Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Transitioning to Retirement

Posted: March 26, 2013 in Change
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China TripI don’t expect to retire for another 10-12 years.  I love what I do at work, those with whom I get to do it, and the company at which my 10th anniversary is coming in August.  I hope to remain here until I retire,  leaving behind an organization that is better in some ways than I found it.  I have every reason to believe that will happen.

At the same time, I find myself thinking from time to time about how and when that final transition will be made from long-time corporate employee to former employee.  I wonder if there will be life circumstances currently unforeseen that cause me to change my plans and leave earlier than anticipated.   Will health issues (mine or another’s) lead me to re-prioritize and change direction?  Will some unexpected, unsought opportunity come knocking at my door that tugs at my heart strong enough to lure me away?  Will my passions and interests shift in ways I can’t foresee, causing me to choose some new, final career unrelated to what I do now?  I don’t know.

Still, as I ponder making a transition at whatever point in time it seems best, here are some considerations that will cumulatively influence that decision.

1. I want to make a positive difference in the work I do.  There is great satisfaction in that my roles for several years have been one-of-a-kind in the company.  I have had the joy of serving as the community manager for our internal social network since its beginning nearly three years ago, nursing it along as it has grown into a 25,000+ member community that is still growing every week.  It is incredibly satisfying to be in a position where I feel that I have the opportunity to influence over time the culture and how communication happens in this 51-year-old company.

Therefore, it would be a challenge to leave this type of position for one with a less noticeable impact.  Of course, there are other possibilities of how one might still make a positive difference, so we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.  The necessity, though, is that I must know that I’m making a real difference in my work, or it will be time to move on.

2. I want to be wise enough to step aside when others around me are better suited to lead in ways I cannot.  I’ve seen too many employees in different organizations kept around out of courtesy, shuffled from one role to the next with minimal expectations because others are too kind or too scared to let them go.  That may keep a paycheck coming in, but it doesn’t satisfy the soul or really do what is in the best interests of the organization.

One of the things I love about working with my current team is that they are all younger than me, from half my age to the nearest still being 16 years younger than me.  I’m the only Boomer on the team with one Gen Xer and four Millennials.  I love that!  I love the energy, the creativity, and the fact that being around them helps keep me young at heart. As our team grows, though, I can’t help but imagine that there will be a time when I think it’s in the company’s best interests to turn the keys over to the younger men and women and let them drive to destinations I would not have considered or known how to navigate.  Plenty of wisdom and an absence of pride are needed to make such a call at the right time.

3. Even though I will eventually retire from corporate full-time employment, I have a hard time seeing myself going from consistently working 50+ hours per week to sitting on my front porch with a newspaper, yelling at the neighborhood kids to “Get off my lawn!”  In short, that just isn’t going to happen.  Whether through volunteering, writing, teaching, ministry or just being an active Granddaddy, it doesn’t seem to be in my blood to live life without a long to-do list and goals to achieve.  Just because I reach some culturally traditional retirement age does not give me an excuse to stop being productive.  There is always work to be done, and I intend to do so somewhere, somehow as long as I am physically able to do so.  It won’t be enough, then, to retire from a role.  I will also have to know what endeavor is drawing me toward it for the next chapter.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture of my life by decades, these thoughts of retirement would not have been on my mind a decade ago.  While I’m not yet ready to consider retirement, I can at least see the doorway in the distance and I’m beginning to wonder what it might be like on the other side.

Meanwhile, there is still much to be done here.

metamorphosisThe start of each year is when we hear much about resolutions and goals for the new year.  I’ve shared with you my goals for 2013 categorized by body, mind and spirit.  I’m sure you’ve had conversations with others about your goals and/or theirs.

Some have an aversion to the word “resolution” and clearly state that they don’t make resolutions.  I’ve never quite understood the aversion to doing so unless they are operating from a wildly different definition of “resolution” that I am.  It just means to resolve or determine to do something, so why the aversion?  Many will just use the word “goal” instead.  Some will use them interchangeably.

I heard one person on the radio this week describe a resolution as that which is the broad objective that then must be broken down into various goals.  His example was having a resolution to be the best dad possible, with a goal of spending quality one-on-one time daily with his children.

Frankly, it matters not to me which word you use – resolution, goal or something else.  That really isn’t important.  The point of the whole thought process and consequent actions is to get something done, to accomplish something, to make a positive change, etc.

We hear a lot at the beginning of the year related to fitness goals.  We see fitness center memberships and activity soar early in the year, only to typically trail off to previous levels of activity within a couple of months.  You won’t have to search Google very long to find articles about how to keep your New Year’s resolutions, how to reach your goals, or how difficult some find it to do so.

It seems we lull ourselves into thinking that just because the clock struck midnight on January 1 to ring in the new year, we are somehow magically and instantly a different person than we were the previous year (or the previous day).  It’s as though we say, “Yesterday, I didn’t have the resolve to eat right, exercise more, spend more time with family, read more, give more, etc., but now that the calendar says it’s 2013, I am a new person!”

I don’t think it’s quite that easy or instantaneous.  The change of a calendar doesn’t guarantee a change in you or your resolve to do something.

If we are to keep our resolutions and reach our goals – especially ones that have escaped us year after year in the past – then something else has to change.  Something inside us has to change.  Otherwise, after a few weeks of energy and enthusiasm the old self will just take back its presumed rightful place in the driver’s seat and take us down that same ol’ path we’ve traveled way too many times before.

To come back to the radio guy’s distinction between a resolution and a goal, I think he’s on to something.  In his example, if he really does want to be a better dad, then surely there is nothing that can easily erase that desire.  It is a core principle that he wants to live out in meaningful ways.  For the person who knows his/her health habits are detrimental long term, is there a real, heart-felt desire to be healthy and take care of one’s body for the benefit such health will bring for yourself as well as others?  If so, and that desire is central to how you see yourself as a person with a purpose, then why would you allow anything to stop you from taking action toward success?

