Browsed by
Category: Creating it

Everything EXCEPT the money that it’s wise to be thinking about before you retire.

The Power of “Letting People Know”

The Power of “Letting People Know”

When you let people know–what you need, what you have, what you would like to do–you increase your chances of getting what you are trying to accomplish done exponentially.

I’m writing this just after doing some volunteer work at the local library–where I didn’t work much because no one knew about what I was there to do.  Not promoting my availability to do one-on-one job search counseling was a conscious decision.  They were worried too many people would want help and that many wouldn’t get it because I was only there for two hours.  But not telling anyone before the period when I was actually there meant I had a lot of time to read magazines I don’t ordinarily get to see.

It also made me stop and think about how many ways there are to benefit from “letting people know.”

The obvious one is if you are job hunting.  Letting every person who knows your name know what you are looking for is essential.  There really are only a few steps between you and what you need–just as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon party game suggests.  (Microsoft actually tested the premise–that any two people  in the world are connected by way of no more than six intermediate people–and found it to be very close to that.)  So “let people know” if you are looking for work, projects, internship opportunities, whatever.

Last week, my brother called asking if I needed a new dishwasher.  He had just purchased one he could not return, and it didn’t work in his kitchen.  I did (need a new dishwasher).  Desperately.  One friend described mine as sounding like I was washing bowling balls.  But I had just purchased one as part of a major kitchen remodel and was within days of getting it installed.  I did, however, know of someone else who needed a new dishwasher.  So I called him…and now his family has a nice new dishwasher.

I have a wonderful hiking group that I go out with on Wednesday mornings.  I would still be yearning for the chance to get up in the mountains if I hadn’t “let someone know” that I was looking for a way to hike.

Three very different examples of the same principle:  Good things happen when you “let people know.”  This isn’t a case of “expecting” people to give you what you need.  It’s more like getting your name on the list for the Universe to work with.

Let people know…if you’d like to meet some new members of the opposite sex…if you need a handyman….if you want to wallpaper your dining room with tinfoil and are wondering just how to do that.

The power of community is one of the sweetest things about being human.  You tap into it by “letting people know.”



REAL Networking

REAL Networking

Bad assumptions about networking mean a lot of us get less than we could from it. Far less.

Real networking has nothing to do with business cards or methods of organizing them. It has nothing to do with “getting ahead.” It has nothing to do with “meet and greet” events billed as “power networking opportunities.”

Real networking—the kind that will make a difference your career and your life—is about getting to know people who are focused on what you want to be focused on and relating to them authentically.

No phony “Let’s do lunch” or “I’ll call you next week” stuff that never happens. More like “I thought you’d appreciate this article, given our conversation last week.”

Let’s get one thing straight right now. You do not network with people you don’t know. First you meet them, then you get to know them, and THEN they become part of your network. And they do so because you like them, they like you, and both of you have a common interest. It may be that your kids are on the same hockey team. It may be that you are both trying to create a better version of a fuel cell. Either way, the bond and the value to each other is built on interaction and mutual respect.

A lot of career development seminars and job search advice books tout “networking’ as THE solution to all your professional needs. And that is very close to the truth. But what they suggest is typically not anywhere close on how to create a network.

It is not done with cold calls to a bunch of people you need favors from. It‘s done via on-going engagement in what you believe in. When you are on target with your values in the way you reach out, people of the same persuasion tend to show up in your life. You meet people who are not only interested in what you are interested in; they are also folks you want to know personally. They won’t all be “BFF” material. But they will be meaningful players in your overall Game of Life.

Waiting to create a network until you need help is like waiting to put on your life jacket until after you’ve been thrown out of the speed boat. Your network should be a lifelong effort and should include people from all aspects of your life. Branch out. If you do different things with the same people all the time, you might be more comfortable with the crowd, but your network is going to be a lot more limited. The more far flung your contact base is, the more likely it will be contain what you need when it comes time for that network to serve you.

