Mary Helen Conroy

My day job is being the CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of Life’s a Daring Adventure.

I’m a speaker, life coach, author, and publisher specializing in mid-life dreams and retirement. My books include Loneliness is NOT an Option and Your Amazing Itty Bitty Retirement Book (both of those are available through Kindle).

My current role is the culmination of the past chapters of my life—I didn’t realize I’d have chapters, but that’s what happened.

In my past, I was a public library administrator on the South side of Chicago and an adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University. And for 18 years, I was the director of career connections for the newsletter, Women in Higher Education.

When we closed that publication, due to the retirement of the editor, I got off that stoop and locked the door for the last time. That was February 2014.

I thought, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I was 62 and that was too young to think about retirement.

I didn’t have a clue—and I’d always had a clue of what my life would be like. So I did what people do in times of major change—especially pandemics!—I got into a pink fuzzy robe and sat on my couch and watched HDTV for three months.

When I look back now, I realize I needed that time to shift and pivot. I had worked since the age of 10 and had never stopped. As I sat and thought, the one thing that came to me was the quote that’s always been my life quote. It’s from Helen Keller, “Life’s a daring adventure.”

I walked around the apartment saying, “Life’s a daring adventure.” But it didn’t feel like that.

“Life’s a daring adventure.” What does that mean???

It wasn’t until I added the words, “And I’m not done yet” that those words had meaning.

So, I went to Vistaprint and got a business card printed with those words on it. And I said I was a life coach. People asked if I was a certified coach, and I said “no,” but I have 62 years of life experience from my life’s daring adventures!

I decided to join Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs. I sat in the parking lot before the first meeting wanting to throw up. How could I walk into that room, filled with all these successful women when I was the woman with the new Vistaprint business card in my hand? But it was the best door I ever opened in my life.

From that experience I realized I didn’t know anyone in Madison. I was used to knowing people all over the country, but I didn’t have a tribe in Madison. And if you’re trying to start a life coaching business and you don’t know anyone, that’s a little problem!

So, I gave myself the challenge to have 50 cups of coffee. I’d meet people, find out what kept them going. What made their lives as special as they were.

I met amazing people. Like Kim from Fired Up Pottery. And Carol Larson who retired from Wisconsin Public Radio. We used to have a podcast—Retiree Rebels—we loved it and it was wonderful and good work, but we were ahead of our times and it didn’t make any money. Though there are 95 really good podcasts out there you might enjoy.

One thing that experience taught me is that nothing is forever—and that it’s ok to try something and then try something else.

Through the 50 cups, one thing led to another. I had clients. I had networks. I was connecting to people and telling them they mattered. That was one question that really hit me on my couch: Did it matter that I was a librarian? A mom? I needed to say that yes it did, and it does.

I remember one cup of coffee I had with a 92-year-old man. I told him my phrase: “Life’s a daring adventure, and you’re not done yet. If you’re not dead, you’re not done.” He looked at me and said, “You’re right.”

As the pandemic hit, my opportunities to speak disappeared—which is ironic, because the topic I was speaking on was “Loneliness is not an option.” And, of course, finding ways to connect is more critical than ever now.

I’ve kept up my cups of coffee, virtually now, and thanks to those cups I’ve made some great connections. One of the most important things I do is help people figure out their heart’s dreams and work with you to get them done. No matter how many candles are on your cake, we all have dreams, and I can be your accountability coach and walk next to you to get where you want to be. Check out my new website at Your Heart Dreams, and see what you might want to do.

I had coffee with two women who had a dream of writing a book. Through coaching and being their publisher, Be an Inclusion Ally by Lisa Koenecke and Facing Life Challenges by Cheryl Porior-Mayhew both became #1 best-selling authors on Amazon this year. Great pandemic projects!

Three themes continue to permeate my work: I love information and love sharing it. I love being able to help create safe learning environments and space where people can do their work and I love to inspire the hell out of you to be better than you thought you could be.

My most memorable caffeine is the coffee I’d drink with my mom. Whenever you walked in to her kitchen, you got a cup of coffee. We’d sit for hours and hours talking. I think that’s where I learned to drink and enjoy coffee.

My current caffeine of choice is black coffee, very, very, very strong. I love Holiday Blend Starbucks and have a 72 pack of k cups just waiting for me. I can drink from 7:30 in the morning until 10 at night—I have no issues with caffeine.

My favorite place for caffeine was Manna Café on Sherman Avenue. I’m a north sider and this is near where I live. I hear there’s an Ancora going in and guess that will become my new place—it’s more about geography, though Manna had great oatmeal pancakes.  

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my dad. He died when I was two, so I never knew him. I would have loved to have a cup of coffee with him—though I’m not sure what life stage I’d pick. That would have been really cool.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  helping people find and accomplish their dreams. Your life is a daring adventure—and you’re not done yet!