Sometime between your 30's and your 40's it happens.
Something clicks. It might be our heightened awareness of our mortality or we finally, and truly become the adults we've been aspiring to be.
And then maybe a thought runs through your mind saying:
What the f*ck am I doing with my life?
You're not alone.
When I got into the career coaching world I thought I'd only work with people in their early 20's ready and eager to discover their life path, jump on-board and voila! Wishful thinking.
The reality of it is that I work mostly with people usually between 30 and 50. People who already have a career but now realize it's not where they want to be. Lawyers who want to become contractors. Accountants who want to become programmers. Mechanics who want to become graphic designers. And business owners who want to become leadership coaches (yes...that was me).
The challenge for all of these people, including myself, is that no matter what direction we choose in life, there's a price to pay for what you want.
The greater the shift between where you are now and where you want to be, the great the price.
This price may come in the form of Time, Money and Energy.
I'm here to tell you TWO things:
1. It's worth every second, every penny and every ounce of energy if it means living a life worth living.
2. I'm here to tell you it's not too late. It's NEVER too late.
While I can't convince you of either, I thought I'd share a story that helped change the way I see time and the pursuit of professional happiness.
THE LEGEND OF SKIP BEY
It was in 2004 that I met him. As he often did at the time, Skip was hosting an evening with some of the world's greatest jazz musicians on his stage at Le Quartier Latin during the annual and renowned Montreal Jazz Festival.
A childhood friend and I would regularly attend, sit in the back of the room and gawk at the near silent impact of this quiet gentleman and his upright bass. For months we would be treated to the underground greats the city had to offer. One after the other, different musicians would get on stage but there was always one constant: Skip would be on the upright bass. Almost like a talkshow host having different guests around his coffee table.
Being a (not so great) bassist myself, I wanted to speak with him, pick his brain and hope that he could steer me in the right direction. I wanted to be just like him.
One night, during one of his breaks between sets, I mustered up enough courage to talk to him. What followed was a conversation I'll remember for a lifetime.
I was a 27 year old aspiring musician at the time. I felt like I was a bit too old to get into the game and I was probably right. I asked Skip what he thought about age and music. He took a sip of his drink, looked up at me with an amused look on his face and told me he was in his 30's when he picked up his first bass. Since then, he'd go on to accompany music legends such as Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett and many, many more.
LESSON #1: IT'S NEVER, EVER TOO LATE TO START
How did he do it? How did he reinvent himself half way through his life, pick up an instrument and become an icon in a city riddled with talent?
While I didn't ask him those questions exactly, I got my answer regardless.
I had asked Skip if he would teach me to be a great bassist.
"Get up on that stage, pick up my bass and play. It doesn't matter what notes you play, as long as you play on time."
No. This story doesn't end with me getting up on stage with jazz legends playing on a level of musical mastery. It ended with me thanking him with a handshake and offering him a dark rum and coke. His answer has stuck with me ever since.
While there are many important nuggets that can be extracted for musical use, the core of the lesson was much deeper than that.
It was about taking action and failing fearlessly.
LESSON #2: IF YOU WANT TO BE GREAT AT WHAT YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO TAKE ACTION.
You have to know what you love and be brave enough to acknowledge that love by taking action.
Skip's wisdom was uncommon and inspiring. And while most of you reading this probably aren't musicians or interested in following such a path, these two lessons apply to all of us.
Skip was in his late 60's when we met and he was in the latter stages of a cancer that would eventually take his life.
He went from beginner to legend in the second half of his life and while he aimed to impact the world with his music, he affected my life with his kindness, his wisdom and his ability to take bold inspired action.