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Waking Up

 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain

 

A former colleague of my husband Jim extolled the merits of golfing and having the ability to golf everyday once he retired. He purchased a condo townhouse in a suburb of Victoria, B.C. that was affixed to a golf course. He began his retirement joyfully believing that golf was the activity that would fill and fuel his days. Three months later he contacted Jim and asked if there was any way he could return to work or perhaps work part-time. Of course, at the point the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed on his retirement package and pension, so there was no turning back.

What Donald had forgotten was that a hobby or an interest is great as a part-time activity. It is enjoyable and it is fun, and so many other things. It is not however something that will engage you full-time unless you have set your sights on becoming a master golfer in your age category. An interest/hobby quickly becomes boring. It has no inherent meaning.

A former coaching client of mine, Joan, contacted me because she felt she was on the verge of burning out. She had retired from a busy corporate position with CN three years prior. Upon retiring, she embarked on a mission to volunteer for everything and anything as this is what she felt she ‘should’ do. She filled her time. Unfortunately, before jumping into the ‘volunteer fire’, she did not take any time to discern what was important, engaging or truly of interest to her. Once having volunteered with various organizations however, the expectation was that she would be available for certain hours and uphold her volunteer commitment.

As I met with Joan it was clear that she was tired, frustrated and bored. Yes, she was ‘engaged’ in busyness, and she was not passionate about anything.

Both these examples demonstrate that busyness does not equal meaning. In approaching the Third Act, it is wise to take time before jumping into activities simply because they pass the time. The Third Act is a significant time in life, affording you the opportunity to shift mindfully from being busy to simply being.

I recognize this is a significant shift. The world of work which you are transitioning from had scheduled your time and filled your days for years. Now you look forward and you see vacant space. You fear being bored, disengaged, useless and more. Trust me – I have visited all of those feelings. Despite this, time is your friend not your enemy. It is an opportunity to explore, to ponder, to search for what’s next, understanding that just because you are no longer in the working world, meaning and purpose continue to retain their importance.

The Wake-Up Call
It is healthy and perhaps even necessary to pause before leaping into activities, just as Donald and Joan learned. It is a time to ‘unlearn’ the habits associated with whatever occupation you were engaged with, and time to learn more about ‘being” vs doing. Given time and space for this, there comes a time when you begin to wonder, “is that all there is?”

It occurs to you that there has to be more to life. As Joseph Campbell explains in The Heroes Journey, it is more than simply the meaning of life, it is the experience of being alive. What does being alive look like? You have the opportunity of defining this for yourself,

Most of us want to have a sense of being involved in something meaningful. Identifying what that might be is not always obvious. It requires some digging, some discovery regarding the question, “what is my reason for being here/my purpose?”

This might be a ground-breaking opportunity for you as it may be new territory. Not everyone explores meaning and purpose early in life. If this is the first time in your life that you have ever stopped to consider your purpose or your passion, relish the opportunity and the wisdom in doing so. Chances are you have a lot of years before you in which to pursue the opportunities that interest you.

And remember, so many of you went to work, and then you worked and worked, nose to the grindstone, in a routine that served you well and supported you and your families. Then one day you have a  J.O.B. Graduation (Justifiable Occupation or Business). The structure and routine created by your work has vanished.

It is only then that you find yourself asking these questions of yourself, to identify what is next for you. The opportunity is to match this with purpose, meaning and passion.

What Do YOU Want?
As you consider the question, what’s next, take time to consider what it is you want. As I have learned this is rarely clear for people. There is usually great accuracy in reciting what you don’t want but not the opposite.

Clarity is important. Now is the time to switch the ‘do not wants’ into new language. ‘Do not wants’ become reality. I don’t want to be bored and you are bored. I don’t want to be disengaged and you are.

A focus on what you don’t want only reinforces this energy and attracts more of the same.

Step One – be clear about what you want. Listen to your language. Convert any ‘do nots’ into a language that will serve you.

Start now – complete this sentence: I want…..

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Humans are living longer. For those of you who are currently 65 years of age, there is a 50% chance that you will live to be 100. The numbers of centenarians are growing every year. The reality – with good health body, mind and spirit, you may become one of them.

