Have you ever felt the pressure to set your life up a certain way by a specific age?
I remember when I was in my late twenties, I was completely freaking out – “I’m 28 – which means 30 is right around the corner. And by 30, I should be married with kids and have $ 1 million in the bank.”
I know I’m not the only one. I know approaching 30 (or 35 or 40) can create a lot of mental chaos for women.
It’s not our fault.
Maybe if corporate America was more supportive of working mothers, and if loved ones stopped letting us know that “the clock is ticking” we’d be a little more relaxed.
I’m talking about this because this week I sat down with Work Bigger member Shelley Simpson.
Shelley is a 69-year old lesbian woman and former lawyer who left the legal world to become a business development and support partner for the JuicePlus Company.
Shelley made a big pivot later in life, and she’s taught me that life is about the lessons we learn vs. having it all figured it out by the time we’re 30.
In this interview, Shelley and I talk about possibility, freedom and living your values at every age.
There’s a lot of power that comes with shutting out the naysayers, moving away from the status quo and listening to your own voice.
Without further ado, meet Shelley.
Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?
It all began in Detroit. I lived in the Detroit Metro Area for 30+years.
I was a stay at home mom until my youngest was in school. I got married at 21 and had two kids by the time I was 25. After that, I came out as a gay woman and was divorced by the age of 29.
While my kids were in school, I finished my teaching certificate but then found there were no jobs.
I had my insurance license, but decided to go to law school. I always managed to balance parenting and work because I had amazing support. It was not a “hardship” type story.
Eventually, I moved around – from Ann Arbor to Florida and eventually to New York City.
I fell in love with NYC early on. I love theater, music and the energy. I appreciate the diversity the city brings, and the ability to enjoy anonymity if I choose.
What is your mission, the work you want to do?
My mission to is inspire people to be the best version of themselves in terms of their physical and emotional health.
My business is based on sharing a product that helps people live healthfully.
We offer education and support for our customers. For those who join our team, we offer endless opportunity for personal growth and development. We are mission-driven and have a corporate culture steeped in philanthropy.
What led you there? Can you recall any experiences you had that pushed you to your mission?
I started my business from a place of desperation, and now I approach it from a place of inspiration. I was stuck in a career that allowed me to have a good living, but I was sacrificing the life I really wanted.
My job was not fulfilling. It had no socially redeeming value, and there was little room for creativity or growth.
Also, my kids were having kids, and I didn’t want to miss out on the memories. I was not willing to continue to trade hours for dollars and miss what was truly valuable.
I saw a way to step into something that would give me the time freedom and financial security I wanted so I could live life on my own terms.
What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
There were plenty of naysayers in the beginning. I had to tune out the negativity and be a vigilant gatekeeper of my own mind.
A few things people would say is, “Why would a lawyer do THAT?” “You’re crazy and you’ll never get anywhere with THAT!”
It’s interesting because I heard the same thing when I went to law school, the same thing when I left my practice to teach, and the same thing when I left my law school career and embarked on life in politics.
There was always someone to point out the downside.
I became very selective about who I’d spend my time with.
While I can’t get rid of every negative person (some are related) I can certainly limit the time I spend with them.
Also, I turned off the news, and started reading differently. I spend a good bit of time on my personal development.
Finally, I developed the skills I needed to succeed in my business. The more success I have and the more confidence I have, the less I hear objections.
Can’t argue with success.
What does living from a place of possibility mean to you?
Living from a place of possibility is about focus. I have a choice to focus on what I have or what I don’t have. And if I do think about what I don’t have, it has to be with a view of whether I really want it, and then how can I make it happen.
Anything is possible once you write it as a goal, make a plan to accomplish the goal and take the first step, then the next and the next.
Can you recall a time when you shifted from making a decision(s) out of fear vs. possibility? What was that like? And why did you feel the need to make that decision?
Fear-based decisions come from having a scarcity mindset – not feeling worthy of success.
There have been many times like that – where I’ve made decisions out of scarcity. For example, I wasn’t a confident kid or even a confident young adult. I didn’t come into my own and discover my own power until I was in my late twenties, and even then it was a long road to where I am now.
The result of operating out of fear was a bad marriage that still resulted in two amazing kids. My life was also pretty limited and shallow. I took a few lumps professionally as well and didn’t pursue a career I wanted until later in life.
There were plenty of missed opportunities. Understanding that and being vulnerable is not being weak.
What advice do you have for women who want to make an impact through their work but are currently feeling stuck?
First it’s important to define what that means. What kind of impact? Sometimes we can have an impact by writing a check or volunteering. Are you looking for emotional and financial revenue or are you looking for recognition?
Open your heart and mind to opportunities – write out what gets you going every day. Some questions to think about:
What do you love to do?
What would life look like if there were no limitations, and what vehicles exist for getting you there?
If what you love requires education, go get it.
If it requires relocating, then go.
If you need to do one thing so that you can follow your passion, then be open to that.
I read somewhere, “The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.” I would add that when it’s open you are more likely assured a safe landing, not necessarily soft but safe.