My Third Act

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Career Change, Education, Mary, Uncategorized, Wellness

by Mary Yoke ~

It’s hard not to ponder the strange path my life has taken. Both personally and professionally, I’ve had so many unexpected twists and turns. Career-wise, I’ve definitely had what can be divided into at least three acts — something I would have never imagined in my 20s, 40s or even in my 50s. And who knows? Maybe there are more acts to come. Life, for me, has been so unpredictable.

In my 20s, I thought I had it all mapped out. I was certain I was destined to be a famous opera singer. Every indication led directly to that conclusion.

I earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in voice performance, won every vocal contest I entered, and won two large cash prizes at the culmination of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program in 1978.

Me singing Mimi in La Boheme at an outside performance in San Francisco, 1978.
Singing Mimi in La Boheme at an outside performance in San Francisco, 1978.

Famous impressarios, conductors, voice teachers and opera coaches all were convinced I had a magnificent career ahead of me. I lived — diva-like — for music and art. This was Act One, and, like any act in a theatrical play, it came to an end — and an unfortunate end at that.

Suddenly, in my late 20s, I was beset with unexplained hoarseness. I tried everything: a month of complete vocal silence; 100 shots in my back to see if I had allergies; and a tonsillectomy, which was followed a year later with an adenoidectomy. I changed voice teachers and voice coaches; I moved to different climates. I studied the Alexander Technique. When experts said it must be psychosomatic, I entered therapy. All to no avail.

During the subsequent and devastating entr’acte, I unhappily supported myself with a number of different jobs: waitress, bartender, line cook, pastry chef, legal aide, bookkeeper, receptionist in a large car dealership, salesperson in music and clothing stores, and as a church organist.

Eventually, I chanced into the world of fitness. And so the Second Act began.

Luckily, after teaching group exercise for a couple of years (back then, we called it aerobics), I met an influential person who recommended I return to school for a Master’s degree in exercise physiology, which I achieved in 1988.

Fitness has been good to me. Not only were jobs available, but I was able fairly easily to juggle the demands of new motherhood and maintain a flexible and accommodating work schedule. Plus, a great side benefit of a career in fitness is that staying in shape is actually part of the job.

I worked first in cardiac rehab and as a physical therapist assistant, then in corporate fitness, and then in commercial fitness, all the while teaching one academic class per semester as an adjunct professor.

In 1986 I became involved with a major international fitness certifying organization, and for 30 years this company has provided me with amazing opportunities for teaching, writing, and traveling around the world to present a wide variety of fitness workshops and certifications.

I’ve also presented at hundreds of conferences and have made several online videos on a Hollywood sound stage. I’ve been so very fortunate and I’m tremendously grateful to all those who’ve helped me and inspired me. The fitness world is full of people who motivate others for a living — they’re an enthusiastic and passionate bunch!

The bizarre thing is, I never could have predicted this entire career back in my 20s. Who’d have thought I’d become a fitness presenter, educator and writer? This was SO not on my radar during Act One!

Teaching at Indiana University.
Teaching at Indiana University.

And now, surprise!, I’m in Act Three. My fitness credentials helped me land a Visiting Lecturer position in kinesiology at Indiana University. I entered academia full-time and found that I loved it.

After decades of cobbling together a full-time income from multiple fitness jobs, I’ve now decided it’s good to stay more-or-less in one place and have some job security. I’ve found that I love developing longer-term relationships with students over the course of several semesters. I am inspired by my students, other faculty, and partners within the community. I love the vitality of a college town, the vibrant action on campus, the idealism and questing of students, and the golden bubble of learning, which is the academic world.

I have a strong sense that this is where I now belong. When the Visiting Lecturer position ended, I found I was finally at a point in my life where a PhD could become a reality, and so I’ve moved into health behavior research and will receive my doctorate by the end of 2016.

I hope to stay in academia, do research, inspire students, collaborate with inspiring colleagues, and continue with my writing and presenting. I am filled with purpose and feel as if I’m on fire!

