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Considering a career change
#3051840 06/30/20 04:06 PM
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I've been reflecting on my future since my position at work was terminated seven weeks ago.

I'm not at retirement age yet. I've worked a day job in non-musical engineering roles for my entire career. During the final months of my last job, the stress at work impacted my health to the point I was very concerned I was going to drop dead. I loved my employer, they do work their people pretty hard but they take very good care of their employees too. I don't feel good about the direction that they were going in (less engineering, more data analysis and project management).

So I'm sitting on the fence about leaving the stress of the corporate world and finishing out my career working in keyboard repair. It may mean a less lucrative paycheck and benefit package, but less stress thus fewer health issues. My retirement package is all in place with the exception of my own property. Without my own house I couldn't go into self employment right away (and self employment is a hell of a leap). The real good news is that I am debt free, I've been single and free since my divorce 16 years ago, and I never had kids. So I could settle for a smaller paycheck and still put away money for a house.

Last year I visited a music store with a very large educational and worship customer base; when they learned that I fixed my own gear, they offered me a job fixing keyboards and organs. At the time I was too busy, but now I may explore that direction. There are other opportunities I'm looking into. I have a lot of online recognition which will work in my favor, and certainly draw business wherever I go. I have tools, documentation, and component knowledge that few other techs have. Studying keyboard design is a favorite pastime of mine. I've been comfortable working with audio circuits for a long time.

On discussion forums, I've noticed that Covid-19 scare had not impacted the repair business. Repair techs are still busy, I know of one guy in LA who had to shift to working out of his home. Security is a good thing.

So... "change my mind".

KC Island
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051842 06/30/20 04:12 PM
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Silver linings. Just watched the best man at my wedding go on unemployment after being terminated from a job that was killing him - including a mild heart attack. His lifestyle has changed, his ability to enjoy life has improved. Plan well to avoid other stresses, but don’t forget to be good to yourself.


Live: Casio PX-560, Roland VR-700
Home: Rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Yamaha S90ES
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051843 06/30/20 04:16 PM
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Find a Silver Lining

Follow what your heart and head tells you to vs chasing $$ at another soul less corporation

Its not strictly about the paycheck.

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051844 06/30/20 04:19 PM
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From my viewpoint, there appears to be a shortage of capable and knowledgeable service techs these days. I can't find one anywhere near me, and I have some minor issues that I'd like fixed on some older synth gear I own, and some major fixes needed on a vintage Rhodes EP. I could probably fix some of these things; I've done emergency repairs before, but I don't enjoy doing it and I worry about making it worse.

My only advice is do what you love. Do what makes you happy. If you make it solely about money, which is obviously important for survival, then is it really worth doing? I can't answer that for anyone but me. Whatever you decide, good luck. smile

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051845 06/30/20 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
I've been reflecting on my future since my position at work was terminated seven weeks ago.

I'm not at retirement age yet. I've worked a day job in engineering roles for my entire career. During the final months of my last job, the stress at work impacted my health to the point I was very concerned I was going to drop dead. I loved my employer, they do work their people pretty hard but they take very good care of their employees too. I don't feel good about the direction that they were going in (less engineering, more data analysis and project management).

So I'm sitting on the fence about leaving the stress of the corporate world and finishing out my career working in keyboard repair. It may mean a less lucrative paycheck and benefit package, but less stress thus fewer health issues. My retirement package is all in place with the exception of my own property. Without my own house I couldn't go into self employment right away (and self employment is a hell of a leap). The real good news is that I am debt free, I've been single and free since my divorce 16 years ago, and I never had kids. So I could settle for a smaller paycheck and still put away money for a house.

Last year I visited a music store with a very large educational and worship customer base; when they learned that I fixed my own gear, they offered me a job fixing keyboards and organs. At the time I was too busy, but now I may explore that direction. There are other opportunities I'm looking into. I have a lot of online recognition which will work in my favor, and certainly draw business wherever I go. I have tools, documentation, and component knowledge that few other techs have. Studying keyboard design is a favorite pastime of mine. I've been comfortable working with audio circuits for a long time.

