Making it Real: A Leadership Challenge

Posted by Bruce Peters

Reality has a number.32 years of extra life expectancy

It’s 32.

That’s the number of years life expectancy has grown since the early 1900s. That means at around age 48 you’re just getting started for the next three decades. After all, fifty is the new thirty! Right?

A New Chapter

People commonly refer to this phenomenon as the third age. Scholars, however, call this gift of years the Third Act. There is a critical distinction between the two.

The third age comes to you from external factors.

Think of it as influence flowing from the outside-in. You benefit directly from improvements to environmental conditions such as availability of better healthcare, improved nutrition, and increased safety.

The Third Act comes from internal changes, where influence flows from you to the outside world.

It’s the Third Act and how you manage it in your third age that develops your capacity to upgrade yourself to the next level of consciousness.

More of the same?

With the Third Act comes a significant amount of time to do … what? 

It’s time to start living with intention and purpose for your Third Act. You’ve been a leader for much of your life. But what are you doing to lead yourself?

Think about it. Is it a coincidence that around the beginning of this Third Act many leaders find themselves thinking about what’s next in their life?

It’s All About You

You know the stories. You can relate. Maybe you’re someone who:

  • Has achieved his idea of success and is searching for a new finish line either personally or for the organization, or
  • Feels exhausted from the oppressing pace and speed of their current responsibilities, or
  • Dwells on missed opportunities; the would, could, and should haves, or
  • Suffers from loss of a loved one or marriage and wants a new direction in life, or
  • Discovers that change has been thrust upon her in the form of a lost job, transfer, missed promotion, or
  • Experiences ongoing boredom, loss of inspiration, or feels outdated.

Any of these sound familiar? I ask because I’m speaking from experience. All those stories listed above? I’ve lived them. Read on, I guarantee you’ll recognize yourself in one of the following narratives.

Transforming Life. Transforming Work.

By all typical standards I attained success. Twice, in fact. You could say I’ve transformed the relationship between life and work through two versions of the Third Act.

The first version occurred I while was working as a partner in a successful law firm. I was earning a solid six-digit salary. Happily married. Wonderful children. I had met my finite goals, (more about finite goals in an upcoming post) and life was on cruise control.

In reality, I was working at a frenzied pace. And for what? I was searching for the next chapter of meaning in my life, and the law firm wasn’t meeting them. (Sound familiar?)

One afternoon the answer crystallized.

I was a member of the firm’s management committee. After investing considerable time into developing a strategic marketing and business plan I went to a partnership meeting with the expectation that we would discuss that plan. What ensued was a debate over the color scheme in the reception area. Should we use long or short legal pads? What type of pencil should be adopted as standard use at the firm? Did we prefer yellow paper or white?

There we were, a table full of educated minds, all with salaries ranging from $300-$500 thousand, arguing over the minutiae. I don’t say this to pick on my particular firm. Similar stories are plentiful in all sectors!

After that meeting I went home and my wife, Maxine, commented on how haggard I looked. She asked, “What happened?”

“Absolutely nothing,” I replied.

I was done with nothing. The next day I resigned with the intention of starting my own business. This was forty years ago.

Transforming Life at Work.

The day after I resigned from the law firm I assessed my life and what was important to me. Then, instead of writing a mission and vision statement for my new entrepreneurial pursuits I wrote a 17-page business plan on the relationship with my family. Why? Because for me, family is the most important thing in my life.

That business plan turned into a personal scorecard. Why a scorecard? The premise is simple. If you’re going to live up to your commitments you need to measure what gets done.

Fast forward. I had built an empire of game changing innovation in my industry. Instead of boring you with explanations of how I streamlined electronic closing systems for the housing industry, just know this. I brought my industry to the doorstep of meaningful change with efficiency that rivaled the grace of a prima ballerina. When I sat down with the industry’s key decision-makers no one wanted it. The cumbersome status quo was too profitable. Recognizing an insurmountable wall, I broke my company up and sold each division.

Now what? Where were my interests? Who was I going to help? How would I frame my scorecards?

The Third Act

At the moment when I needed guidance the most, this poem by Ranier Maria Rilke surfaced.

Don’t search for answers which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the question now! Perhaps, gradually without noticing it you will live the way to your answer.

My true Third Act began, in earnest, the moment I finished reading those words.

Now let me back up. In order to sell my enterprise, I had joined a CEO group. After selling, with much encouragement from colleagues, I began my own CEO coaching group. Then another one. I was soon hired to conduct leadership talks on the international circuit.

At this point I could go on about the success of my own enterprise of guiding hundreds of high performing leaders and mentoring CEO leadership groups. I could emphasize how I’ve empowered leaders to find the tools and mindset necessary to transform their own lives and their work environments into organizations that energize employees’ potential and performance. I could describe results measured in naturally efficient workflows and improved bottom lines for my clients’ companies. But that would be missing the main point.

All the success in my Third Act started with that original commitment to accountability. It started with opening my life to possibility. It started with recognizing and asking the right questions that let me assess where I was and determine my future potential.

Your Turn. Own It!

As you begin to think about the shape and path of your Third Act consider these two guiding questions as ground zero:

What is the most important thing in your life?

Do I say what I’m going to do and then do it?

You’ve heard the expression; failing to plan is planning to fail. And this one, what gets measured, gets done.

So I challenge you. Whether it’s becoming accountable to your personal commitments, aligning your life with your passion, or reinventing your organization — it’s your Third Act. It’s time to own it.

I’ll leave you with one last question. If not now, when?

Lets, keep the conversation going. Schedule some time with me to talk about your Third Act and learn more about Beyond Teal.

Learn More About Beyond Teal

Bruce Peters has spent the last 15 years living his own “Third Act.” Based on his personal experience and in working as a guide for hundreds of others, he has designed a unique process for getting beyond where you are and into the creation of your own Third Act. It starts with the question of what is the difference you want to make in your Third Act? Learn more at

Topics: Leadership, Beyond Teal, The Third Act

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Follow Me