But that time should be a long way down the road. A good network is built on friendship and service. Giving any way you authentically can is the quickest and smartest way to foster its development. That might be forwarding a cogent news release, letting a friend know that another friend is looking for what they have to sell, or just calling to say “how ya doin’?” when things have been difficult. Real networking works because it’s a shared effort to live life well. It’s genuine and benefits both parties.

The “synthetic networking” that’s often recommended for job seekers is just another form of cold calling—a strategy that’s long on rejection and short on results. Cold calling to ask a very busy person for an informational interview might work, but asking a friend who knows that person to set up that call will make it work a whole lot better. (And that friend will want to help because of all the help you’ve given in the past.) The fake version is better than doing nothing at all, but it’s not anywhere close to the effectiveness of the real thing.

Networking is a time-honored life skill. Our moms did it with the neighbor women about great casserole recipes. Our dads did it with other Scout Leaders or fishing buddies. Real networking is like populating your own virtual city with great people who have all the skills, insights, access and resources you need. They may live 2000 miles away, but you still know you can count on them.

Networking enriches your life. The fact that it helps in your job search or developing your client base or finding someone to date is secondary. Build it for the long haul and build it for real.


Life Skills — Juggling Versus Balancing

Life Skills — Juggling Versus Balancing


Are you delaying all the fun so you can get all the work done?  That’s one of the saddest characteristics of today’s busy lives.  We scramble to get everything that “needs to be done” accomplished and have no time left for the activities that bring us joy.

Our approach to retirement is even more that way.  We give excessive amounts of time to a job so that we can “get retirement” once we reach a certain age.  I am a strong proponent of work.  I think we need to do it for our entire lives.  But it’s got to be in balance.  All work now for all play later is just plain dumb.  You need to play now.  (And you need to work at something once you retire, even if it’s not for pay.)

I hear your groans.  I’ve been in your shoes.  It really is hard to find two seconds to catch your breath much less an entire hour to take a yoga class—or a hike in the hills–sometimes.  But there’s a life skill we aren’t learning with the way we are doing this, and maybe it’s time to circle back and pick that one up.  We need to learn to balance.

Notice I did not say “juggle.”  Most of us are doing too much of that, keeping more and more balls in the air.   No, I said balance. That’s about adding and taking away.  To achieve balance, you put a little more on one side of the scale or take a little off of the other.  For most of us, we need to take away some of the minutes we put on work and add some for play—or at least leisure.  But how?

An interesting thing happens when you only have a certain amount of time to get something done.  You work faster.  Things come together more easily.  You’re more focused.  The end result when you “don’t have enough time” is often better than what you do on a regular basis.  Why?

I suspect it’s because we don’t let ourselves get distracted as easily.  We don’t buy in on other people’s problems when they walk into your cube dressed as friends.  We don’t let ourselves waste one minute on non-essential stuff.  We are “on task.”

What would happen if we used that strategy at work all the time as a way to make room for play?  And then guarded our play time like a mama bear?

The obvious problem on the work side is the potential for being assigned more work.  This is not about working three hours and then taking a two hour lunch every day.  This is about not staying ridiculously late or bringing work home.  This is about adding time for yourself in the part of your day that’s supposed to be yours.

What if you’re retired?  In my experience, the advice is every bit as valid.  We do the laundry, clean the gutters, repair the back screen, and take a load to the recycling center before we get out the sketch book or grab the camera and head to the wildlife refuge.  We do the work first.  At least if we ever subscribed to the notion of being “good workers.”

This “do the work first” mantra screws up the scales of balance. When “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” applies only to the work part of our days, that’s all we end up doing.   We need to spread that idea between work and play.

Find a balance scale and put away your juggling balls.  Repeat after me:  “Fun is an essential part of daily life.  Fun is good.  I will have fun today.”


Retirement Changes Everything

Retirement Changes Everything

So much changes when we retire.  Our roles in society.  The structure of our time.  The things people ask of us.  The way we set up the week.  How we see ourselves.  How society sees us.  What our families expect of us–and think of us.  And on and on and on.  Yet there is little available to get us ready for all these transitions.

