This Middle Ager got an UNSTUCK Career

This Middle Ager got an UNSTUCK Career

No one dreams that one day they will completely change careers in middle age. Yet many people find that during this time in life things change. COVID hits. We get job eliminated. We yearn to do something else for our remaining years of working. We have the money in retirement saved and have a little freedom. We don’t have the money saved and have to keep working. We just don’t want to have to work “here” anymore. That’s the end of the story of my UNSTUCK Career. But here’s how it started.

The secret to successful companies is happy and productive employees. I learned this very important concept in the late 70s, while still in high school. Even then I knew I wanted a career in Human Resources. At the time, Japanese Management styles were abuzz, and my sister gifted me a book called Theory Z by William Ouchi, which explained the secret to successful Japanese companies is happy and productive employees.

When I got to college at UW-Madison, I discovered there was no “Make Employees Happy” major, so I created my own curriculum of courses I hoped would lead to a successful career in HR. I declared myself an Economics major because it allowed me to take the courses I thought mattered to my HR career path.

After graduation in 1984, despite the hideous job market and recession, I landed my first job as an Assistant Manager in the housewares department at Marshall Fields. By January I was promoted to the Management Training Program, which was in line with my plan to build a career in HR by learning the company from the ground up. In 1985, after my stint as Department Manager at the flagship State Street store in Chicago, I was promoted to my first HR job. I held three different roles while still in HR at Marshall Fields: Trainer, Recruiter, and HR Manager. In my mind, at that time, my plan had finally come together…I’d made it!

Leaving Marshall Fields was the scariest career move. I’d been there for 14 years and I left in 1999 and moved to a small privately held bank as Director of Human Resources. The bank was bought and I stayed on for another 10 years ultimately holding a position of Vice President responsible for Recruiting and Employee Relations. 

Next, I moved on to the newspaper and media industry where I worked my way up to Regional Director. In 2008, like so many others, the scope of my job got larger, while my staff got smaller. I was busier than ever, and the next 10-years flew by. The rapidly-changing regional media environment was amazing and challenging, but I learned so much. I considered it a gift. By the time I left the newspaper industry, I’d compiled 33-years of HR experience.

In 2008, recovering from a surgical procedure and with too much time on my hands, I took up knitting. I became obsessed, feverishly knitting every day. But how many sweaters can one girl wear? I think I stopped at 20-something but still needed to keep busy.

When my husband lost his business, during the recession, we had no extra money, but I still needed to tinker. So I started taking apart and redesigning the costume jewelry I’d inherited from my mom. I was making cool new stuff at no cost! This was the start of my next creative endeavor and more jewelry than I could wear. I was obsessed, again, but I couldn’t stop. One day someone asked to buy a piece right off my neck, and my business, bobbi kahn design jewelry was born.

For the next nine years, I was a full-time HR professional and a part-time Jewelry Designer. I loved designing and selling my jewelry at art shows so much, that it felt like play, not work. Wanting to leave my HR career and pursue my jewelry business full-time, I waited for a sign to tell me the time was right.

In 2017, my job with the media company was eliminated. My initial anxiety quickly gave way to profound gratitude. This was the sign I’d been waiting for! The time was right to leave my job. Additionally, I was being retained as a consultant, for a brief period of time, which allowed me some financial security to embrace my dream of becoming a full-time jewelry designer and businesswoman. I had prayed on this for so long, and finally, here was my chance, in all its neon glory. 

After I was laid off, I never looked back. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my HR career… the travel, benefits, relationships, and training. But I also never questioned my decision to embrace my creative passion, which led to a life filled with joy. That’s not to say it’s all rainbows and butterflies, but, more on that in another blog! 

I was FINALLY an entrepreneur! Imagine my excitement the first time I filled out a form and got to write bobbi kahn design jewelry, in the space marked “Business Name”.  I wore every hat in my business. I immersed myself in the operations, marketing, and making of my product. I invested in education and coaching, to learn how to market online. I learned what I was good at and when to hire people to do the things I hated or wasn’t good at.

The transition wasn’t easy. After going to “work” every day for 33-years, suddenly I was on my own timeline. I had to be disciplined so I kept to a schedule: coffee, gym, home, and then off to the studio to create or work on the business. Weekends were for art shows. Weekdays were for work, or the occasional errand, a load of laundry, and my weekly canasta game. At first, I felt a little naughty, like I was playing hooky. But one of the beautiful benefits of being my own boss was that I was in control of my day. It took me a minute to realize I would never go back to a traditional job.

