No Knowledge is Ever Wasted! Re-create Yourself
“How’s your retirement?”
Ha! I laughed out loud at being asked such a question.
“Trust me, I have not retired.”
No, I was too young to retire.
I had just left my twenty-eight-year career in television to launch my own business. But the irony is that if you had said to me ten years ago that I would be an entrepreneur, running my own business, I would have snickered at such a preposterous idea. Me, run my own business? I had no interest whatsoever in running a business! And yet, here I am, now eight years into it, and doing so. It was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made to create my next chapter. And I did it in my mid-50’s.
I had re-created myself yet again, as opposed to re-inventing myself.
To me, re-invention is doing something completely new, totally learning all new skills, whereas re-creation is taking the skills you have, what you are innately good at, and transferring them to something new. Yes, you may also be learning new skills to add to your abilities and expertise. But you are knitting them all together to create something exciting.
Our life experiences are valuable pieces of who we are. And, from my perspective, critical components to success in our future endeavors. Take them with you as you grow, learn from them, transform them.
In some respects, I’ve simply come full circle, that is, if you count that, as a child, I was selling my artfully hand decorated stationery for five cents a page to my neighbors at our summer vacation rental house. My young business ventures also included lemonade stands, babysitting gigs, and what Brownie or Girl Scout didn’t sell cookies for her troop? So, I guess I was an entrepreneur at heart. I just didn’t know it until I became one as an adult.
It’s a big risk to become an entrepreneur, and it is not for the faint of heart. And yet, I realize in hindsight I have taken many career risks—informed, calculated, and intelligent risks—to create my next chapters.
“No knowledge is ever wasted.”
That is a quote from my grandmother, and my mother who shared it with my three brothers and me growing up. What’s extraordinary to me is how those profound words has been the glue that has connected every single one of my next chapters.
Many women have found success and re-created next chapters “later in life.” (Notice I did not say old!) After starting out as a figure skater and then a journalist, it wasn’t until age forty that Vera Wang opened her first successful bridal boutique.
Martha Stewart didn’t publish her first cookbook until age forty-three. She’d been a stockbroker on Wall Street.
Chef Julia Child was fifty when she launched her first cookbook. Before that, she was a copywriter and a spy during World War II. Talk about a next chapter!
How can you re-create yourself for your next chapter? Whether you’re ready to make the leap, or it’s still years away, it’s worth considering where your skills can lend themselves to the future.
Who knew when I began my professional adult life that I would have so many different chapters? Certainly not me! I didn’t have the mindset that I do now—creatively thinking about what else I might do.
Growing up, music, particularly singing, was a big part of my life. When considering career choices, it never occurred to me to study anything other than music. Little did I realize all of that vocal training would have a profound impact on my future career chapters.
Upon graduating from Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, I taught high school choral music, but as much as I enjoyed teaching, and performing with a semi-professional chorale group that toured Europe, I felt deep down that something was missing. So, after two years in the classroom, I left and worked in retail sales while I figured out what I might do next.
Television always fascinated me. All those world events coming right into our living room on our black and white TV. During my reign as Miss Illinois 1979 in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant, I had the opportunity to do one TV commercial. I wondered; could I get a job in TV or did I need to go back to school and get another degree?
Searching for answers to those questions, I bravely and blindly reached out to two television stations in the Champaign-Urbana, IL area where I was living at the time to get informational interviews. After six months of discussions, a position was created for me at WCIA-TV, the CBS affiliate. Whatever they asked me to do, I said yes, even to being a weather person. I learned everything on the job. It was my own graduate school.
Was I afraid of failure? Absolutely! But my philosophy then and still is today that just because you don’t know how to do something, it doesn’t mean you can’t. You just have to try.
I was at WCIA for three years, and quickly got a wonderful opportunity to move to Tampa, FL to another CBS affiliate, WTVT, as the Director of Community Relations. I was the first and only female in upper management. It wasn’t long before they tapped me to also be the morning news anchor. I wore two hats and worked about 80 hours a week. With fatigue and exhaustion the main factors, I asked to come off the air believing that if God wanted me back on the air, it would happen. About a year later, out of the blue, it did. I got the call from WCVB, the ABC TV station in Boston, MA to be a correspondent for Chronicle, a nightly news magazine show.
Within a year, again, I was asked to take on a second role and become the EyeOpener news anchor. This was big market TV. I was working with so many award-winning journalists on both sides of the camera and it was daunting and terrifying at times, but I loved it all. However, because I didn’t wear the “Big J” (J for journalist) on my chest—I was a music major—I felt ostracized. I was determined not to fail. And, although I did have my moments of what felt like failure, I learned and I grew.
I am proud of the work I did in my 20 years at WCVB, which led to many exclusive major stories—including interviewing President Barack Obama—and many honors and awards; Emmys, Gracies and an Edward R. Murrow award.
However, as the industry began to change, an old familiar feeling arose. There was something deep inside me that knew there was more for me to do in this world. But what do you do next when leaving a very defining career and industry?
After two years of contemplating what that calling was, I left the television industry and launched my next chapter. I am now an executive communications coach working with people to find their voice, to deliver their message—their story—with presence and confidence, to develop leadership and yes, master media training too. In addition, I host a podcast, Live Your Best Life with Liz Brunner, with guests sharing their own next chapter transformations. I’ve launched my online learning platform, BrunnerAcademy.com. And now, have published my first book, a best-seller, Dare to Own You: Taking Your Authenticity and Dreams into Your Next Chapter. The impetus for the book was my grandmother’s quote, “no knowledge is ever wasted.”
I am so grateful to my grandmother and my mother for always reminding me that no knowledge is ever wasted because this has been a constant theme throughout my life. I hope it gives you a moment of pause to reflect as well.
When you are able to connect the themes and patterns of your life, all of your knowledge—experiences, good and bad—you too can create a next chapter, no matter what your age. And that’s the first place to start when contemplating a next chapter.
I also recommend making a list of ten people whom you respect, and admire. Spend time talking with each of them honestly and authentically, asking each of them what they see as your skill set and what other careers could they envision you doing?
We often don’t see our value and worth, what skills we bring to the table, as clearly as others. Getting an outside perspective from someone to help us think outside the box may open our eyes to possibilities. Some of them we would never have thought of if it weren’t for those conversations.
Once you have a good connection and authentic relationship with those individuals, it’s very important to ask them them two questions:
Who else should I be talking to?
And, will you connect me?
In many instances, the “will they connect you” is crucial to getting your foot in the door to someone who might otherwise “not have time” for you. These informational interviews can make the difference between staying stuck and creating your next chapter.
Remember, no knowledge is ever wasted! And age is just a number. If I can create my fourth “next” chapter, I believe anyone can!
This guest post was authored by Liz Brunner
Best-selling author, Executive Communications Coach, Motivational Speaker, Podcast Host, and Emmy award-winning journalist. Liz Brunner’s television career spanned 28 years and featured many memorable highlights. Along with co-anchoring the #1 rated 6pm newscast at ABC-TV, WCVB NewsCenter 5 in Boston, she conducted exclusive one-on-one interviews with prominent figures ranging from professional athletes to global political leaders including President Barack Obama as well as cultural icons such as Oprah Winfrey.