Never Shy and Rarely Retiring
My name is Seán and I’m a Baby Boomer*. Big time. Born smack in the middle of it. No choice.
Boy was it tough. Having to live up to the so-called ‘Greatest Generation’, the ones who won the war, came home, started having lots of sex and produced us. I mean, yuk!e
No wonder we became iconoclasts. And no prizes for guessing our number one target – older people.
I woke up this morning with one of those – Wow, why did I never work that out before moments.
My mother, who at her funeral was described by her oldest friend there as a party girl, which is how I usually think of her too, was in many ways my role model.
A friend from high school and I have founded an organization called Forwards From Fifty to help empower people who are looking to make major changes in their working lives. As she and I chatted yesterday morning it dawned on me that while we are exactly the same age, give or take a few months, we are at different stages in our lives. Barbara “is” our target market after raising 4 children and having a more than successful career in health care administration she is poised at the end of the high board just getting the gumption up to make that leap into entrepreneurship.
I never had that time at the end of the diving board I just took the leap headfirst into running my own businesses. In the shower, this morning it dawned on me why when I did it I didn’t think anything of it but just went for it.
My mother was born in 1924, (she would kill me if she was still alive for telling you that). She was always ahead of her time and did her own thing. (Sounds like me). She was a fashion model, a journalist, a copy writer and a radio and television presenter all before I came along.
Although she and my father (the boy next door – literally) married when she was 18 they waited 20 years to have me which in the 40s, 50s and early 60s was not “the done thing”.
Someone once asked my mother what she did during World War II to which she replied, “I partied” which I am sure that she did but aside from loving to dance, drinking like a fish and smoking like a chimney my mother also worked and volunteered.
By the time I came along my mother had become a freelance journalist. She sat in a little room, probably originally designed to be a dressing room, and worked away at her typewriter. For as long I can remember the rule was if she was in there my mother was at work and not to be disturbed.
She did extensive research, became an expert in women in Victorian America – I have the book manuscript up in the attic, wrote for the NY Times, the airline magazines, Antiques Journal and even Playboy. The terms: query letter, draft, and edit were more familiar to me as a child than any other.
In her spare time, she and my father volunteered for the American Cancer Society -an irony as cancer killed them both in the end. She was elected president of the Women’s Club, president of the synagogue and served on many other boards.
Both professionally and on a voluntary basis she continued with her activities until she died just short of her 90th birthday.
Volunteering was instilled in me early. My first volunteer role when I was about 11, was dusting the Hackensack mastodon and so it went from there. I also served as an elected volunteer be it as the Chaplain in my youth group, of multiple organisations in university, the International Chair of Democrats Abroad or as a Gamesmaker for London 2012.
I also, like my mother, took the leap into entrepreneurship comparatively young. Keeping in mind that I come from the cusp of the Baby boom and the Gen X, when in my early 30s I started my own business running internships for study abroad students it was not a common thing to do. Most of my contemporaries were either off raising their families or working at 9 to 5 jobs or both. Don’t misunderstand me, I have HUGE amounts of respect for those women, but in a fashion typical of myself and my mother, I did my own thing.
Over the past 20 years I have become what my mentor and I generally refer to as a serial entrepreneur. I currently am working on 6 major projects, three of which are startups. Five of those projects/companies are my own, or shared with another person and one I run Europe for. Like my mother, I work endlessly and I love it.
I am not like my mother in many ways, I am not married (she was married to my father for just short of 50 years and then to her second husband for another 20), I don’t smoke, my tango abilities are pathetic, I only drink wine as opposed to her evening Manhattan (s) and I certainly don’t wear a size 2.
But I am at the same time so very like her in that I have followed my own path in life, created my own varied career and developed a love of volunteering. With the advent of the blog I have also become a writer, but I use a computer that my mother never did.
Funny how it takes years for us to work these things out…
Rachelle Jailer Valladares - Founder, Forwards From Fifty
comfort and need has been thought of from super well equipped kitchens with Sabatier knives to the most incredibly luxurious blanket to snuggle under watching TV, a DVD, reading a book or just enjoying a glass of wine. The list goes on and one
Who runs Taskus? Judi Wildeman, the proprietor ran an events agency with her husband for many years before taking the plunge and retiring to Cornwall. When chatting with Judi she told me that a lot of what she has done with the barns is out of her experiences staying in some of the best hotels in the world.