And then COVID hit. All my jewelry shows in 2020 were canceled. Every. Single. One. What was I going to do with myself? I loved to work, and even if I didn’t, where was I going to go and who was I going to lunch with during a pandemic? No one. Exactly no one.

My pre-COVID plan was to run my jewelry business and travel to art shows until I reached 62. Making a living doing art shows is exhilarating and exhausting. It’s very physical work on the best of days and can be grueling on the steaming hot, rainy, windy, or cold days. So, I picked the age of 62 because I thought I’d be ready to hang up my tent by then. Plus, I already knew my third career would be as a Coach.

I started talking to my therapist about my desire to become a coach, about 20 years ago. Coaching encompassed everything I loved about HR minus the things I disliked. For example, the only agenda that matters in coaching is the client’s agenda. Coaching is a co-creative relationship between Client and Coach. With my jewelry business sidelined by COVID, I decided to start my coaching training and certification in 2020, sooner than I’d planned. When I enrolled I wasn’t certain I was ready to start another business, but I wanted to use my free time productively and thought I could benefit personally from the skills I would learn in the certification course. I didn’t realize that part of completing the certification required having paid clients. Suddenly I was in business again and UNSTUCK Coaching was born.

In recent years I’d begun to see a pattern of middle-agers looking to find their most fulfilling work experience in the 2nd half of their lives. My new clients said they loved working or loved their professions and wanted to work another 10-20 years, but were unhappy with their jobs for a variety of reasons…  

  • The management was unbearable or unreasonable
  • The company was changing direction in a way that no longer aligned with their values
  • Some had enough money saved for retirement and now want to do the job of their dreams.
  • Many wanted to work (and get paid), for causes they loved and weren’t ready to volunteer or work for free.

All of these reasons resonated with me, which led me to my passion and my coaching niche. I’m also in my most fulfilling career now, owning businesses as a Career Coach and Jewelry Designer because each fulfills me differently.

I had a vision in High School when I knew I wanted a career in a little-known discipline called Human Resources. Being creative and having talent in my jewelry business came as a bit of a surprise, later on, but with the support of my husband, sister, best friend, and countless others, that business flourished. And I knew one day I would start a coaching practice, it just came a little sooner than planned. But that’s how life goes.

If you feel a connection to, or are inspired by my career path, just know that you can also Imagine your Life’s Possibilities. I’m here to help. Together we can chart your path and make YOUR vision a reality. Contact me to get started today!

Barb Mason, Coach

I am a coach and jewelry designer. At UNSTUCK Coaching, I help middle-agers make changes toward the most fulfilling employment experience. As my own first coaching client, I know what it takes to get UNSTUCK.

Unlock access to a FREE coaching session and downloadable journaling guide when you sign up for the UNSTUCK newsletter.

Join me on social media:



UNSTUCK Wellness Is More Important than Dieting

UNSTUCK Wellness Is More Important than Dieting

I wonder how much weight I have lost and gained over the course of my 58 years. Just thinking about it makes me sad. Weight and thinness was a big deal to my mom and her generation of women.  The stories she told me about the shaming of her cousin would make anyone cry. That generation, or at least my mom, didn’t try to change the values they were raised with. She believed that if it was important to her mom, it was important to her and she would parent the same way. Sadly for my mom, I didn’t end up thin. She also promised that being thin meant being happy.  I wish I knew then, as I do now, that wellness is more important dieting.

I remember I reached my full height of 5’ 2” in 6th grade when I got my period.  I think I was 105 pounds then. The next weight I recall was 135 in the beginning of high school and by senior year I was 175. My mom was beside herself. Andy called me Orca in biology class. Freddy made fun of me all around and he was supposedly one of my best friends.  By that point, my self esteem was based on my weight. Both would get worse over time. Some of my mom’s advice included that I would only attract a quality boy/man if I was thin.  I think that was supposed to motivate me to lose weight so I would have a boyfriend.  Instead I dug in harder and realized having a boyfriend wasn’t even important to me. 

