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Growing Bolder Article

Why Pursue Your Path?

Posted April 28, 2008, 4:15 pm
Growing Bolder asks leaders, thinkers, writers, life coaches, entertainers and role models to weigh in on issues affecting our lives.

Our question is: What motivated you to pursue the path you've chosen in life?

Glenn Fenster Glenn Fenster
My son Nyle was diagnosed with Epilepsy when he was two years old. Since then, he has had hundreds of seizures. He has them everyday. They occur when he sleeps. Five years ago on the tennis court he went for a shot and a seizure occurred. He fell to the ground hard. By the time I got to him running as fast as I could the seizure had ended. I gave out my hand to help him up. He refused any help. I asked him, "How do you keep getting up"? He answered, "Dad, I've never seen you stay down." I decided right there I would do something that would raise the awareness of all who suffer from seizures the courage my son shows. Days later I had a plan. I decided to bike from Seattle to Miami (47 days) 4036 miles completed in 2006. In 2007 I biked (65 days) 6200 miles from Alaska to Miami. This year I will bike 8100 miles. One might think the most difficult challenge would be the training. Day after day, riding mile after mile, cycling in rain, wind, heat, darkness. One might think it would be the terrain. Unable to practice in the mountains, they are a struggle to climb. One might think it's the 50 pounds extra of supplies I have to carry. One might think it would be the exhaustion I feel. One might think it is the loneliness of the asphalt. But no, the most difficult challenge for me is being away from my son. It is my goal by 2010 to have raised $250,000. I want to send children like my son to Epilepsy supported summer camps through out America and Canada. I want to break down the walls of stigma associated with Epilepsy. I do this to show everyone that no matter what disability of the mind or body, anything can be accomplished. That my son is like you and I. Epilepsy is what he has, Not who he is.

About Glenn Fenster
Glenn Fenster is a tennis pro from Florida, who started a foundation called "Destiny Maker" in hopes of creating a better life for his thirteen-year-old son who suffers from an acute case of epilepsy, as well as the other 2.5 million children who suffer from this disorder.

Ronda Beaman Ronda Beaman
In the book, "Tuesdays with Morrie," author Mitch Albom asks if the reader ever had someone who saw the jewel in them, someone who recognized the special qualities or talents that each of us possess. I did not. I was raised by teenage parents, told "no" more than "yes" and when I did accomplish something, was leveled by criticism to make sure I "didn't get too big for my own britches." I became an excellent student, a high school and college cheerleader, Mother of "America's Most Creative Family," one of America's Top Ten Outstanding Young Women, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate a student, a fitness trainer, The National Higher Education "Art of Teaching Award" Winner, Professor of the Year at multiple universities and so on and so on because I felt I had to prove myself ... but to who? My parents didn't care, my friends, husband and children didn't love me because of my resume and really, all the over achievement was making me tired before my prime! On my 50th birthday I gave myself the gift of freedom. Freedom from judgment, freedom from past criticism and cynicism, freedom to let the young spirit inside of me reawaken, dance, sing and find joy. I used this milestone birthday to become young twice, to let my curiosity wander, my hope expand and my love multiply. I took refuge in the childhood of maturity and re-discovered I was born to be a human being, not a human doing. This self gift allowed me to realize that my real contributions were all about the popular Beach Boys song bearing my name, "Help Me, Ronda." I became an author and wrote the book on growing young from the inside out. I became a life coach to help others get their second wind and find their own answers to what now, what next, and I became, for the first time, me. Now, there is no looking back at that poor older me who felt the need to win everyone's vote, who wanted everyone's approval, who needed public recognition to replace private reinforcement. Yes, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. I hope to continue to help as many people as I can to understand the only judgment that matters is what the face looking back at you in the mirror thinks and that it is never too late to become what you might have been.

About Ronda Beaman
Ronda is the author of "You're Only Young Twice: 10 Do-Overs to Reawaken Your Spirit." She is a wife, mother, grandmother and the ultimate renaissance woman -- she holds a doctorate in leadership, she's a dream coach, a distinguished professor and a personal trainer.

