“It’s never too late to do something that your heart really desires,” says perpetual student Jennie Richards, who is studying for her MBA in Sustainable Enterprise. “I didn’t get married until I was forty-five. Now I’m back in school at age fifty-two. My life is proof that you don’t have to follow a set template or do what everyone else does just because they do it. It’s so important to follow your own internal guide and intuition about what is right for you—and then just do it!…The right time to do what you love is when you’re ready.”
Richards is one of the more than two dozen people whose stories are told in management consultant and bestselling author BJ Gallagher’s newly reissued book, It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been: A Guide to Getting the Life You Love (Viva Editions).
According to the interviewees, finding what your heart really desires involves listening (to yourself, to your environment, to what triggers you) more than it involves doing anything—as exemplified by the successful TV newsman whose passion for covering stories gave way to a passion for being with his family, which led to a less time-consuming job in marketing; or the woman who, when chastised by her boss for being an “advocate” for her clients rather than for the company that paid her salary, realized she wanted to go to law school.
In some cases, dreams were fulfilled by taking lower-status jobs: a lawyer becomes a car salesman; an advertising executive goes to dog-grooming school. Often people not only change careers but quit lucrative jobs, move, go back to school, take up a new hobby, or find a new relationship.
All the people interviewed in this book made these enormous shifts without apparent financial problems because they had nest eggs or a spouse or family member who agreed to finance their change. But what about those of us without such support?
“Money is like a hammer,” says Kate Higgens, a former social worker who is now a philanthropist, in the chapter titled “Money Equals Freedom.” “It’s a tool. You can use it to build something, or you can use it to destroy something. The hammer is neutral—and so is money.” Realizing at age 30 that she wanted the freedom money could give her, she decided to learn about it. She consulted with “smart people,” discerned the difference between wants and needs, and calculated her needs. Then she began to invest to increase her savings—aiming toward a life of freedom.
And what about people who want to make a change late in life? Can they achieve financial freedom?
“There’s no such thing as late,” Higgens says. “People need to give up that notion….You can always do something.…Start where you are.”
In the excerpt below, Gallagher interviews Laurie (account executive-turned-dog groomer) and Harvey Smith (textile executive-turned-business and life coach).
It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been: A Guide to Getting the Life You Love
“In some ways,” [says Harvey,] “it’s almost easier to change if you don’t have a lot of money, because you don’t have much to lose—you’re not invested to the same extent you are after twenty years.”
Laurie added, “I would advise people not to make this kind of change without a buffer, without enough money to last them twelve months while they’re getting started in their new line of work…”
“As you consider making a change to pursue your dream, there are some key questions you need to ask yourself,” Harvey explained. “First, what does success look like for me? Second, what attitude do I need to adopt in order to achieve this success? Third, what knowledge and skills do I need to have? Fourth, who are the people I am going to surround myself with?
“You need a community of support: models, mentors, supporters, friends, family—a mastermind group. Consider hiring a coach….”
“Something else to keep in mind,” Laurie interjected. “It’s a lot easier to make a career change if it’s your choice. It’s a lot harder adjustment if you get downsized or fired—then you’re forced into a change that isn’t your choosing.”
“So the underlying message is that you either choose for yourself or run the risk of others choosing for you,” I said.
“Yes, the underlying message is that we have choices,” Laurie concluded. “It comes down to this: Imagine living your life knowing that you never even tried to achieve something that was in your heart or something that was meaningful to you. You’d not only be robbing yourself, you would be robbing others of all that you had to offer.”
“And one last thought I’d like to add,” Harvey said. “There is more than one way to be successful. In my early career as a teacher I learned that in every individual there is a magnificence. If only we would take the time to find that magnificence in ourselves.”
Excerpted from It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been: A Guide to Getting the Life You Love by BJ Gallagher. Copyright © 2009, 2014 by BJ Gallagher. Published by Viva Editions.