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So You've Walked On the Moon, What's Next?

So You've Walked On the Moon, What's Next?

Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott reached the pinnacle of his career when he landed on and returned safely from the Moon. He was 39 years old. “My career had been finished,” he later told a reporter "and that's it. Now go find a new career.” There Scott was at 39 asking: What’s next? What do you do after you’ve landed on the Moon?

How many of us after we’ve finished our careers and retired have asked: What’s next?

I was 70 when I retired from a 45-year career that I loved.

Imagine, getting to do what you REALLY, REALLY LOVE. Imagine your job is something which for you is the most important way you could use your life. That’s how my career was for me.

Over the course of 45 years, I got to know and interact at a profound level with over 150,000 people from diverse cultures all over the planet, empowering them to create lives they loved. It was my version of a Moon walk. And then it was finished.

So, I’d Walked on the Moon.

What was next?

I used my newfound time to walk on the beach, read, and study. I discovered a new love–Pilates. I meditated. I spent time with family and friends. Basically, I did whatever I wanted to do.

But below the surface lurked a kind of a disturbing feeling, like an itch I couldn’t quite reach.

One day I got to that itch. It was something I had been saying to myself and had not heard. It went like this: I guess the best part of my life is over. I am never going to be that satisfied, that challenged, and that happy again.

I understood then that the part of my life where I made a real difference, where every day challenged me mentally and physically, and where I got the privilege of making a profound difference for people, was over. Worse, I understood that nothing I was going to do would ever match that life. Cue violins.

But then I saw “nothing I am going to do will ever match the job and the life I loved ” for what it was. I woke up to the reality that it was a lie, not true, in short, an interpretation.

I had been blind to the fact that it was an interpretation and it had cost me.

It had been sucking the life out of me, costing me loving my life, and blocking me from my power in creating what was next.

I took a stand. I refused to keep letting that interpretation guide my actions. I declined to let a circumstance (any circumstance) determine the quality of my life.

Being jolted by the falsity of that interpretation blew open a pathway to my creativity. I had room to create “what’s next”.

Now I have new questions: What is going to leave me being satisfied? Fulfilled? Proud of my life? What am I passionate about? How do I find what’s next? How will I know if I am choosing the “right” what’s next?

On the Path

Let me share with you what has shown up.

Being on the path to “what’s next” took cultivating loving the uncertainty.

I found I needed to defeat the drive to “have to know” and to have to know it NOW. ‘Not knowing’ is the space in which creativity happens.

Discovering for myself requires bravery. It requires that I give up worrying about whether I’m taking the right action, going in the right direction, or wasting time. I won’t analyze myself into paralysis. There are no wrong actions in this game.

Getting into the Game

Getting into and exploring what is next is giving me new openings for action. I know I cannot discover what’s next without getting into the game – I have to pick up the bat and swing. I have to lean into opportunities.

I keep listening for: What touches me? What moves me? What am I passionate about?

And recently, something quite unexpected caught my attention.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I am seeing the real impact the people who govern have on our lives. I found myself being moved by the possibility of shifting political climates and making a difference in people’s lives.

I am in action. I am interviewing accomplished friends who have shaped public policy for years. I’m studying a lot. I’m studying the constitution. I’m studying people who govern as they speak on TV. I’m meeting people who hold office, I’m connecting to groups with visions and purposes similar to mine. I’m sharing.

Act 3

Maybe this is or is not my “what’s next”.

I am all in.

I have come to learn that when I’m walking the path to discover “what’s next” there is no wasted time. All detours bear fruit.

Why? Because in consciously authoring the third act of my life, I am living it now.

Alan Bean (Apollo 12) was another human who walked on the Moon. He continued working with NASA after returning to Earth. Then, after 18 years as an astronaut and 1,671 hours in space, he chose to become a full-time painter.

Bean, who passed away in 2018, said he took up painting because he had been “fortunate enough to visit worlds and see sights no artist’s eye, past or present, had ever viewed firsthand.” He wanted to capture those sights on canvas for all of us.

To me, this contribution is every bit as inspiring as the 31 hours and 31 minutes Bean spent on the lunar surface.

So, I’ve walked on the Moon, what’s next? It’s up to me and no one else.

And I am having the time of my life exploring that path right here on Earth.