Seriously, every single day is exciting and amazing for me. I’m being challenged in new ways I couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. Even though I’m at the age where some of my friends are already retiring, I feel as if I’m just getting started on a new and amazing path.

Retirement for me? No way! I have zero interest in retirement — I feel as if I’m good to go for another 20 or even 30 years. There’s so much I want to learn and accomplish.

I guess the reason I felt compelled to write this post is that I am continually surprised at my own career path (and don’t get me started on all the personal life changes I’ve experienced) and I’d like to put forward the idea that this is possible for others.

I’ve come to believe that, in fact, we can have multiple careers within one lifetime. Perhaps this can be an important way to stay vital, energetic, curious and productive. If you’re floundering in uncertainty or in a dead-end job, take heart that life can hold something better for you that may be beyond imagining.

In my own case, I can assure you that my unorthodox and unexpected journey has nevertheless caused me to thrive in ways I could have never foreseen. Who knows what lies ahead?

by Mary Yoke | email | facebook | linkedin

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How To Keep Learning When No One Is There To Fail You

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Learning, Success, Tibet

Learning is important. It’s why we spend 12 or more years of our lives in classrooms. It’s why we go into debt to get that college degree. It’s why we re-enter debt to get another degree, and so on and so forth.

Since school got out, ahem, I mean since I um, graduated (it’s still weird saying that), I have found myself having the same conversation over and over with a few of my close friends. We reminisce about our alma mater, the memories still fresh in our heads, and then we sort of take pause and ask ourselves, “Uh, did we learn anything during all that? Why did we just devote the last four years of our lives to a little piece of paper that says ‘Yay! You did it. Now get a job.’”

I’ve mulled over these questions off and on since mid-way through my freshman year. There were moments when I was close to cashing in my chips, throwing in the towel and giving up on college. I’d tell myself it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t cut out for it, it’s not worth it. Plenty of people had dropped out and made it just fine. I began to idolize the dropouts.

But then I would have moments of clarity, briefly, where the stars would align and I would think, “Okay, yeah, this sort of makes sense. I know some of these words my professor is using.”


Those moments of clarity usually happened during, or in proximity to something I enjoyed — possibly a class I liked (those were few and far between) or a pastime I really dug.

The conclusions my friends and I have slowly drawn, the reason we did all that stuff the past four years — the chaotic study habits, the attempt at a social life, a sport, girlfriends, boyfriends, school — the reason we pulled all nighters, blew off class, took class really seriously, stayed out too late, woke up too early — well it taught us how to think, and it taught us how to learn. It let us explore the world through a journey inward, as well as a journey outward. We found out what we liked and we found out what we didn’t like. We strove for (and sometimes stumbled upon) success just as we occasionally fell into failure.

You might be thinking, hey pal, I’ve heard this bit before. “College is about learning how to think and learning how to learn, yada yada yada.” But it’s true. I myself was a nonbeliever for a very long time. Heck, there were nights I was one beer away from dropping out (sorry Mom). But now in hindsight, it all served a greater purpose. Every little piece of it. I didn’t realize it at the time (none of us ever does), but it all happened just the way it was supposed to.

But now here’s the kicker. A lot of us are done with school. We’ve got this tremendous and priceless education under our belts that’s just begging to be built upon. Some of us are already working and not even entertaining the thought of ever again stepping foot into a classroom. Ever. Again.

And then there are some of us who have maybe thought about it, or have already made the plans to go back and get some more learning in.

The folks who fall into the latter group are the ones who are going to keep climbing and climbing. That’s not to say that the people in the first group are doomed to plateau as an Assistant to the Regional Manager; no not at all. But the people in the second group have declared that they are not done learning, and they will slowly start to leave everyone else behind — that is unless everyone else takes on the mindset: “I’m not done learning.”

 

modern clean workspace showing online news website
That’s the biggie. How are you going to keep acquiring knowledge now that you don’t necessarily have to?