What does this mean? Is it really appropriate to consider ‘retirement’ at least in the way our parents retired? As I was recently reminded, retirement is rooted in the French ‘retirer’ which means to withdraw, step away from. Do you see yourself withdrawing or stepping away simply because you find yourself in an age category which has been defined by society as retirement age? I hope not.

The Third Act is a way of offering you a new vocabulary. It is that time in your life post J.O.B. (Justifiable Occupation or Business) where you get to choose what you want to engage in. There is no need for you to put your feet up and whither into oblivion, although this is clearly an alternative choice.

An article in Psychology Today, April 2017, reported ‘that instead of heading en masse to retirement communities, 60-somethings are going back to school, starting new relationships, exploring their creativity, fighting for causes in which they believe, giving their time and money away, and yes, bucket listing”.

And while this is increasingly the trend, many individuals in their Third Act are still not clear on which path they should be taking. Research by Dr. Lawrence Samuel has found that, interestingly,  the financially secure are the most likely to be directionless.

Why? Too many options, too little self-knowledge, too little clarity regarding what is genuinely important. Yet with financial security, and the reality that you will most likely be healthy for many years, comes the opportunity to find the meaning and purpose that will engage you and allow you to continue to thrive. It is, as Ann Mortifee describes it, the Mysterious Journey

When a path opens up before us that leads we know not where, don’t be afraid to follow it. Our lives are meant to be mysterious journeys, unfolding one step at a time. Often, we follow a path worn smooth by the many and in doing so we lose our authenticity, our individuality, our own unique expression. Do not be afraid to lose your way. Out of chaos, clarity will eventually rise. Out of not knowing, something new and unknown will ultimately come. Do not order things too swiftly. Wait and the miracle will appear.”

The miracle will appear and you can guide the process by choosing to become clear and engaging in a transition process.

Transitions
In 1980 William Bridges first published his book Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. In his book, he described a transitions model which he defined in three stages: Endings, The Neutral Zone and New Beginnings.

Endings describes that time when you disengage in what you have known, whether this is a relationship, a job, a way of life or perhaps a habit in which you have been engaged. This is followed by dis-identification, a time when you recognize that this same relationship or job has in many ways defined who you are and the roles that you have played. You realize that this is no longer so. Your self-Identity had changed.

Disenchantment may follow, disappointment with the events that have forced these changes, even a sense of grief at having lost what you have known for so many years. Finally, you arrive at disorientation, the ‘now what’ and ‘where do I go from here?’

The Neutral Zone is a time to feel empty, to be lost in the woods, to explore and to discover. It is a place to struggle and flounder as well as a place and time to clarify and wonder. It is the gap between your former way of life and what awaits you. If you allow yourself to linger in this space, without self-judgment, the result can be rewarding and transformative.

You then approach New Beginnings, a realignment regarding what is important to you and what you want from life. Clarity is emerging leading you to understand the possibilities you have before you, what will engage you and what you want to dedicate time to. It is also time for action.

The New Transitions
I have always appreciated Bridges model. I have used it in my own life, used it as a coaching tool for individuals and teams, and trusted it. My only question, “Is it too simplistic?”

In recent research regarding the Third Act, I have uncovered the work of Dr. Edward Kelly who has taken the Bridges model and expanded it into what he considers to be the critical steps for transitioning into the Third Act. He has defined these stages as The Wake-Up Call, The Search, The Struggle, Breakthrough and Integration.

While the roots of these stages clearly lie within Bridges’ work, the added detail allows for a better understanding of the transition process, especially for the Third Act.

ME FIRST
If you haven’t already guessed. The most important aspect of transition is to dedicate time to it and to put yourself first. I define ME FIRST as an act of selfness, versus selfishness, a process whereby you dedicate time to take care of your business and issues first, allowing you to engage in life differently and become clear regarding your future. If this future happens to include an element of service to others,  then this time of reflective consideration will allow you to be more effective in how you approach this service to others.

THRIVING
I cannot think of a time in life when a focus on YOU could be any more important. The time you invest will lay the foundation upon which you will build your choices for the final act of your life.

