Guest Blog: “Winning My Career-Jackpot as My Peers are Retiring”

This week I am honored to have a guest blogger from the California Writer’s Club. JoAnn Smith Ainsworth is an example of someone who had a successful first career. With the help of a career book available several decades ago, she realized there was something else she would love to do which her first career was helping her with. See how she realized her second career after she retired. – Elizabeth Wagele ( P.S. JoAnn has typed herself as a Perfectionist career type.

Winning My Career-Jackpot as My Peers are Retiring by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

Elizabeth, thank you for this opportunity to share my writing experiences with your readers.

I’m an example that “It’s never too late to follow your dream.” It takes focus, hard work and not giving up. If your readers hold tight to their passion and stay focused, they’ll eventually create their dream.

As you know, I started writing a dozen years ago as a way to supplement my social security. I sold at age 68, e-published at 69 and released in paperback at age 70.

You asked some interesting questions. Let me see what I can do about answering them.

1. Would you have chosen writing as a career earlier in your life if you had known yourself better or had different guidance?

I’m a late boomer. I didn’t think to use my B.A. and M.A.T. in English and my MBA studies to become a published author until nearing retirement. Then I needed a way to make money where age didn’t matter and I wouldn’t have to commute. In publishing, all that matters is the quality of the book.

I had exciting careers before becoming an author. Early on, I was Chief Clerk of a U.S. Senate Subcommittee in Washington, DC. At the end of my corporate career, I was database administrator for one of the top 10 U.S. law firms. I also was on its team to develop its first website.

My corporate work experiences all added to my ability to create a business as an author. My database experience (where I organized vast amounts of data) made it easier for me to manipulate 80,000+ words in the novel. I prepared for this new career by taking several years of craft classes. Your readers may find that they need to re-train to follow their dream — especially in this rapidly changing world of technology.

2. Would a book on careers have possibly helped to change your life?

In the 1980s, during a recession, I was out of work for some time. I did turn to a popular book at that time for guidance: What Color is your Parachute?

At the same time, I joined an Employment Development Department self-help group. By following the suggestions in the book, we were able to analyze each other’s work skills. I valued that experience. Fortunately, I spent the last 20 years of my corporate work experience at the law firm and did not need to search for a job.

Working with lawyers was a good choice. In law, the precise word is needed to convey the thought. That work helped mold my discipline as a writer. I hope by sharing these experiences that I’ve helped you and your readers understand the importance of analyzing skills and weaknesses and staying focused on your goal. By adding knowledge to personal passion, you can create the career of your dreams. I did. I love writing novels.

I invite you to visit my website ( Join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

My very best for success to you all.


I Get By With a Little Help From My Dreams

Lady with hanky If my dreams were removed from my life’s history, I wouldn’t know who I was.

Dreams started shaping my life starting with the first dream I can remember at age 4 or 5.  This dream influenced me to feel separate enough from my family to go inside and look for meaning in art and music. In adulthood I began taking some dream classes and drawing my dreams. Getting practice drawing sparked an interest in creating cartoons, which led to trying to produce greeting cards with my friend Renee. The greeting cards didn’t succeed, but we realized there was a need for an accessible introductory Enneagram book just then, so we turned to writing one ourselves, using my drawings for non-verbal learning and to spice it up with humor. “The Enneagram Made Easy”  led to several more books and hundreds more cartoons. So in a practical way my dreams created an enjoyable second career for me following the career in music that I started out with.

Here on the left is a part of one of my dream drawings.

There are two other reasons why I love dreams. First, by paying attention to almost every dream I have, and by taking some of them to groups where I can hear what other people have to say about them, I learn  things I need to learn about myself, for example to be stronger, to take certain things more seriously, and to look at parts of myself I might be neglecting. As of today I’ve recorded 1710 dreams. Several themes stand out and certain symbols recur. When their meaning becomes clear, many things tumble into place. My dreams have given me major gifts.

Second, studying my dreams and the dreams of those in the dream groups I belong to is a fascinating activity–an  interesting glimpse into the psyche. I marvel at my teachers’ gifts at interpreting and intuiting dreams’ symbolism and meaning. It’s  interesting to watch the methods my own unconscious mind comes up with “behind my back” to get points across to the me I know myself to be. Dreams trick us into taking them literally, when that’s probably rarely where the real meaning is. So it seems crucial to me to have input from at least 5 or 6 other people to help me get the point.

Would I like to have a career as a dream writer or teacher? If I were as gifted at working with dreams as some of the dream teachers I have worked with I’d consider it. I’m surprised at how many people think dreams are not important, that they’re just the mind’s clutter from the day. I find my dreams to be more intelligent than anything I can come up with in my waking life after I delve into them to figure them out. “The Career Within You” (available December 29, 2009) will probably emphasize dream-related careers in future editions as more people see the importance of our dream life to our psychological health and wholeness.

What Does My Cartoon Say About You?

Big fish

What was your first thought and/or feeling when you saw this cartoon–and your second and third if you had them? Stop a minute to recall your reactions and perhaps write them down.

Did you think literally–that the big fish was indeed a fish and would protect the small fish if they behaved themselves? I think we’ve all heard of fish who hold their babies in their mouths. The humor of the cartoon is based on incongruity of one of these parent fish acting like a human. Was what the fish said a happy surprise to you, a gruesome surprise or somewhere in between? Don’t tell me it was no surprise at all; that would bruise my cartoonist’s ego and I’d have to look for a shark to eat YOU (just kidding. My sometimes morbid sense of humor is part of my personality.)