Before we retire, we look longingly at what is on the sometimes-way-too-distant horizon–the chance to give up all we are doing now and just STOP.  To retire.  When we are running too fast from thing to thing with too much to do and not enough time to get it done, the appeal of this “do nothing” future is unparalleled.

Don’t be fooled.  It’s a mirage.

Doing nothing is no more satisfying that doing too much.  The trick is to do enough and to do it on the right things.  This is where the real treasure of retirement lies.  But it’s not at all like the “do nothing unless I want to” fantasy that we usually leave work with.

What happens when we no longer have to get the work we’ve been paid to do for years done?  If you’ve been doing a job you hated, the loss is truly liberating.  But if there is anything about that work that gave you satisfaction, you will find yourself feeling less about yourself and wondering why.

Odd as it sounds, part of the problem is that we no longer have the authority of the job we did so well.  Yes, authority.  Even if you have been cleaning motel rooms for a living, there was value in what you did, and you had the responsibility and the authority to get it done.  You had a role to play that went beyond  “whatever I feel like.”  You had things that were expected of you. And you knew how to do them and do them well.  When you give that up, you might want to put some thought into how you are going to retain your sense of relevance.  And your sense of competence. Your sense of self-worth.

For those of us who were in jobs that weren’t particularly satisfying, that “something else” might be a bit easier to latch onto.  My dad spent over 40 years making paper for Kimberly Clark.  What he really wanted to do was write, sketch, and paint pictures.  When he left work–a couple years early because of health problems, these interests carried him the rest of his life–another 24 years.

My grandfather was a different story.  When he retired, he sat down. And pretty much stayed there.  Whenever we went to visit grandma and grandpa, he was in that easy chair, watching television.  He retired from an office job but had owned a successful commercial fishing business earlier in his career years.  He too lived another twenty plus years after he retired.  I use the term loosely though.  What he did with his days was so uninspired that it almost seemed like he had died but forgotten to stop breathing.

The “extended vacation” model isn’t going to get you what you need as retirement.  It just doesn’t work to be “on vacation” for twenty years.  You lose your sense of direction and your sense of time when you are “gone” for that long.  Remember how hard it is to figure out what day of the week it is when you don’t have things you have to do?  Well, don’t build a life out of that!

Okay, so if you are ready to leave what you are doing and have no idea what about it you are going to miss–and what you want to do instead–does that mean you need to keep working?  Not at all.  It means you need to start paying attention to yourself so that you can start to remedy that information deficiency.

We all have interests, whether we acknowledge them or not.  We all have skills and abilities that give us a leg up on doing certain things.  We have interests that allow us room to find a new source of “being an authority.”  It might be as the builder of doll houses and it might be as the builder of Habitat for Humanity houses, but if it’s you, honoring it will give you the greatest thrill of your life.

So give up the rat race if you can and it’s time.  Give up the workload that keeps you from the rest of what you enjoy.  But find things to learn and become good at that make you have that sense of authority, that feeling that “Yes, I do know a lot about this and I’d be happy to help you with it.”

“The Perfect Job”

“The Perfect Job”

Day before yesterday I met the guy with the perfect job.  He found it after he retired.  He drives a sand rail.

For those of you not blessed with sand dunes in your local vicinity, a sand rail is specialized lightweight vehicle that skims the surface of a sand dune–similar to but more sophisticated than a dune buggy.  It’s an open vehicle made largely out of pipe.  Typically they have more power than rental ATV’s you can ride on your own.  The only way we could get on one when we were looking for this kind of adventure was to “book a tour.”  Bob–the guy with the perfect job–was our driver.  He had a great set-up for himself that made for a great experience for us.

Bob retired as a lineman and climber for the local power company a few years ago.  A few months later, he was approached while waiting in line at the grocery store–by a stranger!  He’d been driving the Oregon Dunes since he was nine and had been active in the local club most of his life.  Dune buggies are a part of who Bob is.  He drives them WELL.  Plus, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area had been his playground for a long time.  He knows where he is in all that white sand.  The stranger had learned all this because he had asked around in the community when he bought the business.  Bob had been involved for so long that “everyone” knew how good he was at driving.

