Kristin Kaufman knows how to tell a story. The 53-year-old sat in the living room of her cozy Highland Park townhome as she recalled the story of Jacqueline Qualls.
Qualls worked in the steel industry as a sales representative and felt secure in the idea of retiring with that company.
But after almost 25 years with this company, she was laid off. At 62, Qualls was a widow, unemployed, and unable to afford retirement.
Through a chance encounter, Qualls was introduced to Rodan + Fields, a skincare brand in the anti-aging market.
“At 67 years of age, she has completely reinvented herself,” Kaufman said. “It took four years. It just doesn’t get much more inspiring than that to me.”
Qualls’ journey is one of several transformational stories found in Kaufman’s newest book, Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat. The book, the second installment in her “Is This Seat Taken?” series, is a collection of mini-biographies of people who started over after age 55.
Kaufman wrote the book with baby boomers in mind, though anyone who has reached a transitional point in life can be inspired.
“I meet people all the time who are not happy in their life, and when you get to be a certain age, people think this is as good as it gets,” Kaufman said. “I wrote this book to say that it’s never too late as long as you have breath.”
Kaufman knows the feeling. After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a business degree, she worked in the software industry for more than 20 years.
She took a break from the corporate realm to join New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the education reform effort. She spent three years teaching leadership skills to 1,200 principals in the New York City school system before returning to the business world as an executive with a major health-care firm.
“I knew within the first two weeks of that job that I was not going to be happy,” Kaufman said. “I was not sure what I was going to do.”
She walked away after near 30 years in the corporate realm and began a journey that introduced her to “alignment.”
“I learned that being aligned, loving what you do, being good at it, and having it tied to something greater than yourself, is when we are at our most powerful,” Kaufman said.
She established Alignment Inc. in 2007 to offer leadership coaching for businesses.
Alignment also led Kaufman to realize her second calling: writing.
“I traveled the world with my first career and met these random people, and I kept a journal for years. These people have truly impacted my life and taught me so many things that I had to write a book about it,” she said.
The overriding principle in the first book is to be present in the moment. She interlaced this value into her latest book by revealing the lessons you can learn from other people’s journeys.
“All of us can learn so much from people who have found success and who have faced some of the same questions we might have,” Sterling Partners operating partner Mark Hipp said.
Kaufman has started on her next installment in the series, featuring stories of people who have come in to her life and played a pivotal role. She hopes for a 2016 release date.
If anyone would have asked Kaufman 30 years ago if she could see herself the owner of her own business and the author of two books, with a third in the works, she would have said no. But, this is exactly where she’s supposed to be right now. She loves what she does. She’s good at it, and it’s tied to something greater than her.
But, it doesn’t end there.
“Is this forever? I don’t know. I’m only 53,” Kaufman said. “I plan to live to be 100. So, who knows?”