retirement

You Busy?

How we spend our days, is how we spend our lives.  Annie Dilliard

Isn't this the most asinine question? Busy?! No, I was just napping or sitting on my hands waiting for you to call, knock or interrupt the boring silence I call my life. 

We are all so busy. Not sure what we are doing and whether we are making a difference, but we are indeed very preoccupied with stuff. Important stuff. Well at least stuff that matters to hopefully someone. But one thing is certain we are busy!

Let's get real. According to time diaries kept for more than a decade, we have more leisure time than we ever have. The researcher John Robinson says, "Americans actually have more leisure time, are less rushed, less stressed, and sleep much more than we think we do." And we have been lying about how busy we are for 50 years. I can hear your predictable cries of protest. I know none of my readers are average, but tv viewing and use of internet media is up to all time highs. Anyway, Robinson estimates we all have about 40 hours of "free" time each week. 

I have tried to ban the B Word, from every environment I have had any control over. Ask my colleagues from my past lives. My point is to help people stop the habit of valuing how "busy" we are and instead reflect on their priorities and the bigger picture.

I’m a big proponent of “busy is a decision.” You decide what you want to do and the things that are important to you. And you don’t find the time to do things — you make the time to do things. And if you aren’t doing them because you’re “too busy,” it’s likely not as much of a priority as what you’re actually doing. Debbie Millman

My motivation is to continue my rehab as a recovering busy body, where I foolishly thought that activity equalled productivity or even importance. I never realized how much I stressed myself out and everyone around me. 

Don't get me wrong I am type A+, I fault my parents, my immigrant grandparents, my DNA, the internet, cell phones and anything and anyone and everything that has influenced me. :) The reality is I try to maximize my usefulness, my waking time, my chances, my fleeting moments to do as much as I can. Not as a contest, but just because I realize that there is no way to measure the fuel left in my tank. 

Been to too many funerals and memorials for people much younger than me--Who died "too young". I live life like many people as if I was part of a dutch auction where you start with the highest price, and as the price drops,  you bid on the way down. Versus building my empire and my "retirement funds" for some magical time in the future where all my deferred gratification will occur. Makes no sense to me. I want this time right now to be a full life of no regrets!  Busy

God, what surprises you most about humanity?

"That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.”

“That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.”

“That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither
the present nor the future.”

“That they live as if they will never die, and die as though they had never lived."  

Excerpt from Interview with God poem.

I meet people every month who literally say they are too busy for their friends and family.

I worked with an up and coming executive. He was single (still single), no kids, not even a pet. No real hobbies. He would talk about impressive things he would do, but not because he was passionate about them because he liked the way they sounded. But mostly he talks about how busy he is. I know you know one of these types, they are everywhere. Busy people whose greatest accomplishment is being busy. I have nothing against people who choose a single life. Or people who mostly work. What I resent is when people, who have no passion(s) and personal commitments, tell me how busy they are and have no empathy for their colleagues who have many other obligations.

If your life is full of love and commitment, then your busyness can be fulfilling

When you are aligned with your work and your life, time is not the question. How busy you are is never an issue. You gain energy from the work. It is a virtuous cycle. 

Being busy is like gravity to earthlings and water to fish. We do not need to discuss it, we do not question it. We focus on what we are doing not how long it takes or what we are not doing.

Being busy is good if it matters to you.

Stop using the B word. Being busy is no career or life strategy. And start thinking about how you will take control of your busyness. 

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it. Seneca (circa 50AD)

Get busy being you. 

Thanks for reading. John 


Driving and Serving Your Passions

My speech from last month: Serve with Passion.

This last week I had three encounters that gave me pause about how we define our lives and our passions. How we define the path we want to be on. People say things to me that influence my own trajectory and I share them here.

