Do You Focus on the Guaranteed Past or Future

Table of Contents Someone Moved My CheeseBuilding My Own MazeWhy I Had the Confidence to LeaveNo More J.O.B.…
A focused camera with past or future captions above and below

What we believe controls our lives. It reduces our choices. But it does not have to be that way.

Change your beliefs and open up doors you never imagined existed.

Choose to look at life differently and you can have the life of your dreams. Question everything. Especially question what you are “supposed” to do.

I was supposed to retire at age 50 after 30 years at IBM with a real pension and fully paid benefits. They were promised to us in writing every year. And that was my plan for 23 years…

Until the day the IBM CEO decided he deserved our pensions and benefits more than we did, converting our real pensions into illegal at the time cash pensions.

Suddenly, the guaranteed past and future were gone!


Someone Moved My Cheese

I had consciously traded hours of personal time as overtime and better pay elsewhere for what we thought was a stable retirement and benefits that had gone * poof * overnight.

A salesman who happened to have a degree in accounting deciphered the paperwork we were given and realized our pensions were worth only half their original value.

He rented a meeting room at a major hotel chain and word spread through the IBM grapevine that all were invited to hear the truth.

I would have to work the remaining 7 years plus 17 more years to earn back what I had lost – if they were not taken again. I had no confidence they would not be (and for the record, they were years later).

In my mind there were only two choices to be made:

  • Resign and totally change my life overnight

While I seriously considered the first option, I logically concluded that we could spend decades fighting the good fight, win a few battles, but be highly unlikely to win the war.

That was not the only reason. IBM was not what it once was.

From 18 field techs when I moved to Texas, we were down to only 3 of us who serviced mainframes, and I was the only one who would answer the phone at night and on weekends.

My phone rang nearly every night. I was adept at diagnosing the issue, ordering parts, and getting some sleep, putting calls off until morning more often than not – but exhaustion set in.

Marketing was short on personnel, too.  I ended up managing a project (outside my training and job description) that had weekly meetings 4 hours away. I was overtime before I even got there.

Attending a meeting half asleep is one thing – running them quite another. I found myself waking up while driving not remembering the last ten miles.

Mouse siting over a cheese piece in a maze.

Building My Own Maze

So I tried to resign…for weeks I tried to get my Manager to accept my two weeks notice. [I suspect he hoped I’d change my mind if he avoided me long enough.]

My co-workers could not imagine my choice.  Just the thought of leaving terrified them! They said:

You have 23 years invested – you can’t resign with 23 years invested.”

They were focused on the past; I was focused on the future.


The company had changed and the reduction in how overtime was paid, reduced pension and benefits were too little incentive.

Where my co-workers believed their only choice was to stay, I knew I’d rather build my own maze to hunt for my missing cheese than stay where half the cheese had gone missing and much of that was now moldy.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Why I Had the Confidence to Leave

I had no clear plan when I left; I only knew I did not want to stay. I was not afraid to leave; I was not stuck, and I knew why.

During my years at IBM, I drove 50,000+ miles a year.  I had some motivational tapes I listened to regularly, especially Norman Vincent Peele and Zig Ziglar.

I would leave tapes playing continuously in the background, and they changed my life.

Instead of my mind instantly jumping to “what did I do wrong“, it was quiet and peaceful.

I had accidentally happened upon the way to reprogram my negative thoughts, what Zig Ziglar would call “stinkin’ thinking.”

I share this story in the hopes that others will reprogram their thinking so they can have what their heart most desires. Moreover, also so they can go freelance as I have.

Human brain checked by stethoscope with a Zig Ziglar quote in background.

No More J.O.B. (Just Over Broke)

Somewhere in my time online, I ran across a young man about 23 years old.

He asked me to edit some writing he had done, and he had the most unusual, but the compelling manner of writing. He finally admitted that the only books he had ever read were comic books, and he wrote in that style!

He told me his story about never having had a J.O.B. which he called “Just Over Broke” and never wanting one.

I agreed with him that I would not have another J.O.B. in my lifetime. I’ve been offered many jobs since I left IBM. A recruiter offered me a community manager job just recently.

But once you’ve decided to design your own maze, why would you ever want to be trapped in a maze of someone else’s design?

Jobs are fine for others, but for the free of heart freedom calls.

“All things are possible for him that believeth” ~ Mark 9:23 ~ Norman Vincent Peale

My best advice is to take the shortcut of finding a mentor willing to offer you guidance.  Going it alone is possible, but it will take you a lot longer and delay your success.

