The Midlife Shift: Don’t Fall for the Myth That Midlife Has to Be a Crisis


It’s that time again – midlife. Don’t panic! This is just a natural time to re-evaluate what you’ve been doing and to decide what you want to do, on purpose for the next 15 years.

I’ve been researching this and apparently, there’s this shift that happens when you’re in your 40s and 50s, and I’ve seen it with my friends and clients. Especially when you set your course and made huge investments in yourself in your twenties.

After all, what did we really know in our 20’s? We were just figuring out who we were and what we wanted. Now, in our 40’s, 50’s, (and even 60s), we’ve got the opportunity to apply our knowledge, skills, abilities – and wisdom – in new ways.

It’s daunting to consider altering what you’ve established. Especially when you haven’t done it before. And you don’t have a strategy in place. And making a significant blunder isn’t an option for you. You’ve come too far.

I’ve done it for myself a dozen times over the last 25 years, and I’ve assisted many others in doing so – therefore I’m something of an authority. During the process, I picked up a lot of information on what works and what doesn’t.

Making a change in your profession takes many forms. Some professionals must make minor adjustments and develop new routines to discover what they desire. Others like their jobs, but want to shift where they work or who they work with.

And then there are those that want to try something completely new, such as switching industries or starting their own business.

No matter what situation you’re in, I’ve found 6 distinct phases of career change apply. Permission, Discovery, Investigation, Evaluation, Implementation, and Integration. If you’d like to know more about each one then click the link in the comments to get the free guide.

Midlife Career Myths

There are so many myths around midlife – and midlife career change – that it’s hard to decide where to start.

So here are a (first) few of my favorites and why they are B.S. …

1. You’re too old to change.

This myth is perpetuated by those who fear change. Many highly successful people changed careers after 30, 40, or 50. One example is Ray Kroc who didn’t meet Mac McDonald until he was 50. Your years of experience and wisdom can open doors to more opportunities than you can imagine.

2. You invested all of this money and time in your current career – don’t throw it away.

Your success in one field doesn’t somehow preclude you from making a change. And making a change isn’t “throwing away” what you’ve built, and it certainly isn’t some sort of admission that it was a mistake. The truth is that all that you’ve become can be the springboard to something new.

3. You’re being selfish – you should be grateful for what you have.

You deserve to do work that is challenging and fulfilling. Being grateful for what you have doesn’t mean that you should ignore things that aren’t working. You spend more than a third of your life at your job. It isn’t greedy to want to dedicate that time to something enjoyable where you are doing your best work.

4. There’s just too much risk.

There is no risk, zero, to investigating what changes to your company or your career might increase your satisfaction. The real risk is not conducting the investigation. Now, you’ll want a framework so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – and a guide for the journey so you don’t fall victim to SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome). And when you have those things and do the work, you’ll be in a position to make an intelligent risk/reward decision.

Myth Busting …

What myths would you like busted about midlife shifts in your company or career?

Comment and let’s bust some more myths.

Doug BrownThe Midlife Shift: Don’t Fall for the Myth That Midlife Has to Be a Crisis
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Escape the “Always On” Trap …

Our most difficult leadership challenge is the 6″ space between our own ears. It’s a mind and mindset game that can feel rigged against us.

Especially when you’re the “continuous improvement” person who is relentless about always trying to be better, think better, be more positive, and optimize your life. Only to feel like you’re chasing smoke.

You know that always being on isn’t the answer, but you never feel quite right when you are off.

You might describe it as the need to be invincible or bulletproof.

Or you might feel like you must be everything to everyone always, continually falling short of impossible expectations.

In his book The Practice of Groundedness, Brad Stulberg describes this as “Heroic Individualism”.

And it’s not a good thing.

Heroic Individualism is an unwinnable, “ongoing game of one-upmanship, against both yourself and others, paired with the limiting belief that measurable achievement is the only arbiter of success.

Even if you do a good job hiding it on the outside, with heroic individualism you chronically feel like you never quite reach the finish line that is lasting fulfillment.”

I felt like Brad was talking to me – and many of my clients too.

He also offers a solution with his Principles of Groundedness:

  1. Accept where you are to get where you want to go.
  2. Be present so you can own your attention and energy.
  3. Be patient and you’ll get there faster.
  4. Embrace vulnerability to develop genuine strength and confidence.
  5. Unlock the Power of Deep Community.
  6. Move your body to ground your mind.

I love these principles because of their power and simplicity. That doesn’t mean they are easy to implement. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

I’ve found #4 – embracing vulnerability – to be the most difficult to implement. Especially in professional cultures where it is viewed as a weakness to be exploited. And that’s what makes it so powerful for breaking the always on cycle of the heroic individualist.

Working on yourself, and your mindset, is not selfish. Quite the opposite. It increases your capacity to live your best life, and be your best for the people who need you the most.

Which of the six principles has been most important to your leadership journey?

Doug BrownEscape the “Always On” Trap …
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False Start!

False Start! 5 Yard Penalty. Repeat First Down!

I once witnessed our high school football team suffer 5 false start penalties in a row. The 4th down punt was inevitable.