Many reading this may have a hard time understanding how people don’t make and reach goals.  Some who are very task oriented just find it natural to set such goals, carve them up into little bite-sized pieces and tackle them until done.  I happen to be in that crowd more often than not.

Others, for whatever reason, tend to struggle with such efforts.  Perhaps they rely more on how they feel at the moment than on keeping the bigger picture in mind.  “Oh, I’m tired.  I think I’ll skip the gym today.”  Then one day skipped becomes two, then three, and the habit dies.  “I know I shouldn’t eat this pint of ice cream, but I’ve had a really hard day and I deserve it.”  That won’t end well, either, after several “deserved” breaks from the stated goal show up on the scale.

My point is simply this – more than the calendar must change if you are to make significant improvements in your life this year.  Those changes are largely internal, but can certainly be accompanied by helpful external, environmental changes that you find motivating and beneficial.  External changes alone won’t change who you are at your core and won’t overcome an inner voice that gets louder and stronger and fights against the changes that you say you want.

Even if many of your goals relate to external things that can be counted, measured, weighed or timed, make sure you begin the change from the inside where it counts the most.  I can’t tell you exactly what that should be, since I am not you, but you probably have a good idea, yourself.

Metamorphosis happens from the inside out.

Status QuoThe Latin phrase status quo literally means “the state in which.”  It has been used as a common English term for about 200 years meaning “the existing state of affairs.”

As we near the end of one year and look ahead to a new one contemplating goals and hopes, one thing that seems clear to me is that the status quo is a direct enemy of creativity, innovation, doing new things, and stretching oneself to be more than in the past.  Nobody ever created or innovated or excelled by simply doing the same old things previously done.

In the business world, many companies want to think of themselves as innovative, disruptive, creative and market-leading, yet in what ways do they enforce the status quo to the point of making thinking outside the box – much less acting outside of it – impossible?  How many rules, policies, controls and other innovation-squelching practices are in place that make public claims of innovation or disruption laughable?

At the personal level, the status quo is similarly an enemy of change and making progress toward lifelong dreams.  If all I do next year is what I did this year, then I can’t expect any results to be different or to accomplish anything new.

No matter what organization you are a part of, the principle applies.  The status quo is your enemy if you want to do anything but always keep things exactly as they are right now.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not enough for me or for anyone who wants to make a difference.

Someone has to take a risk.  Someone has to go where others haven’t gone.  Someone has to buck the trends, ignore the norms, and lead to places others didn’t know could exist or were too hesitant to try to reach.  Chances are there is at least one way in which you and I each need to be that person.  We’re not in control of the consequences of trying, and those consequences may turn or well or they may not.  But I’d rather fail at trying something new than succeed at maintaining the status quo.

Leap year lesson #337 is The status quo has to go.

For a large chunk of the past 48 hours I have been immersed in the fun that comes with upgrading to a new phone – updating contacts, downloading apps, setting up things the way I want them to be, getting rid of junk that comes on the phone that I don’t want, organizing the interface to be friendly, testing out a bunch of new features that make me wonder how I got along with my previous device as long as I did.  You know the drill, especially if you’ve been in the smartphone world for a while.

Now that I have my Samsung Galaxy Note II organized pretty much the way I want it, today’s test is to let it run constantly in the background, playing all the music I transferred to it from my old phone in order to test the battery life and to weed out older songs I no longer want to keep around.

In fact, the whole process of making the switch from one phone to another is a great opportunity to clean out some of the old and focus on the new.  As I was going through the contacts I have stored, I decided there was no good reason to keep some of those people as contacts any more.  They are from days, places of employment and lives past that I don’t see in my future.  I know it sounds kind of cold, but it was time to let go of some.

New Years is the most natural time to say good bye to the old and to focus on the new.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t and shouldn’t do so from time to time during the year.  Upgrades in technology can be an opportunity for such change.  Instead of dreading your next phone or PC upgrade, then, take advantage of it and use it as a time to clean up shop – remove old contacts, old apps, old files, and concentrate on breaking new ground with a fresh start.

Leap year lesson #304 is Technology upgrades can bring positive change.

I met a 33-year-old man today who has made a lot of wrong choices in his life.  He’s spent a lot of time doing drugs and hurting the very people he loved the most – his wife and two kids – along the way.  He recently got out of jail for his latest drug offenses and is now in a program for several months to help him ease back into public life in a constructive way.  On Tuesday he’ll start looking for a job.

We talked a long while as he told me his story, what he’s doing to change his life’s direction, and his plans to do what is right so as not to put himself or his family in that situation again.  He seems genuine and I hope that he continues to make the right choices in the weeks, months and years ahead.  If he keeps coming to the weekly class I teach, perhaps I can have a small, positive impact in helping that happen.

When I talk with people who have gone down similar paths but who are at a crossroads and who now want to change, I am always impressed with the humility it takes to get to that point.  There is no room for pride on that road to growth and change.  They must admit their mistakes to themselves and to others, suffer significant legal and social consequences for their actions, and embark on a daily – sometimes hourly – struggle to keep from reverting back to old habits.  Some make it – some don’t.

While the man today was suffering the consequences of actions that neither I nor most readers of this blog have personally done, many of us have reached points where we either hit bottom or close to it before we decided to make that important change in direction.  It’s hard to convince people that life is much easier if they don’t wait until they hit bottom to change, but stubbornness and self-interest – not to mention addiction – doesn’t always listen to reason.

Still, for those who will hear, leap year lesson #288 is Don’t wait to hit bottom before you decide to change.