TapasLife Talk — An Invitation

My goal here on TapasLife is to get the word out about the possibility of leading a rich, full,  and meaningful life after one’s long career — especially given the longevity that is giving many 2-3 decades of life after their long career.

This blog is one vehicle for communicating my message.  Through the 54 posts on this website, I’ve shared much of what I’ve learned while assembling and living my TapasLife.  As a result, you’ve likely noticed that I’ve lately been posting infrequently.  I’m grateful to any reader who passes a link to this blog along to others in their 50s and 60s who might benefit from reading about my experiences and gleanings.

In addition to this blog, the book that I’m working on with my co-author will (hopefully) one day be published and made widely available so many can consider a new post-long-career life that has been largely unavailable until now.

A third channel I’ve worked on for exposing people to the TapasLife option is talks.  I’ve done three of these, each for a different group of people at different venues.  I got feedback at all three and incorporated that feedback into the talk.  After the first presentation, I got the feedback that I should add other people’s experiences to my own.  so I included anecdotes from the 14 interviews done to date.  I also received feedback that there should be some interactive portions to the talk, and added a couple.  After the third talk, I received feedback that sharing my “random walk” approach in a chronological fashion wasn’t so easy to absorb, and that perhaps a more prescriptive, cookbook-like approach (apropos of Tapas…) would be better.  And that I might emphasize some portions of the talk more than others.  So I changed the talk accordingly.  And I added another couple interactive sections since these have been so well received.

At this point, the talk is about an hour.  It is a set of colorful, pictorial powerpoint slides (not a bunch of bullet-points/words/texty stuff), prettified with the help of a visuals specialist;  and includes four opportunities for the audience to have exploratory conversations in pairs amongst themselves (these have proven to be very high energy — and in fact are difficult to cut off!).  It happens that in my 28 years in the tech world, mostly in marketing, I got passingly good at talking in front of groups of all sizes (including 600+ at large meetings), and am very comfortable doing so.

I’m all dressed up, so to speak, and all that’s needed is somewhere to go!  THIS IS AN INVITATION to please invite me to speak with some group you are associated with that you believe would benefit from learning about the TapasLife.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and am happy to drive anywhere in the extended area in order to talk with your group.  I do not charge a speaker fee at all because this is part of my Meaningful Tapa — I’m just trying to be helpful to others as they complete their long career.  I am willing to travel outside the Bay Area if modest travel expenses are reimbursed.

Groups might include service organizations, church/temple/mosque-related groups, work groups, companies who offer services to their employees who are “retiring,” community organizations, groups of friends, businesses that serve people in their 50s and 60s (as a service to their clientele), and no doubt many others.

When you bring me in to talk with your group, you are helping people avoid the difficult wall that many run into when they complete their long career one Friday afternoon and have very little idea about the complex transition on which they’ve embarked.  And likely even less of a notion about how to live a rich, full, meaningful life for the ensuing 20-30 years.

Your assistance in putting me in front of groups who can benefit is greatly appreciated.  I can be emailed at Andy@TapasLife.com.  Thanks!

Brick

One of the things I sometimes see people who have completed their long career doing is to join Boards (boards of directors, that is).  Some seem to want to do something for the greater good and tie up with nonprofits.  Others want to continue in the business world, either to keep doing what they like, keep their mind active, continue networking, make a buck, exercise power, or whatever.

Not knowing what I wanted, I decided to give being on the board of a business a try.  My only similar experience at the time was having been on the board of advisors (where one’s two bits get inserted, but no voting power exists) of an outfit that enjoyed the supersaturated atmosphere of the dotcom bubble.  That was fun because the other people on the board of advisors was a truly smart and interesting group.  In my current parlance, I’d’ve referred to these guys as Exotic Fish (see earlier blog post).

I put the word out and that led me to a board of advisors spot at a nascent software startup.  After I strung several intelligent sentences together (kind of like the ape at the typewriter), I was invited to be on the Board of Directors.  This allowed me to learn a variety of new things, the first being what it’s like to be on a BoD.  New relationships, people with agendas, complex situations, problems, many ways of looking at things.  This felt different to me than working for a company during my long career.  I felt (even more) free to call it as I saw it — one of the ways I show up in life.

There was also a clubby feel to the BoD, with further introductions to some of those people’s contacts/associates.  It seemed to me, as a poor networker, to be a networker’s paradise.  And high-level networking, at that, which I suppose to be the best kind.