Several years ago, I stumbled into a gem of a little boutique hotel in Seam Reap, Cambodia. I sat with the MD/owner of the property in his bar late one night chatting over a beer. He was a lovely Frenchman who had, had a long career working for Accor in France and in Southeast Asia. The time boutique hotel was his dream. I can assure you that he ran it like a dream as well. Everything was up to the standards of a 5-star hotel but for £25 a night.
Others in our industry take the entrepreneurial route, setting up new cutting edge businesses despite being over 50. Ian Quartermaine, who I have known and worked with on and off for many years did just that with Dezika. He saw that there was a gap in the market when it can to automated commission in the MICE industry and he went for it. Working with Jeff Devine and the team at CTS Systems they created Dezika.
For more information on Dezika – Rachellejv@dezika.com
Rachelle Jailer Valladares, Founder, Forwards From FiftyType your paragraph here.
We just returned from a week in Cornwall where we plan to retire someday. A different one of my lives outside of @DezikaGlobal is working as one of the Co-Founders of Forwards From Fifty (@Forwardsf50). Our raison d'etre is to work with people in mid-life who are making major career changes. Few of us in the MICE Industry retire completely or easily for that matter, but a lot of us come up with new plans for the way we want to live and work.
During my travels around the world I have discovered people – both former buyers and suppliers who have taken their experience in the MICE world and turned dreams from their work into reality.
In Cornwall, we stayed at the fabulous Taskus Barns http://www.taskusbarns.com/). Taskus are two barns that have been redone to a spectacular standard. Every
Parents, grandparents, politicians, professors, religious leaders, in fact anyone who we identified as an authority figure (remember them?) and kept banging on about how ungrateful and selfish we were and didn’t we realise that things were so much tougher in their day?
I mean, they were asking for it, weren’t they? Out of touch, delusional, old-fashioned, authoritarian, and in our way.
Not only that, but in our eyes they were warmongers, misogynists, racists, homophobes and the rest. It was time for change (some whiny-voiced dude even wrote a song about it). So we organised (we’re very, very good at that).
And change came, wave after wave of it, sweeping away old, entrenched attitudes – cultural, social, racial, sexual, artistic, the list goes on.
Yes, there were casualties, and I’m not just talking about the drugs.
We invented the modern teenager - shame on us!
Some people even wore tank tops and flared trousers - argh!
But our triumphs outshone our mistakes. We organised, protested, voted, made our voices and those of others heard. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, equal pay, healthcare, safety at work, consumer protection . . . I could go on.
And the music, the music . . . from rock to soul to funk to country and everything in between. The soundtrack to our generation. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” as the poet said, “But to be young was very heaven.”
So wouldn’t you think, as crazy and uncertain as the world is these days, that now we would just sit back and take it easy for a change?
But no, look around you and at the centre of any campaign today there will be Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers agitating for change, from the mightiest boardroom to the humblest neighbourhood.
And, oh ironies of ironies, now in our 50s and over, we're banging on about age again. But this time it's different, we say. Is it really? Or are we being bloody hypocrites?
To nobody’s surprise, I would argue no. After all, that's the whole point of Forwards From Fifty, isn’t it?
Our generation has been lambasted for being selfish, narcissistic, greedy, thoughtless, soft, irresponsible. Mostly by the disappointingly conformist and seemingly apathetic generations that have followed (also known as our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc., who really shouldn’t be reading this!).
But one thing that does motivate our generation is injustice. We score pretty highly in taking that on. And surely the daily discrimination and indignity that many older people suffer today is unjust?
Their pensions degraded or stolen.
The pension age being raised peremptorily by governments without warning or compensation and the egregious injustice being suffered as a result by women born in the 1950s in the UK, for example.
Healthcare ‘rationing’ that puts older patients at the back of the queue.
No really serious, meaningful or coordinated efforts to retrain or reskill older workers.
Being thrown on the scrap heap, considered old and expensive by many employers who don’t have the faintest idea what to do with their older workers is not just unfair. It’s stupid.
Is a low-paid part-time or zero hours contract at a DIY store or warehouse really the best that employers can offer to older people with a wealth of experience and expertise?
Is it really enough to regard our generation as just another marketing and business development opportunity? A demographic whose fears and concerns can be preyed upon by opportunist politicians? I don’t think so.
Once again, it’s time for change. The aim of Forwards from Fifty is to empower the 50-plus generation to take control of our lives and realise our full potential.
Working with like-minded individuals and organisations, we will build and mobilise communities to make that change happen.
Together, we will transcend boundaries, nurture and harness resources, raise awareness and campaign for change. And we’ll have some fun along the way, too.
We’ve done it once before. Let’s do it again.