On discussion forums, I've noticed that Covid-19 scare had not impacted the repair business. Repair techs are still busy, I know of one guy in LA who had to shift to working out of his home. Security is a good thing.

So... "change my mind".


I might also suggest you consider becoming a teacher? I have reinvented myself over the last few years in education, specifically vocational education at the high school level. At least here in SoCal there is a demand for teachers to teach engineering at the HS level. The good thing about vocational education is you likely don't need to go back to school to get a teaching credential. If you have had a career in the field, which you clearly have had, you can start right away and only need to take a minimal program over the next 3 years to get your permanent credential.

We have two naval bases here in the county where I live, and they have reported that they'll need about 2500 hundred new engineers over the next five years. There's big bubble of people heading toward retirement. And our schools need to supply those folks...

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051849 06/30/20 04:45 PM
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I think you should do it, Michael. You love the stuff, I'll bet uyou pretty muchg already have everything you need (or can lay hands on wehateverr you're missing quick enough) and you're great at what you do.

dB

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051853 06/30/20 05:05 PM
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I've been repairing musical equipment for decades and while keeping that up I have worked as a biomedical engineer in the hospital. I retired from that six years ago and now my shop supplements my pension. I do make money in the shop but I wouldn't want to live on it exclusively. I had tons of gigs until Covid hit and now they're gone. The repair business evaporated for a couple of months but now it's slowly coming back. If you want to jump into this field I think the key is to become authorized for in and out of warranty service for as many major brands as you can. This will give you access to technical documents and parts. You'll want to achieve this by re-connecting with that music store and building a relationship with the various brands that they carry. Please feel free to contact me privately if you'd like to discuss. There are fewer and fewer of us these days and I have found that most customers are thrilled to find someone that is competent and that will treat them fairly. Good luck!

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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051854 06/30/20 05:10 PM
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Michael,

You seem to make a very good case for moving forward.

It seems to me the biggest pieces for grown adults with a decision like this, in no particular order:

1) Sufficient residual income and financial stability
2) Satisfaction, joy and happiness
3) Health (short-term and long-term)

What is prudent to mention is that the leap to self-employment later in life is not risk-free. For every story of a successful transition from "working for the man", there are statistically many others that don't work out. There are reasons many continue to work for employers. But I think you are already well aware of that, and you seem like an experienced guy who will avoid the common reasons sole proprietorships struggle.

On a small practical note, no matter which way you go long-term, with your knowledge and reputation I imagine this could provide incremental income even if it ends up a side-hustle for you. So there are several possible upsides I would think.


"I'm not just untalented. I'm multi untalented."
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051855 06/30/20 05:15 PM
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Hgh stress jobs will shorten your life and can kill you. You are far better off earning less money and getting rid of stress, you'll live longer. If you don't have a lot of credit card debt, and your total debt service is manageable, you can live on less money. Living within your means is not something most Americans can do.

From what I know of you from your history of Posts, you're smarter than the average Bear. You can make a different career work. Finding the right music store to work with is important.

I'd bet whatever you do will be done right.


Mike T.


Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051856 06/30/20 05:15 PM
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I worked most of the last half of my life in computer industry some audio engineering mixed in a world where you're over the hill at 30 YO. My last job I was happy being in my 60's and still working in computers. The last job though the owner was a nano manager and such an jerk all the good programmers were quitting and only the ass kissers stayed. Add to that he was cheap and being being I was SysAdmin and dealing with the servers his cheapness was a problem for me. So the stress was insane and I decided to retire a couple years early. That was the best decision I've ever made. I was going to trying and work part time but decided to move to a cheaper place to live and haven't worked a day gig since. I got back in to music and and living a simple life and happiest I've ever been.

Where I live there are some people doing what you're talking about doing instrument repair doing as much or as little as suits them and they are all happy still making some money but doing it on their terms. So I would say go for it.

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051857 06/30/20 05:17 PM
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Moe's Chroma says: "Do it!" wink


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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051858 06/30/20 05:20 PM
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Life is like a box of chawclits. You never know what you're gonna get.

The corollary: you don't know how much time you're gonna get.

Go for less stress, better health, longer life, more peace.

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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051866 06/30/20 05:34 PM
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I've been a guitar tech for over 40 years. At one point it was my full time job - I was a certified Fender and Gibson warranty repair station.
That was another life.