Tony Handler Tony Handler
What motivated me to start doing triathlons was that in 1983 I was diagnosed with of pancreatic cancer and the doctors told me I had maybe 2 years to live. While in the hospital recovering from surgery, I was watching the Ironman triathlon on TV. I was so impressed that I decided I was going to fight the diagnosis by getting in the best physical condition I could, and set a goal of doing an Ironman triathlon when I was 60. I started training and doing triathlons and obviously beat the 2 year prognosis as I am still here and still doing triathlons. I missed my ironman at age 60 due to an injury, but did one at age 61 and another at 62. Since the first diagnosis in 1983 I have survived 4 other types of cancer; basil cell, squamus cell, prostate and liver cancer. I still get a monthly chemo injection for the liver cancer. Also, I had an aortic heart valve replaced and half my thyroid removed. All of the above resulted in 16 surgeries and procedures and during that same 24 years of medical nonsense I have done 212 triathlons including the 2 Ironmans, 6 half ironmans and the rest Olympic distance and sprint triathlons. The biggest challenge over the years was dealing with all of the medical issues and still training and competing in the races. What I hope to accomplish is to stay healthy enough to continue doing triathlons (about 10 each year) and perhaps another Ironman at age 70 (I am now 68). I would hope that everyone could understand the importance of a positive attitude, a "never give up attitude", and plenty of exercise!

About Tony Handler
Tony Handler isn't supposed to be alive. In 1983 he was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. His doctor told him had two years to live. Despite this news he continued training. He's had a number of major health challenges since, but steadfastly refuses to let them be the focus of his life.

Sandy Scott Sandy Scott
Although the topic under consideration was obviously designed to be answered by those currently in the work force and pursuing a career, the question gives me the chance to relate an incredible serendipitous story. I was an airline pilot for the ill-fated Eastern Airlines for an incredibly delightful 25 years. Here is the story of not only what motivated me to pursue a career as an airline pilot, but the almost unbelievable way that I proceeded. I was a police officer (motorcycle officer) for the city of Palo Alto, CA. My career goal at the time was to become an FBI agent. In those days the requirements to be a special agent was either a law degree or being a certified public accountant. I chose the former route, and I was attending law school to accomplish my mission. One beautiful California Sunday morning, I parked my police motorcycle in front of police headquarters, and as I passed the area that housed the police dispatcher, I noticed that he was manipulating an interesting looking device. Being an engineer by schooling, I expressed immediate interest, and the dispatcher explained that he was taking flying lessons, and the device he held was a computer used to figure out various flying related calculations. He went on to explain that his goal was to become an airline pilot. He further explained that due to the Vietnam war, military pilots were not being released, and with the rapid growth of the airlines it was possible to become an airline pilot with civilian training. He told me that the minimum licenses required were a commercial pilot's license and an instrument rating. Prior to working on those licenses, it was necessary to be licensed as a private pilot. I told him that I had never been in a light aircraft, and would love to accompany him on a flight sometime. He said, "Meet me at the Palo Alto airport after the shift, and we'll go flying." Later that day, I met him at the airport and he gave me a tour of the Piper Cherokee 140 that we were going to fly. He further amplified on his desire to become an airline pilot. We finally took off and an incredible feeling overcame me as we broke ground. A large heart must have formed over my head, because I found that I immediately fell head over heels in love with flying. By the end of the flight, I said, "I'm going to become an airline pilot!" The next day, I appeared at Nystrom Aviation at the very same airport and announced to a chap behind the desk, "I want to get a private pilots license, commercial license and instrument rating." The reply was, "slow down kid, lets just sign you up for your first lesson." I started taking lessons with a vengeance, and studied everything I could about flying and aviation. I told all of my fellow police officers that I was going to become an airline pilot, but most scoffed at me saying, "Yeah, right, you're going to become an airline pilot." Although the story has some other interesting twists and turns, I will cut to the bottom line. I finished all of my ratings in a record 11 months and applied with three airlines, Eastern, United and TWA. Amazingly, I was hired by all three with a paltry 226 hours of total flying time! The typical pilot has thousands of hours when hired. The lesson from this story is that the seemingly impossible can happen, but it cannot happen unless you have a dream, and are willing to work hard to accomplish it. I loved every second of the amazing 25 years I spent flying, and progressed from flight engineer, co-pilot, Captain, and ultimately became a supervisory pilot, check-airman and examiner. As an examiner, I was the guy who tested Captain candidates, and issued their license qualifying them to fly as Captain. A truly amazing ride that started with a dream and a plan to accomplish said dream. By the end of my career I went from the initial 226 hours of flying that I had as a new hire to over 15,000 hours in various jet transport aircraft. I am now enjoying a delightful retirement and if they had a hall of fame for retirees, I would assuredly be an inductee; I do it so well!

About Sandy Scott
Sandy is a master cyclist who was headed for victory in the 2005 Florida Senior games trials when he was nearly killed in a collision. After two years, he's back! Sandy now owns the state record for fastest 5K time by anyone over 60. He is also the current Florida state time trial and road race champion.