Was one of your first thoughts, “How can that fish tell those little guys what to do with his mouth full?”

Did you take the cartoon as an anti-imperialism cartoon, with the big fish poised to gobble up some poor, defenseless countries, and the shark another big country waiting in the wings for its chance? This person would be using the intuitive preference rather than the more literal sensate one in the MBTI system. Learn more about the MBTI personality types by clicking on the “Happy Introvert” cover at and reading about introverts there or all 16 types in the Happy Introvert book.

Or did you think of the big fish as personal kind of bully–someone in your office or family who protects you but demands obedience in return? Possibly you feel trapped and abused by more than one such bully in your life. Someone who is tuned in to feelings more than thinking might tend to react this way. Circumstances is also a consideration.

Beyond the broad content, what do the expressions on the faces of the shark and the big fish say to you?

And what about the pacing of the words? That’s a big part of the cartoon,  too. The sort of musical part. They start out rather comforting and relaxed: “Come in and I’ll protect you.” The middle part: “but….. you have to do what I say” is a command but we don’t know what the command is. And lastly, the PUNCH line is percussive and threatening – boom, boom, boom! “OR I’LL EAT YOU MYSELF!” You might  hear it as a mild warning or an announcement of definite doom, depending on whether you see the glass half full or half empty.

How you react to my cartoon says a lot about your personality. The more mindful of your feeling reactions to cartoons and to every experience you have, the more you’ll get to know your true self. That often means subtly examining how much you like something. For example, how do you feel differently about the three kinds of characters – the little fishes, the big round fish with the startled expression, and the shark with the goofy expression?

I’d like to hear if this was interesting to think about. If you come up with a neat caption for my cartoon, I’d like you to tell me that, too.

11-18-09 There are some interesting new comments on this article on Facebook. One person thinks the fish could be an Enneagram Achiever or Asserter, which I agree with, and sees the cartoon in a sociological way.

The Good Soldier: “How to Survive Death”


While writing “The Career Within You,” Ingrid Stabb and I invented a way of finding your career that resembles a tree-finder. The result of taking the “Wagele-Stabb Career Finder” myself was to find out that I’d do well as a journalist.

Most of my books have had a large journalistic component: interviewing people. But what fun it would be to go out on exciting assignments, too, were I to start a new working-life. I’d be an objective observer at happening events,  the first at big fires, imbedded with armies, interviewing world leaders. Or maybe I’d be a photo-journalist or a cartoon-journalist.

If you go to my web site,, you’ll see a blue book cover with the title, “How to Survive Death.” My friend and mentor Harry Gans and I wrote this light look at death. For part of it we interviewed people, mostly at the French Hotel Cafe in Berkeley, about what they expect to find when they die.  You can read this little 26 page book  on my web site free. I think you’ll enjoy Harry’s illustrations.

I have another journalistic project going on, too. This one is also about death but a more serious, longer book. I want to find out how the nine Enneagram types think about death and whether the intense experience of the death process intensifies how they express their type. I’ve been collecting some interesting stories about death by people of Enneagram types for a few years. I’m sure there are many other fascinating stories out there, but many are reluctant about sharing their experiences. If you have a story I’d like to hear it; the only requirement is that you know your own Enneagram type and the Enneagram type of the person it’s about. Send it to: and put “Enneagram/Death” in the title bar. When I get enough, I’ll make them into a book.

This is Veteran’s Day week. Bill Moyers ran a part of the documentary, “The Good Soldier,” on a recent program. I recommend it.  The most important issue for me when I supported Obama was that I hoped he would end the violence our country was engaged in.



Cultivating Mindfulness


Yesterday I had lunch with some friends. I was feeling guarded about one of them, who will often fly off the handle in the passion of presenting his positions on things. I have quite an even temperament and I don’t always do so well with people who are the opposite from me in that regard. I tend to feel overwhelmed by their emotions and lose track of myself. So before we met I felt uneasy considering what I might do about this. But as I observed him talking to another member of our group I noticed what an emotional person he is–and I let it in that this has nothing to do with me. I think I’ve been seeing him as intimidating me all too readily. As it turned out, he never did go into a rage that day. Now that I have greater insight into myself, I have time to work on my own attitude before we meet again in a few weeks. I will try to accept him as a person who is unlike me; he is emotionally based. Hopefully I have tender feelings, but I would never express them so dramatically. Either it’s not my in-born style or maybe I’m too timid. He probably represents my shadow.

As often happens, this breakthrough (I call it a breakthrough because I had been struggling with this person’s temper for a long time) didn’t come out of the blue. It comes on the heels of a much larger breakthrough concerning a family member. Being mindful was a help to me in both cases. After receiving a wrongfully accusing letter from a relative, I had plunged into a negative feeling state and started to obsess about how to react. Several times I considered pushing my feelings away and trying to forget the whole thing, but my energy was so intense I decided something productive might be percolating inside of me. I had felt similarly when in on the verge of creative breakthroughs in the past. Sure enough, in another couple of weeks I had solved a big puzzle. After trying to be open and waiting, things came together and the story of this tangled relationship started to make sense. I was glad I had stuck it out, including working hard on the dreams I had during this period, and able to make more progress on this situation than I ever expected. So taking the “positive” route doesn’t always achieve the best results. Sometimes hanging out in an uncertain or even negative place turns out to be the best in the long run.