Find a way to get your work checked. Competent review of your work by someone who’s opinion you trust is one of the best ways to get better at doing the work fast. You are not so great so to not be able to benefit from good review and constructive criticism.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Greg Carson.
Greg is a biomedical engineer who spent 27 years building hospitals, digital medical imaging systems, and patient management systems. In his early fifties, he reinvented himself, and today Greg is a registered patent agent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Greg works with inventors from all over the world. He owns and operates Carson Patents®.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My childhood backstory is basic. I was born in Chicago, raised in Springfield, and Crystal Lake. Dad was a disability case reviewer for the US government. Until I went to college, mom worked at home to wrangle me and my three younger siblings. My parents provided me what I call an ideal upbringing. One parent working, one parent at home, no way to get between them and they always knew everything and provided love and support.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is from my father. All through my life as troubles and problems came up, I would talk with dad about wanting help. When I was young, “Just put your head down, and get to work” seemed like a dismissal of my concerns. What it was, of course, is great practical advice that I have found works in nearly every situation. When you don’t know what to do next, or how to fix the trouble that you are experiencing … if you just put your head down and get to work, you will begin to reconcile and things will start to improve rather quickly. You can always work on something, even if it is not the problem at hand. Working on something will move you forward and improve your attitude. Accomplishing even a little thing can be an advantage when it boosts your mood because your mind can rest and clear a bit. If all else fails, just put your head down and get to work. The effort will lead to something that you can leverage into improving whatever the trouble was in the first place.
How would your best friend describe you?
He is a pretty okay guy and loyal as the day is long, but he can be tenacious and particular.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?
I do not quit. I treat all people the same. And, I listen.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I attended engineering school under an Army ROTC scholarship. After graduation, I served as an officer in the Air Force. The USAF called me a Clinical Engineer. For the next 27 years, I was designing and building new hospitals and designing, developing, and implementing digital medical imaging and patient computer systems. It was a very rewarding career. I built buildings big enough to see from space and helped get digital medical imaging and electronic patient record systems implemented. After the military, and some years with the Municipality of Anchorage, AK I found myself doing just the construction for a large healthcare provider. It didn’t take too many years for that to lose its shine and the work became just that work.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
At first, I thought I was just getting bored and being petty about not wanting to continue a successful career. I just put my head down and went to work. After that failed me for the first time in my life, I turned to dad for advice. He told me that he since he retired he had come to realize that he still wanted something to do and was working on writing some works, he suggested a career change. I had always wanted to go to law school, so I figured a few years in school would give me the time to sort out what I could do for a second career, and maybe a new profession.
Already in my late forties, I went about applying for admission into law school. I like school, so I even liked the pursuit, the studying for admission exams, and even the tests. I went to law school fairs, and talked with admissions people. At a law school fair in San Francisco, it happened when I meet a financial aid advisor named Stephanie. Stephanie said the magic words. She explained that because I was an engineer I would be able to be a patent agent/attorney.
I was already an inventor, and I had a patent I co-invented with some doctor buddies. I researched what a patent attorney or patent agent was and found that this was a perfect fit. I have an affinity for picking at details and reengineering thing, and I love to create new things. I am at least part crazy inventor. Being a patent practitioner was something I knew instantly I could do and be fully retired at the same time because it is not work when it is fun.
Now I knew what I was going to be when I grew up, so how? At first I thought law school was going to be necessary, so I went off to law school and the pursuit of passing two bar exams. The law bar exam and the patent bar exam. Law school is my only regret. It turns out, when it comes to patents, no one cares if you are a lawyer. What matters is whether or not you pass the patent bar and get licensed to practice and represent inventions before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Law school at 50+ was a nightmare of prejudice and age discrimination. Worse yet, I have a minor physical handicap that makes it exceedingly difficult to for me to type with any speed. So, of course, everything is typed including exams. No one cares, so I just put my head down and kept working. I studied and studied. The kids running the testing centers when I went to take exams thought I was an oddity, the old guy taking tests.
