I have had several careers - all enjoyable, and all
interesting; though I never thought of myself as an
entrepreneur at the time.
I retired from the corporate world at 40. Why? I thought I
was old. If it was a mid-life crisis, I had been experiencing that non-conformance thought since I was 30.
I like to say that I started at the top and worked my way down - at least as far as remuneration and prestige are concerned. But those judgments are through the eye of the
beholder, and certainly not from my perspective.
At age 23, I was editor of the glossy, "Manitoba Junior Chamber of Commerce Magazine". I had to make a choice at that time. Did I want to be in the journalism business where
my heart was, or the corporate world where prestige and
generous remuneration and benefits were to be garnered?
I chose big business and joined the corporate world in 1964 where I climbed the ladder from a technical sales representative in the chemical industry, to head of the Western Region in Canada when I was 34, with autonomous responsibility for a manufacturing plant, transportation of goods, and a seven division sales force.
The 70's were heady days for commerce in Canada. Profits were great and companies were
generous with their employees and community. But, I felt there was something missing from my life. I
let it be known I yearned to get out of the corporate hustle and bustle at 40, and get back to my first love of writing. No one really took me seriously except for my wife, Phyllis. After all, few would think of giving up a
successful career where, as the youngest of my peers, I had the best shot at the position of company president.
I did resign, much to the chagrin of my mentor, the company vice-president. "Take two years off. Do what you have to do, and come back and take up where you left off," he said.
I knew, even then, that you can't go home. My goals were simple at that point. The first, was towing the
30-foot (9.1-metre) sailboat I had designed and built to Salt Spring Island, where my wife and I had bought property two years before. We planned to build our West Coast dream home, sail the Strait of Georgia, and enjoy this eclectic island known as the Bahamas of Canada.
The house was built, the boat was launched, and I completed the illustrated children's book I had written for our first grandchild. These were good days.
Then, a loss of substantial capital due to a faulty business decision in hardware bruised my ego and reduced our bank balance. I retreated to the world of sailing, and writing stories, which reflected these dark hours.
My childhood sweetheart and wife of 24 years helped me recover my self-esteem. I entered the real estate world, paid my dues, and recovered our losses.
Within a few years I formed my own real estate company. The close proximity to the best bakery in town turned our office into a combination meeting place and coffee shop for locals and prospective clients.
Salt Spring was, and still is, a desirable real estate market. It seemed like most islanders were
seasoned speculators in this hot market. Salt Spring's mystique attracts retirees from all over North America, including Hollywood notables and rock stars.
We enjoyed the island and real estate hustle and bustle for 11 years. It was a satisfying life filled with work,
sailing, and writing the occasional newspaper or magazine article about island life or travel.
Then, working seven days a week became a job.
I have a strong belief that when something in your life quits being fun, change it! That's what we did.
When you're going to make big changes, having a flexible wife is the key.
We sold our gorgeous home, retired from a thriving business - again - and moved lock, stock, and barrel to our property on Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia across from the city of Powell River.
After spending a summer sailing Desolation Sound and building on Texada we went east to Winnipeg to visit our sons. That's where the idea began for my third career. My wife and I were just shy of fifty-seven.
After helping our younger son with home renovations and before we headed south for the winter, I found myself at loose ends. I was reduced to spending part of my day at the local mall being critical of all the old guys walking around in parkas, hands in pockets, with nothing to do. My god, I realized, I was one of them!
Exasperated, Phyllis said to our son, Glen, a professional semi-driver, "Will you please take your father to work with you!"
The drivers were intelligent and hardworking, and the industry exciting with the drama of huge equipment moved around by 'puny' man.
I was so impressed, that unknown my son or family in Winnipeg, I enrolled in and completed a professional driving course in Powell River when we returned from our snowbird trip south.
Many men and some women share my fantasy of sitting behind the wheel of a huge rig pulling a long load down a lonely highway in the dead of night. I have passed through a town in the desert named, 'The Middle of Nowhere'. It is magical!
The bonus for me was free research for my writing, and driving only in winter left the rest of the year free for sailing and other pursuits. This was my third career; second as a senior.
I have met many drivers from all walks of life in my travels - submariners, realtors, stockbrokers, some who drove as husband-and-wife teams for pleasure and extra income.
I believe experience pays off when it comes to entrepreneurship, and that seniors are going to lead the way to the future in the job market. The tech market and dot.com companies of the 1980's headed up by youthful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates were king. But like them, the world around us is getting greyer.
According to statistics, fewer baby boomers retire today because of financial reasons or just a desire to stay active. Senior entrepreneurs over 50 now represent a significant percentage of the workforce.
If you fall into this group, you may want to consider starting a business. Remember, you have a lifetime of experience, and that success comes from dedication, knowledge and ingenuity.
My personal path has come full circle back to writing. For the last eight years, and now at 70, writing full time is my last career. Maybe!
Published March 2011 Senior Living Magazine Vancouver Island
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