* For the purposes of this blog, the Baby Boom generation includes those born from 1946 to 1964, Generation X from 1965 to 1984.
My work life over the years has been rich and varied. Always the one to follow the road less taken, I never really settled into one thing or another. Included in my professional history is:
- Cooking in a restaurant
- Para-Legal work
- Running an international political youth organisation
- Working in a Japanese telecommunications company
- Being part of the team that worked with independent media in the Balkans
- Running internship programs
- Being a professional venue finder
- Event Tech
Seán Galvin, Forwards From Fifty’s Director of Communications, on why this time we really are trying to cause a big sensation (with thanks to his heroes Pete Townshend and The Who).
My mother and I at her 80th birthday party.
Fortunately, Arbonne and Forwards From Fifty came into my life and are fulfilling my goal of eventually achieving that ‘time freedom’.
Yes, right now my time is stretched even further. But what I am building is priceless! Some might ask, “Why start something new at your age?” I say, “Why not?”
We are all living longer. Today 50 or 60 is the new 30. Will there be challenges? Of course. For example, digital technology and social media have become part of everyday life, from home to business. It comes easy to those under 40, apparently. They were brought up with it. Yet for me and many of my generation, it is often regarded as our biggest hurdle.
Then I think of the challenges we have faced during our lives and the life lessons we have learned through overcoming them, and it doesn’t seem such a big deal any more. Getting to grips with new technologies and ways of working can be fun, if we approach it in the right way. But we need to have confidence in our ability to adapt to change and resources we can call upon to help us do so.
I was looking for a place where I could go, judgement free, talk to people who understand the challenges and opportunities facing my age group, discover new ideas and learn new skills to help develop my business. It didn’t exist. So I got talking to friends who were looking for the same sort of support and advice and, well, one thing led to another and the idea of Forwards From Fifty was born.
As I progress on my own exciting midlife journey, I’m sure there will be other challenges. But being able to share in a ‘think tank’ environment with others going through the same thing is so reassuring and supportive. And at times it can be positively inspiring.
These are still early days but on every one of them we are hearing from more and more people who share our vision of creating a community and resource for the 50-plus generation.
So, take hold of that dream you have inside, and let us show you how to soar!
Barbara Eckert, Co-founder, Forwards From Fifty
Talking ‘bout my generation . . .
Founder Rachelle Jailer Valladares on why you should join us on the road less taken
Pete demonstrating how to take a giant leap for mankind . . .
Crisis? What crisis? Co-founder Barbara Grenz-Eckert on why 50 is the new 30.
When I woke up on my 50th birthday, I felt I’d reached the point in my life where I was complete. Yes, my life up until then had included many milestones. But I finally felt comfortable in my own skin, like this was the age I was meant to be. Fast forward a few years and I still feel that way.
My shift was getting more in touch with ME - that is why I see this as an awakening as opposed to the typical midlife crisis. I realized that while I was doing all the right things in my life - I have a great job and a comfortable standard of living - I was missing something even more precious - freedom.
Every day we go to work, waiting for the weekend or vacation to arrive. At times it can seem as if we’re wishing our lives away. We plan for our retirement financially, of course. But I decided that I needed to start planning for my time freedom, as well.
Rachelle has one of those -
wake up and realise something that was in front of your face moments.
Starting my own companies in:
- Meetings and Events
- Internship Coordinating
- Genealogy tours
I know I have left out some but you get the idea. Changing careers, learning new things and adapting to the ever-changing world around us (that was a technology comment) has always been a challenge that I have embraced with open arms.
Several months ago, I realised that in order to get on in the ever changing world of both tech and entrepreneurship I needed to learn to “speak Millennial”. So I joined TechHub, a shared working space that is part of Google’s London Campus. I have indeed learned a lot from them and continue to do so. But what I also learned is that the Millennial world’s activities aren’t always what the Baby Boomers and Gen X need.
Sitting in a meeting at TechHub one day, I realised that there was a definite need for a new organisation, one that provides community, a discussion platform, consultancy and resources for the 50+ generation. An organisation that was geared to both our professional and personal needs.
We are all living longer and working longer. Jobs are no longer for life and re-inventing yourself professionally is no longer such a “road less taken” way of working.
Thus, Forwards From Fifty was conceived. We are building a team, brainstorming ideas, and putting them into action. You will hear from the other team members in the coming weeks.
Please join us on this journey.
And please feel free to reach out to us on email - we'd love to hear from you!
Rachelle Jailer Valladares, Founder, ForwardsFromFifty