15 Stories That Prove It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Life
Get inspired by these determined doers who refused to sit back and let life pass them by.
So often we find ourselves on autopilot—waking up in the same home, putting on the same clothes, taking the same transportation to the same-old job. Even our New Year’s resolutions to change barely make it past Valentine’s Day. And, while it’s perfectly natural (and normal) for humans to crave routine, there’s much to be discovered outside of the confines of our comfort zones. “We tend to create clutter and remain stagnant when we are doing the same old things,” says Julie Coraccio, life coach and owner of Reawaken Your Brilliance. “When we begin to see things differently and look around us we open ourselves up to new possibilities and new opportunities and can clear out fear.” It’s usually, the fear, or the energy of the fear, she says, that’s greater than what we actually have to do and change.
“At age 53, I opened my own restaurant.”
—Brad Gold, 72, Los Angeles, CA
“When I got laid off at 53 from a senior management position with a struggling restaurant chain, I knew it was going to be hard to find another job in the corporate world. I also knew it was now or never to pursue my lifelong dream of owning my own restaurant. What was most daunting was that, in order to make this happen, I was going to need to find an existing café that was underperforming and whose owner was highly motivated to get out of his lease. I got very lucky and found just what I wanted eight blocks from home. Since I had never financially planned for this day, I had to borrow money from friends and relatives. I changed the name to Black Dog Coffee, the menu, the recipes and the look of the cafe, and my wife did a great job of ‘designing on a dime.’ Eighteen years later, we’re still here and doing better than ever. I’m eternally grateful for the layoff and the opportunity to pursue my dream.” Looking to pursue your dream? Here are tips on leaving your day job to fulfill your dream.
“I overcame my fear and lost more than 180 pounds.”
—Scott Schmaren, 54, Saint Charles, IL
“At 40 years old, and having struggled with obesity all my life (I was at 5’6″ and weighed 360 pounds), I lost and kept off more than 180 pounds by using hypnosis. I didn’t want to spend my whole life being sad, depressed and obese. I couldn’t stand it anymore and I knew if I didn’t change I was going to die. I wanted more. I wanted to be happy, healthy and full of love and life. From that perspective, I started on my journey to change how my mind thought and worked. I walked away from my real estate career to commit my life and career to helping others change their lives and helping them overcome their obstacles and challenges. I became a hypnotist and a public speaker. That was 15 years ago and I am now in the best physical, mental and spiritual condition of my life. I still weigh 175 pounds and my life and career is helping people create and live out their dreams.” Looking to shed some pounds? Try some of these 40 fast and easy weight-loss tips.
“I went vegan for the sake of my health.”
—Craig Shapiro, 64, Virginia Beach, VA
“I had been working at a newspaper for more than 30 years when my life change reared its head: I was ‘downsized.’ I went through serious depression after that and it got to the point where I couldn’t sleep, wasn’t exercising and not minding what I ate. I decided to reevaluate my life and what I felt most passionate about, which was getting healthy. I’d wrestled with high blood pressure and high cholesterol in the past. I also decided to no longer consume animal products. The three wonderful adopted dogs who share my home are no different from the cows, pigs and chickens whose flesh we pile on our plates. They think and feel and are part of a family. By going vegan, I’m saving animals’ lives and helping the environment—meat production poisons the air and water. Good health, a clear conscience, a cleaner planet—that’s a heady combination.” These careers could make you a millionaire before you retire.
“The loss of my wife led me to make a major change.”
—Allen Klein, 79, San Francisco, CA
“When I was 40 years old, my wife died of a rare liver disease. She was 34. At the time, we had a 10-year-old daughter and I was the co-owner of a silkscreen business in San Francisco. After her death, I realized there was something bigger I needed to do in my life, but had no idea what. So, I sold my half of the business to my partner and waited for guidance to know what to do next. My wife had a great sense of humor and, although there were lots of tears during the three years of her terminal illness, there was lots of laughter. After she died, I realized how important that laughter was, even though it was often brief, and how it helped me, her and those around her deal with her illness. I went back to school to learn about therapeutic humor, started speaking about it and volunteered with people who were dying to see how they used humor to help them cope. All of that became fodder for my first book, The Healing Power of Humor, which is now in its ninth foreign language translation.” These world-changing ideas came from dreams.
“I went back to school at 46 to become a psychotherapist”
—Karen Whitehead, 52, Alpharetta, GA
“I was part of the sandwich generation with one child in college, one graduating from high school and one in middle school, all while taking care of my aging mom who was having major health issues at the time. I was working as a third-grade teacher after taking a break to stay home with my kids. After a few years, I realized I was miserable. I started having physical health problems and my stress level was through the roof. This wasn’t what I wanted to be doing anymore, but I had no clue what I did want. So with the support and encouragement of my husband and family, I took a job in an independent school working in fundraising and communications. When my immediate supervisor left to work at an inpatient hospice and asked me to go with her, I found myself excited to connect with the families and patients. I started meeting with different professionals to explore career options in medicine or social services and took time to review course catalogs at universities. I decided on an online Masters in Social Work program at Boston University. I quit my job, took a leave of absence midway through to care for my mom who was having health issues and completed the program in three years. I now have a private practice, Karen Whitehead Counseling, where I help clients with stress, anxiety, cancer and chronic illness enjoy life again.” Changing careers is something that lots of people experience.
