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Book review: We are the new radicals

We Are the New Radicals: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World

By Julia Moulden

McGraw Hill, $26.95

With a 40th birthday fast approaching, there’s a voice in my head I can’t tune out. Maybe you’re hearing the same voice too.

The voice isn’t telling me to trade in the minivan for a Ferrari 360 Spider. Or drain the kids’ RESPs to do an Eliot Spitzer at the Sheraton Hamilton.

No, this voice is reminding me that life is short and the end credits can roll before you’re ready.

My dad was 50 when he died. One week, my parents were checking out dream homes in cottage country. The next week, my dad was in the ER. Six days later, he was taken off life support in the intensive care unit.

My dad didn’t make peace with a life cut short. He was furious. Felt cheated. And he regretted putting big plans on hold for a post-retirement second life.

The voice also reminds me not to take my family for granted and points out all the times when I forget to walk the talk. The voice also reminds me I’m a very lucky dad, thanks to the remarkable team at the McMaster Children’s Hospital who saved our boy wonder and restored my faith in happy endings.

And the voice is making it impossible to ignore all the kids in our community who are swamped with adult-sized problems. It’s bad enough that they’re going to bed hungry. Even worse, they’re falling asleep unsure if anyone gives a damn and waking up with smaller dreams and a little less hope.

So the voice is making it tough to concentrate on the daily grind and be anything but intolerant of ego trips and power plays and indifferent to the prospect of promotions and bigger paycheques.

So what’s it going to be, asks the voice. Make more money or make a difference? The clock’s ticking.

Sound familiar? Author Julia Moulden says there’s a fast emerging movement of folks who are transforming themselves and reinventing their work to serve the greater good. North America’s 80 million Baby Boomers are leading the charge, with Gen Xers and Nexters getting in on the act too as emerging New Radicals.

"We’ve been building our careers for decades — many of us doing variations on a theme for a very long time," says Moulden. "The work can’t possibly be as interesting as it once was. Even those of us who got dream jobs hit the wall at some point.

"Now, at mid-life, boomers like me are lifting our heads, looking around, and wondering what comes next. We want something more from our work. We want it to reflect our values and to help us make a difference in the world."

New Radicals are applying what they’ve learned in the first half of their working lives to try something new and step off the typical career trajectory. According to Moulden, New Radicals fall into three categories: activists who serve the less fortunate and make the jump from the private sector to the nonprofit world, entrepreneurs who launch new businesses where making a difference is an integral part of their work, and innovators who do an inside job on influencing their organization.

"Pretty much everyone wants to start today," says Moulden about aspiring New Radicals. "But the truth is few people step directly into a New Radical role. Even if they get a ‘bolt out of the blue’ idea, there is still much to be done."

Moulden says you’ll spend months or possibly years working through three phases of research. First, you’ll take stock of what you have to offer. What skills and experience can you bring to the table? Second, you’ll get introspective and figure out what really matters to you and ignites your passion. And third, you’ll look around and identify the most pressing issues of our times and look at how you might help make a difference.

Expect delays, roadblocks and folks who’ll wonder if you’re having a mid-life meltdown.

"One cautionary note," says Moulden. "New Radicals soon discover that not everyone is thrilled about what they are doing.

"One of my clients told me outright that she wasn’t going to inform her family and friends. Only her husband would know what she was planning.

"If they knew, they’d only try to talk me out of it, and I can’t cope with that right now. I have more than enough anxiety to go around.’"

But the anxiety and soul searching are well worth the effort.

According to Moulden, there are 10 benefits to becoming a New Radical. You’ll change someone’s life. You’ll change your own life. Your skills are needed. You’ll discover the power of synchronicity. Your view of the world will change. You’ll influence those around us. You’ll meet exceptional people. You’ll feel connected to something bigger. You’ll play a part in saving the world. And you’ll die happy.

So if you’re hearing that voice, keep your eyes open, your senses on full alert and let Moulden help you find your way in doing work that matters and makes a difference.

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