I did Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, Optifast, the 800 cal/day diet and you can probably fill in all the other diets I tried.  They all worked until they didn’t. Finally, in 2008 I had a procedure done called a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is a surgery for morbid obesity (BMI over 35. I think by the time of my procedure, I weighed 225). Your stomach is cut down to the size of your finger so you cannot eat much (restriction) and you don’t produce as much Ghrelin-the enzyme that causes the hunger sensation). There is no fix to weight loss.  Everything and nothing works. Wellness is more important dieting. These solutions are all tools for your weight loss use.  You are the carpenter, how you use the tools determines their effectiveness. I lost 95 pounds. The thinnest I had ever been since that 135 mark in Junior HIgh.

To this day, I cannot eat much at a meal thanks to my VSG (vertical sleeve gastrectomy) procedure. Had I used the tool as intended, I would always eat protein first (I can’t usually eat more than 2-3 oz at a meal), then veggies, then a complex carb (potato, legumes etc) if there is any room or hunger. These foods take up all the room in your now finger sized stomach so there is rarely room to go astray if you eat this way.

If you don’t use your tool as directed, it won’t work. Foods like beer, crackers, sweets and the like seem to melt in this new stomach and I could eat lots of it. These became staples of my diet by 2019 and I could maintain my weight easily at 175.  This was fine for me, actually.  I could eat and drink pretty much what I wanted and maintain this weight.  My VSG helped limit the ability to overeat too much and I simply chose to eat pretty poorly though I was delighted at the ability to maintain my weight.

Something went awry in December of 2019 and I gained about 5-7 pounds.  By the time COVID hit in March I went on what I have come to call the Cheezit diet. During the COVID months Herb and I ate whatever we wanted. Which flavor of oreos?  Couldn’t decide so I bought both. Salty snacks, cookies, cheese, crackers, potatoes with sour cream and butter, baking and you know the rest.  At the same time, the gyms were closed because I thought this way of life was going to be quite brief, I didn’t create an at home solution. I call this time the gaining of my COVID 19.

On June 6, as the world started coming out of it’s COVID cocoon, I had a lunch date with my dear friend Kenna. Nothing.  And I mean nothing fit. I got on the scale and weighed 191 pounds. Only 9 pounds away from 200. At the time I nearly died but 8 months later I am grateful I did this to myself.

Enter KETO.  Several years earlier, my massage therapist, Marianne, suggested I try KETO eating to reduce the inflammation that could be exacerbating my arthritis. I shut the idea down hard and said I would rather die than quit drinking beer.  Never mind all the other foods you can’t eat on KETO.  I did know it was a good plan for quick weight loss because any time you eliminate carbs, you lose lots of water weight. At this point in my COVID 19 weight gain, KETO sounded like a perfect solution.  I had to lose some weight as quickly as I could. I lost weight but still didn’t realize that wellness is more important dieting.

I loved KETO eating because the high fat foods replaced the desire for sugar and carbs like potatoes, bread, crackers etc.  My new snack was cheese on cucumber and one of my favorite veggies was mushrooms sauteed in heavy cream and butter. Full fat sour cream and salad dressing replaced their reduced fat alternatives. And vodka and bourbon were suitable replacements for my complete and committed love affair with hoppy high carb/calorie double IPA beers.

My weight went from 191 back to 175. And other changes took place too. My body felt better. My arthritis was a LOT better. And it was better than it was before when I weighed the same 175 pounds. So it wasn’t just losing some weight. I also had been to a rheumatologist for my arthritis and she prescribed hydroxychloroquine. I assume that helped me feel better too.

I know many people eat keto for a lifetime, but that didn’t seem like a healthy way to go forever. Logically, eliminating truly healthy food categories like complex carbs doesn’t make sense over time.  I switched from Keto to Vitalife when my friend and founder of the program, Davis Jaspers,  invited Herb and me to do a training video with him. While his program is amazing, what Davis did best for me was to ask if I was more interested in weight loss or health? Weight of course.  The whole point of a diet is to lose weight and look better. Right? Wrong.

Until this moment, no one had really talked about giving your body the healthiest foods so your body can function at its best. Eat the right foods and you will FEEL BETTER. Your brain will be clearer, your joints will be less inflamed, your skin will not look puffy, your workouts will be easier and more pleasant. 