Thriving in the Third Act is designed as a road-map for moving forward, away from the world you have known and into the world you now want. It is built upon the new transition model as proposed by Dr. Kelly as well as strategies designed to guide your reflections and explorations.

As a first step, I encourage you to consider the transition into the Third Act as an adventure, fueled by fun, driven by curiosity and directed by your desire and passion and as an opportunity to clear the decks, release old baggage, habits and way of living. All of this creates space for new possibilities and for engaging differently in your life.

Are you ready?

 

First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life.”

Gord Downie

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I am back. After a hiatus from writing, accompanied by some exploration and reflection, I am exploring the possibility of pulling together a program/learning manual dedicated to Thriving in the Third Act. I always do better when I have a little structure.

In the upcoming weeks I thought I would use my blog to roll out the framework and hope that you, as my audience would offer some feedback to me. I have never written a book this way before, so bear with me. It is a new way of doing it for a new phase in life. So here is the first installment, the Forward:

Thriving in the Third Act

Forward

Tim Carroll, Artistic Director of the Shaw Theatre wrote this for the 2017 season:

“An actor friend of mine said once that all directors are either mechanics or gardeners. A mechanic solves problems so that the machine works; a gardener creates the conditions in which something can grow. Some of the most vital jobs at the Shaw require mechanics but to direct our plays, I want gardeners.”

As I read this, I could not help but reflect on how his words not only applies to plays, they applied to life. If you simply replaced the word play with the Third Act, would the same sentiment not also apply. You can be mechanical in your approach to the Third Act. You can address whatever issues you have identified with a mechanistic approach of ‘let’s fix it’, as if life were a machine that has simply broken down. In fact, this has been in my view, the way in which retirement planning has been approached, a plan which deals dominantly with finances and the practical aspects of the Third Act years.

Or, you can decide to be gardeners and create the conditions for your Third Act whereby you can thrive. And what does thriving mean: feeling curious and engaged, exploring how you might use your gifts, talents and experience differently, being of service both to yourself and others and more.

Carroll went on to say that gardening in theatre work means “a process in which rehearsals are playful and exploratory. It means we don’t try to nail down the ‘right’ version of a scene; we play inside it and allow it to reveal itself.

Isn’t that just perfect. The Third Act is not a new job, it is simply your life’s work and experience. There is no requirement to ‘nail’ it down. The experience is designed to be softer, easier, free-flowing allowing you to ’play inside it and reveal itself ’.

I think this is perhaps the most important aspect of the Third Act, a stage in life, and if you will your ‘two-thirds life crisis’, when you transition into a new phase. It need not be governed by goals as many of you have been forced to live by during your working careers. It is most likely best expressed through intentions, the knowledge of what you want with no need to understand exactly how you will obtain this. Goals nail down the results whereas intentions allow you to live into this new phase of life and let it be revealed.

That said, what you want may not be obvious. I know that has been the case for me. In fact, the ‘do not wants’ have been much more clear at times, most of them predicated on a fear of boredom, and becoming a ‘couch potato’.

Welcome to Thriving in the Third Act, a personal self-discovery journey for ME, as I learn to transition from my career as a coach/consultant into my Third Act and one which I invite you to share.

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The spark for change is change.

From this morning’s message from the Universe, this short quote emerged. If you don’t subscribe to Messages from the Universe already, I highly recommend this – go to http://www.tut.com for your daily dose of wisdom and humor.

Change – there has been a great deal of that going around these days. Change and Transition. In my view transition is the human side of change, how we react and respond to the events around us that influence our lives. As we all know change is inevitable and there is that platitude, ‘change is the only constant‘. Curse change if you will and apparently you cannot escape it. Do you then embrace it or is that simply expecting too much?

I will admit that I am a person who seeks change. In my younger years I was plagued by boredom which resulted in me changing jobs at an alarming rate. I thought that a new venue would be more interesting even though the work with the inherent responsibilities were the same. Self-employment has been ideal for me as a result, as you get to create what you do, you can shift responsibilities around, search for new directions – you get the picture. And somewhere in there you need consistency and direction otherwise self-employment will spin out of control. Fortunately I have also been purposeful and yes, somewhat driven, which makes the changes upon me now the most challenging ones. This change is my transition into retirement.