ME-Banker

I talked to two young people within two hours of each other about their college applications. Every year I agree to help someone’s offspring with this joyful process. Inevitably, the conversation addresses the proverbial life question: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” These young people have been well coached and they have well-rehearsed and semi-believable answers. These two college aspirants answered the question identically—“I want to be an Investment Banker, an I-Banker.” To which, I replied, “Really, why?” (Noticing this as a new trend among the youth—focus on making money) And they serve up a frothy blend of rationales that they have been fed by their well-meaning parents. A superficial Frappuccino of entrepreneurship, financial upside, and intellectual curiosity. Then I say, “I think you want to be a ME-Banker.” Sounding like a horrible stereotyped native American in some B western. “Doesn’t seem like you want to help others or solve problems, sounds like it is more about you and making money.” (check out the chart I lifted from a serious site promoting the profession of I-Banking) They look puzzled and I say, “Never mind, let’s talk about YOUR education and why YOU want to go to college.”  Whyibanking

Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Is

A quote from Steven Pressfield in his interview with Oprah. Love it! Pressfield is the author of one of my fav books, The War of Art. When will we act on what we say we care about? How do we overcome our obstacles to place a higher priority on our relationships, our health, our communities, and our careers? When do we actually invest ourselves in the process of making a difference vs. wishing we could? When was the last time you planned to change the world, your own world?

Takes courage to listen to our goodness and act on it.  Pablo Casals

I Am No Longer a Passenger, I Am Driving My Life.

Had lunch with a former colleague. She was giving me the usual update on her family and her job. It was like the predictable script that all of us have endured. Like a polite sparring match, no real blows are exchanged. It is nothing like boxing. It is a make believe conversation where no one has fun or gets hurt. We will have our luncheon update until the next exchange of pleasantries. I could not take it. So I blurted out, “Aren’t you due for a career change?” She is my age and has been at the same job for more than 5 years—close to her average tenure. She looked aghast. “I wasn’t going to talk about this…...” She then shifted into a fully engaged, wholehearted discussion of her plan to get more flexibility in her schedule, to move from LA and to plot out her retirement. Recently, she woke up to her mortality and decided that she needed to get behind the steering wheel of her life. She wanted more time for what was important to her. Time was more valuable than the money. Moving would make this possible. “I am no longer a passenger, I am driving my life!”, she exclaimed. Her office was starting the plans for a new 5 year project she would lead. She calculated the ages of her kids and estimated her own enjoyable lifespan and she has been driving ever since.

It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.  Steven Pressfield 

Pur your priorities passions on the top of your to-do list. Your heart and your time would be chief among them. If we taught this to our kids they would be happier and more fulfilled. We gotta move from I-Banker to I-Driver. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Develop Yourself by Exposing Your Film

Heard advice for 3rd graders and new retirees from two different leaders. Funny thing it was almost identical advice. 

What do 8year olds and senior citizens have in common? A lot. They both are at important junctures in their lives. 

At least that is what Robin Petgrave and Robert Emmons told me and others this week. Robin gives his time and talent to a non-profit called Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton. And Robert is "retired" and has become a spokesperson to encourage senior citizens to make the most of their encore years. 

Robin said, "Kids are like good film, they just need exposure and beautiful things develop." Then he turned to a bunch of school children and said, "Don't think about a job, stay curious and think about stuff you love to do. And I guarantee you can find a way to be paid for doing it. I did."   Camera and film

Robin is a trained helicopter pilot and today he teaches elementary school children how to fly. Yes, fly planes . Some of them as young as 6 years old! He teaches these kids discipline, the science of flying and the history of aviation along the way. He is an incredible example of a person who is using his skills and talents to do good. His passion and his compassion are contagious. But most of all he now runs a very successful program that is literally and figuratively helping at-risk kids reach for the stars. 

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.  Aldous Huxley

Robert is an accomplished businessman and consultant. He has become a published poet and successful sculptor. He has written a number of books in his "retirement", to help others make the most of their retirements. 

He said, "Now is the time (retirement) for what you really care about. Remain curious. Great accomplishments are the product of great passion. If you do not have a passion, find one. Reinvent yourself. Align yourself with something you care about, something that stirs the passions within, something that will embolden and enhance your senior years. Make a mind shift that focuses on the possibilities for a better life." 

The only way to develop your life is through exposure. Exposure to ideas, causes, and concepts that inspire. Exposure to the people who shift your perspective and make you think. 

You will have many new starts in your life. Many new chapters. All of these are chances to re-imagine your path and reinvent yourself.

No matter what age you are. No matter what stage of your life. The advice is aways the same: Stay curious and pursue your passions. Philanthropy

Retirees are like older film that need new exposure to develop a new life.

It never ends. The answers are never easy. It has nothing to do with luck. You have to pursue who you truly are. So the journey is a self discovery of who you are, what you love doing, what defines you, what your talents and strengths are. External stimuli trigger these discoveries. People stimulate the triggers. True living only comes when one takes chances on oneself to become their best authentic self. It would be much easier to live a life that "happens". You take what comes to you. A life of passion and fulfillment is the opposite, you chase it. You hunt it down. You stalk your passion and purpose. 