What I finally learned after all this time trying to lose weight is that what matters most is wellness. If healthy eating means weight loss that’s great. If you feel healthier when you exercise and you want to work on that, we will make it happen. 

Given my years of exploration with wellness, numerous individuals have sought out my expertise. If my story resonates with you, together we can identify your goals, determine what motivates you, and envision your life’s possibilities. Together, you and I can create a future that allows you to embrace wellness. I welcome the opportunity to help you find the joy that comes with surrendering to stamina, vitality, strength, vigor, and making peace with food.

Barb Mason, Coach

I am a coach and jewelry designer. At UNSTUCK Coaching, I help middle-agers make changes toward the most fulfilling employment experience. As my own first coaching client, I know what it takes to get UNSTUCK.

Unlock access to a FREE coaching session and downloadable journaling guide when you sign up for the UNSTUCK newsletter.

Join me on social media:



10-Ways to Get the Most From Working with a Coach

Check your attitude at the door. For starters. I used to be a smartypants who didn’t think she needed a business coach. But by the end of 2020, 10-months after officially launching my copywriting business, I began to think differently. Even though I’d previously owned two businesses, I found myself overwhelmed with ALL the things and struggling to find focus. So when asked, “do you think coaching might help?” I thought, “it can’t hurt” and I signed up for six months of coaching. Five months later I have a whole new perspective and appreciation for the process. Below I’ve shared my top 10 nuggets of advice to get the most out of your coaching experience:

  1. Come with an open mind – Like any program, educational opportunity, or even therapy, showing up with an open mind is super important. After all, you’re there because you want to change something. Right? If you show up with an open mind, you’re going to be open to someone else’s point of view, and possibly see things through a fresh set of eyes.
  1. Show up with an open heart – This is similar to number one above but has more to do with being willing to receive feedback and being open to making a connection with your coach. One thing that I will point out here is that a successful client/coach relationship needs chemistry, just like other relationships. Not every match is a good fit, so before you sign up, be sure you feel good about your coach, beyond their credentials and experience.
  1. Listen – Hearing and listening are not the same things, obviously. When it’s your turn to listen, don’t just sit there and think about what you just said, or the next thing your going to say, or what you’re going to have for dinner. Be still, look at your coach while she’s talking, and soak in what she has to say.
  1. Be vulnerable – You have to be willing to say the hard things. That’s the real meat of the coaching process. If you sugarcoat or try to wrap everything up in a beautiful package with a bright red bow, I can almost guarantee you’ll get nowhere. This is one of the reasons why the client/coach relationship is so important. When you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable, that’s when the real work begins.
  1. Forget everything you know – Not everything you know, but everything you think you know about coaching. These are credentialed professionals with many hours of training and experience. So when you go in with an open mind (see number one) this also means to let go of any preconceived notions about what a coach or session “should” be. Your journey to success is unique.
  1. Be ready and willing to take action – You can accomplish a lot in six months if you’re committed to the process and ready to take action. On the other hand, you can also waste six months and be exactly where you were when you started. So from day one, be committed to taking the necessary steps to achieve your objectives. 
  1. Be coachable – Keep an open mind (see number one), and be willing to try the things your coach suggests. One of the worst things you can say is “oh I tried that and it didn’t work for me”. Maybe so. But did you really try it? And to what extent? Before dismissing what your coach has to say, listen, absorb and be open and willing to try again.
  1. Be honest – These are YOUR sessions and it’s your investment. So don’t waste your time or money, or your coach’s time by being misleading. This one seems to be obvious, but I think it’s worth adding to the list. If you struggle to be vulnerable, and honest why bother? Your time will be wasted.
  1. Don’t be afraid to give yourself deadlines – It’s very likely that during your sessions you’ll be asked to set a deadline for an action step. This can feel scary because a deadline means that now it’s a real thing, and you’ve said it out loud. You might not meet every deadline, but I can promise you that without a deadline you’ll struggle to make progress.
  1. Hold yourself accountable – Take your deadlines seriously, if you want to make measurable progress. These sessions are for you, not your coach, who is just there to be your guide. You’re the one who has to take action, if you want to achieve your goals.

When you’re looking to hire a coach, do your due diligence. If someone sounds promising, and they offer a sample or complimentary session, do it! Afterward, if you decide they’re not the right fit, that’s OK, just let them know. Beyond their experience, credentials, and testimonials, you have to trust your gut, which is subjective. So take your time. And when you’ve decided on the right coach for you, remember these steps if you want to get the most out of your coaching experience.