Over to you –

What do you focus on – your past or future? Did you design your own maze to hunt for your cheese and experience the Aha!Moment in your life? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


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  1. Hey Gail,

    Gee I got mad with IBM for you. That is rotten isn’t it? But you know with every problem there is either a pessimist or optimist at the end of it.

    Just over broke is something I am going to carry around and spread the word.

    Listen I could not tell you how I would have come back from your situation, but it is a rather impressive outlook you had.

    I see myself in the maze at the moment and it feels so right, so I get what you are saying. Thanks for a wonderful, inspiring post.


    1. Hi Rachel,

      I was more fortunate than most. I had a choice. I could have been the last person in my position in my office if I had wanted to be. I think it is easier when we decide to leave than when we are forced out because we can get mental clarity faster and there is less stress.

      I have been offered many jobs since I left IBM until I finally convinced people who knew me that I would never be a wage slave again. I would tell them, “what part of I never want a J.O.B. again” are you not understanding. If someone offered me $150k/yr and full benefits I would still turn them down and keep freelancing.

  2. Hi Gail,

    What a beautiful post and you brought to the light what is happening in Corporate America. We lost the most important reasons for staying in our jobs and all our bosses did, was take away our future for retirement, and our benefits.

    I am 63 years old and retired early because I’m making the same amount of money if I waited till 65. I worked for attorneys my whole life, 2 to be exact and it just made more sense to let go of the job. I was loosing everything, even my health insurance benefits.

    I see in your job you were loosing benefits and expected to work far and above what you were being paid to do. God Bless you. Who would of thought we’d be blogging after quitting our jobs and we are a whole lot happier.

    Blogging is the very best way to go. It takes time, patience and consistency to complete our goals but we will accomplish them no matter what it takes.

    Thank you for sharing, Gail and you have an awesome weekend


    1. Hi Linda,

      I’m glad to see there are a few slightly older than me. 😀 My workaholic job was created by me being more conscientious than my co-workers and having mainframe accounts that could not afford to be down. I know that my leaving seriously impacted them, but at that point my health demanded it.

      I’m glad you are making just as much money from retiring early. If I had had two more years when the change was made I would have retired with full retirement at 50 with 30 years in back in 2007. But it wasn’t to be, and I don’t ever regret changing my life. I am much healthier for it.

  3. Hi Gail,

    What a wonderful post you have written and I am grateful to be here.

    My story is similar but I worked for two separate law firms for 35 years. My last job with an attorney, he owned hotels and I managed one of them. I took an early retirement and boy am I glad I did. I love your post as I relate to your circumstances. First the benefits go and then a pay cut and no more health insurance. That is how it goes.

    I think that you left at a good time and look at you now, blogging on Harleena’s blog. You have blogged your way up to the top. Go Figure. Who ever would have thought that you would become a great blogger. I think this is just too cool!

    Thank you for sharing, Gail and you have an awesome night and weekend ahead.


    1. Hi Linda,

      I’m sure Harleena would be proud to know that blogging on her blog is how we know we’ve made it to the top.

      Good for you for retiring and creating the life you want. In my case, as it turns out, Yaweh has guided me through all the skills I would need to do precisely what I do now. For example, I had planned to study journalism in college and now what I primarily do is write.

      I hope you are doing exactly what you want to do now.

  4. Hi Gail

    Wonderful post indeed with much food for thought and a great lesson for those who believe recovering from a career shock to bounce back with more higher position is not possible in real world.

    Your story of IBM reminded me the days when I was in a defence organization doing a menial job and then to do my university I got further menial job in a small organization but I took no time to leave the defence job just to complete my degree. If I had not taken that bold switchover I would have been a senior civilian officer in defence and may be trying to get premature retirement to get mouth-watering but very calculated retiring benefits.

    It was some twenty eight years ago when I was just eighteen years old and now I have vast experience of 28 years in multiple fields which I can use very impressively to get big clients to run my blogging consultancy business thought I am just 46 years old right now and if nothing adverse happen (that surely not) I would be working professionally for another 20 years and beyond if I don’t want to spend a life like a retiree playing with grandchildren and reading the same newspaper twice or thrice in a day.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this very motivational and inspirational post. I love the way you defined very small things with very big ideas.

    Have a great rest of the week

    1. Thank you, Mi Muba. We had a saying at IBM during the “right-sizing” that didn’t affect me, but did affect many others. It was “there is life after IBM”.

      We all have to decide what kind of life we want. The life I want is not compatible with taking a full time job no matter what it pays. A life of peace, no stress, and only healthy food and water is too important to me to compromise.

      I am glad you chose the life you wanted and it works for you. Like you, I don’t believe being a workaholic for years in hopes of having a better life after retirement makes any sense. I always remember the fisherman story of how the wealthy business owner tried to convince a fisherman who worked half days that he should work hard to buy many boats and hire many people so he could sell them for much money – and then have the life he already had.