Over the last few months I have been musing about this eventuality. The decision to release my ‘work’ responsibilities has not come lightly or easily. And, by the way I am not there yet although well on my way. As a self-employed coach, consultant, facilitator and teacher, my work has taken on many forms through the years from corporate consulting to individual coaching, from running and facilitating retreats and workshops to public speaking. I have never been bored in any of these roles because of the diversity and the variety which this approach has offered me. And trust me, I still love all of it.

So why retire or as I prefer to think of it re-tire. I have been living with a number of questions recently, the most important of which is “what is left for me to do or be in my Third Act?” I am ready for change and for new frontiers to explore. This awareness has led to my understanding that if my plate is still filled by all the activities that I have consistently been involved in, there is no room for anything new. Change sparks change. Emptying the plate creates space for something else.

When I first landed on the literature regarding the Third Act, my interested piqued by both the language and the possibility of what’s next for me, I decided that understanding this would be part of my continuing journey. The thing was, I was premature in thinking that my timing was right to dive in. After a few weeks of playing with the material and planning, I put it aside. I was acutely aware that I was not ready to pursue this. There were a few transitional steps to complete before jumping into a new arena.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges describes the first step as ENDINGS. Sounds easy! Yet endings implies letting go and I have found this to be a challenging process. First you need to make a decision to let something go. Then you need to actually do it and then you need to be in the impact of that decision which, from my experience, has been both grief and relief. First I decided that we would take on no new clients. That wasn’t so bad as we have, and continue to have, corporate clients who keep us well occupied. This was followed by decisions to stop offering weekend retreats, stop our monthly Healthy Living Cafe, and finally to stop writing my monthly newsletter. I also gave up my license to marry people and stepped down from my role as chairperson of the local arts council. These decisions took place over a two-year period, allowing me to deal with one ‘loss’ after the other. A wise decision and one I recommend for anyone, as an all or nothing approach can have a devastating effect.

Interestingly, I have led my own transition. I have made my choices when I intuitively knew it was time. There will be more decisions to make down the pike. In all, the changes have been emotional yes, and relatively easy because of the pace.

What of the person who retires from a  ‘conventional job’ where one day you are working full throttle and the next day you are not. This is a more significant shift, one which many folks are not prepared for. This is where Third Act planning can help and hence where my interest lies.

And now that I have emptied my plate from a significant amount of responsibility, the space is there for me to explore. I am now entering my CREATIVE ZONE, the second phase of Bridges’ transition model. It is not a time to fill the plate with new doings, it is a time to consider options, be curious and explore. It is a time for life review and capturing the things that ‘light me up’. It is a time to acknowledge my gifts, talents and strengths and wonder as to how these might be engaged in some new way. It feels freeing and exciting and a little scary.

Care to join me?

Until next time…..

Betty

 

 

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My friend and colleague Aileen Gibb and I had a conversation two days ago about what’s next. With both of us on the brink of retiring, or at least adjusting our life style as we are apt to name it, a bag full of questions have emerged, what’s next being one of them.

Our conversation then took a detour to the subject of our respective ‘Third Acts’ and the idea of thriving or flourishing in  the last decades of life. It seems I cannot escape this conversation. A year has passed since I first began to examine the idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act” and then life stepped in and the subject was relegated to the back burner. Not forgotten, just less of a priority as my current work life clicks along and family matters superseded this conversation.

In this recent conversation Aileen asked, “What shape do I want my work to take in the next 10 years?” My Work – these are the critical words for me as retirement needs not imply stopping, stepping back, doing nothing, putting your feet up (although all are options). It can mean re-tire, replacing the old treads with new initiatives, interests, opportunities, learnings, and so on. Okay – I am definitely up for that!

We also discussed how we can contribute to a world of meaningful conversations, legacy and appreciating what you have achieved and accomplished over a lifetime, story telling and capturing the collective wisdom of elders. All of this can be captured within the context of Thriving in the Third Act.