Never Too Late Basketball Camp Deb Smith
I was motivated by my high school physical education teacher. She was a positive role model for me. She coached us all three seasons. She took me and other students to the local University and exposed us to what was available post-high school. As a result I went on to the local University of Maine in Orono and got my BS in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. I have coached since I was in college and continue to coach basketball for women age 50+. Back in High School I broke my collar bone and thought this was the end of "my athletic world". It wasn't. I played varsity basketball at UMaine my first 3 years of school but was cut from the team my senior year. Again I thought this was "the end of the world". It wasn't. Both of these are pretty minor setbacks as I look back now. I hope to continue to grow my basketball camp for women age 50+. It is named the Not Too Late Basketball Camp. I started it the summer of 2006 with one camp, held one camp in 2007 and am offering 2 camps for summer 2008. I'd like to grow this camp into a camp of national prominence by 2010. I pride myself in finding the best in other athletes. As a coach I try to bring out the best in others and as a player I hope to make my teammates better. I wish that others understood the need for women to have many athletic opportunities in their lives.

About Deb Smith
Deb Smith is head coach of the Maine Senior Women's Basketball team. She is also a star player on the Maine Hot Flashes team. She has a long history with the sport of basketball. She coached middle school girls for fifteen years and played for the University of Maine from 1972-75. After participating in the 2005 National Senior Games Deb had a vision. She decided that it's "NOT TOO LATE" for women over fifty to experience basketball, so she created the Not Too Late Women's Basketball Camp which has been a national sensation.

Susan Silver Susan Silver
I had always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl. I'd sit in my father's office and write poems and stories. Fortunately I had some talent which led me to great success as a television writer. The real truth was that I came along at the right time, ie. feminism had opened doors for women in careers not previously open, I had a relatively easy time of it. Now is when I feel there are problems. In trying to re-invent myself as an "older" writer in new media, it's not always easy and I do not have as much drive as I did in the good old days. Or maybe I'm just having too good a time doing nothing!Resilience is a necessity that I didn't really develop, which is what can happen if success comes too easily!

About Susan Silver
Susan was a writer for many of the greatest TV shows of all time, including "The Bob Newhart Show," "Mary Tyler Moore," and "Maude." These days, she writes a hilarious relationship column called, "The Search for Mr. Adequate." She is a frequent guest on the Growing Bolder Radio Show

Pat Bond Pat Bond
What motivated me to pursue swimming and cycling? I used to run for fitness and the competition of road races, but my feet gave me problems, so I turned to competition in cycling and swimming. I still train on a daily basis which keeps me busy, energized and at an ideal weight. Most difficult challenges? When I was younger, it was finding the time. I had a career as a medical school basic scientist, so I ran at 6am and worked out in the evening. Now I can exercise any time of the day. I suppose avoiding injury is a challenge. I incorporate shoulder and knee exercises into my workouts to prevent problems from developing. It is also a challenge knowing how much is enough training, tapering before competition, and optimizing performance. What do I hope to accomplish? I want to feel good. I want to be competitive in my age group, if not the fastest. I also enjoy the social part of competition. Many of my friends are also interested in sports. What should we understand? That it is my hobby and that I am doing it for myself. I enjoy being active and hope to continue for the rest of my life.

About Pat Bond
Patricia Bond is a multi-sport athlete who has been involved in the Senior Games for many years and thrives on the competition. She won 8 gold medals in 2007 Games in the 65-69 age group. She is the Chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee of Manatee County and enjoys photography.