I worked FOR the stores but not in them. Recently I was offered a guitar tech position at Guitar Center here in Bellingham. I gave it a day and thanked them but it's not a good environment for tech work.
Too much exposure to the public and the pay was not great.

Currently it is a bit of side income and something I truly enjoy. I am an avid player as well and being able to make my own guitars that sound and play how I want is priceless.

I think you should do it, connect with the music store but have your own repair space. This may sound goofy but keep your own Rollidex with card holders at the store. Collect connections, if and when you leave, that is YOUR Rollidex - it will never crash or lose data.

If possible, connect on a national level by offereing services that are hard to find elsewehere.

When the Floyd Rose locking vibrato system came out, I was the only tech in the Central Valley of CA who had the install kit and knew what I was doing. That paid well and even when Kramer added Floyds to their guitars, people still wanted them on their favorites and needed setups.

Do it!!!!!


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051869 06/30/20 05:48 PM
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Wait, you mean people pay for keyboard repairs?
noway

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051871 06/30/20 05:54 PM
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But who is number 1 ? ...
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I can speak to this at the general level of working for yourself, as someone who literally quit my dream job. If you had told me in my early 20s that I would ever have so much as a byline in Keyboard magazine, I would've looked at you like you had two heads. If you told me I'd become it's tech editor, then editor-in-chief, I'd say more like five heads. If you told me that one day I would resign as its editor-in-chief, voluntarily and happily, I don't think there'd have been enough heads for that. But that's exactly what happened, due to a combination of workloads and expectations that constantly increased even as budgets were regularly slashed, a toxic environment driven by desperate ad salespeople (not their fault), and management that thought listening to its own editors was letting the lunatics run the asylum. By fall 2015, I could see the writing on the wall and knew that rather than going down with the ship, I'd prefer to be the guy the ship went down without. I had some legit worry about dropping dead too, as in the final couple of years of being at Keyboard full time, I developed hypertension (regularly 180/90 — scary territory), a severe heart murmur, and drank too much. All of those things are completely reversed and even my cardiologist is shocked at how good my EKGs and numbers are.

I can't say enough good about freelancing since then — this even included continuing to contribute to Keyboard while it was still around. It can be feast or famine (and with Covid there's been a lot of famine) but other than gratitude for the times at Keyboard that were fun (and there were plenty), I've never looked back. Now, of course, I'm here, which as far as I'm concerned is the true spiritual home of Keyboard Magazine.

So I'd say do it. Sometimes, through contacts you make, you'll wind up doing some pleasantly surprising things, too.


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051872 06/30/20 06:01 PM
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Great observations, Stephen.

Tangentally, you got me thinking about the general advice I give to younger musos all the time: to develop multiple revenue streams if possible. This of course is what full-timers have had to do for ages, but those of us who aren't may have only arrived at slowly (or because of COVID-19).

But no matter where we're at in life, seasons, situations, it's always a good time not to have all one's eggs in one basket. That's easier said than done for many. But still wise in our uncertain times I think.


"I'm not just untalented. I'm multi untalented."
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051880 06/30/20 06:19 PM
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Mike I'd do it. I know you personally outside of here and you know the landscape of the state and beyond.


"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"


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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051888 06/30/20 07:00 PM
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It sounds like you have thought it through and it would be a good change. My only advice would be, as an engineer, to have a real practical handle on the numbers. Questions like:

How much $ do I need to make per month to get my house paid off in X amount of years? How much would I hope to make from freelancing?

I would also consider the possibility of somehow reducing the engineering thing to a part time basis if possible. You have a lot of valuable expertise in that area that could really help with your $ situation even at a greatly reduced # of hours.


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My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section
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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051900 06/30/20 07:54 PM
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...and now my attempt at something constructive (this time) and I know you know this stuff.

Engineering and repair are not the same although they share a lot of commonality. While I have no doubt you're more than capable - in fact over-qualified to do this type work will you want to do the recurring part that is certainly the larger portion of the work available? I've always liked new projects whether electronic instrument repair/mods, home repair/improvements and even yard work projects. Mowing the lawn, pulling weeds - meh. Throughout my career avoiding recurring tasks was a full time job for me. New design work was as good as it got for me and I fought more than my share of battles for these assignments. After all doing anything a second time let alone daily or weekly, that's like work.

