As the VP of Strategic Initiatives for a small and thriving college in Vermont (www.csj.edu), I have the privilege of working with so many talented individuals who care about providing a quality education for a diverse student body. Many of our students are learning for the love of learning, as well as learning to maximize their best and highest talents in their lives and careers. Part of my job entails teaching MBA candidates, and I am always energized by the Saturday cohorts, who brave the prospect of an 8-hour “sit” – as we call it – for four solid weekends. Their goal is to become better business leaders while juggling their busy lives. (Vermont has thriving businesses, which have demands as tough and rigorous as other areas of the country that are undergoing economic upheaval.)
Starting something new is scary for some, invigorating for others. One of my students this semester is a young athlete who Started out in sports management, but realized that he wanted overall business leadership development. Another was a psychology major who realized he wants to contribute his empathic skills to helping managers work more effectively with colleagues, peers and direct reports. And still another is a more mature student, who held back tears of pride as she indicated she was Starting her MBA because she wanted to be a role model to her adult children.
All of these mature learners, who comprise one of the fastest growing segments in higher education, are braving the courage to Start something new – regardless of how scary, how uncertain, how much time it might take.
Are you longing to Start something new, but feeling blocked, fearful, unsure? Starting something new is can be anxiety-inducing. Believe me, I know!
Before I decided to spend more than the GNP of a third-world nation to pursue an MBA in my 50s (and suffer the terror of sitting in finance classes feeling as if I’d crashed a secret coven where everyone was interrogating me in Satanic dialects), I too DARED to Start something else.
The sight of the World Trade Center falling in front of my eyes led me to conclude that 20 years spent promoting soap and cereal for global marketing services firms was enough, and that it was time to do Something Important! Fast-forward three years and three not really important jobs: turns out, every one of those moves was a False Start.
But those experiences, though excruciating, were so beneficial. Here are just a few of the books that have helped me and other women over 40 Start something new. Not a definitive list, but it’s a Start.
- The Breaking Point: How Female Midlife Crisis is Transforming Today’s Women, by Sue Shellenbarger. The Wall Street Journal career columnist illuminates through anecdotes and excellent reporting, the many types of work, avocations and fun that women have Started after they hit 40.
- A Whole New Mind, by Daniel H. Pink. Full of ideas to think differently, explore all types of intelligence (artistic, physical, etc.) to innovate, pursue meaningful work, and stay relevant.
- I Could Do Anything, If I Only Knew What It Was, by Barbara Sher. One of the best, most honest books on helping you visualize your “perfect life” – delivered in an empathic, amusing style.
- Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Exercises to plumb your deepest needs and how to tap into your unconscious for ideas your editing mind won’t allow.
- Jump Start Your Brain, by Doug Hall. Promises to make you 500% more creative – from a marketing guru who creates products and campaigns that convince us to try, buy and stay loyal to stuff we never even knew we needed let alone wanted.
- AHA! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas, by Jordan Ayan. Not just 10 ways, but thousands! Has unstuck even the most tenacious, stubborn, blank, fearful minds.
- Write It Down, Make It Happen, by Henriette Ann Klauser. A free-association guide, with prompts, questions and lists to encourage you to think differently, identify goals and aspirations, and, yes, make them happen.
- Second Acts, by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine, attorney and author/collaborator. Guides you through what they call “sources of dissatisfaction” so you arrive at your personal hopes and dreams.
- Six-Week Start Up, by Rhonda Abrams. An easy-to-complete workbook for launching a new venture, whether a business, nonprofit or other creative endeavor, especially if you don’t have the time or inclination to pour thousands of dollars into B-school, psychotherapy, or other forms of long-term torture.