The Gift of Growing Older (Not Old!) in the Learning Field

Smile File

As a (very) seasoned learning professional, I sometimes wonder if my message gets through.

I do keep a “smile file” of notes for those days when I want to say “No More, I’m Outta Here” that remind me to keep going.

I wanted to share a recent note, not to say "look-at-me" but to share with my learning colleagues the idea that we never know when or how something we say (or create) has a lasting impact.

I know with everything changing so quickly, many of us worry about our relevancy in this new age of learning. I'd like to shift that mindset.

Recently, something reinforced my belief that we "elders" have affected many generations.  I received a call from a man who was in a workshop I did 30-ish years ago.  (I know this because he said he was in his 20’s and now he’s in his 50’s.) He used our Values Instrument and told me his story. I asked him to please write it so I could save it and this is what he sent:

Hi Bev,

Thank you again for taking the time to return my call. It was a privilege for me to share my story with you.

As a recap…

In my twenties, I became the youngest administrator for a major university. I was responsible for multiple functions across the system directing the work productivity of over six hundred people. Excelling in my job and thinking I would take advantage of my free education benefit. My plan was to acquire every degree the institution had to offer, I had no intentions of leaving – ever. Newly married, I planned to settle into my life of working, collecting degrees, and raising a family.

Although successful, aspects of my job were challenging. It meant dealing with disputes between labor (unions) and management, not being recognized for your contributions, and sometimes being the final stop of the proverbial phase of what happens when “stuff” rolls downhill.

My supervisor thought I needed a break and could benefit from a workshop to increase my abilities to supervise and manage my work teams. It was a conference called “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em”.

A Saint named Beverly Kaye dispersed insights and wisdom and challenged conventional ways in which people tend to treat/manage other people. In many ways, I thought what was being shared was directed at me. Nothing prepared me for what happened next.

The “Invest In Your Values”, a self-assessment instrument, was distributed to the members of the class. In short, every value I identified as important to me was red. I quickly verified my abilities to follow directions.  I even had the persons next to me review my results. Obviously, something was wrong.

I heard something about satisfaction and engagement and losing people. The voice in my head told me I had to quit my job. I told that voice to “shut-up”. Clearly, I needed clarity on my results.

Although not verbatim, the ensuing conversation took place.

                Al:           “What does it mean if all of your values are red?”

                Bev:       “It means you don’t believe those values can be achieved in your current situation.”

                Al:           “You’re telling me I need to quit my job!”

                Bev:       “I’m not telling you anything. You picked the values. You evaluated the job.

You completed the assessment. When you picked your values, were you being truthful?

                Al:           “Yes.”

                Bev:       “Were you being honest when you did your job evaluation?”

                Al:           “Yes.”

      Bev:       “Well… according to you, the values you believe are most important to you cannot be achieved in your current job. It doesn't mean you shouldn't talk to your manager about what you truly do value."     

I went home. My newlywed bride asked about the conference. I explained to her the conference was great, but there were these seven red dots on my value assessment that really bothered me. She listened patiently to my explanation of the instrument and the illuminating dialogue I had with my Zen Master, Beverly Kaye. Once my words fell silent, our eyes locked. My wife of six months took my face in her hands and in a voice that commanded all my attention, she spoke these words verbatim. “You’re not quitting your job!”

I returned to work and soon was met by my supervisor. I explained to him the conference was great, but there were these seven red dots on my value assessment that really bothered me. He sat with me and after two hours of discussion, he told me he didn’t think the values I identified could be realistically accomplished. He suggested I picked the wrong values for the job I was doing. He told me my future was bright, people loved me, and if I stayed with the university and continued to pursue my education, I could move up in leadership.

Six months later, I quit my job. I was highly successful and I walked away from everything.

I believed I was truthful and honest when I completed my values assessment.

Admittedly, my transition was tough. I sacrificed income, comfort, and in some cases incurred embarrassment, as I begin to climb a different career ladder.

In short, pursuing my values had allowed me a far more rewarding, prosperous, and fulfilling life than I could ever imagine.

I am now in my fifties. Here are just a few of my endeavors.

    • I helped grow a regional restaurant chain into a national powerhouse.
    • I helped open a medical school.
    • I helped open a nursing school.
    • For more than ten years, I helped the government improve the food code to regulate and improve the safety of foods from “Farm to Table”.
    • I am an accomplished producer of books, films, and training programs.
    • I serve on numerous boards of directors.
    • I provide consultation to numerous organizations in the healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and academic industries.
    • I serve as the creator and administrator of the most successful pipeline program recognized for successfully aiding students’ success in healthcare careers.

My values are my passion. I work every day to fulfill them. Every day I serve organizations and people. I have helped thousands enjoy their lives by believing in the acquisition of their dreams.

Bev, you awaken a catalyst of change in my life that has propelled me in every facet of my life. I am one of your seeds. Know that your life changed my life and countless others. By every measure, I have exceeded my abilities to earn, give, bless, and reap what I would have accomplished had I remained steadfast to the younger version of myself.

Before her passing, my Mother told me, “Angels, are all around us and sometimes, we have to be Angels to each other.”

Bev, I count you among my Angels. Know that I pray for you and I carry you in my heart. I am infinitely filled with gratitude for you.

With love and admiration,


To my learning colleagues, I truly believe that some of our ideas will actually withstand the test of time.