“I moved across the world after leaving a dead marriage.”
—Candice Kilpatrick, 40, New York, NY
“I had been living in Asia for nine years working as a teacher and was in a dead marriage. Seven months after I left my husband, I found out he had been cheating on me. I desperately wanted to start over in a new city where I could choose my own identity, and not live in the small expat community where I would be known as an ex-wife of someone. I took a big leap and moved to NYC with two duffel bags and not a single friend or family member in sight. Since moving to the states, I’ve worked in social media for big brands like Yahoo!, Duane Reade and Moët. I’m also newly married to an amazing man! I took a huge leap and it paid off! You are in control of your own fate!” Follow these tips to quit your day job and start your dream career.
“I left a miserable, high-paying job and rented a cabin in the wilderness.”
—Leslie Scott, 52, Crescent City, FL
“At 42 years old, with two daughters just about to finish school, I quit my six-figure-salary job working in a toxic environment and escaped to a cabin by a river. Single parenting, a horrible ex-husband, and a misogynist boss zapped my emotional well-being to near zero. In 2009, with my kids now grown, I came to the conclusion that life was not meant to be so difficult, and surely there was another way. I was going to rebuild my life from scratch, even if it meant losing everything in the process. I rented a cabin in the wilderness and sat by a river for nine months, living off my savings. I hiked, kayaked, read, wrote and unpacked my emotions. It was restorative. After nine months, I found a job in the recreation industry. It was a departure from what I had been doing, but I loved it. One weekend, I hired a seaplane pilot to drop me off in the wilderness for a hiking trip. On the way, we fell in love and I ended up moving in with him. He was a flight instructor and trained me to fly a plane. After a few failed business attempts, I started my own bath and beauty company, Walton Wood Farm, which has become a multi-million dollar international brand in just three short years. If I hadn’t found the courage to start from scratch, I’d probably still be stuck in that car dealership working for a tyrant today. I would not have met my darling husband, started a business and would not have achieved my childhood dream of becoming a bush pilot.
“I left my 20-year corporate career to travel the world.”
—Leigh Wilson, 42, Chicago, IL
“I’ve been employed, in some fashion, ever since I was 15 years old, only taking a week between changing jobs across the country. Throughout my professional career, I would plan out my paid vacation time years in advance, maximizing my time away as much as possible. After a whirlwind trip to Southeast Asia in 2016, I decided I wanted to travel deeper, beyond the usual one or two-week bursts where work is piling up behind me. When I started travel blogging and engaging with the digital nomad community, I realized there are lots of people doing exactly this, but I don’t know anyone in my ‘real life’ who’s ever strayed from the traditional career path. Despite the fear, I decided to pull the plug on corporate life. I started a website called Campfires & Concierges and, along with my dog, I’ve embarked on a six-month, 10,000-mile road trip through the American Southwest and Baja Mexico. To prepare, I cut back on expenses and sold a lot of my belongings. I sold my home and downsized to 800 square feet a few years ago, which makes moving into my vehicle and a storage unit a little bit easier!”
“At 41, I left my boyfriend, job, condo and moved back home.”
—Jill Sherer Murray, 54, Doylestown, PA
“Even though I had everything I had ever wanted, and lived in a great city for almost 20 years, I was being held back. My life simply wasn’t moving me forward in the direction of my dreams or allowing me to grow in the ways I truly wanted. While my life was good, it just wasn’t good enough. There were things I wanted to do and be and have that I knew were out there, but if I stayed where I was, they’d remain outside of grasp. I wanted marriage and, after 12 years, my boyfriend still couldn’t make that commitment. In fact, I recently gave a TEDx talk called “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go” about how I let go of that relationship. I also wanted to be a writer and a speaker and a teacher, and, while I was writing a column for big magazine, I was also stagnant in a corporate job that just didn’t move me. And while I adored Chicago, my love for a city just wasn’t enough to keep me stuck. So, even though it was utterly terrifying and the fear of being alone was palpable, I left anyway. I told my boyfriend it was over and put everything I owned into my Toyota RAV4 and a moving truck and moved four states away to my hometown. It was the scariest and best thing I’d ever done in my life. Within a year of leaving, I found myself living in a bucolic artist’s community, writing a blog called ‘Diary of a Writer in Mid-Life Crisis’ for a well-known literary magazine, freelance writing, and enjoying a happy engagement to a wonderful man I thought I’d never find.”
“I jetted off to Paris for my 40th birthday.”
