Enlisting a Coach and Charting a New Course

by Dennis Blank

Why I'm enlisting a coach to help me figure out what I want to do in ‘retirement.’

Life 3.0I’m sitting in the big green leather chair in my living room watching the Academy Awards, and I’m thinking I’d like to be George Clooney or Alec Baldwin. Those guys really know how to wear a tuxedo. Armani probably. Beautiful young actresses on their arms—also Italian. Smooth and charming. Rich and handsome. Yep, if I’m going to pursue a new life, Hollywood star looks pretty good.

But there’s no future in that idea. Coach Lou will put the kibosh on it before Baldwin demolishes the olives from his first post-Oscar martini at the Vanity Fair party. Lou is so practical. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d better back up a bit and tell you what Coach Lou and I are planning to do here.

Call me d’blank. I’m a recent retiree from a huge media conglomerate in New York City (which I’ll call “Jumbo Corp.”). Coach Lou has been my friend since we were 12 years old. She’s a partner in an executive and leadership training consultancy in Boulder, Colo.

The idea behind “Life 3.0” is that while I’m retired, I ain’t dead yet, and I’d like to have a productive and interesting third part to my life; I’ve enlisted Coach Lou’s help to plan this journey in a systematic and productive fashion.

I’ll be damned if I can think of one good reason why you’d be interested in my story, but I’ll give you a little background and you can decide for yourself. Coach Lou is another proposition. She’s a smart cookie and I’ll tell you a little story about her, as well, that may help you decide if you’d like to follow along on our little adventure.

I’m 60 now. I grew up in a blue-collar, Midwestern town but always wanted the bright lights and big city life. I worked for Jumbo Corp. for 24 of the last 30 years in various sales and marketing jobs—in New York mostly, but also in London and Chicago before retiring last October.

I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I left Jumbo twice to try other things. Neither worked out well enough to stop working, and I was lucky not to have burned any bridges, so both times I returned to Jumbo to keep a paycheck coming in.

After retiring I came to Florida to sit out the winter and to figure out what Life 3.0 is going to look like for me. The former was easy but the latter, to quote the philosopher Jethro Bodine, was making my brain hurt.

That’s when I enlisted Coach Lou’s help. I thought of her because she’s a friend, and a smart and caring person, but also because I had once previously solicited her professional insights on a problem I was having, and she was a tremendous help.

Here’s that story. I’d just gone back to Jumbo in ’03 and really needed the job. I had one kid in an expensive college and another in the pipeline. I liked the job but very soon after starting found myself entangled in a political tussle with someone who had more political juice than me. And for some odd reason she seemed to enjoy torturing me.

I’d been in several similar scrapes over the years and had always employed the tactics recommended in “The Untouchables,” by Sean Connery, as appropriate tactics for fighting the mob: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.”

It was effective enough to keep me working but is probably part of why I never became a publisher of a Jumbo Corp. magazine. I was a blunt object as a corporate politician, and I needed to keep this job. So I called Lou.

I won’t go into the details of the advice she gave me, but suffice it to say that it bore no trace of the Windy City style. It was thoughtful, logical and really very simple. Human but unemotional. Most importantly, it worked beautifully. The person with whom I was having the beef ended up being an ally instead, and I had a very nice six-year run in the job.

So what I learned is the value a professional coach can have when one is trying to solve a problem or sort through a complicated process. The folks at What’s Next thought many of you would enjoy looking over my shoulder as I search for a Life 3.0 plan, with the benefit of regular guidance from Coach Lou. Look here for a new post from Coach and me each week.

 

Coach Lou is a co-founder of Chain Reaction Partners, an executive and leadership training consultancy in Boulder, Colo. d’blank is the author of The Daily Blank blog.


by Dennis Blank | Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | Career Change, Dream Careers, Hiring a Life Coach

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