The Unspoken Truth

While few business owners will admit this in public, most are uncomfortable --if not downright stressed out -- with the dual challenge of turning their business over to someone else AND facing the looming prospect of 20+ years of …who knows what? It’s scary to think about what’s next!

Retirement is coveted

Our society revels in the idea of retirement. We look longingly at those who have earned the right to live free of expectations, demands, the stress of the day to day business responsibilities. In reality, for most business owners, the shock of moving from a full-time business leader to a life of … well … uncertainty, is very unsettling. But it’s hard to get much sympathy for that as you talk to friends, neighbors, business colleagues, or those you volunteer with.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and leading edge boomers are starting to change that for those who follow. A few brave business owners are beginning to talk about the challenge of letting go of the business and looking ahead to what might be meaningful and rewarding in the next stage of life. They are beginning to open up and admit to the fear and uncertainty, and they are finding they are far from alone.


Health Risks Abound

The unspoken, and in many cases, unrecognized stress and uncertainty of the transition to retirement can lead to health issues, alcoholism, obesity and depression. Health issues typically increase anyway as we age, but those who have defined and created a meaningful and rewarding ‘what’s next’ actually see an improvement in their vitality. This post-ownership phase can be one of the most rewarding times in an owner’s life.

So how do identify your meaningful and rewarding what’s next? Our process centers on three areas:

  • Your Strengths. Leaders often take their strengths for granted and assume everyone is good at those same things. Your wisdom built over years of leveraging strengths enable you to make a big contribution with less effort. And life is much more fun!
  • Your Passion. This provides the meaning, motivation and often the corresponding commitment. Many complain it’s a struggle to identify their passion, but with some focused reflection, we have been successful bringing it to light. Leveraging that passion is an internal energy driver that can ignite others around you. Your passion is contagious.
  • Your Lifestyle Priorities.  A new stage in life means a new opportunity and -- in most cases, a requirement -- to change your life patterns. Whether you want to sleep until 7:00am, take summers at your beach house, or start a serious gym routine, identifying these priorities at this stage in life can round out your meaningful "what’s next".

Why not begin planning your meaningful and rewarding "What’s Next?"

Be Strong Enough to Say You’re Sorry


And make sure you mean it.I’m sorry. I apologize.

Most of us find these two words so difficult to say, and even more difficult to deliver with meaning. To hide our discomfort we may over-dramatize our message. Or we infuse a hint of sarcasm to hold on to our need to be right. We make a series of excuses, blaming someone or something else. We act defensively, protecting our ego from the pain of having hurt someone else — or just the pain of being wrong.

I recently read the suggestion that “I’m sorry you feel that way” serves as a panacea for all kinds of apologies. I absolutely disagree. Such an apology deflects the apologizer's responsibility for the real issue and focuses instead on the person who was already wronged. The apologizer sounds self-righteous and self-serving as he washes his hands of the issue.

Jennifer Thomas, co-author of The Five Languages of Apology, writes that when issuing an apology, sincerity is key. To show that you mean it, you should use at least two of the five languages of apology Thomas describes in her book: expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.

Defuse Workplace Conflicts

Sometimes apologies are appropriate when we find ourselves in conflict with a perceived winner and loser — a common workplace scenario. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” in those situations would simply reinforce the winner/loser mentality. Don’t do it!

Barry and Tom were having a disagreement over how to best manage a critical company project. Barry wanted to invest in hiring a consultant to come in and do the work. Tom wanted to put one of his project managers on it and invest in software and equipment. After rounds and rounds of discussion and debate, Barry told Tom he was going ahead and hiring the consultant. After all, he was the boss and responsible for the final decision. “I don’t think that’s the best approach,” Tom said. “The consultant is not going to be able to learn our system fast enough to finish the project by the deadline.” Barry’s response? “I’m sorry you feel that way,” as he hired the consultant the next day. Boom! Tom was dismissed and, some would argue, disrespected.

