Case Studies – Peter and Mike

Peter and Mike are examples of the people and situations I work with - they have both been clients of mine.


Peter’s story is told by my friend Nancy Witney-Reiter and published in her book: "Unplugged: How to Disconnect and Find Yourself”.

“Peter’s epiphany came one night in the summer of 2003. In his early thirties, he was already a highly successful investment banker with a flat in London and an annual income nearing a quarter of a million pounds. He had it all: or so it seemed until he found himself still at the office one summer night at 9 p.m. He had a sudden vision of himself working those kinds of hours for the next twenty years. “No,” he thought, “this isn’t how I want to spend the rest of my life.” Despite that realization, it took him close to two years to finally pull the plug. “At one point I had six or seven resignation letters in my drawer, all written but never used!”

It took more than the passing of time for Peter to have the courage to take the plunge. First, he read an article in the Harvard Business Review that talked about how difficult it is to effect change while staying in one’s current environment. The article made him realize that his current job left him with no time or energy to create a new reality. The second catalyst was watching a friend of his finally unplug, for the same reasons. Seeing someone else take the necessary steps to walk away from it all gave Peter the final push he needed. He sold his flat, resigned from his job, and set off on a trip around the world. He spent time reading inspirational books and writing in his journal, which he used as a tool to help him focus on values. “I was always thinking about how my life would be different when I got back, and visualizing my role models.”

Thanks to his job, he had no problems financing his time away. “I earned about 70,000 pounds in deferred bonuses the year I was away, which more than paid for my trip.” Instead, Peter’s biggest problem was reconnecting to the matrix at journey’s end. Especially difficult was realizing that he’d sold the flat he’d called home for so many years. “I had given up my home and had underestimated how important that base was to me. I felt I needed to resolve that before I could get on following my dream.”

Peter’s transition period was further complicated by a serious back injury he sustained in Australia. Thus, his first months back in London were spent not only in unfamiliar territory, but also in a dark place emotionally because of his physical disability. “I couldn’t take forward my dream for some months and got quite depressed in the end.” Adding to Peter’s state of mind was the fact that he had met so many other people who had unplugged, but were never able to successfully re-integrate. “I now understand why many people—when they do get out—never manage to get back in. The easiest reaction is to go off for another year!”

As part of his reintegration process, he started working with Clive Prout, The Sabbatical Coach. Working with Clive, he realized the importance of having a vision coupled with a plan. “I have found that having a plan with milestones actually takes pressure off of achieving things, because you know where you are and that it’s part of a bigger plan.” Peter says that before he developed a detailed plan, “the pressure was just to keep going at 100 miles an hour.” Now, he feels much more relaxed about who he is. “I feel like I know myself and what I want out of life, what’s important to me.” Life itself is a journey, Peter realizes. “There is so much further it can go.” (c) 2007 Nancy Witney-Reiter.


I’ll let Mike tell his own story:

Cubicle LandBefore: Mike contacted me in late 2005 after reading an article in Outside Magazine. At the time he was stuck in a well-paid financial consulting job with a large computer company in Silicon Valley. He was bored by his work and lived in cubicle hell.

Mike hired me and we worked together for nearly six months from October 2005 through March 2006. He dreamed of turning the his “hobby” winery into a “real business” in El Dorado County, CA with a view of the Crystal Range of the Sierras.

Wine CountryAfter: By May 2006 (when he wrote the piece below), he had bought a business (a franchise operation called Budget Blinds) and grown it to the point where it was earning him more than the full time job he had left.

MountainsHe now had the freedom to control his own schedule - “to be his own boss”, and he had moved out of Silicon Valley. He lived close to the winery with a view of the mountains.

He is able to devote increasing amounts of time to making wine and growing the winery.

Mike’s story in his own words

“So where was I when I started out on my “quest”?   Lake Tahoe and I was reading Outside magazine at the beach.  It was a nice article about people pursuing careers that they were passionate about – that they loved.  I remarked about these folks to my wife and that the application of that thought into my own life was no less than absurd at the time.  I also picked up the name of a certain Sabbatical Coach from that same article.  And decided to call that guy…

At the time, I had lost my confidence in my abilities and my drive to be an entrepreneur.  Why?  One hundred reasons – maybe two hundred.  Mostly I was burned out on what I had been doing for 20 years and my passion for finance and accounting had dried up to an cinder.  People around me could tell that.  Bosses could tell that. I was truly going through the motions. I was getting paid quite well but was stultified in a gray cubicle working as a faceless minion in an enormous corporation.  I was at the curious career phase called “consultant” at which the marketplace acknowledges that you have useful experience, pays you well but treats you as discardable.  At this career phase, you are no longer a building block, you are scaffolding.  Worse for me was not knowing what would happen next – a long series of fruitless job interviews?  Another cubicle gig with an awful commute?  I was determined to take control of the next phase of my life and determined not to be miserable.   

