Do you have an encore career in you? An interest you’ve always wanted to pursue, if only you had the time? Maybe you’ve dreamed of becoming an author in your second career. Our guest, Jim Hockenberry, retired from a successful corporate career at 55 and did just that, writing not one book, but three. He’s the author of an award-winning historical fiction trilogy.
Jim joins us from Princeton, New Jersey.
James Hockenberry, of Princeton, NJ, grew up in Bronxville, just outside of NYC. Bronxville is featured in a chapter of his first thriller, Over Here. James has authored an award-winning “World War One Intrigue Series”. The historical fiction series interweaves three of his long-time passions: history, literature, and his German-American roots. He has lectured locally on World War One, including at the State Library in Trenton and the Princeton Present Day Club. A career financial executive, with degrees from Lafayette College and Columbia University, he began as a CPA with Ernst & Young. After moving to W. R. Grace, they transferred him to their European Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland where he lived for 15 years. He returned to the US, put his financial career behind him, and began to research history and write thrillers. For the last fifteen years, he has run the Princeton Chapter of the Financial Network Group (FENG) with over 2,200 members.
On Becoming an Author as a Second Act
“Well, let me just say first, it’s not really a question of how I did it, but why it took so long. I had a successful and rewarding business career coming out of graduate school and that took me to age 55. At that point, I was financially secure and I wanted to adjust my life and balance priorities. I had always wanted to write a book. So I made the change from a financial executive to a writer and I never looked back. So I never really walked away from my financial career. What I would rather say is it reached a natural conclusion and I moved in a different direction. One of your guests in the past (Dr. Barbara O’Neill) has talked about the term, FIND – F-I-N-D – Financial Independence, New Directions – and that’s what I’ve done. But I like to use the term re-tire (re- dash- tire). What I mean by that is you put four new tires on your car, and drive off to your future life.”
“And I would say if there’s a motto for networking, it’s ‘What goes around, comes around.’ Somebody helps somebody, and they help somebody else, and that person might help me back. And for me, it’s a way of giving back on what I call skills of life that I have learned. Which is interesting because I brought some of those skills back into my author gig. Some of them might be personal branding. It’s very important for an executive to be able to do that. And if I learned one thing it was this: the only thing you can control is how you feel about things. If you go into a pitch to an agent, or if you go into an interview, and you’ve got a bad attitude, you’re not going to go anywhere. Writing is a people business. Finance is a people business. You’ve got to have a good attitude – and that’s really important how you shape it.”
On Trying New Things
“I’ve got friends coming out of corporate America who are bored. They never had another interest. They can’t find anything to do. It’s really funny to me, very sad. I’ve always had new ideas to pursue. Another thing is you got to embrace new things, learn new skills. I don’t care what that is – if it’s woodworking, if it’s painting, or if it’s gardening, which my mother loves to do in her later age. For me, it was writing books. And so what you’ve got to do is you got to experiment. You’ve got to test things…The other thing that I think is very important, I’ve learned this again through FENG, is you’ve got to reach out to other people. They can help you. So for example, if you’re not sure where you want to go, talk to your friends, to your spouse. You know me, you know my interests, where do you think I should go? Oh, because you’re like such and such and such. You might want to do this… I don’t care what it is, but other people can help you. It’s a matter of listening and accepting their advice. You don’t have to take it, but I have found other people could be 10 many times more perceptive about where I should go than I am myself. So reach out to others. And the other thing I tell people is, get out the door, do things. I don’t care what it is. When you get out the door, things happen. You can never know what that might be, who you might meet, who you might talk to. And it’s so invaluable. You never know who can help you. And that’s important. So just go out, find things.”
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