In September 2010, I was the Vice President of Operations for a large construction company in Dallas, TX. As I sat at my desk one morning, this thought crossed my mind: What will I be doing in retirement, and how do I prepare for it? This was a somewhat random but extremely significant question; random because it came from absolutely nowhere, as many thoughts do, but significant because it changed the course of my career and life.
I was raised with the understanding and expectation that I should follow a prescribed educational path, establish a career early in adulthood, and eventually retire to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Another belief I had was in the importance of service to others and giving back.
In my personal life and professional career, it has always been my goal to be a servant leader, as everyone needs support and encouragement. I found this to be true among all of the project teams I was honored to work with and also among the men of my community — a community that has been my source of support and encouragement for many years.
As I sat in my office on that September morning wrestling with this random thought about the future, I reflected on my past and the fortune bestowed upon me through all of those who had poured themselves into my life. I began a visioning process of how to pay this forward in my retirement years; no answers came in that moment, but I committed myself to be intentionally focused on what my future would look like and how I would position myself to serve others.
I wanted my retirement to be productive — not an ending, but a new beginning. As a person of faith, it was important for me to commit this to prayer and ask some of my closest friends to do the same as I entered a time of discernment — a time period, as it turned out, lasting three years. This was a time of excitement, anticipation, and struggle, eventually leading to the revelation that counseling would be my area of service.
It would require that I return to college for a Master’s Degree, complete a practicum, pass the National Counseling Exam, complete a professional internship, and, upon meeting these requirements, submit my application to the State of Texas for approval as a Licensed Professional Counselor… much more than I had bargained for. Nonetheless, I moved forward… with trepidation. I spoke to the president of the company about my decision to return to school in preparation for my “retirement gig.” I remember his exact words to me: “You’re doing something that most of us think about but never act on.”
So, in 2013, at age 53, I did something I had never previously considered or imagined and returned to school. To say this process was challenging would be an understatement. I did my job during the days and did online classes, research, writing assignments, and reading well into the nights and many times into the early mornings. It was a time of both shear exhaustion and utter fulfillment; this is when you know you are living into a passion.
In 2016, I completed my dual Master’s Degree with an MA in Professional Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy. During my studies, a fuse had been lit and an unexpected realization struck me — I knew that my launch into the profession of mental health could not wait.
My passion for helping and healing had grown so strong that I made the decision to retire early from a 35-year career in construction to open a private counseling practice, which I did in 2018. Because of so many professional relationships with men and my participation in many men’s retreats over the years, men seemed a natural focus for my practice. This understanding inspired me to do the second thing I had never before considered — writing a book. In 2021, C’mon, Man!: Taking on the Challenges Faced by Men was published and is now widely distributed and positively impacts individuals, their families, and their workplaces.
Why is my story important? Because, in a way, it could be yours too. There is most likely a dream that you’ve thought about… but never acted on.
What is your vision, where is your passion found, and how are you acting on it today? No matter your age or gender, if you haven’t thought about this before, I strongly encourage you to start now. You may be perfectly content with your job, and I hope you are, but I also encourage you to identify your passion.
Your work is what you do — your passion is who you are. It’s a home run if they are one and the same but, if not, take time to discover how your passion can be supported by your vocation so that you find meaning and purpose in both. If this is new territory for you, I ask you to spend time (maybe not three years like me, but whatever it takes) thinking seriously about your answer to these questions:
- What is my passion?
- Am I doing what I want to do?
- Am I happy with my lifestyle?
- Am I investing in my future?
- Am I connected to others?
- Am I helping others?
- What are my goals?
- Are my decisions and choices goal driven?
- Am I acting on my decisions and choices?
A passion with no vision, plan, and action is nothing more than a dream. Take time to plan and act on your vision so that your dream can come true, and you can live into your life’s purpose and passion.
Don’t limit yourself. Be daring. Start today. Your future self will thank you.