Wedding Reception

Cutting our wedding cake – May 26, 1979

On May 26, 1979, Linda Sue Kiger and I said “I do” to each other at her home church – Third Baptist Church – in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s been quite a ride and continues to be. I am thankful for her for so many reasons, but below is one for each of our 40 years together. Except for the first two, they are in no particular order:

  1. She is a faithful follower of Christ.
  2. She is a faithful wife who I can count on ‘til death do us part.
  3. She is the hardest working person I know.
  4. She is happiest when serving and giving to others.
  5. She is Mom to our two wonderful sons.
  6. She is Nana to our two awesome grandchildren.
  7. She is cook, caterer, and kitchen hostess to hundreds every year who get the benefit of eating her delicious food.
  8. She never pretends to be something she isn’t.
  9. She speaks her mind.
  10. She can read a person’s character like an open book.
  11. She seeks no glory for herself.
  12. She hates evil and hypocrisy.
  13. She’s smarter than me.
  14. She loves me in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, in good times and in bad.
Wedding Party

Our Wonderful Wedding Party

    1. She has managed our finances for the past 25 years after I got tired of doing it the first 15 years of marriage.
    2. She loves doing yard work and says it’s therapeutic for her.
    3. She loves our church and can’t imagine being a member who doesn’t serve it in many ways.
    4. She supports me in major decisions that impact us both.
    5. She has no desire to impress others with material things.
    6. She’s frugal in whatever she buys.
    7. She quickly became a fan of UK basketball and Ale-8 when we were dating in college.
    8. She does my laundry without complaining.
    9. She’s handier around the house than I will ever be.
    10. She puts up with my obsession with my dog, Callie.
    11. She has the common sense that I lost somewhere along the way.
    12. She can remember names of people and their stories far better than me.
    13. She loves, respects, and lives in awe of God’s creation.
    14. She loves and honors her Mom.
    15. She considers dinner at Qdoba and a walk around the mall as a big night out.
The Getaway Car

Our getaway car – the Big Green Machine thanks to Best Man Wayne Grooms

  1. She has many strengths that complement my weaknesses.
  2. She appreciates my humor (most of the time).
  3. She always has pure motives.
  4. She doesn’t cut corners to make things easy on herself.
  5. She knows American history and the Constitution and has little tolerance for those who respect neither.
  6. She loves MeTV more than any other TV channel.
  7. She takes extra food from her cooking jobs to homeless shelters to feed the hungry.
  8. She has no fear.
  9. She loves students and would happily mother them anytime, anywhere.
  10. She loves opening our home to friends, family and guests from around the globe.
  11. She has put up with my shenanigans all these years.

Anyone who knows both of us knows that we are very different in some obvious ways, but those are mostly external differences and are superseded by these more important things that unite us:

  • Nothing is more important to us than our Christian faith.
  • That faith and the truths contained in the Word of God form the lens through which we view, understand, and respond to the world around us.
  • It is the basis of our shared fundamental values that determine what we think, say and do, and how we interact with others.
  • It is how we can live in a changing and sometimes uncertain world with complete confidence in our future – not because we are in control, but because Someone Greater is and we belong to Him.

Happy 40th anniversary, Linda! Thank you for being my partner forever. I love you. Here’s to the adventure yet to come…

July 2016 New Home

July 15, 2016 – Our new home and new adventure

I just published a LinkedIn article called “If you attend only one conference for online community professionals…” It’s about the various conferences I’ve attended through the years as an online community pro, and why I hone in on one in particular as the main conference I attend if I only get to attend one a year. Add your comments to the LinkedIn article if you wish. I’d love to hear the opinions of my fellow online community colleagues.

The Indispensable CommunityI just published a review of Rich Millington’s latest book, The Indispensable Community, on LinkedIn. Go check it out and share your thoughts. I highly recommend the book to all online community professionals.

I just published an article on LinkedIn with 10 lessons learned from my recent major cleanup of the groups on our enterprise social network at Humana. Perhaps other online community managers and professionals can benefit from these takeaways that I jotted down while removing about 43% of our internal community’s nearly 1,700 groups.

It’s not time to hang up the bee shoes yet.

26 days ago my company offered an early retirement incentive to those of us who qualify based on age and years of service. Last night at midnight was the deadline to apply for it. I didn’t apply. I thought about it – a LOT. I weighed the pros and cons and sometimes felt like a pinball being thrust back and forth by flippers that changed the direction of my thinking regularly.

In the end, it wasn’t the right decision for me to retire for a variety of reasons. I’m sure it is the right decision for a number of my colleagues across the company, and I wish them well in their next chapter of life. They will be missed in many ways.

The process of thinking through the retirement option was something new for me, so I thought I’d give others a peek into my experience these past 26 days. You’ll likely face the same choices some day if you haven’t already.