  5. Hi Harleena,

    A big THANK YOU for giving Gail the opportunity to interact with your community.

    Hi Gail,

    It’s so good to see you here and I must say that your story resonates with me because my story looks almost same.

    I got very dissatisfied with my Bank JOB and I decided to resign without having any other plan to fall back to, it’s the craziest decision I’ve ever taken in my entire life.

    even though I’m not yet earning from my online Business what I was earning from my Bank JOB, but I’m a lot satisfied and free to pursue my dream and I know it’s only a matter of time and I’ll be flying.

    Thanks for sharing your story here.



    1. Hi Dan,

      Anyone deciding to change horses in the middle of life’s race should consider everything they gain and lose. As freelancers working from home we can reduce or eliminate expenses we must pay when we commute to a job. In my case, I have even eliminated owning a car and all the expenses that go along with it. Everything I need I have delivered. You can pay a lot of delivery costs with the savings of not having a car (or a second car if you have a family).

      Freelancers who manage to get organized and manage their invoicing correctly can earn more than they did at a job and they need to when paying the additional costs their employer used to pay. Fortunately there are great tools like Trello for collaborating, organizing research and managing projects and for staying on top of project schedules, invoicing, overdue invoices, etc. that we didn’t have when I first started out.

    2. Hi Dan,

      Most welcome, and in fact the pleasure is all ours to have such a wonderful guest share her life experiences with everyone.

      So glad you stopped by, we do appreciate it 🙂

  6. Hi Gail

    What an awesome story and you really nailed it with this post. First, I love your question and this is something that bugs people everyday. What should we focus on, our past or future?

    Job security is look gone and I am glad that you took the challenge to redesign your own maze. I am happy that you wrote this post because it inspired me and I do know that it will inspire those who are afraid of taking hold of their future and would rather hold on to the past.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a swell day.

    1. Hi Ikechi,

      You’re welcome. I think of how my co-workers reacted off and on and that is why I felt compelled to write this post. It is always a mistake to continue doing what used to work even after it doesn’t anymore. We must create what works now and be flexible enough to keep changing as circumstances change.

  7. Hi TM,

    Thank you. It doesn’t take as much courage when you have a belief system like mine. Things that would scare most people about what I did are unimportant to me. I have never regretted it for a single second.

  8. Hi Gail – thanks for sharing this. It is so inspiring and I am definitely motivated! It takes a lot of courage to do what you did and I salute you 🙂

    1. Welcome to the blog TM 🙂

      So glad you found Gail’s post inspiring and I am sure it would help you in your journey ahead. Yes indeed, lots of courage, will-power and determination as well.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      BTW- Do add a Gravatar or picture so that we can know who we are talking to. Just a friendly suggestion 🙂

  9. Excellent adaption to “who moved my cheese,” and a beautiful pointer on taking your life and happiness in your own hands. At almost 65, I find myself waiting for things to change again. Thanks for the “kick in the pants.” Time to change myself and watch the world change around me.

    1. Hello Dr. Rao,

      I wondered who would understand that reference. You have six or seven years on me, but remember: we have the benefit of wisdom gained. It is easier to become successful now than at any time previously. Choose a direction and a mentor and your life could be totally different in months – if you want it to be. Keep what is working for you and change what is not.

  10. Hello Gail,

    Your story is quite inspiring, and encouraging too. It sure takes a lot of guts to leave 23 years behind, but like you said, you were focusing on the future and not the past.

    I made a similar decision two years ago and I am loving every bit of it. Freelancing rocks!

    Thanks Harleena for providing the platform. You are a gem

    1. Hi Toby,

      Great to meet a fellow freelancer. I have numerous posts about freelancing on my blog and elsewhere where I write if you’re interested. You could type freelancing or freelancer in my search box and find them.

  11. Hi Gail, first of all I would like to say thanks to your for writing such a central theme of everyone’s life. Most of the people ever remember their past or worried about their future and forgets their present.

    So they spoil their present because they do not concentrate on their present lives.

    But I ever try to make my present perfect and joyful.

    thanks for sharing this wonderful thought.

    Mohinder Paul Verma
    BloggingFunda – A Community of Bloggers

    1. Hi Mohinder,

      Yes, we are conditioned to focus on mistakes of the past or being workaholics now and fearing we will die before we run out of retirement money. I consciously chose to throw off that conditioning. Saving money in an inflationary economy is a fool’s errand. Investing it in a stock market that is going to crash is gambling. I would rather store up treasures in heaven and give while I am here to do so.