Gale Barnum has spent 45 years as a Manager, Coach and a Leader for Landmark Worldwide. She has coached and led programs for 150,000+ people all over the world, empowering them to create and fulfill new breakthrough possibilities for their life and living. She retired from that career in July of 2019 and she is actively engaged in and pursuing "what's next".

Never Too Late For A Great Adventure

Never Too Late For A Great Adventure

Everything was fine. Really.

My husband and I found ourselves in our mid-sixties with a truly nice set of circumstances. We had our health, a solid 35-year marriage, three gainfully-employed daughters who actually like us, a lovely home on a tree-lined street in South Pasadena California*, and many very long term, VERY dear friends.

*If you think you don’t know South Pasadena, look at any commercial with craftsman houses or an old-timey pharmacy in the background…that’s it.

Why then was I discontented? I’m not sure I can explain it, you’ll just have to trust that after years of “everything’s fine” I found myself crying uncontrollably one day. I thought maybe I needed to leave my husband, and I blamed my despair on the lack of passion in our relationship. I resolved to have it out with him.

Well, the conversation did not go as expected (thank God).

When I very seriously began to describe my fear that I was on the slow roll to death he chimed in and said, “Well, maybe we should do something. Maybe we should move.”  I was dumbstruck. It was the LAST thing I expected to hear from my very- comfortable-in-his-man-cave husband.

I could tell the story about how we selected our destination but that would obscure the point. This is a story about taking a big chance later in life. We selected Petaluma, CA, a town I knew from many visits to my best friend who had lived there for a couple of decades. SO MANY things went well along the way….we took a year to gradually do the things we knew would make the most difference in the sale price of our house; it sold easily and for more than we could have hoped for…so many big and little miracles…

But it may be more useful for you, honored reader, is to hear about the crucible moment of doubt. It came for me one day when I was visiting my friend in Petaluma and doing some preliminary neighborhood-scouting. It was May, and we weren’t planning on putting our house on the market until July. I was driving by myself on the streets of this quaint little town when I was suddenly gripped by the gravity of what I was doing. I say I because I felt VERY responsible both for the fact that we were moving and the selection of the town. Really, my husband was doing this for me. My dear husband who had lived in the greater Los Angeles area for 40+ years and had all he really needed (a den that he loved) - I was moving him to a town with stop signs on every corner (he hates that) and where you can drive 10 minutes in any direction and be in a cow pasture.

Not only that, but we were going to put our house on the market and then what?  Logically we would have to wait til our old house was on the market to put in a bid on a new house…but what if our house didn’t sell? What if we didn’t find a place in Petaluma that would work for us? What if there was a gap between when escrow closed on the old house and finding/closing on the new house….where does our stuff go?  Where do my husband and I and the dog and the cat live in the meantime? What if he winds up hating Petaluma. What have I done???

And here’s the real point. I didn’t resolve those doubts in that moment. All I did in that moment was take the next step. And then the next one. And that step led me to walk in the door of the perfect house for us the very next day. Finding the perfect house two months too early led to some creative bargaining….creative bargaining led to a contingency where we would rent the new house til escrow closed on the old one, and that meant that we could move into it as soon as we needed to. We stepped up our game, put the South Pasadena house on the market a little early, sold it in 5 days….you get the picture.

We’ve lived in Petaluma almost 5 years now. By virtue of the connection we already had, the welcoming nature of this town, and our own willingness to dive in, we have developed a multitude of deep, dear friendships. My husband has more men-friends than I think he has ever had in his life, and he is absolutely thriving. (Turns out I had grossly underestimated him.) We’re both socially and politically engaged. We have a wonderful garden, a beautiful house, and all is well. I do miss my friends in LA, but with the ones that matter the most we mutually make the effort to stay connected…and anyway, those friendships are timeless.

My takeaways?

1) Communicate. Maybe it won’t turn out like you’re sure it will.

2) Swing out.

3) When you’re head starts screaming at you, take the next step….at the very least it will ALWAYS lead away from “the slow roll to death.”

I can’t end without this quote from Willaim Hutchison Murray….it’s been ringing in my ears since I started writing:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!


Micki CarrolMicki Carrolll, intermittently retired, spent most of her career in administration and management, albeit in wildly diverse settings. She currently takes on a small number of health coaching clients and spends most of her time immersing herself in her community’s political activities.

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