As it turns out, the start-up’s target market was one I was very familiar with, and so I knew it’s needs well.  And I started to notice a deficiency in the product that was under development.  I kept pushing on that deficiency, and after enough months, that caused the company to fold and, in the lawyers’ lingo, wind down.  I put myself (and the founder) out of a job, yet I had done what they needed of me:  they avoided spending a lot more time and money for no outcome.

Even though it turned out to be a brick, I learned a bunch.

I tried to find some more BoD work, but none materialized over the years until recently.  Now I’m on the BoD of something I’m unfamiliar with, so more learning — and I like that.  And I’ve already been able to help a bit, which feels like earning my keep.

This morning I received an email from the Harvard Business School alumni group announcing a webinar next week about getting on BoD’s.  I thought about whether I wanted to be on more BoD’s or not, and decided that no, I don’t.  One is plenty.

Board of Directors work is a Tapa, not a new career.  At least for me.

After your long career, you’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge and experience, and that’s valuable!  BoD involvement is one place you can choose to continue to apply it.  Or not.

 

Too Much Solar Energy

In the last post, I gave an example of trying something out to see if it would feel good and become a part of my Tapas Life.  Unfortunately, it never came to fruition (because I never did get a teaching job), so I never found out whether it would work or not.

What I did know is that I needed to keep looking for some kind of fulfilling activity that would make me feel like a productive member of society — more than just a consumer of resources.  I dwelled on this for a few months and then decided to explore things that I might do related to the environment.  I’m a bit of an environmentalist, as I’ve mentioned, and so imagined this to be a potentially fertile area.  Remember — follow your areas of interest and passion!  This is central to building a Tapas Life that you love.

After some more thought and research, it seemed to me that Solar Energy might be a good place to look.  There are several solar companies within 20 miles of where I live, and I made a list of those.  I stewed on what value I might bring a solar company, since I had no experience in solar.  Most solar outfits work with a manufacturing process similar to that of the semiconductor business that I knew well.  And I understood and had read about solar, much, much more than most people.  I find solar exciting, because just a minuscule fraction of the energy that will keep coming from the Sun for the next few billion years is more than enough to fuel the planet in a much cleaner fashion than our current, painfully finite oil and gas fuel system.

Fortunately, I have a lot of management experience, and this, too would surely be of value.

I put together a resume for the first time in a few decades!  And I wrote a cover letter that set forth my unusual situation and offer:  senior executive seeking half-time work for cheap.  I knew full-time was too much, because I already had a variety of Tapas in place that I wasn’t willing to abandon.  And I knew that “for cheap” would likely be necessary to get in the door with my very unusual circumstance.  After enough editing, sitting, and editing some more, I was ready to start contacting potential employers.

This I did by sending emails with my cover letter and resume to the CEOs of the solar energy companies in my geography.  Of course, I didn’t know their email addresses, so I played the game of trying 4-6 likely email addresses until one didn’t bounce.  The emails did, in fact, connect to their intended addressees.  And eventually, I got a bite.  And a job.

Interviewing was very different for me, because I merely laid all my cards on the table figuring that being genuine about my Tapas Life would lead to a job with an employer who accepted me for what I was.  There was no posturing or trying to sound as best as possible (as I did early in my career).  This was all straight up:  here’s what I know and here’s what I don’t.  And it worked!  After a couple of rounds, we agreed to a three-month “try-buy.”  I would be working as a contractor/consultant doing some projects and at the end of a calendar quarter, we’d mutually assess whether going forward with something more permanent made sense.

I drank solar through a fire house for a while, for sure.  And wound up doing some market research and making some not-very-deeply-informed recommendations (at least I was open and honest about this).  I never could tell how they liked me, but at the end of the three months, I had learned that working 20 hours a week at one job was too big a chunk for my Tapas Life.  I thanked the CEO and EVP for the opportunity and moved on.

