I Used to Be Somebody: (Un)Retirement Lessons Learned

Mark Shaiken Interview: Figuring Out What You Really Want!

Diana Landau | November 23, 2020
Mark Shaiken talks with Carl about what comes next after a big career as a successful attorney. Then Mark took his life in an entirely different direction. He has just released a new book, “And... Just Like That: Essays on a life before, during and after the law”.
 
The questions started in his 50’s-- “Well, what else can I do?” The answers were not so easy for him then. “It’s sort of a loaded question,” said Mark. “The truth is there are lots of things we can do.” Carl agreed that sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in something when you're pretty good at it. Decades can fly by.
 
Mark grew up in Queens and his family was on the move quite a bit as a child-- 11 times in 17 years. Mark said the main impact from that experience was that it was hard to make friends, only to move on again. In high school, he was envious of his friends who already knew what they wanted to do with their lives after graduation. 
 
He drove a forklift for awhile, still unclear about what to do. He became engaged and took the law school admission on a whim. He figured law school would give him 3 more years to figure out what he really wanted to do. Mark recognized a theme in his life, like “kicking the can,” (which in legal terms means “postponement.”) He never imagined then that he would actually become a practicing attorney.
 
Near graduation, a local bankruptcy judge was looking for a law clerk. Mark had to go back to school to actually take the bankruptcy course, but then worked for the judge. After a few years, unsolicited job offers kept coming and he and his wife moved to Houston and he accepted a position with a large firm. 
 
Mark and his family eventually moved to Kansas City, where he practiced for 28 years in “the big firm life”. Law was all encompassing, and with the internet came 10pm texts from opposing counsel. Most of his time was not his own. As he pondered his future, he humorously started calling it the "afterlife" because he thought he'd have to die to get out of law.
 
"I knew I wanted to retire to something, not from something," Mark said. He realized he had been "kicking the can" in his career choices and decided to do it differently this time. He allowed himself to dream, read career pivot books but most didn't resonate. Then he read the book "Your Next Season." The book made so much sense to him he called the author at his home and they had a wonderful talk.  The author had formed a company to help people during career transitions and Mark became a client. "I give myself credit for going outside myself for help when I needed it." It was a game changer for him.
 
Today Mark is an amazing(!) sports and nature photographer, while serving the Denver community on several Boards. One non-profit, Think 360 Arts for Learning introduces children from poor neighborhoods to the arts. Statistics show these kids are more likely to go onto higher education. Mark also teaches photography to veterans with PTSD.
 
Mark's (Un)Retirement advice: 
  • The plan: "Some people retire, then figure it out. That may work, but it's not for me. I need something more structured."
  • Joining a Board or charity: "Fit is important. You have to believe in the mission."
  • Life tip: "Don't ever believe there's only one thing you can do!"
 
To learn more about Mark Shaiken, visit his website.
For the full interview, listen to I Used to be Somebody, Episode #11 with Mark Shaiken.
 
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.
Tags:    blog   interview   Mark Shaiken   photography   charity   unretirement