Here is what I have also noticed: People do not prepare for retirement. There are a lot of assumptions about that blank slate and what will fill the space previously occupied by work. Yet retirement and the Third Act are one of life’s great transitions, and in William Bridges words, a significant ending to many of the things we have known and experienced. For most, retirement is not gradual as North American society has yet to introduce a ‘graduated retirement process’ as they have done in many European countries. One day you are working, the next day you are not.

I recognize that I am shifting from Third Act to Retirement and back – the two are usually, though not always, synonymous. For the purpose of this discussion let’s agree that the issues are similar – what shape do you want your work (note this is not J.O.B.) to take in your retirement/third act years? And how do you prepare?

Let me mention one ‘bugaboo’ here – the number of times I hear people say that once they retire they will either a) volunteer or b) pursue their favorite hobby full-time. Golf is a good example! I should also mention the number of third act clients I have coached who have become totally bored with that hobby or completely burned out by the volunteer work. Why? Because it has no inherent meaning.

Back to the ‘transitions work’. In Bridges model, once the endings are completed which includes a mourning period of sorts, you enter the neutral zone, a time of exploration, reflection, learning and remembering. Exploring your options; reflecting on your past and understanding your gifts and strengths; learning new skills that might propel you forward, and remembering what is truly important to you. All of these aspects inform what will become your new work. I can assure you that your choices for the future, volunteering as an example, need to be rooted in what interests you and gives you a sense of purpose, otherwise you will simply be marking time.

All of this brings me back to basics and the ME FIRST work I have been facilitating over the last decade. I realized that the third act does not need a new program to be developed, it is just a continuation of the work I have been doing, a conversation within a slightly different context called thriving in the Third Act. As I realize this, I am both relieved and curious; I don’t have to create something completely new and what will ME FIRST look like in this iteration? More to come…..

Life is a tapestry – what is left to be woven?

I will leave you with that question. I am packing the question in my luggage as Jim and I prepare to depart for a month in Spain. Love the questions and let them lead you to undiscovered lands!

red-sky-at-night

Red Sky at Night

Contemplating the sunset and wondering what tomorrow will bring!

Until next time,

Betty

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Five months have passed since my last blog. I won’t record all the usual platitudes related to time passing too quickly; time has simply passed. the time needed to wonder and wander, to reflect and explore, to experience sadness and grief as well as curiosity and exhilaration. This is the great duality of any journey forward, of the inevitable changes that life offers us.

In my ‘weekly courage’ message this morning, was the following: Spirit has little regard for human comfort. The spiritual path is one of relentless change and letting go until you are stripped of all that is no longer working for you.

That pretty much sums it up. My experience of the last few months has been one of re-evaluating what occupies me. To the notion of what I refer to as ‘Space Management’, I am exploring what takes up space in my life and asking is it important, does it make a difference to me and others, is it something I want to continue to do and more. It is a challenge for as I examine each question I have begun to realize that many of my ‘doings’ stem from a sense of obligation, of duty, which I have to say surprises me. I had thought that my choices were predicated on what is truly important and engaging. Not always so!

What now, I ask. Back to the origins of this blog: learning to release what no longer serves me, relaxing in the space I am creating, allowing highest good opportunities to show themselves to me. OMG this sounds so easy and OMG it is not. I find myself in judgment, and occasionally worry. What if my new life is not as engaging as the life I am leaving behind? Yes this is silliness I know and yet, I am sure you will agree if you are on the journey with me, that it is real.

Here is the other side. I have released several aspects of business and with each release I do feel lighter. I am enjoying the freedom afforded me as the result of fewer clients and projects on the books. I enjoyed the opportunities the lengthy fall provided and hours spent in the garden.I recently qualified in a new psychometric evaluation called Lumina Emotion which I look forward to offering others. I have more time to paint and write, if I chose.

Here is my observation – it is easy to get bogged down in what you are giving up and lose sight of what is opening up. It is challenging to trust your intentions and let them unfold when the time is right. It is equally challenging to be patient with the process and forgiving of yourself when you have an emotional reaction to the changes in your life. All this to say, this is the journey, this is the experience of being stripped down and letting go.

