Rachel Lankester: “Done is better than perfect”

I finally gave up trying to be someone I’m not and doing things that didn’t fulfill me. I decided to try to make a business out of what I’m passionate about, empowering women in midlife and beyond to be able to make positive change in midlife, and truly believe that, rather than being on a […]

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I finally gave up trying to be someone I’m not and doing things that didn’t fulfill me. I decided to try to make a business out of what I’m passionate about, empowering women in midlife and beyond to be able to make positive change in midlife, and truly believe that, rather than being on a downhill slope, they’re actually entering the prime of their lives.


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 Rachel Lankester.

Rachel Lankester is the founder of the Magnificent Midlife Movement, set up to celebrate and empower women over 40 and challenge ageist, sexist narratives about midlife, menopause and ageing. After a shocking early menopause at 41, she scratched her own itch, started talking openly about this still taboo subject, and created what she wasn’t able to find to help herself. The Magnificent Midlife world includes a personal mentoring program, educational resources, an inspiring podcast and an online members club, to help women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, refresh, re-energize and create a magnificent next chapter.


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?

I was born and brought up in Birmingham, England. I was a rather introverted and solitary child. I was a bit plump, rather nerdy, very uncool at school and always the last to be picked for any sports team! I was good at academic subjects, talented at music and I loved drama. What I lacked in popularity and coolness at school, I made up for in music and drama, playing clarinet and saxophone in various wind bands and a reggae one, and starring as Sally Bowles in Cabaret when I was 17.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think probably “You’re master of your own ship,” which is one of my mum’s favorite sayings. I think she meant it in the way we react to things; so I could choose to let something bother me or not. Like the Victor Frankel quote about having space between the stimulus and response for a choice of how we react. I learnt that one more recently. I have mostly taken my mum’s words to mean that we make our own luck to a certain extent. We’re the captain of our own ship and can lead it where we want to go. We’ll have to make the difficult decisions and carry the can for bad ones, but ultimately we have the control. I’ve never lost sight of that and it helps me to know I can continue to pivot, set a new course and discover a new destination.

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? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Tenacity

If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. I’ve had many setbacks but I’ve tried to just keep going and find a way through. I hate giving up and will do anything to not have to do that — sometimes not especially sensibly. If you want to do big things, you have to do big things. You have to go outside the comfort zone and stick with it. That takes time and perseverance because we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day! For example, I still have a big role in building and managing my websites. I’m not particularly techy but will persist until I understand an issue and can find a solution because I’ve managed to get my head around it. My son is trying to get me to understand blockchains. I can feel a real tenacity challenge coming on there to get my head fully around that!

Curiosity

This has been the guiding quality of my life but I’ve only latterly discovered its value. I love to learn and am interested in almost everything. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. Curiosity led me to study Chinese and Spanish at college and to spend time in China and Spain in the 1980s. It has meant I have friends all over the world who come from different cultures and have different ways of living. It means I’m open to new ideas and am able to challenge accepted norms, because I always want to know why something is accepted and what might happen if it weren’t. Curiosity is the gift that just keeps on giving. It guides my relationships because I’m curious about why people respond in certain ways and say the things they do. Life is so much more colorful when you’re curious.

Authenticity

When I was younger I didn’t really see this as a good quality. Being authentic got me into trouble because I’d say things others didn’t like to hear. People also didn’t seem to like my authentic self so I tried to be someone I wasn’t. As I’ve got older, I’ve come to see authenticity as a real plus point. It wasn’t until I embraced my true authentic self that I really started to feel comfortable with what I do and who I’m becoming. Authenticity can still get me into trouble, when I say things others don’t necessarily want to hear, but I appreciate this quality more now. I find I need less approval from others as I get older. I can be as authentic as I like on my podcast too. As David Bowie said, ‘Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.’ I think we all get more authentic as we age, but I wish I’d known that was OK when I was younger.

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’d already had several careers before what I see as my real Second Chapter. I was a journalist, an investment banker and then a financial communications consultant. Many of my early career choices were driven by needing enough money to support my family rather than following a dream or a passion. It was an exciting time though and I travelled all over the world which was great fun. I worked in Times Square for several years which I loved. It was the locations and the people I met that I liked, more than the actual work I was doing. I was forever trying to fit myself into the wrong size hole.

I never felt I fitted in as a child or young adult, and work wasn’t really that different. When I had my own child, it quickly became apparent that the kind of work I was doing, just didn’t work for me anymore. It didn’t fit with being a mum and what was important to me. But it took me a long while still before I moved on to my Second Chapter. The older I got, the more my values changed, until there was a huge disconnect between my career and my heart that could no longer be ignored.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I finally gave up trying to be someone I’m not and doing things that didn’t fulfill me. I decided to try to make a business out of what I’m passionate about, empowering women in midlife and beyond to be able to make positive change in midlife, and truly believe that, rather than being on a downhill slope, they’re actually entering the prime of their lives.