Elaine Beaubien Elaine Beaubien
I chose my specialty like a Geiger Counter finds radiation. I moved around until I found what generated the most buzz. The most tingle. The most positive energy. The most fire in the blood. You move away from those things that provide no energy, and you move toward those things that excite something inside you. I think we make many of our most important decisions employing this method. For example, I didn't sit down with several resumes, interview hundreds of candidates, then choose my husband. I ran into him in Daytona Beach on spring break and that little Geiger Counter in me went nuts. Call it chemistry. Call it intuition. It's about falling in love. Falling in love with a job, a career, an organization, a community, a mission, a product. I worked in retailing for over two years. Flat line. I was a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin when pursuing my MBA. I took the position to pay my tuition, never intending to teach for a living. Then I walked into the classroom and BAM! It was love. Someone once said that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Only partially true, wouldn't you say? I love what I do, loved what I did for years, am looking to falling in love with what I do in the future, but some days job performance is just that. A performance. An Academy Award winning performance. You smile. You go into automatic pilot. And you wonder if early retirement is an option. For example I love being a professor of business but I dislike and become miserable to be around when I have to grade homework assignments and exams. I want to teach, engage students in discussions, answer questions, not read the response to the same case study thirty times. Shudder. But then the task is complete and the grumps pass and I plug back into the delight and fun. So what motivates me and I imagine anyone who sustains the pace in a long term career? Absolute love of the core mission, thoroughly enjoying the central and important day-to-day activities of my area of specialty, making friends at my workplace for support and fun, and most importantly feeding the need to serve and make a difference. A challenge in any endeavor is simple time management. Although there is no such thing as time management. You don't manage timeā€¦ It manages you. You can't stop it, control it, change it, or trade for more. It is absolutely, uncompromisingly finite. What we can do is activity management. Control how we spend it. This requires making choices. And making them decisively. My grannie always said, "The road is filled with flat dead squirrels who couldn't make up their mind." Making decisions quickly, then implementing your choices confidently remains one of the biggest challenges of life. We have so many choices, so many opportunities, so many alternatives that we can sometimes be paralyzed by them. Something I learned over long years on the job...just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something. You have to know when to take a pass. And finally, something occurs to me as I set my sights to the future. I have several "to do" lists. One has all the things that need to be done to live and to achieve success and comfort today, tomorrow and perhaps as far away as next week. Routine things and expectations I have for getting things done both in the office and at home. I write them down so I don't forget and leave an important task unfinished. It's a compelling list and begs to be completed. We all have them and use them to become more effective and efficient. Today this list had on it: send a sympathy card to Judy and Mark, buy paper towels, finish editing chapter 5 of my book, complete a survey my doctor's office sent, pay my VISA bill electronically, remind my mother to soak her foot, complete my response to these questions from Growing Bolder and several other things. You know the kind of list I'm talking about. Then there is the 'to do" list of things I want complete when I have time. A book that someone recommended and I want to read, a date with friends I want to make, something I need to look for the next time I'm at the mall. These seem more optional, less urgent, and don't poke at me so much during the day. It's only after a few weeks that there is dissonance in the soul if there has been no movement on the list. Then there is a list of things I want to do before I check out. On this list I have written such things as going to the Canadian Rockies. Never been there. I want to go back to Scotland. I want to tour the Smithsonian from stem to stern one more time. I want to get Brett Favre to sign my football. I asked myself today, which list do I spend the most time on? Then, which list is more important? Hmm. Maybe it's time to re-prioritize. I think I'll do an on-line search of hotels in the Canadian Rockies. I can edit my chapter and pay my VISA bill tomorrow. And seeing one of the wonders of nature is certainly more important than paper towels. Yes?

About Elaine Beaubien
Elaine Beaubien is an award-winning professor, an international speaker, entrepreneur, corporate trainer and a popular columnist. But after turning 50, she knew she wanted to try her hand at something else -- writing romance novels. So, she started writing under the pen name E.K. Barber but the secret is now out. Her latest is, "Flight into Fate and Flight into Destiny."

Frank Taylor Frank Taylor
I really am a jack of all trades and master of none. I've learned over the years that just about everything motivates me. I think the key to a fulfilling life is learning something new each day, and living for today. My background is technical so I am a somewhat disciplined person but that "don't" stop me from doing fun things. My most difficult challenge is to forget how old I am and just "Do" the things I want to. I hope to accomplish as much as I can, from ice skating to play acting and what ever else comes along. I wish that everyone would take a look at their lives and realize what they can do, not dwell on what they can't. You are never to old to learn something new.

About Frank Taylor
Frank Taylor is the dictionary definition of a modern renaissance man. Even though he's in his 70's, it seems there is nothing he won't try! He's a skydiver, stunt driver, parasailor, aspiring actor, ventriloquist and recent Clown Camp graduate Frank Taylor is always looking for his next adventure.

Sharon Pederson Sharon Pederson
I pursued music because it was something in my life that always made me happy when I was singing, playing piano, dancing, etc. I knew I wasn't "good" enough to become a performer, so I wanted to teach others the joy of filling their lives with music. Challenges always became whether the "student" was interested enough to give enough time and energy to "work through" the basics of music theory, so enabling one to play or sing with the best foundation they could give themselves.When "teaching" 3 and 4 year old nursery school children to "feel" and "act out" rhythms to their happy and sad moods; when asking teenagers to "count" the rhythmic measures and "stretch" their talents to create their own music; when working with the retired senior who is amazed how fun practicing can really be-and want to practice more and more; these are the rewarding challenges of a "seasoned" teacher. Needless to say, I am so proud to carry the title "music teacher and director."

