Russ Terry: An Unexpected Negative Situation Incites A Second Act

January 17, 2014

Russ TerryRuss Terry was my HR manager many years ago.

A small confession: An “HR chat” was never one of my favorite things to do. It always felt to me like being sent to the Principal’s office, even when I was the one who initiated the conversation 🙂

I bring this up because Russ was one HR manager I didn’t mind talking with. I always walked away feeling heard and not merely brushed away with the company line. So, when I heard that Russ left the company to become a life coach, I smiled and nodded my head in agreement.

Russ and I chatted to reminisce about the good-old-days and to explore his experience pursuing his dream.

As it turns out, his second act wasn’t exactly about pursuing a dream, but responding to an unexpected situation.
Lou: Russ, talk to me about life coaching. What is it exactly?
Russ: Life coaching is about helping and motivating people to lead better lives. Basically, I help people “figure it out”. I work with individuals to get them from functional to optimal. Sometimes it involves working on desired career transitions; sometimes, it’s about building overall confidence. It can be anything really—time management, personal finance, spirituality and a lot more.

L: This definitely sounds like you! How did you get started with this? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
R: No. I never thought about being a life coach until I left PwC. I was quite happy in the HR field and being back at PwC. But in November 2011, I received a “below expectations” performance evaluation which gave me pause and made me want to get out of that situation.

L: Below expectations?! That blows my mind. So NOT like the Russ Terry I remember. But before we go there, what do you mean by “being back at PwC”?  
R: Yeah. You didn’t know this about me. I have an accounting degree, and I joined PwC in 1993 originally as an auditor. I switched to the HR world around 1997 and then left the firm in 1999 to pursue a graduate degree in broadcast journalism.

L: Broadcast Journalism?!

R: That was my childhood dream. I decided it was time to go for it and so I did! I figured I could always go back to my previous career if things didn’t work out, but I was excited about the possibilities. Imagine being able to get paid doing my dream job! After I finished grad school, I moved to Jamestown, NY and worked at a small TV station as a sportscaster. It was everything I thought it was going to be and more. Working for a small TV station, you get to do everything: shoot the videos, write the story, edit, do everything in front of and behind the camera.

L: Why did you leave broadcasting?  
R: A couple of reasons. One: This is a very competitive field. Even though I loved what I did, it was hard to get a job at a bigger station. After 5.5 years, I felt like I wanted a change. Two: I also wanted to get back to NYC. I enjoyed my 5.5 years in a small town, but I knew I wanted to get back to the City.
I decided to return to NY and PwC welcomed me back with open arms. I left PwC in 1999 in good stead. I did not burn any bridges, so my previous relationships helped tremendously. I returned as an HR professional, not wanting to go back to accounting/auditing at this time (or ever, LOL).

L: Thank goodness for that, as that’s when you and I met. You were the best HR manager I’ve ever had, and I’m not just saying this because I’m interviewing you!  So, this takes us to the infamous performance evaluation.
R: First of all, thanks for your kind words Lou. I really appreciate that. Yes, upon my promotion to Senior Manager, I began working for a Director with whom I came to have a difficult relationship. After 12 and a half excellent years with the firm, and great working relationships with Partners and staff, I was handed a “below expectations” evaluation on 11/11/11 (what a date right?). I started to look for other opportunities within the firm until a fellow HR manager mentioned the idea of life coaching.

L: Did you fall in love with the idea immediately?
R: Well, the universe planted a seed in my head. I did my research, read about it, talked to people in the field. I decided to leave the firm and pursue it full time. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do or how, but I trusted my intuition and went Russ Terry 1for it. I started a life coach training program the day after I left PwC. I had my first client 3 weeks later and in 1.5 months I was up to 8 clients. I was self-employed for the first time in my life and LOVING IT.

L: What was your biggest fear or challenge at that time? How did you address it?
R: My biggest fear was not making enough money to support a living. But I wasn’t afraid of hard work, and I had previous experiences when I reinvented myself and tried something new. So, I just worked hard. I looked for business mentors and people within the life coaching field. I opened myself to listening and learning from other people’s experiences. Also, I am tireless in marketing myself. Plus, I love what I do and people sense that.  They want some of this.  I hope that didn’t sound cocky or arrogant!

L: I know the answer to this question, but I’ll ask it anyway. No regrets?
R: None! I’ve always been a happy person, but I’m even happier now. I love working for myself. And I love that I am able to directly help people. That was something I always enjoyed when I was in HR. Life coaching takes this to the next level. Now, I can help them in all aspects of their lives, not just their career within the firm.

Within the almost 2 years since transitioning to this new career, I have a respectable practice. I also created and run the Life Coach TV and Radio Networks, a media platform for life coaches to collaborate, share insight, and reach their audience. I’ve also finished my first book. It’s called My Gratitude Journal:  365 days of the People & Things I’m Grateful For and the Lessons You Can Learn From Them. 

L: Russ, you are definitely an inspiration for people thinking of changing direction. What advice would you give to anybody thinking of pursuing a second act?
R: GO FOR IT. Decide to take a chance on yourself. If you really believe in yourself and your dream, you will make it happen and lead an amazing new life.

Russ, thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story with me and my fellow Second Breakers. I wish you continuing success and health in your second act!
I hope you enjoyed reading about Russ’ second act. You can find Russ and more of his inspiring story at


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A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

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