It seemed to take forever, but eventually, I passed the patent bar and got my license to practice from the USPTO. The license to practice does not come with inventors (clients), so the final step was to design and put up a website … hang a shingle. Everyone essentially laughed at the old guy who thought he could put up his own website. I am still working on it, but inventors find me all the time and call for help, so it is a work in progress but it does function.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
Dad’s sage wisdom set the stage, and it happened at a law school fair in San Francisco, it happened when I meet a financial aid advisor named Stephanie. Stephanie said the magic words. She explained that because I was an engineer I would be able to be a patent agent/attorney.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
How are things going with this new initiative?
So far, so good. I love the work. Everyone who I get to work with is a genius (at least with respect to their new invention), and inventors are my people. There is enough to do now, that it is time to start the process of adding people to the team.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father and mother. I kinda have been sharing that story already. My dad was the finest example of what it is to be a man and father that I have ever meet. I still endeavor to be as good as he was. I am eternally grateful for the parents I got.
I am also particularly grateful for Stephanie. Her magic words, turned her into my muse. Stephanie lit the final fuse.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
As a general rule, it takes 2–3 years to get a patent.
I have 90-year-old inventor, with a really cool new device. He had worked with another practitioner for a couple of years pursuing a patent for his invention. After a final rejection, he made a few more improvements and asked me to help. Due to his age, there is a petition to make a patent application special to get the application processes and examined on a faster timeline. We worked together for a few weeks and wrote an application. I filed the application and petition to make special. I received an office action notice that the application claims are allowable within six weeks. Not sure, but that seems like a speed record for patenting from the inventor’s viewpoint, and I agree.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I still do sometimes. In my first career, the worst of it lead to some addiction issues that took a lot overcome. A failed marriage, and not passing the bar exam the first time, turned out to be much more struggle than I expected from the believing in myself view point. The fog lifter for me always turned out to be, to listen to my parents.
Failing the bar exam once flat out convinced me that I had made the wrong choice and this second career was not going to work out no matter how hard I tried. I struggled alone with this much more than I needed to. The answer was always there in my head. Just put your head down and get to work.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
As my first career was coming to its end, so did my marriage. The divorce corrected that, but left me alone. As I am a people, I have this want for another person in my life. So, building my support system seemed to want to start with a new relationship.
The trouble with trying to lean on a spouse for support to make a life change is that they don’t understand your need to talk about everything all the time. A new relationship was not the place to find the support needed.
The nature of my work is solo. Plus, I have always been a shy loner type. So, I am predisposed to work alone without support. But, I am a people and I do need a support system.
At first, all I had was a few friends and peers that provided the support for questions and frustrations with the learning and doing of the work for my new career. I am on constant look out for a potential new member to add to this group of insiders. In this case, the old ways are the best ways. Give help before you ask for it.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
For me it meant finding one. I was in an unrewarding job, with a failing marriage, and having addiction issues. I was in the most uncomfortable zone of my life. Finding a new career was the ultimate solution.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Believe in yourself. Once you have planned the work, work the plan.
2. While you are listening, hear what is being said. Most everything is all about communication, and good communication is mostly all about listening. Details matter, so the more you can hear the faster and more efficient the communication will be.
3. Actual clients will leave messages. I have answered too many calls from telemarketers and thereby wasted too much time and energy. People who are actually interested in speaking with you will leave a message.
4. Contemplate failure, and always have a backup plan. Plan the work, then work the plan. But, be sure the plan includes change management and exit strategies. This is the only way to prepare yourself for those things you cannot predict or prepare for. Plus, there is often good lessons or new tasks that arise when we contemplate failure and the need to change our best-laid plans.
5. Find a way to get your work checked. Competent review of your work by someone whose opinion you trust is one of the best ways to get better at doing the work fast. You are not so great so to not be able to benefit from good review and constructive criticism.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
People = People. A movement where all people treat all other people the same.
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
I don’t know. I have not contemplated being remembered for anything. I am just hoping to leave the place better than when I found it.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I keep our website updated all the time.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!