity can Lead to Opportunity. Many people interviewed were not necessarily looking for change; however, some were forced to do in response to the financial crisis of 2008 or other personal issues such as health. They succeeded in part because they chose to interpret the turbulence in their lives as ‘opportunity’ instead of an ‘obstacle’. Once they got over their shock of their new reality, they decided it was a fresh start.
3. Plan for Serendipity. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Many of the people interviewed seemed to intuitively understand this, and they consistently sought out opportunities to make this happen. They made a point to speak to strangers; asked many questions; joined Clubs and got involved in their communities. When presented with an opportunity their default response was to ask “Why not?” instead of “Why.”
4. Adopt an Opportunity-Seeker Mindset. Never before in history have we enjoyed easier access to more information. Many of the people interviewed found their “Second Act” opportunities simply by keeping their “opportunity antenna” on alert and paying closer attention to what they were reading. Opportunity is everywhere; however, one needs to become alert enough to look for it, recognize it, take the time to consider it and then be willing to act on it.
5. Attitude Trumps Ability. The people interviewed had a wide range of talent, ability, and backgrounds. However, there was one characteristic they appeared to have in common: a healthy optimism and can-do-spirit. Maintaining a positive attitude isn’t always easy; however, simply being aware of your attitude, and making small adjustments when possible is a good first step to creating a more positive mindset.
6. Appreciate your Age as an Advantage. Many interviewed spoke to the physical problems with aging; however they also spoke of the opportunity to reap the benefits of the wisdom gained from their many years of learning working or traveling. Some spoke to the fact that they didn’t have the maturity to succeed in their twenties and thirties. Others spoke to their renewed freedom as they were freed up from their worries associated with raising a family, paying a mortgage and/or climbing the corporate ladder.
7. Change is Constant, so Embrace it. People are living longer and they are healthier. People between 50 and 75 are considered neither young nor old. Additionally, traditional formulas for success have been turned upside down by the unpredictable forces of an internet-based, global economy. This raises many interesting questions about how to shape their lives. The people interviewed showed an unusual willingness to adapt, to learn new skills and challenge the stereotypes and cultural norms of aging.
8. Perseverance Pays Off. The people spoke of the fact that success isn’t the result of one isolated decision, action or event; rather it is the small actions taken each day that add up to big changes.
9. Fear is Inevitable but you can Overcome it. No matter how old we get, fear plays a role in our lives. Sometimes FEAR is known as an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. The people interviewed expressed they had some level of Fear; they just didn’t let their Fears dictate their choices. They succeeded by building on their strengths, minimizing unnecessary risks and keeping themselves focused on what they could control and change.
10. Education is the single best antidote for Fear. One of the best ways to conquer Fear is education and training. Many of the people interviewed had a great willingness to try and to learn new things. They adopted a ”life-long learning attitude” to help them overcome obstacles, learn new skills and become more successful in their chosen lifestyle.
 Second Act Careers – 50+ ways to profit from your passions during semi-retirement