Inspiring Women: Annette Duke

By Guest Author: Annette Duke

So there I was, it was 2 o’clock in the morning. Everything was quiet, everything was dark, and I was sitting up in bed, panting and sweating at the palms, wondering how I was going to make the next payroll for our company.

I had had this reoccurring nightmare many times before in the previous 12 months. What started out as a profitable business, making millions of dollars a year, was now dwindling down to barely paying its bills and barely staying afloat.

The economy had changed, our clients weren’t paying their bills and outsourcing was an unexpected surprise in our industry. It got so bad that I had to mortgage my house and dip into my savings.

I remember distinctly that morning. I decided to get out of bed and go downstairs and actually make myself a cup of coffee at 2:45 am., I would do anything to just get myself moving and out of this panic. But the fear was inescapable. I could actually feel my heart beating through my throat and the panic was just swelling. As I sat at my kitchen table, that’s when I finally decided I really did need to pivot and make a decision and put this company down.

When that “aha” moment happens, sometimes it’s a tremendous relief and other times its met with extreme saddness. It is almost as if you’re adrift in the big ocean and all of a sudden you see land. It is that huge emotional release that makes you surrender and believe that it’s finally going to be okay, but at what cost.

That morning, I went into my office and collected my staff and announced that we were going to lay our company to rest.

There were tears, and people were just as frightened as I was, but there was also great compassion for one another. We were still a team and we were going to wind this company down together.

Over the next few weeks and months there were definitely difficult times and difficult decisions but things actually did start to get better.

I was able to distance myself from the stressors of the delusional hope of pulling the company around. I was able to gain perspective and began thinking about my next chapter in life. What was I going to do at 50? Start over? Well….actually, yes. I had no choice.

After we closed our doors, what I did next was pretty extraordinary. I decided that I was going to figure out how to reinvent myself, not because I wanted to deny my past but because I needed a rebirth.

I started to write down all the things that I needed to take responsibility for and pull out the lessons that I learned from that experience. I needed to own them, so that I could forgive myself.

That was a process that took months. I would write, read, reread, and identify the lessons learned.

At the end of that time period, I sat at my same kitchen table and put everything into a box. I stared at that box for what seemed like an eternity and then I quietly put the lid on and whispered to myself, “Okay, you can forgive yourself if you can learn the lesson and help others avoid your mistakes.” That was the day that ReInventing50s was born. I knew that if I could make it out at 50, I could help others, too.

Fast-forward to today, and things are so different. Now, I am living in the present (not perfect) and enjoying the opportunity to help others discover that they are not done at midlife. They are just turning the corner.

I’ve been asked many times, how do you even start reinventing yourself? It became such a constant inquiry, that I developed The Four Steps to ReInvention.

It was my roadmap of hope and forgiveness that enabled me to reconnect with my life and help others do the same.

They were simple steps really, but laid out in a way that let anyone apply them to their lives. I’m very happy to share those with you and I only ask that you share them with those in need. Enjoy them. Apply them. Share them! ~Annette Duke

The Four Steps to ReInvention

If you are lucky enough to live long enough, at some point you will reinvent some aspect of your life.

Soo…. What how do you reinvent yourself?

Step One:

You have to take responsibility for your mistakes. Own them. Write them down to identify them. Nobody is perfect and everybody is going to understand. There is something very freeing about accepting responsibility for what has happened in your life; the good and the not so great. Be honest in your reflection. It gives you a starting point. Which takes us to step 2

Step Two:

Now it comes time to start asking yourself why do you want to start over? Are you forced to by an outside situation, like job loss? Health issues? Are you at a time in your life where you need to pivot and move into a new direction? That’s important to know. It’s part of the process of accountability and it will make sense to you as to the “why” once you start down this road of the new you.

Also, what are your passions? What do you SEE for yourself in the future? Notice I didn’t say what do you want to do in the future. It’s too broad. Be specific. What motivates you to change? What are your skills? Do you like to cook? Lastly, but most importantly, are these answers in line with your moral compass? They should be or you will fail.

Keep your list of reasons as to why down to five. Everybody can count to five and that is just enough to let you feel accomplished without being overwhelmed.

Step Three:

Engage with yourself! Start working on your vision. This can take many shapes, physical mood boards, Post-It notes, pictures, magazine clippings. And digital ones too, like Pinterest.

Don’t forget journaling is a wonderful way to map out the new you. But be specific in your vision as to what you wrote on your previous list about passions. Work and rework this stage of the process and enjoy the many opportunities you will discover about yourself. Like you didn’t know you like chess so much!! Or that starting a business is really your thing!

Step Four:

What’s your actual Call to Action! What are you going to do tomorrow, next week, and next month? Yep, write down the EXACT things you are going to do. “I will get up at 6:00 am, get my coffee, and put on my shoes to walk around the neighborhood. I will check it off my list when I get back.” You can’t cheat yourself. You know whether you did it or not.

One important thing to remember, reinvention is a long-term process. You will stumble. You will trip yourself up. But that’s the process. And you deserve to be who you want to be.

So what do you want to accomplish in 2020? Participate in your future and what challenges you are facing and how you are going to pivot and #ReinventIt!!

That was the day that ReInventing 50s was born.