William Keiper '72 had spent decades building a career that would be the envy of most any businessman.
But one day, while doing research for a speech, he realized that the world's financial situation had changed so much that the proverbial finish line he'd been racing toward no longer was relevant and probably would, at some point, cease to exist.
He had an epiphany: The traditional achievement of "success" wasn't enough.
"At 60 years of age, I began to reconstruct my present and my future in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined even a few years earlier," Keiper said. "I had been successful. I decided to add 'happiness and creativity’ to ‘success.'”
For Keiper, that meant no longer being an employee of people's companies, but starting his own, focusing on his unique skills. Using the experience he gained as chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president of numerous public and private companies, he founded his own FirstGlobal Partners firm, providing consulting services for companies and individuals around the globe who are in need of fast solutions to urgent problems.
"That's my purpose in life," Keiper said. "I'm a much happier person in terms of doing work that I really enjoy, and I'm making more money than I ever made before by doing something that leverages the best parts of me."
Keiper realized he was on to something that could change people's lives. Though he'd never before written a book, he was compelled to share his new outlook by authoring "Life Expectancy: It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Game."
Combining startling statistics with interesting quotes and anecdotes, Keiper crafted a very readable book arguing that the current economic strain isn't a temporary rough spot -- it's the new normal.
"The book is a wakeup call for all generations that with the financial crisis of the past few years, the things we counted on to take care of us, so to speak -- Social Security, Medicare, home equity, parents, children -- can no longer be counted on," Keiper said. "The new course really must be one of self-reliance. There is no viable alternative"
The key is accepting that the world has changed, and then reframing your future based on that new reality, he said.
"For those who can get themselves into action, there are a lot of opportunities. A whole new age of entrepreneurship and free agency is upon us."
His message resonates with people of all ages, he said. Even new college graduates sit up and take notice when he tells them to think about the fact that, statistically, their days are already numbered.
"Understanding mortality can be very powerful for keeping you going and doing and achieving every day," Keiper said. “Use your days."
Keiper wants people to stop and think about what they have to offer that is unique.
"What capability or characteristic do you have that no one else has? That's where the personal power is for us -- finding our uniqueness and making it work for us," Keiper said.
Keiper, who received the EIU Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus award in 2011, spoke to business graduates at EIU's May 2012 commencement ceremony that marked the 40th anniversary of his own EIU graduation. He was happy to have the opportunity to share his message with not only young adults, but also their parents and grandparents.
"This is everybody's story," Keiper said. "A lot of people see themselves in it."
Keiper always enjoyed business writing, but it wasn't until he adopted his new outlook that he found he had a gift for writing creatively.
"One of the things I intend to be is at least a part-time author for the rest of my days," Keiper said.
©2012 Eastern Illinois Alumni magazine. Used with permission.