A story I ran across was interesting to read, but there was something else about it that grabbed my attention.

Last Friday's "Starting Over at 55" feature in The New York Times detailed how a middle-aged former corporate marketing manager rebounded from a layoff and not being able to find work in the new economy. It was among the nation's most e-mailed stories for the next few days.

There's no surprise in this post-recession era that many people are searching for insight on the subject. Millions of Americans are facing what to do now that their well-traveled, comfortable professional roads have ended, forcing creativity to find new direction.

It's not just the middle-aged set either, since reality says Americans across all spectrums are wondering what they should do and how to put talent, training, education and experience to work. As someone who has done it a few times, morphing through a couple of professional remakes in the name of sustainability and best use, I can say with emphasis it is not easy. I also can say, however, that when instinct or reality suggest there's no other way, one needs a good road map.

Culled from personal experience -- including victories, mistakes and occasional indifferent misdirection -- here are five "starting over" tips for guidance:

* Stay in the same broad field of experience or talent, but take one or more steps in any direction to a new specific. In other words, if new homebuilding has been a profession, maybe consulting with existing homeowners on upgrades and maintenance makes sense now.

* Be smart, not safe. Starting over requires jumping off a cliff of sorts. One has to jump, but it's wise to look first to see if a river flows down below.

* See the world as small, but yourself as big. Humility is, of course, always critical, but so is professional confidence.

* Spend more energy than capital. Starting over may require few dollars or many dollars, but neither will matter so much if those are outspent with energy -- constant brainstorming, researching and benchmarking against others in the field.

* Don't dream, but dare. Daring leads to action, while dreaming leads to delay. So avoid chasing dreams. It's hard to make them become reality.

Starting over is not easy, even with a good map. There are always bumps along the way. But I've learned from experience these principles make a hard new road much easier to travel for people of any age.

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