July 27

Coffee with Mike – Loss of Status & Position

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Q: We’re talking about loss of status, loss of stature, how important that is to people when they retire or change careers, so can we talk a little bit more about how people can get around feeling the dregs of loss of status or loss of career?

A: I think that’s really important. I think that a lot of times people don’t factor that in, when they’re going through preparation for retirement or going through preparation for changing their career. For instance, an Assistant US Attorney may be thinking about, “I’m going to the private sector. I’m going to take my talents there, my skills there, and make a little bit more money.” So that’s fine, that’s great if you get the chance to do that! But don’t do it without giving a lot of thought to: how important has it been to you to have the title of Assistant US Attorney? How important has that been? How important has it been for you to have received whatever you perceive to be the respect, to be listened to, to be considered a mentor, to be considered somebody who has a lot to offer other people in the office, where you’ve earned that right to be respected in that way, if you fail to think about those things you might get really surprised by that.  

At the age of 33, I was a full-time pastor and I resigned, and I was shocked, really, at some of those consequences. I didn’t even realize there was going to be some of those consequences, that there were going to be these things happen. For instance, used to be that everyone wanted to take me out to lunch. Every Sunday somebody wanted to take me out to lunch. I thought “man, they really like Mike Lanway! They want to take Mike Lanway out to lunch!” But then I resigned, and I wasn’t the full-time pastor and guess what? – They stopped calling – They didn’t want to take me out to lunch anymore. So it occurred to me- finally somewhere down the line- it occurred to me that they never really took Mike Lanway out to lunch. They took the pastor out to lunch. When I stopped being the pastor, someone else became the pastor, and so they started taking that person to lunch instead of me. So there’s a lot of that, I think, in our society; there’s a lot of that type of activity in our society where the social circle is based in part about the title you carry.  I don’t think we give ourselves enough time and energy into thinking about how important that is to us and what we’re going to do when that title is no longer ours. 

Q: Would that be part of your value system?

A: I think it would be part of your value system, but I bet it’s a surprise. You know, I never dreamed that I had that type of belief, that I had separated myself from my title and therefore I thought the attention was to me, not my title. But when you get into a situation where the title is no longer yours, it’s a surprise, it’s truly a surprise. That’s a funny value, like” I’m wrapped up in being this, and now I’m no longer this so who am I? Not only who am I, but what do I do?”  For instance when I stopped being an elder at my church, I felt odd about talking to certain people about certain things. I felt odd about being in the service when I wasn’t do certain things, having a formal part in that. All of a sudden, I’m out there, kind of floating around, wondering, “well what do I do, who do I talk to?” People that I’ve been with for years that all of a sudden I feel distant from them because I’m no longer having this title. And I don’t know that it has a lot to do with them, I think it has more to do with me. 

Q: How do you go about feeling ok with that change? 

A: I’m still working on that to be honest. It’s really hard; it’s truly hard to see where you fit in again. It’s like you’re a jigsaw part of a puzzle and then someone took your puzzle piece and clipped off a part of it and you don’t really fit anywhere. So you’ve got to sand, and you’ve got to shape, and you’ve got to make sure that that piece fits in somewhere into that puzzle – fit yourself back into the puzzle; instead of having the puzzle fit you, you fit the puzzle –  right and that can mean that you’re not so outspoken. You’re not so opinionated. You’re not the influencer anymore and you’re not that person- it’s disrespectful to the person who is- and so you have to figure that out and decide how you fit in there. Eventually you’re going to reshape yourself and fit in there, or you’re going to find yourself a different location, a different situation, another jigsaw puzzle to use our metaphor. 

"...in our society; there’s a lot of that type of activity in our society where the social circle is based in part about the title you carry.  I don’t think we give ourselves enough time and energy into thinking about how important that is to us..."

I think it’s really important to think about that, before we actually plan on making another move, whether it’s changing your career or going into retirement, it’s more about counting the money, it’s more about them counting the benefits, it’s also counting the social circles, it’s counting the community. It’s counting what we think drives our participation in the community, in our social circles, and I bet you, I know that for most of us, if not all of us, part of it’s about status and when that changes, it’s going to be more difficult.

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