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Masters of Third Half: Diane Buhler

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

"Be the change you want to see in the world.” Diane Buhler epitomizes her favorite quote. A woman who thrives on new challenges and opportunities, Diane has reinvented herself many times – from various financial positions to global traveler and not-for-profit founder. Meet Diane and learn about how she uses her Clifton Strengths, an assessment we use at Third Half Advisors, to plan her path forward.

"Diane’s zest for life and bountiful energy are infectious. A person who enjoys learning and stretches to encompass new roles and responsibilities with enviable ease, Diane is living her Third Half to its fullest."

– Coach Polly Chandler

From a young age, Diane learned that if she saw a problem, it was hers to solve. “If it's important enough to you and you are in a position to do something, then be a part of the solution,” she says.

Today in her Third Half, Diane fights to protect Palm Beach’s coastline through her nonprofit, Friends of Palm Beach. She also mentors people of all ages and hires those making their way out of homelessness. We spoke with her as she (unsurprisingly) cleaned up a beach.

Life's Pivotal Moments

Diane began her career in finance on Wall Street. Like so many others, September 11th, 2001 changed her life's course and intrinsic purpose. It was a pivotal moment of deep reflection, and the beginning of her Third Half journey.

As Diane explored her options, she headed south to Florida’s coral reefs to pursue her life-long passion of scuba diving. While staying at a friend’s beachfront property, she watched the crashing waves deposit tons of trash on the beach. Diane was horrified at the amount of debris. The garbage was a stark visual reminder of the damage being done to her coral reefs and its inhabitants, the life support of our ocean’s ecosystem.

A Call to Action

Diane felt she had to do something. Why? Because her top strengths served as a call to action. These strengths, Responsibility, Activator, Belief, Intellection, and Learner, propelled her to do something.

Diane’s first step was to start picking up trash. While balancing two jobs, Diane spent her free time picking up the trash that was inundating the beaches in her community. She first enlisted her mother, then friends and neighbors. But she then realized there was literally tons of trash. So, the bigger issue became how to make a difference hauling that much trash. And even just where to put it.

One beach cleanup led to another and eventually Diane founded her not-for-profit, Friends of Palm Beach, to solve the bigger problem. Her strong Belief and Responsibility strengths drive her to stand up for the environmental issues for which she feels so fervently. Diane’s Learner and Intellection strengths help her collaborate with partners like Oceana, Surfrider, the town’s police and fire departments, county and municipal leaders, homeless advocacy groups, the U.N. Environment Programme, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Diane’s Activator strength has allowed her to prevail both in her chosen career and jumpstart new ideas. Working in tandem, these strengths help her successfully serve as a mentor at a non-for-profit in Palm Beach started by middle schoolers. Surface 71 teams up with Friends of Palm Beach on monthly beach cleanups and to raise awareness among peers on environmental issues. Together, Diane and her community have recovered about 75 tons of trash from Palm Beach.

Facing Challenges

This isn’t to say that Diane’s path has been an easy one. While reviewing her CliftonStrengths report with our coach, Polly Chandler, Diane described moments in her life where she struggled. At times, she says, her passions “get to an excitable level and people think [she’s] being dramatic or a zealot.” In order for her voice to have an impact, specifically in high-intensity situations like speaking with the town council, Diane had to learn how to temper her message so she could be heard in a constructive way.

Sage Words for Third Halfers

To those looking to get involved in protecting the environment or starting a non-profit, Diane offers this advice:

“You do not have to have it figured out at the start. You will and can learn as you go... It’s ok to start small. Just do it.”

A Moment of Reflection

Diane says she looks back on her CliftonStrengths assessment and session with our coach, Polly often. She found that both helped her to “clarify and reinforce that [she] is doing the right thing for all the right reasons.” Reading the CliftonStrengths assessment has helped her to find balance and ground her in who she is and why she is doing this work. “I just have to do it!”

Diane is wired to help others thrive in their roles. She succeeds, because she leverages her strengths so powerfully and completely. We can only hope to emulate her poise in our own lives.

I look forward to hearing from Diane in the future. I know the spaciousness she creates from the pause will open new doors for her and allow her to serve people and the planet in new and powerful ways.” says coach, Polly Chandler.

Learn more about Friends of Palm Beach and connect with Diane on LinkedIn. Make sure to check out our other Third Half Masters stories to learn more about others who are transitioning from their corporate career to “what’s next”.


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