Repairing/Refurbing a vintage synths for the first time is fun and exciting. Discovering how these things work (or don't) and getting to that eureka moment is deeply satisfying. But I have little to no desire to ever refurb the same synth again. Fixing common problems like keybed contacts (of all sorts), dealing with flaky connections, changing out dirty pots, fading displays etc., I do it when I need to on my own stuff and when I can help someone out. But even for me as a hobbyist it can get tiresome after a while.

I'm not trying to to discourage you but rather suggesting you look at this from a fresh perspective. Your past synth repair experience may not be representative of what working in the field entails. I worked with many freaks co-workers who gravitated towards recurring tasks - fortunately.

On the other hand everyone's different. Working in something that relates to your interest and passion may be just the right thing at this stage of your life.

Re: Considering a career change
mate stubb #3051906 06/30/20 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by mate stubb
Moe's Chroma says: "Do it!" wink
So does at least oine of my Andromedae.

dB

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051908 06/30/20 08:26 PM
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Don't know what is best for you about keyboard/organ repair, but here goes: I serviced musical electronics for over 25 years as a full time self-employed tech. I had very good relations (at the time) with Baldwin, Wurlitzer, Hammond & Hammond Suzuki, Rodgers, authorized by Yamaha, and a couple more, plus PC and guitar/bass amps. Always made a decent, if not high living; always able to keep my bills paid. Over a 6 month period in the early 1990's in the southeastern VA and eastern NC market (had to travel a lot), the steady stream became a trickle, when both churches and homes fell out with organs.
Fortunately, the personal computer/network service business had taken up a good bit of the slack; but home mortgage and other expenses meant that I became an authorized trainer on Microsoft and Novell, which meant even more travel, so I lost some of the local area business. Then I spent a year as the "Network Engineer" for a large hospital in VA, with a hundred or so servers, some MS, some Novell, some Unix, remote connection to IBM mainframe, and around 1500 client computers. Was hired away from that by considerably more salary becoming one of the techs who stood up the Norfolk NOC for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. After 3 years, was let go when the prime contractor was able to meet their 40% from small business requirement with the "grunts" doing workstations at the various bases. Was about 60 then. Sold Real Estate for 6 months, sold one home - mine. Moved to small town in eastern NC, reopened my computer business there, kept it going enough to meet needs until I took Social Security. 16 years later, still doing the computer business; but not as many hours.
Also, in the later days of the musical electronics business, it got to where smaller and smaller electronics meant one HAD to be connected well to the companies, and replace boards instead of components. Parts for older stuff got hard or impossible to find. I

Comments: The worst day working for myself has been about equal to the best day working for someone else.
Unless you can be your own "boss" and chew yourself out if you get lazy or take the easy way instead of the best way - don't do self employment.
No longer have to travel by air all over the country (and sometimes outside of it); my work is pretty much within 40 mile radius.
Would I do it over again, or stay with some big company or government? OH YEAH.


Howard Grand|Hamm SK1-73|Kurz PC2|PC2X|PC3|PC3X|PC361; QSC K10's
HP DAW|Epi Les Paul & LP 5-str bass|iPad mini2
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Re: Considering a career change
Dave Bryce #3051909 06/30/20 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
Originally Posted by mate stubb
Moe's Chroma says: "Do it!" wink
So does at least oine of my Andromedae.

dB

looks like you already have 2 customers. thu


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: Considering a career change
Stephen Fortner #3051910 06/30/20 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Now, of course, I'm here, which as far as I'm concerned is the true spiritual home of Keyboard Magazine.

cheers


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051912 06/30/20 08:37 PM
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Where do I ship this broken keyboard to, MC?

wink


The great thing about music is that there's always something to learn. The frustrating thing about music is that there's always something to learn!
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051922 06/30/20 10:42 PM
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I voluntarily left a high paid and demanding full-time corporate job a few years ago to work for myself and also allow more time for my music business. This is not 100% analogous to your situation but I’ll submit the pros and cons I’ve discovered for your consideration:

Pros:
- Working less hours
- Greater control over my day
- Less stress
- Don’t have to deal with as many f’wits
- Time for family, friends, sport, volunteer work, exercise
- Improved health
- Paid to do what I love

Cons:
- Need to be super organised - long and short term
- Drop in income (exacerbated by COVID-19)
- More travel (pre COVID-19)
- Less job security (although job security is something of a myth)
- Constantly hustling to get the next gig, literally and figuratively.