There’s a great quote from a bullet journal that I write in every day. It goes like this, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re most likely moving backwards. There is no standing still in life.”

The first time I read that, it scared the hell out of me. And it also excited me. I thought, “How can I better myself every single day?” How can we all better ourselves every single day?

How can we all better ourselves every single day?

I’m not saying we all have to go back to school and grab our PhDs to get the most out of life. For some that is the right path. For others, not so much.

I am saying that we all must continue to learn. We must continue to stay interested and find things that stimulate us. We must dig in wholeheartedly to what lies before us and always maintain a curious, inquisitive outlook that drives us to seek what lies around the bend. We must not get comfortable, but rather always question what we don’t understand, and always seek the truth in what we find.

Forever want more for your mind, and in turn for your life — and find the ways to get it.

Read the news every morning, midday and evening. Subscribe to podcasts and play them on the commute. Grab a book and get through a few pages every day while you eat lunch. Pursue fresh experiences. Break out of your routine. Don’t make the excuse that you don’t have time to learn. We live in a world where information and media is thrown around so readily, that to say you can’t find something to listen to or read is absurd.

Be a student of the world. Keep learning every single day.

To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite pieces of media right now. I listen to a lot of podcasts because I spend a good amount of time commuting every week. I read the news periodically throughout the day — usually first thing in the morning, at lunch and then at the end of the day. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to delve into many good books lately, but I’m working on Thinking, Fast and Slow an exploration of the two systems that drive humans’ thoughts and actions. Good stuff.

Newspaper, The Media, Historic World Event.

Anyway, here’s my current personal favorites in no particular order:

MAGAZINES/NEWSPAPERS (online and print)

Vice (vice.com/en_us)

Millennials’ answer to “the man” and his old, dusty newspapers, magazines and broadcasts. I’m pretty sure this used to be taken as a joke, but it’s gained a lot of traction as of late. I used to spend hours and hours freshman year pouring over Vice documentaries, now they are a legit news agency. Sort of. “Arts, cultures and news topics.”

Fast Company (fastcompany.com)
I read it every day. Sort of a touchy-feely collection of creativity. This publication has turned me on to some of the biggest trends and revolutions going on right now. Heck it’s how I discovered Warby Parker when they were just getting started.

New York Times (nytimes.com/)

Wall Street Journal (wsj.com)

Pro tip 1: Read your local newspaper. Those things are still relevant. I once got an internship/summer job out of the classifieds. Seriously.

Pro tip 2: There are loads of news aggregating apps out there now, and recent versions of iOS have one standard. If you are ever in a hurry, or just want to quickly and easily browse a variety of sources, flip through an aggregator.


PODCASTS

Story Corps. (storycorps.org/)
“The podcast that makes you cry.” Not kidding. They gather stories from all over the country, told by plain ol’ American citizens. A delightful, heartwarming look into the lives of ordinary folk.

Radio Lab (http://www.radiolab.org/)
Long-form feature stories. Topics include: literally everything. The production is fantastic, and even the shows that aren’t that good are still pretty darn good. Definitely worth a listen.

Fresh Air (npr.org/programs/fresh-air/)
A NPR staple. “Probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights.” If you aren’t already tuning in, you need to.

All Songs Considered (npr.org/sections/allsongs/)
You don’t have to be a music buff to enjoy this show. I use it to find new tracks and fresh artists. The hosts know music. I mean they KNOW music. And their tastes span the entire spectrum—from Kanye to Icelandic Grunge Metal (which I’m not completely sure is a thing). Get off the top 40 and put some pizzazz into your ears.

Now … go learn, and THRIVE.

 


 

by Tibet Spencer | LinkedIn

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I Don’t Know. But I Will Find Out.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art, Career, Career Change, Kelly

Once upon a time, I thought I had to know the answer. To any question. To everything about which I was asked. If I couldn’t answer a question definitively, I felt like it meant I was behind and that I had somehow failed to know what I should know. That it meant I was letting the askers down and that they would judge me negatively. I think a lot of people believe this, and in particular, I think many new graduates feel this pressure keenly.

