Midlife Mentors – Corbett Barr | CEO of Fizzle
Welcome to the beginning of Midlife Mentors – a collection of ‘interviews' with some of my most loved and valued teachers.
Why the parenthesis? Well, in the spirit of consistency, each mentor is receiving the same questions – at least for now. It's their interpretation of the questions that'll deliver the necessary variety and uniqueness.
The deal is, there are 15 questions, and I've asked our mentors to pick only those which strike a chord – or where they believe they can add value – and leave the rest on the table.
To kick off the series, we have Corbett Barr, the CEO of online training business, Fizzle.
Corbett is a man I respect as much for his piercing intellect as his pragmatic wisdom. He's one of the first people I discovered almost three years ago when I scrambled out of the abyss (otherwise known as my midlife crisis).
I was immediately drawn to his authenticity and down-to-earth demeanour. Here was a man who'd succeeded on his own terms, and had done it without compromising his integrity. In today's land-grab of Internet marketing, he is refreshingly real; revered by followers and peers alike.
With a history punctuated by venture-backed startups, Fortune 500 consulting and bootstrapped blogs, he's no lightweight, either. He's seen it all and has probably forgotten more than I'll learn in the next ten years.
Over the last two years, I've read, listened to and acted upon his guidance, and it has worked miracles. The incredible Fizzle environment he co-founded with Chase Reeves gave me the structure and sequencing I needed to reinvent myself and pursue something I cared about.
His podcast, The Fizzle Show, is also a delight, with all three members of the team (hi Steph!), helping us freedom-craving workaholics to build our thing.
Corbett showed me the power of creating something that matters, and doing it in a way that doesn't stifle the other parts of my life, but rather, enhances it.
And he walks the talk, too. He spends a few months of every year away from his home (Portland, OR) to be beachside in Mexico, sipping cocktails and running things remotely.
So onto the questions!
Do you consider yourself middle-aged? How do you feel about this moniker?
At 41, I’m starting to feel that way, yes. Up until very recently, I identified as a young person. Now I find myself thinking a lot about the future and how to make sure I’m investing in my mind, body, finances and relationships for the coming decades.
Is there something you loved to do when you were young that you've since ‘rediscovered' and embraced in later years?
Writing was something I definitely rediscovered as I got older. I hadn’t really written for an audience since running my high school newspaper. It wasn’t until I started a blog that I remembered how much I enjoyed connecting with people through words.
Do you believe middle age (say, 40-65) is different today than it was for your parents? If so, how?
I still remember my dad’s 40th birthday clear as day. For him, it didn’t mark the beginning of middle age, as much as the beginning of old age. He went on to develop diabetes and heart disease. He was also laid off from his job and couldn’t adapt to find any good opportunities in his 50s. My mother’s health and job situation were better, but both of them seemed to spend middle age just surviving.
Sadly I think this pattern is still true for many people in middle age, but it doesn’t have to be. Some people thrive, with excellent health and a joyful relationship to the work they do. Middle age seems to be the most important time in life as it marks a fork in the road that all of us need to consider very carefully. Will you let life just happen to you, eventually limping into retirement, or will you invest in yourself and your vitality by setting ambitious goals and developing positive habits?
What was the most challenging aspect of approaching middle age? What fears or concerns did you have?
I worry about becoming irrelevant in some ways, especially in my 50s and 60s. My drive now is to make sure I stay mentally and physically young, even if I’m not chronologically.
What's a tactic you've used to gain more control over your life? It might be a daily practice, a way of making decisions, an approach to viewing people's behaviour, or something else.
Adopting and improving what I call my personal “operating system” has been a game changer for me. By this I mean the schedule and set of rules I operate by on a daily/weekly/monthly, etc. basis.
My operating system defines how I set goals, how frequently I review them, how I prioritize tasks and how I get work done. It keeps me on track and makes sure my true priorities are being reflected in where I spend time each day.
What's a limiting belief you've abandoned (or reframed) in the last 12 months?
I’ve realized that we all carry around hidden assumptions about who we are and what we’re capable of. Whenever I catch myself thinking “I’m not a ______ person” or “I’m not really good at ______”, now I stop and ask why. Why do I believe this about myself? Is it rooted in long-term reality, or am I judging myself as the result of some brief experience?
What is your dominant cause of anxiety or frustration, and how do you deal with it?
Being an entrepreneur, I definitely worry about how I will continue to stay relevant and earn a living as I age. I’m certain I’ll be able to earn a comfortable living, but knowing how quickly things change, especially in the online world, sometimes makes me nervous about the future.
Did you suffer a midlife crisis? How did it show up for you and what helped you to overcome it?
I think my midlife crisis happened early, at 32. The startup I had poured 3 years of blood, sweat, tears and money into had collapsed and left me badly burned out. I knew I wasn’t in the right mental state to jump into building another company, so I convinced my wife to take a sabbatical with me instead. We travelled Mexico for 8 months, and on that trip, I discovered my future.
What book would you recommend to a person over 40 who wants to reinvent their life, and why?
I’m always a fan of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. There’s nothing more important than recognizing your true self and your personal legend. In middle age, most people are too buried under life to admit they have unfinished business pursuing what really matters to them.
Many mid-lifers who write to me say they feel lost, unfulfilled and shackled by circumstance (much of their own making). What advice would you offer them?
Remember when you used to have dreams and desires and high hopes for yourself? You’ll never be younger than you are right now. Don’t wait until the door closes on your opportunity to live the life you once believed was your destiny.
When I sent the questions to Corbett, I knew he wouldn't disappoint. His answers reinforce why he's been a change agent during my own transformation.
Key to that process was figuring out what really mattered to me, and pursuing work that would get me out of bed each day.
If I hadn't found Corbett, I'd still be surfing the Net every evening, clutching at thousands of bytes of disparate data – hoping to find ‘the secret'. What he's done – together with Chase and Steph – is bring structure, order and community support to the pursuit of that thing that lights us up (and it's different for each of us).
I found my thing over two years ago, thanks to these guys. And now I have a community of followers and clients I'm proud to serve through Midlife Tribe.
I'm still getting value from my Fizzle membership, too, so I'll be sticking around for at least a few more years. The nine-stage roadmap, the founder stories and the growing body of video training courses make it almost impossible to leave!
To learn more about Corbett, his team, and the community of entrepreneurs just itching to cheer you on, head on over to Fizzle.
In future posts, we'll hear from Chris Guillebeau, Seth Godin, Laura Belgray and my longtime personal mentor, Ken Fife – plus many others.
Until next time – here's to mastering your midlife!
More of Corbett and Fizzle
Other Midlife Mentors
Also published on Medium.