In the background, I had been an entrepreneur for several years, but couldn’t make the jump of faith to be reliant on my own efforts.  Some of this was driven by the needs of my family and my wife’s desire for security and predictability.  Some was driven by my own indecision and sloth.   Some was driven by the fact that I was dully plotting my Bay Area exit around the purchase of an accounting firm.  But – oh yeah – my passion for accounting is dead and I hate taxes.  No go on that front.  I really wanted to be in El Dorado County, near the winery and family/friends.  But no idea how to proceed.

I spent lots of time and mental energies on weekly phone calls from Clive on vision and values, on goals and what was important to me and what was in the way.  I believe that my wife sensed change coming and when she was on the phone with an old friend, a business opportunity came up, literally out of nowhere, and it was the seed that started the growth of the pearl in our oyster.  Because she provided the idea, her sense of ownership of our new roles and our changed life is very apparent.

So I’ve been in new house, new job(s), new environment for a scratch over 4 months at this point.  An eyeblink.  My heath seems to have improved, I’ve lost weight and am drinking less.  We’re getting over the own-your-own business phenomenon of waking up every morning at 2:30am, but slower than I’d like.  We have made new friends and connected with old ones.  We’ve made efforts to transplant relationships that we really care about from our past life.

The Budget Blinds business has unlimited potential in our territory because of all of the new homes being built.  It’s like being a hungry bear surrounded by an Alaska sized berry patch.  What I didn’t appreciate during the planning phase is how many other hungry bears there are in my territory.  We have no less than 25 direct competitors and I see new ones each week.  Nonetheless, we are more than holding our own.  My learning curve has been quite steep and, at times, quite expensive.  Making mistakes can mean that you have irate customers, which are never fun.  Sales is a emotional elevator, up-and-down in the same hour. 

Our May numbers were $39,958.   You may remember that my June goal, set last October, was $40K.  How fitting that I was $42 short one month early!   A goal is an artificial end point, made without complete information, but to come SO close is uncanny.  I am confident that our June deal pipeline is going to provide well for us and we have an excellent chance to far exceed the actual $40K goal.  Please also note that this activity level provides me with a larger income than I had as a consultant.   Wow.

On Crystal Basin Cellars:   This came around a lot faster than any plan we had put in place.   Just this week, we reached an oral agreement with a landlord to lease a winery building (and tasting room) right on the main Highway artery through the county and WITHIN VIEW OF THE CRYSTAL RANGE.   Again Wow.  We had looked into leasing this exact building over 10 years ago for Crystal Basin before I went to France.  It took a conversation, a phone call and a Google search to get the landlord on the phone.  Gee and one of the guys who is in an outer orbit around the winery is available to be the tasting room manager.  All this as of September 1st.

So, whoa Nelly.  That happened pretty fast.  Melissa has not put up much of a stink.  And lickety-split, we convert from an overblown hobby to a real business.  This is where the “be careful what you ask for” thought comes into play.  I will now have two needy businesses 50 miles apart with Mikey in the middle.  There are at least eight major timelines that need to be conceived, delegated, tracked and managed in the next 90 days.  Woo-Hoo.

In the background, our last event was our largest since our inception weekend (even though it rained on Sunday) and we outsold our host winery at the tasting room in May.  We just got a couple of silver medals at the El Dorado County Fair for the new wines.

Our challenge will be to make this transition, not go crazy and maintain our existing relationships.  I am very mindful of communications with a host of constituents and stake holders that need to be carefully planned and executed.

We’ve been able to motor home to Yosemite and we went to Tahoe over Memorial Day weekend.  I booked a family trip to Hawaii for next January during the doldrums of February just to have a goal in mind.  I’m taking the girls backpacking in early July.  The kids have a pool and new friends to occupy their time and it’s a joy to see that.”