So to all of you out there who are, like me, walking in your Third Act, I have simply this advice to offer you today. Love yourself and love the journey. Embrace what you feel, cry if you must. Allow yourself the opportunity of stripping away the stuff that fills your space but no longer fuels your spirit. It is your time; it is my time. We do get to choose and I for one plan to choose well. And I get it, now may not be the time for choosing as I am still releasing. The space needs some more de-cluttering and organization before I begin redecorating.

infusing-the-grid

Infusing the GRID,
Peace, love, courage, grace streaming
into the seams of  life.

This painting, Infusing the GRID with its companion Haiku,  is an apt metaphor for the experience of this journey. As you infuse your grid, chose that which fuels your spirit and helps you create the Third Act which is distinctly yours.

Until next time…..

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In mid-June I attended the Canadian Positive Psychology Conference. One of the questions I carried with me throughout the conference is how can we engage the principles of Positive Psychology to enhance our experience of the Third Act.

It is interesting to note that, at least at the conference, there was little focus on or dialogue regarding this question. Of greater interest to the attendees is the impact of Positive Psychology in education and the workplace. Understood, as this is probably where the greatest opportunities lie. And let’s not be the ‘lost generation’ in this important field of study.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’. So let me share a few of my ‘take-aways’ from the conference and explore how these apply to the Third Act.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0, was the opening key-note speaker. I find her ‘Broaden and Build’ Theory very compelling, as she examines what positivity versus negativity offers us in life. Here is a synopsis of what I took away from her presentation and how I believe this applies to our experience of the Third Act.

Central to Barbara’s research regarding Positivity is what she refers to as the Broaden and Build Theory. BROADEN implies expansive. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions (eg. Response to dangerous situation) and outcomes, positive emotions do the opposite – they broaden your ideas about possible actions, open your awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions, sparking your interest and urging you to explore and learn

Positivity opens us…our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative.

When I consider this concept, I see the importance for Third Acters. Here’s why. Personally I have approached this age with some reticence, largely because of the beliefs I held regarding ‘retirement’. Of course my beliefs have been fed by society’s reaction to this stage of life as well. If however, we approach the Third Act with positivity and optimism, refusing to accept what societal beliefs have been, we have this great opportunity to broaden the possibilities of what is possible, desirable and engaging for us. Key to this notion then of broadening is our ability to exercise our curiosity and explore all the possibilities that light you up and which may have been lingering for a while.

The second aspect of Fredrickson’s theory is building, or more accurately resource building.
Again, if you approach life through the lens of negativity and neutrality you will constrain your experience of your Third Act, and your knowledge, of the world. Positivity does the opposite – it draws you out to explore, to mix up your world in unexpected ways. This leads to new learning and gains in knowledge. All of this may be useful during the Third Act, giving you the opportunity to broaden your sense of possibility, leading you to curiously explore what may be next and broadening your experience and desire to learn.

The Broaden and Build Theory holds that – Positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future.

Positivity broadens and builds. It transforms people and helps them become their best. And when at their best, people live longer, and they have more fulfilling lives.

In other words, they flourish.

Positivity also offers you the following:

  • It opens possibilities,
  • improves cognition (that’s important!),
  • has the physical effect of broadening and opening our posture (less stooping!),
  • and affects how you view the world.

 

Like a good diet filled with nutrients, it builds over time, improving your resilience in the face of difficulties, improving your heart rate variability and your immune systems, all essential ingredients to healthy aging.

The Third Act can be a generative time in your life and your capacity to approach it with a positive attitude enhances your ability to broaden and build your life. So let’s imagine for a moment that we all agreed to begin this great experiment where we approached each day with a few simple questions/intentions:

  • I wonder what is possible today?
  • I have always wanted to learn more about….; why not now?
  • I plan to approach each day with optimism, gratitude and wonder; to be a positive influence for both myself and others
  • What a great opportunity I now have. My obligations and responsibilities have lessened. The only responsibility I have now is ME!

Speaking about this great experiment, are you not curious about what we as Third Acters can create when we take this approach; how we may influence the future? Just sayin’!

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