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By Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle

Lee Callaway and his knack for rebooting careers, and translating that into earnings

Sunday, May 11, 2008

At the moment Lee Callaway promoted himself to online college professor, he knew he had a knack for reinvention. Callaway, 71, turned that knack into a Web site,, which he runs from his house in the hills above Redwood City.

"In the beginning, I hadn't set out to reinvent myself. I had set out to do a little consulting. But it dawned on me that I had done something that suddenly seemed more significant than hanging out my shingle. Without any experience in owning a business, I had formed a company, set up a financial structure, developed a clientele, incorporated and established my own defined benefit plan for long-term savings. I knew a lot of others would be starting over after retirement, and I could help them by sharing what I'd learned. That idea became

The Lightbulb: I was driving across the San Mateo Bridge one night about 9 o'clock. I could almost show you the exact spot where I was on the causeway when it hit me. Out of the blue, I realized that I had reinvented myself into something completely different from what I had been. Almost immediately I also thought, 'Others could benefit from what I've learned.' So the idea of helping people reboot was born at that moment. I couldn't wait to get home and start jotting down notes and making plans.

To reinvent yourself, in my definition, means to leave one pursuit, one career, one activity and start another one. Starting over. The Web site helps these folks by giving them inspiration from other people who have done it, making them think of things they might not have thought about or using the resources that are listed to delve further into their own passions, their objectives, their dreams.

The Web site started off as just something to do. Then people started looking at it and they said, 'You can make money on this,' I said, 'How?' and they said, 'By selling advertising.' I got involved with Google. I haven't made any money, and I doubt if I'm going to make a lot. If I make any, that's fine. The main thing for me is doing it and getting it out.

I launched the Web site in September, and I've since added a blog to it. My sense of how many people have visited is not many. I don't think very many people know about it.

I've reinvented myself several times. The first time was when I was 38. I decided to go back to school and get an MBA. It turned out to be a master's degree in management at Stanford. I then got a job with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. as a manager in energy conservation. I stayed at PG&E for about 20 years, then I hung out my shingle as a communications consultant.

A year or so after that, I realized I was getting a good bit of business in Silicon Valley and I wasn't that technically skilled. So I went back to school again at the University of Phoenix and took a master's course in computer information systems.

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to pursue a long ambition of teaching. So I managed to get an adjunct teaching position at the University of Maryland, online branch. I'm now teaching a course in crisis communications, totally online. I've never gotten to Maryland.

Reinventing yourself is a way of staying young. It's a way of practicing the old saying, 'Use it or lose it.' I've found it to be incredibly invigorating and sometimes exhilarating. It would be easy to sit in bed and say, 'No, I've done that.' But I've got a restlessness that says you need to be doing something with whatever you've got and having fun at it."

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This article appeared on page 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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