At the age of fifty-eight, I experienced the most breathtaking event of my career. Quite unexpectedly, I had a visceral experience whose memory lives on in my body and soul. After decades of mastering the art and craft of strategy, I discovered something I’d never seen before. Hours of experience with a specific framework yielded a eureka that captured my attention. Throughout 2018, the discovery kept nagging at me. “Karla, you may be on to something,” the refrain in my head. It wouldn’t let go of me.
As I wrestled with what to do with my idea, my dad’s health declined. We’d already lost mom, dad’s beloved companion of over sixty years. When dad passed in early 2019, it dawned on me. Now is my time. What do I want for myself?
This third era of our lives is one garnering more attention as Baby Boomers grab the lives they want. I’m on the trailing edge of the generation, riding in the draft set by trailblazers a decade ahead of me. I draw inspiration from women like Maye Musk with her style, entrepreneurialism, and relentless commitment to living her best life.
That aha moment in 2018? I kept saying yes to the voice in my head. It’s been energizing to be “all in” like I was in 2000 during my first start-up experience. It’s different at sixty than it was at forty. I’ve been tested professionally through 9/11, the 2009 recession, and years of managing growth. I also acquired a bit of capital thanks to my parents. Their vision for my life fueled me as I invested some of my inheritance into my venture. Access to the money brought with it the obligation to stick with my experience through thick or thin. I’d learned how to steal my backbone during dealings with my dad’s assisted living community. They shouldn’t have underestimated me. I never did again.
My best year was 2020. The pandemic served as a creative backdrop for me, my blessing the steady paycheck, flexible schedule, and health benefits. So too, a loving marriage. I set out in January 2020 with my new venture start-up. I had a beginning of a business that was all mine. My devotion to the company I co-own with my husband is now directed solely at taking my creativity and strategic prowess to the market in new ways.
I felt buoyed by uncertainties that stymied others, my ability to navigate complexity, a skill I’d masted through decades of consulting and owning a small business. I poured my energies into free webinars and meetups, events to gather people together otherwise adrift in the pandemic’s swirl. I embraced the most significant creative challenge of my life, the writing of my book, Differentiated. “This isn’t a vanity project,” I remarked to my writing coach. The feedback from my first reader the inspiration necessary to pour everything I had into the finished manuscript.
This past year took grit, determination, and a steadfast commitment to my vision. I’ve dealt with unexpected delays, incompetent contractors, and distracted collaborators. Every day I marshall my courage as I say “yes” to myself. I could easily say “no” too if I wanted, the prospect of retirement with its “every day is Saturday” a choice that I decline.
Throughout this time, my decade-long journey into abstract painting buoyed me. I picked up the hobby of painting at fifty-two, not knowing how it would change my life. My eureka experience in 2018 occurred because of my experience creating abstract art. I’d learned to get out of my way and be open to the power of flow. I’d also taught myself to know when a piece was complete. Plus, I recognized the sheer joy of original discovery.
How do I feel today? Energized and alive. Every day is an opportunity to bring my unique gifts and talents to the world. I live my life on purpose, and I’m not done yet. When I quit my engineering career at thirty to attend business school full-time, I had no idea that I’d be CEO of a digital learning platform at sixty. My painting continues with a new foray into abstract art on hardcover copies of my book.
“Every day is Saturday” can come later. I’ve got social media posts to create, a video to shoot, and a sales call. Plus, I need to make time for painting.
Karla Raines is an accomplished strategist serving purpose-driven organizations in dynamically competitive industries. Her commitment to mastering the art of strategy led her to a career-defining eureka moment in 2018. The experience crystallized her intuitive process and inspired her to reverse engineer what she’d taught herself to do over years of hands-on practice. Karla’s book, Differentiated: The Breakthrough Approach to Strategy for Purpose-Driven Organizations shares the story of her inventive strategy process, Differentiation Zone®, through real-life vignettes and powerful lessons pulled from over two decades of consulting experience.
With a unique ability to see beyond what is, Karla leads her clients to discover authentic differentiation and craft plans to realize a competitive advantage. Abstract painting propels Karla’s professional creativity and risk-taking as it fuels her soul. Enjoy her work at: https://karlarainesart.com.