Loretta Smith plans on being just as terrified in the Third Chapter of her life and career as she has been in the first two chapters. And she advocates being terrified as an effective means to transformation!
“Real transformation cannot happen so long as you stay in your comfort zone,” says Loretta Smith, a guest presenter at our Designing Your Third Chapter workshop and a successful entrepreneur, respected business strategist and dynamic leadership coach.
“I was recently riding up a ski lift with one of my sisters who has long been an excellent skier, whereas I started skiing when I was 50. We were about to take on a challenging ski run and my sister said ‘Loretta, you are amazing, you are afraid of nothing’.
“My reply was: ‘are you kidding me?! I am terrified every run I make but the only way I am going to be a great skier is to push myself out there.”
Loretta has been pushing herself out there for a long time. Coming from a large Italian family in which all of her siblings were well educated, Loretta didn’t finish school. Once she learned the early lesson that “getting out of high school and being taken care of by your husband for the rest of your life” was a myth, she soon discovered that she liked business – a lot.
“But I carried around the idea that I was a lesser person because I hadn’t finished school. Then I met a person who became one of my first great mentors.”
Jack Wilkinson was the leader of the lobbying organization that Loretta worked for at the time. He was former military, Top Gun – he taught Canadian pilots how to fly fighter planes.
“He was in attendance at one of the presentations I made on behalf of the lobbying organization. I didn’t do well – I was not passionate about the issue and it showed.”
“He came up to me after I spoke and said ‘how do you think that went?’ I said I knew it wasn’t my best effort. I knew he was disappointed and I thought I was in for Jack’s wrath. Instead he asked me to pull out my business card which I did. ‘What does it say on your business card’ he asked. When I told him it said Vice President, he said ‘well f——- well act like it!’ I have never forgotten that moment nor that message.”
This proved to be one of Loretta’s first lessons about the place of courage in the work place and the value of simply moving forward.
“So long as I kept beating my head against the wall about not being the best person for the job, I was never going to be.”
Courage and action have been hallmarks of Loretta’s life ever since. Whether it has been launching her company Genesis Executive Management Inc 20 years ago, or taking the plunge with her husband to buy a working farm in Southwestern Ontario (which they still manage today) or taking on personal endurance challenges like long distance cycling or trail running (also still happening today!), Loretta says these fundamental principles are now baked into her DNA.
When it comes to working with her clients, she applies the same principles and has been known to “fire” clients who weren’t willing to do the work to move themselves forward. In doing so, she has often discovered that they were not a fit with her personal values at any rate.
“Running a business is always a struggle. You have to hunt and farm at the same time – meaning that you are always looking for new clients but you still have to do the work. In the early years, it was tempting to have clients who kept me in my comfort zone. The money might have been good but if those clients did not resonate with me – and me with them – then it was time to move on.”
Loretta talks about a process of re-engineering her approach to business: “I start by thinking about the end goal that I want and then re-engineer it backwards with the steps I will need to achieve that goal.”
Loretta has applied this practice of re-engineering to both her work and her personal life, recently aided by an experience she had in her role as mentor at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
“For the past 4 years, I have been fortunate to be part of a transformational journey with the business students led by Dr. Mary Crossan of the Ivey School of Business. The course is part of the MBA program at Ivey and the last class of the course is a transformational journey. Initially Dr. Hannes Leroy of the IESEG School of Management and from year 2 on, Dr. Mary Crossan, led us through a process of looking to the end of our lives and then reflecting back on the choices we could make to either make that end goal happen, or alter what it might be.
“It is an extremely powerful tool to really hone in on what you want to make happen in your life.”
At the age of 61, Loretta is ever more keenly aware of what her father told her: “you have finite time available, make the best use of it!”
“For the first two chapters of your life, you are somebody’s daughter or son and then somebody’s wife/mother or husband/father. But the third chapter of your life is all about YOU. So you better make it count,” she says.
Here are Loretta’s top 3 tips for living a career and life that reflect your values and allow you to keep your eye on your personal end goal:
- To thine own self be true – it’s an age-old maxim but keeping it upper most in your mind is key.
- Really look at your strengths and then play to them.
- Do The Work – and for this, she recommends the book by that name by Steven Pressfield, as well as his book on The War of Art.
Loretta has a couple of other books that have had a big impact on her life and that of her clients: Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love and Courage by Richard Stengel; and Only Pack What You Can Carry: My Path to Inner Strength, Confidence and True Self-Knowledge by Janice Holly Booth.
At our Designing Your Third Chapter workshop, Loretta will lead participants in a transformational journey, similar to what she has experienced with the Ivey School of Business students.
We still have a few spots available: if you are interested please let me know asap!