Toby Myles is a copywriter and owner of Toby Myles Copywriting where she helps women-owned businesses grow and earn more money through clear and consistent messaging. Grab Toby’s FREE Guide: 52-Weeks of Blog Content in 4-Easy Steps. It’s jam-packed with simple, actionable steps to create a year’s worth of blog content. 

Toby is a client at Unstuck Coaching, and this blog is inspired by her personal experience.

Connect with Toby:

Instagram  @tobymyles_copywriting

Facebook   @TobyMylesCopywriting

LinkedIn     Toby Myles

Twitter @tobymyles2

The Law of Attraction, and How I Met my Husband Herb

The Law of Attraction works in much the same way as the Law of Gravity, or electricity. You don’t really have to know exactly how it works, just that it works. Need more convincing? 

In brief, the Law of Attraction says…

  • You get back from the Universe what you ask for. 
  • Like energy attracts like energy. If you put out negative energy into the Universe, you will attract negative energy. If you wonder why bad things always happen to you, it’s because that’s what you attract. 
  • The opposite also holds true. Put out positive energy into the Universe, you will attract positive energy. Ask for what you want and you will attract it back to you. 
  • Expressing gratitude for what you have brings you more of what you want. 

Don’t believe me? Read our story…

On Tuesday, February 16, 2003, I sat in therapy with Dr. Susan Love. Together we decided it was a good time for me to get out there and give some effort to finding a life partner. I looked great and felt great and was interested in giving dating a shot. I even made plans with my friend Deena on Saturday, to help me set up my J-Date profile.

The day after my appointment with Dr. Love, I got a call from my sister-in-law. Her friend Leslie met a guy while working at Kluger Furs and Leather in Flossmoor, IL, and wondered if I would be interested in meeting him? Having just told the Universe I was ready to find a life partner, I said ‘of course’. 

And so our journey together began…

His name was Herb, and we spoke on the phone for hours Thursday night. The very next day we met in person and I was smitten. Totally and completely smitten. I couldn’t stop thinking of him and couldn’t sleep all night. When daylight finally came on Saturday morning, and I hadn’t heard from Herb as of 10 AM, I was convinced he was full of it and I was duped again. 

“I’ll show him!” I thought. I’d be meeting with Deena later that day to set up my J-Date profile. Besides, Deena and I were going to a party that night because she and her fella had just broken up. We discussed our plans for the evening while walking my dogs and when I returned home, there on my front step were a dozen stunning purple roses…from Herb! OMG! Maybe he wasn’t full of it. Maybe he was for real.

Herb asked me out for that evening but I said no because I had plans with Deena. When I told her this she insisted I call him back and go out with him. I’d NEVER before broken plans with a girlfriend for any guy. This violates the sacred girlfriend code. Sisterhood is forever, men are fleeting. But Herb felt different, so this time I did.

We saw each other Saturday night, and Sunday too. That was February 21, 2003, and from that point forward, we spoke every single day. We were engaged in February 2004 and were married on February 19, 2005. 

If ever a coming together was meant to be, it was ours… 

Call it fate, or b’sheret (in Hebrew), or whatever you’d like. Our paths crossed in so many ways, and we shared so many similarities before we’d ever met… 

  • We graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School the same year but didn’t know each other. 
  • We lived in the same apartment building at one time in Chicago.  
  • Our moms were both named Alice. 
  • Our parents’ wedding anniversaries were both February, 7. 
  • When I met Herb, he lived in a house that my mom’s friend built. She was also named Alice. I had BEEN in that house as a child.

When Herb and I met he was very recently widowed. He was my first marriage, I was his second. We agreed long ago that had we met sooner, it would have been a disaster. I wasn’t ready for marriage before that day in Susan Love’s office, but that was the day I sent energy out into the Universe and said I was ready to meet my husband. The Universe listened, and generously sent me Herb, the love of my life.

My story is pretty convincing that the Laws of Attraction exist, and work. Do you believe it can work for you?

I’m ready to help you put the Laws of Attraction to work, to find love, a new career, or start a business, and to realize YOUR Life’s Possibilities. Contact me today to get UNSTUCK.