General Colin Powell, Former Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military command once said, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” On the day he retired from that position he told how there was much pomp and circumstance with marching bands and troops after which he was taken by his driver in his usual chauffeured car to his home. The car dropped him and drove off and he entered his house as husband and dad. It was all over. The excitement and respect of being the toast of the town was behind him, and now he was simple toast!
Retirement, for this reason is not what it is all cracked up to be. Whatever we have worked at in our professional lives has kept us busy and defined who we are. The busier we were and the more critical the position we held the more fulfilled we were. When all that suddenly stops it’s as though the ground opened up from under us.
My card reads under my name for description of who I am, “Consultant.” In my retirement function I was an accountant/and account manager in that I managed as many as seventeen reinsurance companies. Now I am a consultant. People who receive my card ask what is my speciality?. At first I had to answer, I consult with whoever has a question I can answer. Later I came to make myself useful for new families who had moved to Spain, guiding them away from making expensive mistakes. That is the point entirely; to make ourselves useful by employing our experience to be of service.
For the retiree to suddenly move from big shot to nothing is a major shock. He no longer has to wear a necktie or a suit. He moves about and is all but invisible. Conventional wisdom has it that in this state he will surely drop dead within five years of being nobody, unless he worries about it. Should he worry he will drop dead in three years.
Men and women need not stop at retirement, but rather we need to simply change gears. Perhaps we might change to doing something we like rather than the money earner as before. Above all we must keep our brains alive and active. Some things in life must be constantly used or we lose them.
Everyone who lives long enough to retire has a lifetime of experience to draw on and those who are younger than us would benefit from our collected knowledge. Therefore, rather than facing a period in our lives towards the end when we become nothing, just sitting around waiting for death to take us, let’s keep busy in any way we can, especially by keeping our minds busy.
Hint: Revisit your life and write about it to provide your family with a historical record. We have all lived through a period of constant change. If like me you came on the scene around the beginning of the Second World War, we have lived through that horrible period and then into a period of peace and renewal and into the beginning of the computer age, which is when rapid change began.
When presidents or kings and queens retire they turn their attention to developing their memoires, so we as individuals might like to do the same. After all, our lives are just as important. By writing about your life you can justifiably call yourself "Author."
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