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A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family

My heart is heavy.

Two members of the extended Changing Course family have passed away.

Cheryl Young died in May. Jane Kirsch in June.

Both left us too soon.

To my knowledge, Cheryl and Jane never met, but they had a lot in common.

They were both fiercely committed to finding a way to be their own boss.

They both had a passion for helping other aspiring self-bossers to connect the dots between what they too could make money doing it.

Little wonder Cheryl and Jane were among the early wave of students in the “Outside the Job Box” career coach training (later known as Profiting From Your Passions career coach training).

Jane was in the inaugural class of 2006; Cheryl came into the program the next year.

This week has been bittersweet because I found a video of one and the writings of another.

I share them here partly as a tribute to two kindred spirits who were members of what I’ve come to think of as the Changing Course Tribe.

But I also hope their words and stories move you to do as Cheryl and Jane did and act on the Changing Course mission I set forth in 1995, to…

Live life on purpose ~ Work at what you love ~ Follow your own road

Jane Kirsch, North Carolina

If I had to pick one word to describe Jane, it would have to be lovely. She was truly a lovely human being.

When you watch this short video you’ll know why.

The touching wisdom of her final words here brought me to tears.

The video was shot in 2007 at the Work at What You Love workshop in Northampton, Massachusetts.

It was one of many such workshops I produced and co-led with guest presenter Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job.

The voice behind the camera is my trusty assistant and friend Lisa Tarrant who I’d helped break out of job jail just two years earlier.

There was no social media back then.

Instead, Jane and I stayed more or less in touch through the Changing Course newsletter.

About six years ago we ran into each other at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York where I was vacationing with friends from Pittsburgh who had a second home there.

Turns out Jane grew up in Pittsburgh and her family also owned a home at Chautauqua.

Two years later we ran into each other there again.

I remember sitting across from Jane at lunch and thinking how lucky I was to know her.

I learned of Jane’s passing from Dawn Dominique, a student in her same Outside the Job Box coach class.

Back then the course was held entirely via teleclass.

So the two had never actually set eyes on one another until the Northampton workshop.

A dozen years later the two stayed in touch. Dawn told me that just last fall she and Jane met up in North Carolina for lunch and a stroll through the local art galleries.

Of her friend, Dawn wrote, “She touched a lot of people and made a positive difference in the world.”

It reminded me of something Katherine Graham once said…

“To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”

Jane, you and your work mattered to many. You will be missed, my friend.

Cheryl Young, Vermont

As with Jane, I heard about Cheryl’s passing through another member of the Changing Course family, Wendy Heileg, who was in Cheryl’s same class.

It’s tremendously gratifying to know that Changing Course has facilitated so many wonderful and lasting friendships.

I lost touch with Cheryl…but I never forgot her.

She was larger than life. Perhaps that’s why despite never having met in person… I felt I had.

Cheryl was that kind of person.

When you’ve run a business like mine for 24 years you’ve got a lot of old computer files.

A search for “Cheryl Young” and voila – up popped a sixteen-year-old assignment she’d submitted for class.

It began with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and create a trail. 

And that’s exactly what Cheryl did. Here, in her own words, is some of her changing course journey.

Growing up in Nebraska, I was fascinated with the Oregon Trail and the pioneering spirit.

That pioneering spirit has guided my life as I have created and discovered many new trails. 

I come from a large Swedish family where I was surrounded by entrepreneurs. I had 7 uncles, 2 brothers, my father and 2 grandfathers who were either farmers or small business owners. 

My dad was my role model for changing careers.

He had been a business teacher/high school sports coach, who eventually changed careers to start a grocery business.

My mother was an elementary teacher, so I grew up hearing about both business and education as equal options for a living. 

My own foray into the world of entrepreneurship began after 20 years in education… Then there came a day when I asked myself an important question:

How could I prepare students for the world of work if I had never been employed outside the world of education? 

I had either been a student or a teacher for the last two decades. 

So I left the classroom and began my adventure exploring the world of work.

I sought “real life” career experience which took me into administration of programs, college teaching, insurance sales, land sales, writing, self-publishing, traveling, public speaking, producing and marketing educational and training programs—experience was my teacher.

By becoming an Educator in Private Practice I found a way to integrate my experience and skills with my passion for entrepreneurship.

So, it was only natural that I was drawn to Valerie Young’s “Out of the Job Box” Career Consultant certification program.

I loved the idea of creating your own living out of things you love to do…that you’re not limited to making a living by working for someone else for the next 10, 20, 30 years or so.

It’s so exciting to discover opportunities to work anywhere, with anyone, at any time while contributing to my client’s lives in a meaningful way.

And I have to admit, I also love the freedom, flexibility, creativity, setting my own schedule, working from the comfort of my Vermont home, and meeting fascinating people.

What I remember most about Cheryl was that she was FEARLESS!

Sometimes, new coaches hesitate to take a first client out of fear that they “still don’t know enough,” aren’t yet “expert” enough – Cheryl dove in.

Fortunately for her clients, she did.

At one point, Cheryl talked about helping a WWII female pilot set up and market a speaking tour.

Did she have any experience organizing or marketing speaking tours? Heck no.

Instead, she just understood that the best way to learn most things is to just do it and grow as you go.

She also described helping a new client who was in the process of parlaying her experience as special education teacher and entrepreneur to create a four-million-dollar high school to house a combination of culinary arts, store, artist gallery, herbal garden, sewing shop and a restaurant to teach special needs youth in community impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

This was the ideal client for Cheryl because she herself always went BIG!

She thought nothing of reaching out to people in her even state government to see how they might team up to support entrepreneurship in the state.

Shooting high paid off.

Cheryl would go on to become the Vermont Ambassador for Entrepreneurship Education.

In closing, she wrote:

I transitioned out of education knowing that there would be risks – and the risk paid off.

Today creativity and flexibility are alive in my life.

I believe everyone should have the opportunity to create a life they love doing work they create… outside the box!

Before he died, Michael Landon said, “Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.”

We spend so much time being afraid to take risks, when what we should worry about is how much we have to lose by never ever trying.

Thank you, Cheryl and Jane, for being sources of inspiration to us all and for refusing to die with your music still in you. Rest in peace, my friends.

If you would like to leave a remembrance of Cheryl or Jane… or just share what inspired you about their lives, comment below.

There are 2 comments. Add yours.

  1. Thanks for posting about Cheryl and Jane, Valerie. I did not know Jane, but Cheryl and I kept in touch over the years, and the last time we spoke was probably about a year ago. She was, as always, enthusiastic and full of ideas. I was always so impressed with the way she appeared to move through life so fearlessly and with so much passion for helping others live their lives to the fullest. Her beautiful spirit will be missed, as will Jane’s. As you so eloquently stated, thanks to Cheryl and Jane for being sources of inspiration. May they both rest in peace, and never be forgotten.

  2. What a shock to learn that these two talented and lovely ladies are no longer with us. I never really knew them well. I believe Cheryl was studying with you, Valerie, at the same time as me since I see that Kate Fessler, who was definitely in my group when I took your training, has also responded. What I do remember is being so impressed with these two ladies. I loved Jane’s website at the time and felt she had put it altogether so perfectly. And I know I met Cheryl. I love your remembrance of her — the part about her reaching out to people in state government to see how she might team up with them to support entrepreneurship in her state — it’s jogging my memory. I’m saddened though that they had to leave us too soon — such vibrant, creative women! At least I got the opportunity to meet Cheryl and to learn about Jane. And I’m sure through their work that they helped many people to live their lives following their dreams. What a great legacy!

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