—Star Staubach, 41, Taylor Mill, KY
“Sounds luxurious, right? It felt impossible for this middle-aged mother of three with no childcare and no savings to do anything for herself. And yet, I dared to dream and said it out loud one day while on the bus home from work. The woman sitting next to me got a tissue from her purse to blow her nose. On the tissue were stars and the Eiffel Tower. My name being Star, it only made sense that this was a sign. When I shared the story with friends, they affirmed it. And what was even more shocking is that one friend told me she had a timeshare in Paris that cost only $120 a week and was available on my birthday. Oh, and it was three miles from the Eiffel Tower! As my husband searched for flights he discovered that we had 50,000 skymiles we didn’t know we had (three young children, we hadn’t flown anywhere in years). The grandparents agreed to take the kids, who had never been away from us overnight. For my 40th birthday, I ran three miles to the Eiffel Tower and back to our condo.”
“I left a 15-year career in human resources to become a baker.”
—Liz Berman, 43, Natick, MA
“I started off making cakes for my kids and quickly realized that baking provided me with a creative outlet that had been missing from my work in human resources. I started posting pictures of my work on Facebook and soon developed a large following. Friends and friends of friends started asking me to make cakes for them, so I figured I should give this a shot as a business! After several years baking at night while working in my office during the day, I decided to take the leap and go full-time with it. That was five years ago and I never looked back! Since then, the business has grown dramatically! It was clearly the best decision for me because it taps into a creative and entrepreneurial side of me that had previously been unfulfilled. The added bonus is I’m able to be home for my kids every day when they come home from school!”
“I started a clothing line while on bedrest.”
—Meg Remien, 31, San Francisco, CA
“In 2014 I broke my spine in a skiing accident. Actually, I broke about 10 bones—six of them were in my back. I could not function on my own for several months and relied on my family and husband to do everything for me. Being in that condition was humbling, but it was also very boring. Binge-watching all kinds of shows and movies eventually became monotonous. That’s when I started to design. After my accident, I was in bed for most hours of the day. My pajamas and sleepwear became uncomfortable. I noticed I didn’t like the waistband on one or the fabric of another and I began researching where I could find exactly what I was looking for. Then I realized it didn’t exist. I also started researching eco-friendly fashion. That’s how my clothing company, Raven & Crow, came to be. I never thought this would turn into a business, but every time I explained my concept to someone new they said, ‘That sounds amazing. Let me know when you have some and I’ll buy it.’ So, with a simple design and bamboo fabric that I adored, I had my first pair cut and sewn. The rest is history.”
“I picked up and moved to Ireland after never living outside Massachusetts.”
—Anne Driscoll, 62, Ireland
“As a journalist who loves stories, I had always been drawn to Ireland, the country and culture that practically invented storytelling. The problem: Legally finding work and moving there seemed near impossible. I had shelved the idea as defeated. Then in the summer of 2012, while I was at an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Boston, I was chatting with a journalism friend. In the course of our conversation, she nonchalantly mentioned, ‘I just came back from a Fulbright scholarship in Ireland.’ I can say, in all honesty, that that one sentence changed the trajectory of my entire life. It gave me a possible roadmap to Ireland and I decided to apply for a Fulbright scholarship, myself. I had three weeks to meet the deadline, and, in that time, I came up with the idea to teach law students at the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College Dublin how to investigate wrongful convictions using journalism skills. I quickly cobbled together a five-page proposal, two-course syllabi, bibliography, three letters of reference and a letter of invitation from the director of the Irish Innocence Project. I was accepted and the college invited me to stay on after my Fulbright year ended to serve as project manager of the Irish Innocence Project.” This may come as a surprise, but Ireland is one of the world’s top 10 unexpected destinations for foodies.
“I decided to open a restaurant in my 50s.”
—Kim Carstens, 55, Des Moines, IA
“My mom opened a diner when I was a kid, so, in essence, I grew up in the business. As an adult, I ended up going another direction—something safer and more stable. But something kept nagging at me because I had been out of the business for so long. I quit my safe job and took a job busing tables, as a server and hostess so I could learn how a restaurant business operates. After I was comfortable with everything I had learned, I worked toward opening my restaurant, which I named after my mother. It has not been without its own set of challenges, but I don’t regret my decision. I love being in this scene and meeting new people. I guess it reminds me of my mom.”
“I turned in my six-figure salary for a chance to soul search.”
—John McGrail, 64, Los Angeles, CA
“I was the VP of Business Development for a highly successful multimedia production company with a Fortune 100 client portfolio. Our company was purchased by a soon-to-implode dot-com company just before the dot-com crash in 2001. When the implosion came, our management team was purged. I went from a very healthy six-figure salary plus bonuses to suddenly unemployed; a watershed moment. With my experience and reputation, I could’ve just polished up my resume and secured another position doing pretty much the same thing. Instead, I took time off and did some reflecting. I realized that in all the jobs I’d ever had, what I always loved most was teaching, coaching, and mentoring my staff. So, after some soul-searching and checking out a variety of ways to be of service to people, I chose to go back to school and earn a certification in clinical hypnotherapy. That was about 15 years ago, and I have not ‘worked’ a day since.” Check out these amazing jobs where you get to be your own boss.