When life gives you lemons, start fixing up old barbecue grills.
Jack Dodd, 59, of Concord, discovered this twist on the adage after he was laid off from his 25-year career in advertising in 2007 -- a crushing blow that led to a personal financial crisis and the end of his marriage.
An ensuing two-year job search in his field proved futile, so he got resourceful, eventually starting his own business, BBQ Revivers, which now serves the entire Bay Area.
Q How did you begin to emerge from such a low point in your life?
A I hit what felt to me like the bottom, sinking into a deep depression. I moved into a small rental unit owned by my brother and took stock of my life, my goals, my values.
I realized that I could only look up from there and I had to make an even bigger change in my life than just getting a job -- I had to get my life back on track.
Being financially destitute does create a certain "freedom" in reflection and choices. I realized that if I updated my skills in advertising by earning a master's degree, it would help my chances.
Available federal loans encouraged me, so I entered the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and it was interesting taking classes being older than almost all my professors.
Q How did the repair business develop?
A As my unemployment extensions were ending, I was becoming more resourceful at finding ways of earning small amounts of cash.
I bought furniture at garage sales and resold them on Craigslist. I repaired vacuum cleaners and shampooers, anything I could scrounge up. I found I got the best return on my work for fixing up and selling old gas barbecues, which kept me going.
I'd started just with self-promotion -- fliers on telephone poles and such. The local barbecue retailer that I'd bought parts from asked if they could send customers to me for their repairs. I jumped at the chance and offered to do grill cleanings as well.
Within weeks my calendar started filling up with jobs not just from the barbecue store but from referrals of happy customers. I was getting so many calls, I had a hard time keeping up with my schoolwork.
Q When did you decide to turn it into a business?
A I realized I had found a niche that nobody was filling. But I kept working on my degree, too, and got it at the end of 2012. Then I had to decide, do I want to go back into advertising?
I had to choose between a safe, known career that often had dubious value to people and wasn't bringing me much joy anymore, and the other one (barbecues) that was a daily pleasure, bringing joy to every single customer I served.
One was physically stagnant and full of tension, and the other was healthy and satisfying. So quality of life was the overwhelming factor in my decision.
Q Did your life change in other ways?
A Yes. All this time my social life grew beautifully through Internet dating. I'm now deeply in love with an amazing woman, and we have been together for two years.
For the business, I now have a couple of employees and service the entire Bay Area from San Jose to Solano, and from Brentwood to Pacifica. My company is called BBQ Revivers, but I think I'm the one who's revived.
If you have a Second Act story about finding new activities later in life -- a new career, volunteer work, hobbies -- contact Angela Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.