So many people think that their dreams will emerge magically through their computer. By sitting at their desk and  fool themselves into thinking that they are trying hard. Life will not come to you, you have to go out and grab it.

 The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it keep looking. Don't settle. Steve Jobs

Meeting people like Robin and Robert remind me that I must continue on the infinite path of finding the ways I can contribute, help others, and engage my gifts. That my age and stage are just different versions of the same question: What am I going to do with my life? I must remain curious and open to new things if I want to reinvent myself. While passion will define what I do and who I am. I must seek it and always engage the people around me to help me find it.

Quit worrying about the age or quality of your film. Expose it to the things that matter and amazing things will develop.

Thanks for reading. John

Ready for your Big Shift?

Can you feel the shifts going on in the world? Can you predict the shifts that will happen in your life? As a Southwest flight attendant said, "Be careful when opening the overhead bins, because.... shift happens. "One thing is certain,  change is underway and will continue. Some will surprise us. Some are predictable.

But are we preparing for the next shift in our lives?Shift

Interviewed Marc Freedman last week for LiveTalksLA. Marc is the founder of Civic Ventures and the Purpose Prize. He has been working tirelessly to engage "older" Americans in meaningful work and to help us as a society see that value in those contributions.

His book the Big Shift is about the demographic and economic change of how Boomers will become an enormous untapped resource when they retire. That's right the 78 million American Boomers are beginning to turn 65. And most developed countries will see their populations turn grey by mid century. Hallmark sold 85,000 birthday cards for 100 year olds last year in the US!

We all are witnessing our parents living longer, many of whom are unprepared for the time they have on their hands. People planning their retirements in their sixties, not realizing that they will be retired longer than they have worked. Still others going through massive disruption in their lives through the recession forcing them to consider radically new career paths.

Marc's book is a treatise on the size and scope of this change and the great need to understand it and harness it. It is a great read. Filled with anecdotes, research and humor. It is not a how-to shift. It is what we need to do as a country to utilize the great talent, wisdom, and creativity of this growing population. But after you read it you think about how unprepared we are for all of the shifts that are occuring to us.

He discusses our obsession with youth which us gives us disdain for age and the elderly. He says we have to understand that fifty is NOT the new thirty but the NEW fifty!

The questions he raises are thought provoking and should give every reader pause, no matter how old he/she is. In fact, I believe that shift prep is applicable to everyone. We all have to think about "retirement", but we also all have to think about the next unpredictable chapter.

The future is already here-- it just isn't evenly distributed.  --William Gibson

We can delude ourselves into preparing for retirement by thinking almost solely about the financial aspects. After all, if we have money the rest will follow. Wrong! Like most things we don't think it through. Most of us have envisioned  a Norman Rockwell retirement, where we live in leisure and pursue our hobbies.

Back at the beginning of the 20th century when we were lucky to live to 50 and that was an attractive goal. But Freedman argues we can not afford to waste the talent and expertise of the Boomers to shuffleboard and Leisure World.

While many Americans who "retire", continue to work and engage in civic life, many do not. They search for meaning again like they were new undergrads who can't declare a major.

As in any change or new chapter, good questions will guide our choices? Here is a sampling of the questions we must ask ourselves to find fulfilling and impactful opportunities in our lives today and as we prepare to "retire".

  1. How do we live a legacy in addition to leaving one?
  2. How do I take risks at this stage in my life?
  3. How can I live a life with greater significance?
  4. How can I continue to make a difference?

Regardless of the age and stage you are in, there are numerous opportunities to work, volunteer, and contribute to the causes, issues and organizations you care about. If you are a few years from retirement or decades from it, you have to find things that are much bigger than hobbies. You need activities that allow you to invest yourself to improve the world, community or neighborhood. Retirement is another life chapter, like all chapters will depend on your preparation and how you listen to your heart.

If you don't stand for something, then you will fall for anything. ---anonymous

Shift happens and is happening. The more your life is defined by ideas and issues, the more durable your life will be to shifts. The more you procrastinate the pursuit of your passions the harder shifts are. And the most foolish mindset is ---"I'll wait until then."

Thanks for shifting. John