We have a story today on BoomerCafé about a baby boomer’s own wake-up-call to what he considers his “true calling.” Atlanta’s Reiner Lomb didn’t start his career as what he calls a “boomerang coach,” but one day it dawned on him, he wasn’t doing what he should be doing. And he had the courage, and the foresight, to change.
Years ago, during a time of inner struggle, I received a “wake-up call” to re-evaluate my life. On a business trip in Asia, jet-lagged I woke up in the middle of the night. I turned on the TV only to find a news story about an ethnic war in Africa in which the paramilitary troops of one ethnic group were raging through villages of another ethnic group and cutting off the arms of every little child they could find. They forced the father of each child (with a gun pointed at his head) to hold his own child’s hands during this brutal act. At that moment I thought of my son at home, and I identified in a very painful way with these fathers, imagining myself in their shoes.
By that time I had spent more than 25 years working on technical solutions to problems. However, I suddenly realized that many problems I cared about, such as war, had no technical solution. It took me another ten years to discover that my true calling is related to the development of people — coaching people to be the best they can be and make the contributions to society that they deeply care about. During years of studying the issue of misalignment between the work people actually do and the work they would love to do, I made two important discoveries.
The first was, I was not alone. In talking with people around the world, I have found that this misalignment affects many Baby Boomers. During these conversations, while people shared stories about their work, often their eyes looked tired and their voices lacked excitement. But the conversation would take on a whole different turn when they shared what mattered deeply to them in the world. Their bodies would straighten out and open up, their eyes would shine, and their voices would now ring with excitement.
The second discovery was that for many people — even if they knew what issues they cared about — they either did not know how to go about making the change or they were afraid of the risks. The more Boomers I met who shared similar experiences, the more I became aware of the potential energy and happiness that could be unleashed if they would transition successfully to a role aligned with their passion and purpose. I imagined the positive impact it would have on people’s lives, their families, communities, organizations, and society at large.
The size of that potential can be seen in the 2014 study by Encore.org and Penn Schoen Berland, which shows that more than 25 million Americans 50-to-70-years-old are eager to share their skills, passions, and expertise to address social needs, typically in education, health care, human services, and the environment. The opportunity to unleash this potential is what inspired me to develop and write The Boomerang Approach — a simple and practical process to align your career with what you care about.