First Reactions

When the program was announced, it was the first time for me to be forced into thinking about retirement. My wife and I have both assumed we will work many more years until we are 70 or so. That’s another 9-10 years away for us. Retirement wasn’t on our radar and isn’t an option financially at this time. But I’ve never had a company offer me seven months salary plus benefits to not work for them. (Based on my years of service, it worked out to seven months for me. Others’ packages would be based on their years of service.) Having the offer put in front of me required that I at least consider it.

The Pros

Several things were attractive about the offer:

  • Earning my full salary plus health, dental and vision benefits during the seven-month payout period;
  • The possibility of earning a double salary for that time should I be able to walk immediately into another full-time role elsewhere (especially attractive given the debt we took on buying our home last year and then adding to it the building of a carriage house behind our home this year);
  • The excitement that comes from doing something new and different;
  • The opportunity to reinvent myself again at age 60;
  • The possibility of taking what I’ve learned in 14+ years at my current company and applying it to a company in need, perhaps building an online community from scratch;
  • The possibility that voluntary retirement would save the job of someone else since the company has announced plans for some involuntary layoffs soon. The number of layoffs will be impacted by the number of us voluntarily leaving first.
  • I liked the idea of having input in naming my successor (who I have had selected for years) and in training him for the job, helping him take a nice jump in his career path.
  • Maybe doing this would allow me to work out some arrangement for my dream role – Minister of Education at my beloved Walnut Street Baptist Church.

Occasionally nudging me toward the retirement option was the thought of stepping out on faith. I like the sentiment of a painted rock I have at the house that reads “Leap and the net will appear.” Images of Indiana Jones stepping out on faith in “The Last Crusade” come to mind. I don’t like living life with all answers certain and no risks taken. Where’s the faith in that? Where’s the adventure?

But with every pinball bounce to the pro-retirement line of thought would come equal or greater reasons not to travel that path, so I pondered…

The Cons

  • I love what I do and the people I get to do it with at my company. Why leave a nearly ideal situation?
  • 25 days is too little time for a 60-year-old to secure another equal, full-time opportunity that would guarantee uninterrupted work.
  • Jobs like mine are few and far between. I partially left it briefly in 2015-16 and was miserable, eager to return to it later in 2016. Why take a chance on making the same mistake again?
  • While I got a few nibbles on the bait I publicly and privately cast during the past 25 days, none matched the long-term prospects of continuing exactly where I am.
  • It would be seriously short-sighted to trade what may well be a decade more of work I love for seven months’ salary to not work.
  • In the worst case scenario of not taking the early retirement incentive and then being involuntarily let go, I would still get the same package in a severance package plus career assistance and eligibility for unemployment.
  • One of my basic life principles that has served me well is “When in doubt, don’t.”
  • Another principle I’ve heard for years is “The best retirement plan is to keep on working.”

The Decision

If I was within a year or two of my planned retirement, it would be a no-brainer. I would have taken the incentive and been as happy as a lark. But with retirement 5-10 years away, that wasn’t the case. The final clarifying thought in the closing days came from asking and answering the simple question: “Which offer on the table is best for me and my wife for the longest period into the future?” The clear answer was staying where I am.

It would have been nice to put out feelers and be mobbed with offers from other companies to bring me on board. I did put out feelers. I wasn’t mobbed with offers. I wrote a few key people in my profession to let them know about my situation and interest in making a move. I discussed it with several people at a conference of the top practitioners in my profession. That conference serendipitously fell on the calendar the week after the offer was announced. I posted about it on LinkedIn and had over 12,000 people see that post. However, I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time pursuing other options these past few weeks. I did my regular 50+ hours of work per week. If no significant offers appeared without taking time away from my work, then that was quite alright by me.

The result of casting that bait for 24 days was the sound of crickets chirping – not exactly the most affirming career experience I’ve had. Insecure thoughts came to mind: “Are my skills not marketable? Am I experiencing ageism that we all know happens but nobody admits to where I’m too old and expensive for companies who can hire someone half my age at half my price (with less than half my knowledge and experience)?” I started understanding really well Henry Kissinger’s quote from the late 1970’s: “The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” Indeed. Fortunately, I got three nibbles on my bait the day before the deadline – two of which may still come to pass in some form, but none enticing enough to pull the trigger on this retirement offer.

The Assurance

My Christian faith is a defining part of who I am. No big decision happens apart from prayer, discussion with trusted mentors and family members, and seeking the truth of God’s Word. My prayer throughout this process was that God would open the right doors, close the wrong ones, and give me assurance that what comes to pass is exactly what He wants for me. I take this path of continuing where I am as His answer and I am completely content with that. Closed doors are wonderful answers to prayer. We shouldn’t bust through them.

So the bee shoes shown at the top of this post are not being put away any time soon. They’re part of my uniform and identity as “The Buzz Guy” where I work leading our internal social platform called Buzz. I love my job. I love so many awesome people I get to work with daily. I believe in my company, Humana, and its leaders to move us forward in ways that make a positive difference in the lives of the millions of people we serve. There is purpose in that, and personal fulfillment.

Time to get back to work…