About Sharon Pederson
Sharon is the founder and director of a 28-member show choir, The Villages Showtime Singers; she directs Way-Way-Off Broadway shows; she's the music director at her church where she also teaches piano lessons.

Cliff Eggink, Iron Geezer Cliff Eggink
In evermore specialized times, I have always excelled in being a generalist. This ability to see "the forest for the trees" served me well in my professional life, where I was able to redirect the many specialists in a modern company, whatever the product, to a general common goal. Upon retirement, I applied this same general approach to my new lifestyle: traveled within the USA and the world, learned to ballroom dance, wrote business articles and consulted, became a reader of fiction and a cross-word puzzler, hiked, rediscovered running, started participating in triathlons, became an Ironman in my 60's and, of all things, a sponsored athlete, understood that the internet is something I should know about, became a "webmaster," of sorts, and lately have become a USAT certified triathlon and USAC cycling coach. These varied undertakings; some of which have lasted, some of which have not; I have delved into with gusto, but never with finality that there was nothing new to learn or to experience. I think that this is what I wish others would understand that no matter how old you have the fortune to be, it is never too late to be that which you always wanted to be. I think it is vital to one's mental health, and subsequently to one's physical, to remain involved, to continue learning, to choose one's path with purpose, to have flexible goals, to discover new aspects in all areas of life that are challenging and interesting. As a generalist, I have found this easy, and I never suffered the pangs of angst that many of my younger friends have suffered from not finding their one true calling. I am content to stay open to consider most experiences, thoughts and philosophies, and then either to accept or reject them. I think that some individuals who do find a calling to be a musician, a doctor, an artist, or whatever find that inspiration early in life and usually illuminate their fields; the rest of us should try more avenues to self-fulfillment, not because we are discontent with what we have, but because we are thrilled at the endless possibilities that are on offer and that we can avail ourselves no matter how old. To that end, my future goals involve teaching a triathlon class, participating in another Ironman triathlon at the behest of a friend, and learning to play the flute. Hopefully, I will remain a generalist who can be specific in setting goals to accomplish something until the end of my days.

About Cliff Eggink
Cliff Eggink is a 70-year-old former CEO known around the world as the Iron Geezer. By his own admission, he was once a coach potato. But when he was 60 years old something motivated him to change. He didn't just decide to get in shape, he decided to tackle an Ironman Triathlon. And he's been joined in his athletic adventures by his wife, Tatjana, the Iron Geezelle.

Gordy Shields Gordy Shields
I was motivated because I love bicycle racing and I found out I'm pretty darn good at it. Challenges? The biggest has been aging. I keep my body in shape by riding every day, pushing myself when it would be a lot easier to quit. I turn 90 years old this year so I will go after the USA CYCLING Masters 20KM Time Trial for age 90+. You can wish me luck, but the truth is that luck has nothing to do with it!

About Gordy Shields
Californian Gordy Shields is living proof that it's never too late to excel at whatever it is you enjoy and that anyone can overcome almost anything. The 88-year-old can't walk more than 100 feet but he's one of the country's best cyclists. The discs in his lower back are slowly deteriorating, which leaves him hunched over. Rather than focusing on the fact that it keeps him from walking, he says his condition is ideal for racing.

Shirley Mitchell Shirley W. Mitchell
My passion for writing Books, Articles, Newspaper Columns, Internet Syndicated Columns, gives me a chance to give back to society. My Speaking Engagements give me interaction with audiences that thrill me. My pleasurable business trips adds zest to my life. My Websites and Blogs keep me in touch and connected! My FAITH, FAMILY and FRIENDS keep my life balanced. My Agent, Producer, Webmaster adds success to my career and joy to my life. I love my life and path. I don't want to Age Old - I want to Age Young ! We are the President, Future And the Star of our own Life ! I Re-Passion my Life to add Purpose and Meaning...  I Re-Think my Options to add a Sense of Contribution...  I Re-Connect with Community to Enhance Self-Quality... I Re-Focus LifeStyle for an Energetic Future... I Re-Assess Values for Life Security...  I Re-Design Health for Body, Mind & Soul... I Re-Equip Career for hands-on experience and teaching...

About Shirley W. Mitchell
After 7 decades on this earth, Shirley has more energy than people half her age! She's the author of Fabulous after 50, Sensational after 60, and a number of other highly motivating reads. She's the host of radio's Aging Outside the Box. She is an internet tour de force, with a number of web sites of her own. She is a passionate member of Growing Bolder where her user name is Fabulous (be sure to send her a note!). Shirly is proof of the philosophy she spreads, that age is just a number, not a limit. 

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