Sometimes, you’ll just need to experiment — try several things and see what works for you.  There’s no harm, there’s no shame in trying and failing.  After all, you’ve already proven your competence as a human through your long career!  You don’t have anything to prove as you assemble your Tapas Life.  Rather, you finally have the freedom to give something a shot and strike out (like I did with teaching AP Environmental Studies);  or try something and decide it’s too much (like I did with Solar).  Or try something and decide it’s right or it’s wrong for any of a host of reasons.  Thankfully, you still live to try yet something else, until the Tapa fits into your life nicely.  It’s like looking for the jigsaw puzzle piece that fills the open space just right:  sometimes you’ve got to try a few that look right, but turn out not to be.  And then, finally, the piece fits just so, and you are triumphant.  Thus the Tapas Life is built!

Keep hunting.  Keep trying.  It’s well worth the effort to find something that feels wonderful. And that likely feels waaaaay better than the last few years of your looooong career…

 

Teaching — Didn’t Happen

Eventually, I had the urge to do something more productive, and perhaps to earn a modest buck.  The vehicle that beckoned me was the Environment.  I think that we’re doing significant damage to the planet we all have to live on, and I’ve worked to do something about that in several ways, because I don’t want our kids and their kids living in some future nightmare.  I’m not a no-growth, anti-business guy. But I’m all for sustainability, which I believe is key.  I’ve donated for years to NRDC and Earthjustice.  They sue (usually the government) to ensure enforcement of the environmental protection laws that are in place (but all too often not enforced, owing to an ocean of lobbying dollars).  And I read a lot about the environment and science in general every day. This allows me to add intelligently to many conversations — hopefully in a way that contributes to others’ awareness and perhaps even behaviors.

Our kids had taken Advanced Placement Environmental Science (affectionately known as APES) at our local public high school.  This, I thought, would be my venue:  I would teach APES.  This wouldn’t be the classic “why do you teach” deal of touching one person and making a difference in their life.  This would be an opportunity to pump up smart (they’re in an AP course), affluent (our area is well-to-do) kids about managing the planet in a way that is sustainable for the human race.  Then, as they advanced through life, they’d be in positions of influence and would be able to move decisions in the direction of sustainability.  I was sure I could bring the material to life with real-world cases from my everyday reading.

So I set to work to get a Teaching Certificate. I checked out a few universities in the area and decided on San Jose State (about $35k/year less than Stanford!). And went after the requirements. Mind you, I already knew that our local high school would want me, because I volunteered there in the College and Career Center and met the powers that be and they told me they welcome guys like me.

The requirements were, for me, non-trivial.  I would need to brush up on all areas of Science, since a several-hour exam on science in general is a prerequisite. There are websites to help one review, and I availed myself of these.  This proved straightforward.  There was also a basic (very basic) English and math test that was brain-dead simple.  And extemporaneous essay-writing — also super-easy.  And then came the non-trivial part:  Biology.  It turns out that APES falls under the general umbrella of biology.  And I never took biology (I took three years of chemistry, instead, because I didn’t want to dissect a frog…).  Sooo, I bought the Kaplan AP Biology workbook and learned it over a period of a couple months, taking all the practice tests they included.  And then I took and passed the requisite several-hour exam.  Aaaah.

San Jose State also required one to go sit in a classroom for 20 hours, to make sure one knew what lay ahead.  Smart.  I enquired about sitting in APES to observe.  And that’s when the wheels started to come off.  It turns out that the teachers in our school district are unionized.  So one can’t just teach APES.  One must start in the low-lane 9th-grade Bio class and move up towards APES very gradually, traversing a tree of Bio courses that go to teachers with increasing seniority.  I sat in on the “Bonehead” class, as it is affectionately known, and it was horrendous.  The little attention being paid by students and the ridiculous nursemaiding by the teacher were enough to end that dream on the spot.  No way would I endure that nonsense for years waiting to move gradually up the tree to APES.  No wonder so many new teachers burn out and quit!

I then tried nearby private schools (which would also save me having to get a Certificate).  One wanted me to also be a sports coach, an evening arts person, and to pretty much dedicate my life to them.  That was out.

Another yielded some good interviews and I looooved sitting in their class.  But they don’t offer APES (only AP Ecology), which didn’t meet my requirement.  Heart-breaking, really. I was so psyched, but no dice.

Other schools would’ve been 40-minute commutes, and after 18 years of those, I wanted no more.

So, I struck out. And you may strike out at some things you try, too!  I put this all out here to illustrate to you that you may head down some dead-end paths.  C’est la vie.  The good news is that I did eventually find my way of doing productive, meaningful work.  Before I get to that, though, the next post is about another attempt that didn’t work out.