First I set up an online magazine focusing on content for midlife women. Then I set up an online members club to enable women to move through the messy middle and create a life they love. I also work with clients 1–1, mentoring women who want to really transform the way they’re living. We don’t have to accept the lives we’ve ended up in, we can create lives we want. As we go through midlife and menopause, many of us have an awakening that we want more from life, if we can sort out the messy stuff.

I’ve also become a podcaster. I interview amazing women in midlife and beyond, to show how we can become whoever we want and do whatever we want, at any age. I bash those negative stereotypes about being an older woman and celebrate us instead.

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?

An early menopause at 41 was the trigger that made me finally put my money where my mouth was! This was at first devastating. I was trying for a second child. I had also bought into the negative narratives about menopause being the end of meaningful life, the start of being a shriveled up old prune, and the point of no return on the downhill slope that society has us believe the ageing process is! But curiosity saved me and I set out to discover what was going on both with my body and society’s judgement of older women. I found so few resources and support options that I decided to create my own. My research led me to be able to reverse the diagnosis, not long-term, but for a while, by making diet and lifestyle changes. I was also able to change how I felt about my ageing self and see menopause as a magnificent new beginning. I was able to completely reinvent myself and the end of my fertility has become the most fertile time of my life.

Menopause is a big marker in a woman’s life. It often comes at a time of huge transition and stress. Kids may be leaving home, older relatives may need caring for, ageism may be kicking in at work and we may feel marginalized as a result. Menopause highlights the fact that we have likely lived more of our life than we still have to live. We hopefully still have lots of time to make a difference (30+ years at least with any luck). But if we want to have an impact and leave a lasting legacy, we better get our skates on! No more messing about being indecisive! In terms of action, if not now, then when? Our long-term health becomes paramount if we want to be fit enough to do all that we still dream of!

I wanted to share this knowledge, so that as women approach menopause, we’re prepared not scared and those of us already here or post menopause, have the resources to maximize our health and well-being long term. So we don’t get stuck in the sometimes messy middle, but can get on and have the impact we want in the world. I’m determined to disrupt the so-called truths we’ve learned about women and age that have their roots in patriarchy and misogyny. I also want women to know that when we’re done making babies, we’re ready to make solutions. I believe the world needs the wisdom and experience of older women now more than ever!

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?

I invested in several online courses to teach me about online business. I already had an MBA and years advising publically listed companies on how to manage their communications. But I knew little about actually running a business and even less about online business. Menopause also prompted me to start exploring who I was now and reconnect with her. That was a transformative process that led me to rediscover my creativity that had lain dormant for many years.

I stopped doing what I’d always done just because I’d always done it, and started to think about designing a life that would bring me purpose and fulfilment. It’s possible to learn anything online these days. For example, I taught myself enough to build 3 websites from scratch in my late 40s. I also found the confidence to go on camera to talk to my audience, do live broadcasts on social media and even launch my own podcast, all things I’d never have dreamt of doing before my Second Chapter. Having an important ‘why’ was the biggest impetus enabling me to do all this.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

My message about positive ageing and the power of menopause is going global! I’m here. That’s pretty darn amazing, so thank you! I’ve been quoted in Tatler Hong Kong, The Agebuster out of Thailand, eShe in India, D la Repubblica in Italy, Huffington Post, Woman’s Weekly and interviewed on BBC Woman’s Hour. I’ve been featured on loads of great podcasts in the UK and North America. My own podcast has listeners all over the world and I get the loveliest feedback from women who tell me it makes such a difference to how they feel about themselves and what’s possible for them. Women are beginning to get the message that a magnificent next chapter awaits them in midlife and beyond. That menopause is to be embraced not just endured. That we’re never too old and it’s never too late.

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?

Ashton Applewhite, anti-ageism activist and author of This Chair Rocks. Reading her book and listening to her speak showed me that when I had my first bad reaction to the early menopause, I was being ageist against myself. When we ‘other’ older people, we’re being ageist towards our future selves. We all age. We’re doing it from birth. We don’t get worse as we age. We evolve. Ashton helped me see ageing in a completely different light. She says ‘Ageing is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured. It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all.’ I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ashton twice in London when she’s been on a book tour and she’s also been a guest on my podcast.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

I’ve met the most amazing women. I heard Jessica Buchanan speak about her ordeal being held for 93 days by Somali land pirates in the desert before being rescued by Navy Seal Team VI. I was so inspired by her that I shared about it on Instagram. She saw the post and responded. I expressed how great it would be if she’d be a guest on my podcast but I thought she was probably too young. She said no she wasn’t too young! So the amazing Jessica Buchanan was a guest on my podcast telling her incredible survival story. Then she invited me onto her We Should Talk About That podcast to talk about menopause. Serendipity. Gotta love it!

