Re-Imagineer #1: Mike Hackney

I would identify you as a Serial Re-Imagineer. Your most recent accomplishment in your early 60s has been to complete a doctorate at USC in organizational change and leadership. How was it embarking on a doctoral program and how will you use the degree moving forward?

Embarking on any degree has myriad challenges: the first is why do this to yourself at this point of your career? The second was to look at the rigor and the time commitment involved; in this case, it was a solid three and a half years of nights and weekends after my day job to do the classes, coursework, research, dissertation, and qualifying events for USC to say I’d made it across their finish line. 

My goal was to obtain a doctoral credential so I could teach or be better positioned to consult when I retire from the business world—whenever that is, but do the doctoral program concurrently with work. USC’s doctorate in Organizational Change allowed me to do that.  What I realized was I was using my course knowledge to be an even better and more capable executive for my teams and company along the way. So I’ve gained capabilities for today, and future credentials for down the road.   

In ROAR, I called you my brother from another mother. We both had demanding business careers, we are pilots and authors. What other new layers are you cultivating in the second half of your life? 

I was quite complimented to be your lost brother! There are three layers I’m approaching in the near term. 

The first is not new and involves furthering my earning potential with my business career for a few more years. I’m in no hurry to slow down! 

The second layer is new for me, placing appropriate focus on my home life! Life is too short to continue with mostly work and not enough play. Of course, flying our small airplane on weekend trips with my wife is a great joy and we do that as we can. We are also enhancing the Nashville countryside dream home we moved to from our condo in downtown Chicago—there is tremendous joy in creating the personal environment you want. Lastly, we find a better balance to work and hosting and entertaining with friends and family.  

My third layer continues with my writing and takes a new approach with my research as an academic for USC. It has three levels. I’ve written non-fiction in one form or another since college and I’m regularly published with piloting articles for an airplane magazine: those continue. I’ve completed the manuscript for a new novel! I had started this new novel prior to my doctoral studies, put it to the side, then jumped back in this winter when my dissertation was completed. I had a great time finalizing that story and I’m now looking for a publisher or agent or both! Now that it is completed it’s back to non-fiction and I’m working with a USC professor on two business-related books for managers and executives to show them different perspectives to enhance effectiveness in their roles. This goal will be easily 2-3 years to complete both books.  

What advice would you give someone in their second half  who cannot decide what to do next with their life?

Stop. Breathe. Reflect. And of course, read ROAR for its inspiration! Reflect on what they have accomplished and what they would still like to, then see how big the gaps are to those goals. Closing the gaps doesn’t have to be in one giant leap—so what is the path of doable, incremental steps, and how can you enjoy each one along the way! 

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