Overall - my recommendation would be “go for it”. If it doesn’t work out, you’re the master of your own destiny and can try something else. As you would know, “debt free” does not mean “expense free” but it certainly does open up a much wider range of options for you.

Good luck with whatever choice you make!

Re: Considering a career change
Markyboard #3051935 07/01/20 12:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Markyboard
...and now my attempt at something constructive (this time) and I know you know this stuff.

Engineering and repair are not the same although they share a lot of commonality. While I have no doubt you're more than capable - in fact over-qualified to do this type work will you want to do the recurring part that is certainly the larger portion of the work available? I've always liked new projects whether electronic instrument repair/mods, home repair/improvements and even yard work projects. Mowing the lawn, pulling weeds - meh. Throughout my career avoiding recurring tasks was a full time job for me. New design work was as good as it got for me and I fought more than my share of battles for these assignments. After all doing anything a second time let alone daily or weekly, that's like work.

Repairing/Refurbing a vintage synths for the first time is fun and exciting. Discovering how these things work (or don't) and getting to that eureka moment is deeply satisfying. But I have little to no desire to ever refurb the same synth again. Fixing common problems like keybed contacts (of all sorts), dealing with flaky connections, changing out dirty pots, fading displays etc., I do it when I need to on my own stuff and when I can help someone out. But even for me as a hobbyist it can get tiresome after a while.

I'm not trying to to discourage you but rather suggesting you look at this from a fresh perspective. Your past synth repair experience may not be representative of what working in the field entails. I worked with many freaks co-workers who gravitated towards recurring tasks - fortunately.

On the other hand everyone's different. Working in something that relates to your interest and passion may be just the right thing at this stage of your life.


While I don't know what sort of engineering The Real MC does, our Condo Association hired an engineering firm to submit a design to solve problems with our landscaping subsiding and in some cases collapsing.
The document we recieved indicated that the engineer who wrote it had considerable experience in subsiding landscapes and had written many, many similar plans. It was quality work, but block walls and dirt only offer so many options.

Engineering may not always be something new and different every time either. That's why they call is work. no?

As we refine our tasks and become more efficient it simply becomes a matter of course to knock something out and on to the next.
Give me a Stratocaster and a Phillips screwdriver and I will take the guitar completely apart and put it back together again so fast it will make your head spin.
After hundreds upon hundreds of them you get pretty good at it.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051938 07/01/20 12:47 AM
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I'm not seeing a lot of argument against your career change - I reckon that says it all smile


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Re: Considering a career change
Stephen Fortner #3051942 07/01/20 01:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
So I'd say do it. Sometimes, through contacts you make, you'll wind up doing some pleasantly surprising things, too.
Yup. Life is what happens while you were making other plans.

If you stay open to some opportunities and side moves that pop up as you go along, you will have some good experiences (and maybe some not-so-good). That pretty much describes my life in a self-employment business for the last 35 years.

Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051956 07/01/20 02:40 AM
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FWIW, I retired in Feb at the ripe age of 60. I guess that counts as a career change of sorts, right?

After a short adjustment period, I find myself ridiculously happy and satisfied. The only stress in my life is deciding what to cook for dinner. I do not miss the corporate world in the least. Between music, pickleball and volunteering, my days are full enough.

Amplifying what others are saying here: life is short, focus on being happy.


Life is too short to be playing bad music.

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Re: Considering a career change
The Real MC #3051959 07/01/20 02:56 AM
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Has been warned....
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I thought about a career change at one time. But then I'd have to have a career. And I'm not even sure I know what that is. Something to do with wearing sox or at least shoes I think. Maybe putting on pants before noon. Setting a morning alarm. After all that I'd need a change.

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