Today, I know this is not the case. (And that sometimes, the askers even intend for you to feel this way!) I also know that this does not have to be how the story ends. You can rewrite the ending — maybe even more than once. Careers, interests and lives are not necessarily linear, and if I have learned anything in the decade+ since I began my career, it is that it is perfectly okay not to know the answer as long as you are willing to work toward finding it. Because therein lies the key — I don’t know the answer. But I will find out. These are some of the most powerful words in my professional — and personal — arsenal.

How linear is YOUR path?
How linear is YOUR path?

There are many instances in which I have encountered this concept over the years, and I can apply it to multiple facets of my career and life. For now, I’d like to look at this concept in terms of choosing a profession. What do I want to be when I grow up? Some people know from the get-go. Some people hem and haw. Some people have no clue. But at 18-19 years of age, we choose a major.

Because at 18-19 years of age we should know what to study to get the right job.

At 21-22 years of age, we graduate with our undergraduate degree — which may or may not be in the subject we originally chose because it may have already become evident that there were things we did not know about ourselves. Having graduated, we then go get a job in the profession for which we are trained.

Because at 21-22 years of age, we should know what kind of job will satisfy and vitalize us.

Then — having chosen a career, we are identified with and by it. When we meet new people, we do the social dance: Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What do you do?

Because our profession/career should now define us.

Hmm… Noticing a pattern here? There is a lot of should going around. And there does not have to be.

The first two years after I completed my bachelor’s degree, I had jobs. I didn’t view them as a career. They were professional roles for which I was qualified and which had benefits and a paycheck attached. I learned some things. I had one good manager who taught me a great deal. (Thank you, Jeff.) I was still figuring out what I wanted so it didn’t bother me much that I wasn’t settled into a specific career path. I was working and that worked for me. But this is not thriving.

Then I took my first job in what became a decade-long career. My Political Science degree got me an entry-level paralegal position at a very good law firm. I was patted on the back and congratulated for choosing this career path. It was stable. I learned the role, sought additional education, climbed the ranks and ultimately ended up as a Legal Analyst at a top-tier company. I succeeded, right? This is IT. I should be really happy.

And I was anything but. I still was not thriving! I was bored, stressed and while good at what I did, it brought me no personal satisfaction. None.at.all. What was wrong with me? I had succeeded in building for myself a stable career in a respectable profession. And I was not happy. Worse yet, I could not answer questions about what more it would take to make me happy. (More money? A better boss? Better work/life balance?) I did not know the answer and when asked, felt like I should know how to fix this.

So I explored. I thought about it. I didn’t make any rash moves — there was no dramatic quitting of my job and then eating ice cream in front of the TV while I faux soul-searched. But if I didn’t know the answer, I needed to find it out. And that meant I went looking. I read. I talked to friends and colleagues whose opinions I valued. I was honest with myself about what I valued, what I wanted and what I no longer wanted.

I began to see that those things which I identified as ‘success’ 10 years earlier no longer aligned with my values. I honored those things that had value to me and sorted out how to give them a more prominent role in my career. And yes, I sought out more education so I that I was qualified to do what made me happy.

Four Freedoms Park - Jan 2015.2
Thriving in NYC, Four Freedoms Park.


The result:
A career change at 33 years of age and no sense of guilt for having done it. Because it isn’t a mark of failure to recognize that you didn’t know something. I did not know at 22 years of age that I would love working in the art world. I had no exposure to this field and had no way of knowing that what I thought would make me happy was not the right fit. But when I began to know what I didn’t know, I went looking for the answer. Not knowing was not failing. Not finding out would have been failure. And through my education and experience I had come to see that clearly.

So what’s next now that I took the leap and landed (happily) in a new profession? I don’t know. But I will find out. And that means I am thriving.

by Kelly Bush | LinkedIn

Kelly Bush

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