What if Barry had replied, “I’m sorry, Tom. Not this time. I have made my decision. I am going to hire the consultant.” In that short apology, Barry expresses regret and accepts responsibility. He recognizes he and Tom disagree, but he does not disrespect Tom for his opinion. It simply conveys that Barry has made a decision and is moving forward, as is his right as the boss.

Saving Key Relationships

From time to time, we deeply hurt someone and need to apologize for the pain we have caused. Take the case of Karen and Mike. They had been married for nearly seven years, but over the past few years the two had drifted apart. Mike was consumed with his business, working many late nights and weekends. Karen threw herself into raising their children, home schooling them while juggling part-time administrative work. After a few years, Karen told Mike she was sick of his long hours and wanted him to shut the business down and take a more reasonable job. Mike said no way, so Karen told him their marriage was doomed and she needed to get out. Mike’s answer? “I’m sorry you feel that way.” With those few words, he dismissed his wife and her feelings. Soon after, Karen filed for divorce.

What if Mike had instead said, “I’m sorry I have been gone so much”: expressing regret. And “I haven’t done a very good job managing a reasonable work-life balance, and that has left a lot of the burden of raising our kids and managing the household on you”: accepting responsibility. And finally, “Let’s spend some time together this weekend to figure out a plan that works for both of us”: making restitution. Their marriage would likely have a very different, more positive outcome.

Offering a sincere apology is hard work. It often requires vulnerability and awareness of the impact we’ve had on someone else. Don’t dismiss others with “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Take responsibility for the role you played.

Of course, if you don’t agree with any of this, I’m sorry you feel that way! No, seriously… I’m sorry. I invite you to drop me a note to let me know about your most effective apologies.

Double Check your Checklist

Summer is around the corner.

I have two questions for you:

Are you going to take a vacation?
Are you going to truly engage in it?

I asked myself these very same questions last year.

I knew the answer to my first question was a definite yes, but I wasn’t so sure about my second answer.

I wrestled with why as I was getting ready for our flight, and I wrote out the framework for the post below.

So why did I wait to post it until now?

Well, because my Bronx-raised Mother has taught me well – you don’t broadcast that your house is going to be empty before a two-week vacation…

I hope you’ll find my musings from last year helpful … here it goes:

In less than 36 hours I will be on a plane with my husband Jim staring out the window to watch as my daily responsibilities shrink to the size of matchbox cars below. All of my things, meticulously packed:



Reading materials?




 So why can’t I shake the feeling that I’m leaving something behind?

Oh, right… because for weeks I’ve been observing the telltale signs that not only will I forget the most important thing I should pack… I will do it intentionally.

This scenario has been playing out in my mind like a chess match.

I know this game well, and I have learned how to read the board.

I can see the move my ‘Inner Saboteur’ is planning from a mile away:

To coax me into leaving my attention behind, locked in my office among the zillions of emails and voicemails. My Saboteur’s demands seem more important than my upcoming adventure.

My opponent is incessant, logical to a fault, and above all… cunning.

As my opposing beliefs advance on her, she yawns lazily and swats away thoughts like “I deserve a break” and “I will feel so refreshed after some time away” as if they were mere pawns.

I thought, “Hey! This has nothing to do with being emotional or weak! Even electrical circuits protect themselves from overload by indulging in ‘TRIPS’!  Ha ha.

My Inner Saboteur has finally met her match.

And you have front row seats to a counter-move that would drop even Bobby Fisher’s jaw.

A move that has been so obvious…

A move that has been right under my nose… Aha!

When my clients are serious about achieving a particular goal, what do I advise them to do?

Voice their intentions to someone they respect!

That’s right. I have decided to send  this note  to my close colleagues and friends so I will be held publically accountable.

When you ask me if I was able to unplug during my vacation…

My answer will be a heck of a lot better than:  “Uhhhhh….well… kinda…

Here it goes:

I, Abby Donnelly, will disengage from emails and voicemails and the incessant work chatter in my head and put my full attention on this vacation.

Check …


 I’ve declared my intentions. What about you? What will you declare?