  12. Hi Gail, What a moving story. Yes, when we work for others we don’t have control of our lives. If things go wrong it’s often us versus big businesses which is a tough battle. There are ethical businesses who don’t mistreat their employees but companies can change over time.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your inspirational story with us. You were very brave to make your move and now it has worked out so very well. Congratulations, Gail!

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      It is good that there are many of us who left the corporate world and can encourage freelancers and send them work. Honestly, when I left it didn’t seem that brave. I felt it would be better not to end up in a ditch upside down from falling asleep at the wheel from exhaustion.

      For those who don’t want to start their own businesses, many freelancers work with agencies. Or you can find an ethical small business to work where you will be treated like the gold you are.

  13. This is very well said, Gail. I have a spirit of self investment/employment that has made me pretty happy. I notice how hard it is to work for security and then notice it is not guaranteed in the end. This has happened to people I know with serious results. I suppose I am lucky never to have been too attached to future security.

    1. Hi Pamela,

      Being comfortable providing your own security is easier once we throw off the conditioning that made us think we needed a job and a career in the first place. I had not planned to take a permanent position; I just fell into the IBM job thanks to an idea I got from the Xerox technician at the temporary job I was working between college years.

  14. Hi Gail!

    Lovely to see you here, and I’m so glad to see more posts from Aha Now! popping up in my mailbox again. 🙂

    I’m definitely more about future than past. Although, part of my challenge is not to be too much about future. I tend towards anxiety, so future can lead to my worrying, so I also have to may sure I focus on the now. That now, btw, includes enjoying down time, my family, taking care of myself when I need it.

    You mention you listen to motivational and inspiration messages. That I think is key. I have several simple mantras I repeat to myself when I’m feeling anxious, and they help considerably.

    As for whether I go looking for old cheese or make my own maze? I am 100% on the create my own page. I figure, no job or other person is more stable these days, so why not do exactly what I want and forge my own path. And I love hearing from others who have done the same, because that is also part of my motivation and inspiration.

    1. Hi Leigh,

      Focusing on the now is great advice. We can’t change the past and the future is more uncertain now than it has been in my lifetime. Like you, I focus on what is most important and life balance. A healthier mindset leads to more productivity when we’re working.

      Yes, in hindsight I realized that it was playing tapes in the background that changed my default response from “oh no – what did I do wrong now” to not assuming there was anything wrong at all.

  15. Hi Gail and Harleena,

    Nice surprise to see you here Gail and what a wonderful post.

    Like you I quite a big corp job to do what I love, and like you I always tell my readers that they can change their mind on their own, but it will take you much longer and you may or may not totally succeed.

    The other day I was talking with someone, here in France where I am now, about how more than ever people need to take their own life into their own hands and try to build their own business rather than giving years and years of their life to a job that will fail them.

    I’m glad you looked into the future and not the past like your coworkers.


    1. Hi Sylviane,

      How’ve you been? It is always good to see you. It is up to us to let others know there IS life after corporate jobs and none of us has to work a J.O.B for someone else unless that is what we want to do.

    2. Hi Sylviane,

      Yes, a pleasant surprise, isn’t it? 🙂

      I knew most of us would have lots in common with Gail’s story, and you are right, you too talk of change and how we can go about it.

      I am sure you’re having a great time in France, as one can see through the wonderful pictures you share on Facebook. And if we can combine work with pleasure, nothing like it.

      Thanks for stopping by, we appreciate it 🙂

  16. Hi Gail! Great to see you here!

    Your post is very inspiring, especially to those of us who are wanting to leave Corp America behind. We have all had rough times in the past and hopefully we continue to push forward. That’s what I do. No matter what has transpired in the past, I will continue to push towards my dreams.

    It’s fabulous of you to share your story with us! Passing it along!


    1. Thank you, Brenda,

      I left in 2000 and have never regretted it. I love being a full time freelancer and regularly help others through mentoring them and referring work and clients. That is the best way to get started as a freelancer – by connecting with those who are already established who are willing to recommend you to their clients and send you overflow work.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing my story.

  17. Thank you for publishing my story, Harleena. I hope your readers like it and also read the post on my blog you link to and the bottom. It is about the self-sabotaging story that haunts me still today.

    1. Hi Gail,

      Welcome to the blog as our guest this time 🙂

      It’s so wonderful to have you over to share your personal experiences with us, which I know would help so many others.

      Yes indeed, that link was required I thought as it’s something that we can all learn from.

      I am sure you’d love being here and interacting with our readers, while I’d hop in to welcome the new ones. The stage is all yours – have fun shining in the limelight. 🙂

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