forbesTwo summers ago, I was sitting toes in the sand on a New Jersey beach talking to my friend, Larry Schmidt.

He was in his late 50s and beginning to think about what was next for him. Not any time soon, but eventually when he retired in a decade or so.

What struck me most about our conversation was how much he enjoyed his work, the challenges, the opportunity to mentor and coach younger employees and the overall work environment.

Larry was a marketing and communications guy. But out of the office, he was pursing his passion– painting and drawing. His employer, Meditech, a firm based in Westwood, Mass., where Larry had worked for more than 30 years, was all for it.

When Larry wanted to take classes to hone his painting technique, Meditech paid the tuition to support his “creative development,” particularly since he managed a group of designers and writers.

Meditech even has a “creativity lab” at the office set up to promote teambuilding through creative activities, such as collaborative drawing.

On weekends, Larry spent a few hours with a group of fellow artists who paint together and critique each other’s work.

I wrote in this blog post that his next act may very well flow from this artistic passion in some incarnation. He wasn’t sure, but he had begun.

Sadly, he never got to make the leap entirely.

Larry R. Schmidt died peacefully Sunday, June 2, 2013 at his home surrounded by his family. He was 59. Cancer.

His obituary noted that “Larry loved art in all its forms of expression: music, literature, theater, and the visual arts. In 2008, he completed a certificate program in Painting and Drawing at Rhode Island School of Design. He also studied painting with the late Joanne Regan in the 1990s and more recently, until his illness, with Anna Mogilevsky. His Saturday painting sessions with his friends in Studio 107 were counted among his happiest hours.”

What are you doing to find joy in your life, in your work, in your community? Larry’s death reminds me, and I am telling you with all my heart, get going.

Do something today, even if it is just one phone call to move forward toward finding work that is meaningful, fills your life with happiness, and gives back to the people and the world around you.

Here’s my simple advice for you.

Take a baby step. There is no perfect path or ideal starting point. What matters is that you somehow get moving in the general direction of where you want to go. This might be simply making a phone call to someone who works in a field that appeals to you, volunteering for a cause you care about. Make a pact to do one thing every day to pave your path to doing work you love.

Stop the negative thinking. Whenever you have a naysayer refrain in your brain– such as “I’m too old to do that” or “it’s too risky” or “I’m afraid I would fail”—pay attention, write it down in a notebook, and then recast it with a confident thought.

List your best skills. If you don’t know what they are, ask someone who does-a colleague, a friend, family member. Sometimes they see things in us that we take for granted. You need to get rid of mind messages that hold you back in order to move ahead with your dreams.

Start a journal. Put your passions on paper (or type them into an electronic file for your eyes only) I frequently meet with people who have trouble getting a bead on what they’re passionate about, or what’s a practical path to follow in terms of finding work that makes them happy… and delivers a pay check.

My experience has been that when you write your highlight reel about the best times in your life, the things you really like, the experiences you’ve enjoyed, what you’ve excelled at in both your personal and professional life, it all starts to gel.

Grabbing the ephemeral words out of your head and seeing them gives a shape, a tangible reality, power. It creates possibilities. It leads to action. These lists help you hone in on your passion and visualize yourself pursuing work that’s new, exciting and meaningful–something that matters.

I’m also a fan of making a dream board and cutting out pictures, places, people and activities that inspire you. (As an author, for example, I have a New York Times Bestseller list taped in my notebook. As a competitive equestrienne, I have a picture of a championship ribbon, too)

Our time on earth may be short. We don’t know. Why wait? Love and live with all your heart. Larry did.

Kerry Hannon, Contributor

Follow me on Twitter, @KerryHannon I’m the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons), available here www.kerryhannon.com. Check out my column at AARP. My weekly column  at PBS’s NextAvenue.org is here.

Share Button

By kerry