“How’s your retirement?” Ha! I laughed out loud. “Trust me, I have not retired.” No, I was too young to retire.
I had just left my twenty-eight-year career in TV to launch my own business. In my eyes, all I did was move on to my next chapter.
I had re-created myself, yet again.
I prefer the word re-create to reinvent. To me, reinvent is to make a complete 180 and turn to an entirely new career, learning all new skills. Whereas, re-create means you are taking all of your life’s experiences—the good, the bad, all of it—and using it as knowledge to create a next chapter for yourself, no matter your age.
Age is only a number. And, I believe, the concept of retirement is in the midst of a huge transformation.
Baby boomers—those born between 1946-1964—and even the Gen X generation (born between 1965-1979) are rewriting the rules of the game for what can happen after the “half-time” of life.
Many are creating next chapters for themselves and with great success, too.
Fashion icon Vera Wang did it at the age of forty. After seventeen years as a journalist with Vogue, Wang, feeling she had gone as far as she was going to be allowed to go at the magazine, left, and opened her first successful bridal boutique and the rest is history.
Before Martha Stewart was the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she was a stockbroker on Wall Street. She left all of that behind, published her first cookbook, and went on to build her own financial empire.
One of Hollywood’s most respected actors, and Academy Award winner, Morgan Freeman went into the Air Force right out of high school to become a fighter pilot. He walked away from the military to pursue his passion of acting, but that next chapter of fame didn’t happen until age fifty.
And, fame didn’t come until the age of sixty-one for Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He’d been a fireman, insurance salesman, and even practiced law for a time.
Each one of them, and so many more, created next chapters for themselves later in life. (Notice I did not say “old!”) I believe that, no matter your age, you can create a next chapter for yourself, and I’m living proof.
I’ve actually had four next chapters! Graduating from Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music, my first career chapter was as a High School music teacher and singing semi-professionally with a chorale group outside of the Chicago area. We also toured Europe performing in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Italy, where we sang for Pope John Paul II in Vatican Square. That was quite a thrill.
After a couple of years as a music educator, I felt there was something more I was supposed to do, but quite honestly, I didn’t know what. In order to pay the bills, I went back to a passion for fashion and worked in retail. That was a brief second career chapter, but important, just the same. I started taking all kinds of assessment tests trying to figure out what I thought I’d like to do and what I might be good at. At one time, I thought I wanted to be an architect. I loved drawing floor plans. Maybe I could become a psychologist, but that would mean having to go back to school. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but it simply didn’t feel completely right.
What about television? Doing what, I really didn’t know. Growing up, I was always fascinated with being able to watch world events, like the landing on the moon, come right into our living room on our black and white TV set. The only television experience I had had was during the live broadcast of the Miss America scholarship pageant when I was Miss Illinois 1979. I also did one TV commercial for the Pontiac Grand Prix, the car I got to drive during my reign. That was a nice perk, although I don’t know if that commercial ever made it to the airwaves.
During my quest to figure out what I would do next, I was reading the book Who’s Hiring Who by Richard Lathrop, where he espouses the numerous advantages and opportunities that come from informational interviews. At the time, I’d never heard of such a thing, but it gave me the idea—and the courage—to reach out to the two television stations in Champaign-Urbana, IL where I was living at the time, the NBC and CBS affiliates. I didn't know if, as a music major, I could ever get a job in TV, or if I would have to go back to school and get a degree in journalism, but after about six-months of conversations, a position was created for me at the CBS station, WCIA-TV. I learned everything on the job, including doing the weather! It was my own graduate school that led to my third next chapter, a 28-year award-winning career in three different television markets; Champaign-Urbana, Tampa, FL, and finally Boston, MA.
Yet again, I got that internal stirring that there was more I was supposed to do, but by now, I was in my early 50’s. How does one make that transition to yet another chapter at this age? Let alone, what would that look like?
One of my mentors gave me a great piece of advice; make a list of 10 people whom you trust in this community, ask them for their thoughts on what else a journalist might do, who else should I talk to and – the all important question –would they connect me.
Those conversations were quite interesting. Some people really didn’t have any idea what my skill set was, only that they watched me every night on the news. Many asked me, what did I want to do? What did I like to do? I often didn’t know how to answer those questions. All I knew was that I wanted to use all the skills I had honed over the years, the gifts with which I felt I had been blessed, and share them to help others.
After about two-years of soul searching, I’d narrowed it down to three possible lanes: 1) I could become a communications director at some corporation, 2) I could get involved in the nonprofit world as an executive director, or 3) I could open my own business and teach people about presence, public speaking, communications, media training and more. When I shared this three lane approach with one of my mentors, he said, “Liz! You’re well-known, you’re well-respected, you have credibility. That is value. Why would you give that value to someone else? Start your business, and if in six months or nine months you don’t have any clients, or you don’t like what you’re doing, then you can always go and do something else.” Wow, those were powerful words! It was at that moment a kaleidoscope went click. Everything came into focus and I made the decision to launch my business. If you’d told me five years prior to launching my company that I would become an entrepreneur, I would have said there is absolutely no way that is happening!
In 2013, I launched Brunner Communications, my fourth “next chapter” and I’m so glad I did! Along with my coaching practice, I’ve created BrunnerAcademy.com, an online learning platform, and host my own podcast, Live Your Best Life with Liz Brunner, where I once again get to use my interviewing skills. That’s “re-creation.”
My maternal grandmother, Dr. Dorothy Dunning Chacko was fond of saying “no knowledge is ever wasted.” I heard that quote from her, and, of course, many times from my own mother. And it is true! This quote was the impetus for my book, Dare to Own You: Taking Your Authenticity and Dreams into Your Next Chapter. It is a memoir—both personal and professional—and filled with lessons I’ve learned along the way, and transformational tools to help others re-create their next chapters.
Each of us have many untapped skills within us. When you can discover what those are, add them to all the skills you’ve honed over your various career chapters and the gifts with which you’ve been blessed, you are well equipped to create a next chapter for yourself. Trust that!
So, whether you’re a baby boomer ready to design the second half of your life, or someone who simply wants to create a next chapter, look within. Because if you do, you are owning you and living your best life.
About the Author
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.
In 2013, Liz excitedly embarked upon her next chapter, becoming the CEO and Founder of Brunner Communications and launched BrunnerAcademy.com in 2020. Both are dedicated to helping people find their authentic voice, tell their story and lead with presence. Liz is also the host of the Live Your Best Life with Liz Brunner podcast, on which she guides her guests to share their stories of self-discovery and re-creation. Listeners around the world join in on the journey, garnering inspiration from the wisdom shared. Dare to Own You: Taking Your Authenticity and Dreams into Your Next Chapter is her first book.
A classically trained vocal performer and former high school music educator, Liz holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music. She has performed with the Boston Pops and at professional sporting events for teams including the Boston Celtics, the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, among others.
Connect with Liz Brunner on:
Official site: LizBrunner.com