False starts don’t just happen in football games, track meets, and swim competitions. They happen in your practice too. And you can suffer the same fate as the football team – except that don’t have the option to punt.

Business false starts happen when you unsuccessfully attempt to begin something.

You know, the important and urgent project. The one with the deadline looming like the headlamp of an oncoming train.

Then, you sit down to get started only to discover that you don’t have what you need to complete the task.

So you waste valuable time and momentum getting ready. Before you know it, your time block is up and all you did is move backward.

You don’t have to tolerate false start penalties in your practice.

Instead, find ways to improve and practice your planning system so that the information you need is at your fingertips and ready to go at the right time.

What’s one thing you’re trying to improve in your system to avoid false start penalties?

Doug BrownFalse Start!
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The One “R” you really need

You need a lot of “R” words in your world: Rest, recovery, recuperation, remuneration, reason, and resourcefulness – to name a few.

Above all the most important R you need for yourself and your business is resilience.

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty; toughness.

Resilience is your business’s ability to spring back into shape after an unexpected impact; elasticity.

Resilience means being able to spring forward and adapt to changing conditions without losing sight of your core mission and values.

Resilience is more important than any contingency plan – because you need to have thought of something to have a contingency plan for it.

When the unexpected happens your resilience is like the shock absorber that allows you to get through the pothole without damaging the car.

Here are the 4 things you can do to make your business more resilient so you are prepared for the next disruption:

1) Think Differently.

You won’t be able to solve today’s problems with tomorrow’s solutions. Take a hard look at what happened, why, and have the courage to treat the root cause – not the symptom.

Stay aware of what is going on around you – inside your business, with your people, your customers, suppliers, and in your local and regional markets.

Challenge your assumptions and question the information you’re getting. It is very easy to get locked into a set of ‘facts’ that support your worldview – especially with how we are consuming news these days.

2) Stay Pragmatically Positive

A negative mindset is contagious – and if you are negative you will be proven right. You will also be proven right if you choose to be positive that what you are facing is temporary, that you’ve overcome obstacles before and can do it again.

Face the brutal facts, focus on what you can learn and stay in positive action.

3) Get Up. Again. Again. Again, and Again.

Anthony Robbins asks a very powerful question: “How many chances did you give your child to learn to walk? When did you tell them to just give up?”

Falling down is not a failure. Failure is refusing to get up. You will get knocked down again over and over again. Get up. Keep going. Learn and adapt.

4) Create a Circle of Safety In Your Organization

Uncertainty leads to fear. It is a primal reaction. Fear makes people freeze up, fight with one another, or run away.

Your job as a leader is to create a circle of relative safety in your organization.

This will help you and your people think differently, stay positive, and try new things.

When they try new things they will fail.

Celebrate those failures as learning opportunities and keep going.

Doug BrownThe One “R” you really need
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6 Reasons Why Change is so Hard

Why is it so difficult to make a positive change in your behavior?

It shouldn’t be that hard, right? You’re smart, you know what you want to do. You might even know how to do it. Yet the behavior you seek continues to elude you. It’s pretty frustrating. And it is totally normal.

Knowing why something is (or is not) happening is the first step to breaking through whatever is holding you back. So we turn to science to get facts so we can work on a solution.

Here are some of the main reasons why change is so hard:

  1. The carrot is better than the stick. It’s natural for people (and especially lawyers) to get pulled into fear, regret, shame, and guilt – and believe that we will change to avoid this pain. Behavior change studies show that a positive reason for making a change is much more effective than relying on fear and regret. So if you really want to change – try flipping the negative to a positive.
  2. All or nothing thinking – leads to nothing. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re trying to drive a change – especially because change requires failure. And failing at a task can cause high performers to believe they are a failure. Of course, that’s patently false – but your brain can convince you it is true. To really make change happen, take all or nothing off the table.
  3. Taking on too much. High achievers naturally take on lots of things – often too much. And we want everything to happen quickly. That’s not how change works. Breaking big goals into smaller tasks, and putting them in sequence (one after the other) – rather than all at once, dramatically increases your chances of success.
  4. Using a hammer to drive a screw. You need the right tools for the project. Adopting new behaviors requires new tools and new skills. Learning to use those tools and skills requires a beginner’s mind. And that’s hard for lawyers – who are used to being experts at, well, everything. Part of your change plan should be acquiring and learning how to use new skills – and practicing them.
  5. Respect the process. Making changes to habits is rarely simple because so many behaviors are connected to other triggers and other behaviors. Change is a process, not an event. The more you know about the process, the easier it will be for you to navigate it – and overcome the setbacks that will happen.
  6. Commitment and support issues. Behavior change requires a high level of commitment – which is driven by the purpose (the why) of the change. It also requires support, or what scientists call a “commitment device” that establishes where you are going, and how you are going to do it – with accountability. Trying to make a big change alone is always more difficult.

You don’t have to tolerate being stuck. Keep working on the problem, and you can solve it – just like you solve complicated legal issues for your clients.


P.s… Want more of my best productivity tips. Click here to get your copy of my latest Productivity Tips for Lawyers

Doug Brown6 Reasons Why Change is so Hard
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