“Second Act” Transitions Can Be Fun

"Second Act" Transitions Can Be Fun

When we learned about 4word woman Julie England's incredible transition from VP at Texas Instruments to successful artist, we knew we had to have her share how she tackled this "second act" transition in her life with grace and trust that she was right where God wanted her.

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During early 2009, I faced a major life transition retiring from a long-term corporate role. My life as I knew it was changing in a major way involving life-altering circumstances. After a transition period, I morphed from engineer and VP at Texas Instruments to becoming an independent director on corporate boards — who is also an oil painter and artist between board meetings.

The transition period was chaotic, filled with exploration and many doubts about the future. However, my angst and uncertainty balanced against a deep understanding all would be fine. I could find a way to tap into the potential of my other God-given gifts and talents. I strategically sought out a new avocation which I could sustain for the rest of my working life. My mindset was one of abundance, not scarcity, that there was more for me in the future.

It takes time to expand our capacity to receive new things in our lives. I took 100-200 days off to vacation and reflect on what I really wanted and felt I could do for the next 10-20 years, knowing I was a healthy mid-life adult with more years of work ahead. Similar to hitting a “Reset” button and having a clean slate to write on, it took effort to decompress and get off my treadmill of entrenched behavior patterns such as: work, driving for outcomes, and recognition associated with my former company’s reputation. I used professional assessment services to understand my current occupational areas of interest. What bubbled up for me is that I had spent my adult life working in the engineering business world and longed to be more creative and to use a different set of skills. Next, I tapped into my desire for life-long learning and a more creative experience.

Although I had doubts along the way, I gave myself permission to dream and ‘go for it.’ We are generally fit and healthy in our 50s and 60s and there is plenty of time to learn, experiment, and develop skills in something completely new. I prioritized getting independent corporate board roles. Once I found myself on two corporate boards, I gave myself permission to try an art class. (I am frequently asked how to obtain a board of director role. Here is my short, downloadable guide, Eight Steps towards a Board of Directors Seat)

In many of my corporate job transitions in different functional work groups, the biggest challenge was usually being totally incompetent when trying something new. The hardest part in this transition was to give myself permission to just enjoy the experience and not focus on outcomes, which I had spent my whole life doing. I had to change the story we create about who we are and what we can be.

A community college is an accepting environment to explore something new for anyone who is starting on something radically different. An unexpected challenge was to convince art professors that I was committed to becoming an oil painter, not just an art hobbyist. I completed the Associates degree in art and transferred to a four-year university. In 2018, I earned a bachelor degree of Fine Art from Southern Methodist University. Although school provides a structure, my daily art practice was essential to building confidence and competency. 

Taking a page from my former corporate life and prior coaching, I set about creating a new brand and selling my paintings. This included building a website (Julie England Art) and social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram. To get my artwork out there in the market, I entered regional and national juried art competitions.

Here are my tips for handling a big transition: Tap into your business network. Make sure you tell everyone you are doing something new!  When out at events, I mention my new office is my art studio in the Dallas Design District; come over, have a coffee and see my work. Educate those around you; get the word out.

One unexpected outcome in my transition was meeting the supportive people in our art community. Starting a new career later in life is different because we have the life experiences and confidence to know who we are, who we want to work with, and how to make this work.  Approach people that you admire and ask for their input, ideas, and suggestions along the way. You might be delighted how they respond positively.

Are you trying to shape your second act? Keep in mind that you have sole ownership and responsibility of your vision. Stay in your path; trust in God that it could happen. Focus on the strategic “what” that you desire. Do not muddy your vision with “reality” (“ooh, that was an awful drawing; I can’t do this” attitude). If your vision becomes full of what everybody else thinks about what they want for you, stop and clarify your vision so that the attitude you project into the world can then be answered.

Julie’s next group art exhibit opens on Jan. 25, 2019 – March 15, 2019 at The Gallery at North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northaven Road, Dallas, TX 75230

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