Patrice Tanaka has discovered, or re-discovered, the meaning of life in middle age. I'd like to think I have as well.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Patrice, she is arguably the most creative executive in the wonderful world of public relations. She created her own firm, PT&Co. in the early 1990s and quickly established it as one of the best in the country. PT&Co. was routinely named America's most creative PR firm and racked up just as many accolades for creating one of the industry's very best workplaces. In 2005, she then merged PT&Co. with Carter Ryley Thomas (founded by three of the coolest guys in the business: Mark Raper, Mike Mulvihill and Brian Ellis) and continued along a very successful path.
So, what's missing in this seemingly classic, only in America tale? Well, in her candid autobiography, "Becoming Ginger Rogers", Patrice talks about her personal battle with cancer, the loss of her husband to a brain tumor and the realization that her work defined her. And, that, despite the awards and recognition, she wasn't the nicest person in the world. In fact, she refers to the 'old' Patrice as the repressed, depressed 'Ayatollah Tanaka'.
Then came a seminal session with her executive coach, at which Patrice experienced what I'd call a Helen Keller moment. Her coach asked Patrice what made her happy. Tanaka didn't hesitate to respond, and said dancing.
The rest of "Becoming Ginger Rogers" is a fascinating back-and-forth tome that simultaneously details Patrice's rise as a serious, competitive ballroom dancer and becoming a much nicer, more focused business executive she now calls 'Sambagrl'.
I highly recommend the book to Millennials just starting out, Gen Xers who are wondering 'Is that all there is?' and burnt out Boomers who feel their best years are behind them.
Patrice Tanaka is a textbook example of what I've found to be fundamentally true: you CAN start over and remake yourself. But, in order to do so, you need to ask yourself the very same question Tanaka's therapist asked her: what makes you happy? Figure that out and all the stress and heartache will seem a whole lot less stressful and less important.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick up Becoming Ginger Rogers and begin remaking yourself. The life you save may be your own.