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?

Oh goodness I still do! I take a pill for imposter syndrome every morning. It’s an on-going struggle and peak imposter syndrome for women is around menopause so there’s a lot going on for women in midlife. But that’s also why I do what I do, to help other women get better at believing in themselves as they age. Getting great feedback for my work helps enormously. And reminding myself that I have an important mission that can hopefully change lives. I find affirmations helpful and also keeping a collection of great testimonials and shout-outs, which is good to wallow in when the self-doubt gremlin starts chattering.

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?

I think the support system developed as I was making the leap. I was lucky that immediate family were on board with this new venture. As I leapt more into the online entrepreneur world, I discovered wonderful women who’ve become mentors, friends and general picker uppers when I need support. These are women I mostly met on social media and who share similar dreams and aspirations.

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?

I’m very introverted and while I can present to a room of people, asking me to have a conversation with a group can be challenging! I can’t run a business like that, especially when I want to empower other women. So I’ve had to get out of my comfort zone on a daily basis to be able to get my message out: getting on camera, behind a microphone, public speaking. I agree with whoever said that magic is what happens outside the comfort zone.

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.

Trust the knowledge and experience you have: Wherever you are in life, trust what you’ve learnt. If you’re in midlife, after this long on the planet, you’ve accumulated significant mastery even though you may not think so. Imposter syndrome stopped me taking the plunge for years. Who was I to think I could be, do, say whatever? What qualifications did I have? Life can be the best qualification. Women doubt ourselves the most in midlife, but actually we’re coming into the height of our powers. We’ve just bought into all the stupid ageist sexist narratives that equate a woman’s value with her youth and fertility. (Ageing is so much easier for men!) Much better if we can write new narratives and, like post-menopausal whales, become the natural leaders of our pods (families, communities, corporations, countries).

Done is better than perfect: Perfectionism is the death knell of many a fair dream. Women can be terrible at using perfectionism as the perfect form of procrastination. It allows us to justify the fear of putting ourselves out there. I’ve wasted many a precious hour trying to get something just right before I push the button to make it live. And then it may not work anyway. So all that time trying to make it perfect, is potentially wasted. So feel the fear and just get stuff done. You can apply the same principle to how you show up in the world as a person. The imperfect you is utterly perfect anyway. So just be you. Beautiful, authentic, perfect you.

Reach out and ask for help: I’m still not very good at doing this. But in the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes support to build a new you/business/cause/dream. No-one is an island. We’re so much more powerful as many than as one. And none of us knows everything or can be a one woman support system. I’m getting better at asking for help though it doesn’t come naturally. Life is always better when I do. We can all do bigger and better things with help. It’s so important.

Take care of yourself first: You know that rather clichéd phrase about needing to look after yourself first, like putting on your own mask on the plane, before you help others? Well it’s a cliché because it’s true. If you look after everyone else (as women are wont to do) and don’t look after yourself, you’ll get into trouble pretty quickly. With the excuse of an empty nest, I sometimes still take care of the business first before myself. And when that happens, I get into trouble. I have to factor in time for looking after myself, whether that’s exercising, taking time in nature, eating healthy food, connecting with friends or just sitting quietly. As soon as I don’t do those things, the wheels start falling off. So be sure to take care of yourself first, especially if you’re doing BIG stuff. The bigger the stuff, the more self-care you’ll need.

There’s nothing wrong with a pivot: Oh my, I’ve made a lot of pivots. I still feel a sense of shame when I have to. So this is advice to me now as much as me wishing I’d known it when I started. But I’m getting better at the shameless pivot. I like to think of the word FAIL as First Attempt In Learning. If we’re learning, we’re growing. Life doesn’t go in straight lines. So pivoting is where it’s at. Again, the bigger the stuff we’re trying to do, the more and larger pivots we may have to make. The longer the journey, the more turnings there will be. That’s OK.

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?

I’m trying to do just that with my Magnificent Midlife Movement! My dream is to have a global network of women in midlife and beyond who know their true value, realize how much the world needs us and are stepping forward, not stepping back, as they grow into their wisdom years. How powerful we can be! That will make for a much better world I reckon.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Ooh it has to be Brené Brown who has influenced and guided so much of what I do. Actually I’d love to have her as a guest on my Magnificent Midlife Podcast. So if you’re reading Brené, how about it? I can’t think of a more magnificent midlife woman than you.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find out about what I do, join my members club, listen to my podcast etc. at https://magnificentmidlife.com/. On all the socials I’m Magnificent Midlife.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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