So why am I writing about Bob?  Well, he’s living the best fantasy of all–having someone pay you to do what you love.  He gets to drive a sand rail all day with someone else covering the cost of the vehicle, fuel, and insurance and worrying about the maintenance.  And he gets a paycheck for doing it.  Sweet.

But the guy who offered him the job was a big winner, too.  He has an employee experienced enough to know to check the oil before he heads for the dunes.  (We made a detour to the shop area to add a quart before we headed out.)  He has a guy whose enthusiasm makes whoever gets in the rail more ready to have a great time.  And he also has a guy who makes the ride a whole lot more fun simply because he projects an easy confidence–because of all that experience.

Do you think I would have been able to sit calmly–worried only about laughing with my mouth shut (to avoid a mouthful of sand)–as we careened around steep, massive dunes–if a seventeen-year old had been driving?  No way.  I would have been frantic the whole time, waiting for the kid  to turn the thing upside down doing something unintentionally reckless.  Bob was a different story.  I relaxed enough to enjoy a very wild ride because it was quite clear he knew what he was doing.  (He’d survived doing it for a long time!)  Too often the benefit of experience gets lost in the background.  Bob’s driving and my resulting good time made it wonderfully vivid.

So what’s the point of all this?  There are two things to learn from Bob in terms of how the rest of us do retirement.

  • Experience has value.  Be confident enough of what you know to value yours when you think of what you might want to do next.  It does make a difference, but, unlike Bob,  you may have to be the one to point out why to the person you want to let you use it.
  • The better you are at knowing what you like and honoring that in how you live all along, the easier it’s going to be to find your own”perfect job” once you retire.  People know Bob is good with dune buggies.  Those people passed the word to a stranger when he was looking for exactly what Bob is good at.  That is networking at its easiest.

And let’s be very clear about one last thing.  This WAS a wild ride.  A great adventure that I would have missed entirely if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have someone like Bob driving.  So I was a winner here, too.

We are good at so many things when we get this far in life.  Doing the ones you really like to do makes for a much more satisfying retirement.  “Perfect job” stories might become delightfully common as more of us seize opportunities to do what we love for someone who needs exactly that done.  Thanks for the great example, Bob!

Some interesting facts about The Golden Years

Some interesting facts about The Golden Years

I came across some interesting stuff doing research for my next book today. It took me by surprise and I thought you might get a bit of a jolt out of it, too. Do you know where the term “the Golden Years” came from? It’s not some poet or politician. It’s not even someone who created it as a way to honor that segment of the population.

It’s from Del Webb–the guy who brought us Sun CIty, Sun City West, Sun City Grand, etc. “The Golden Years” was part of the original marketing campaign they used to launch the first Sun City outside of Phoenix in 1960. And when they opened for business on New Year’s Day, they’d done such a great job promoting the idea that they created the worst traffic jam in the history of Arizona according to Marc Freedman who wrote about the phenomenon in the book Prime Time.

The Webb model sees the Golden Years as 100% leisure–an active lifestyle just keep you moving. It’s way short on meaning and way long on marketing. But you have to admit the outfit has done an impressive job. There are Sun City wannabees all over the US and now some abroad. People are still buying in and moving “where it’s warm.

But do you really want to be manipulated like that? Take the time to figure out what you REALLY need. It’s not the label you put on it. It’s how satisfying it is once you start to live it. Take the time to figure it out before you sign on the dotted line.

Retirement: Another Graduation

Retirement: Another Graduation


It’s June. Let’s talk about graduation. Not the one from school. The one that comes when you’ve met all the requirements to not have to go to work every day any more. We call it “retirement,” but it is really a graduation—a new beginning.

When we look at it that way, the focus becomes “What am I going to do next?” instead of “I don’t have to do this—and this and this—anymore. ”Moving toward something is healthier emotionally, which helps sustain physical health. Besides, it’s more fun.

Graduation means we’ve learned enough to move up to the next thing—to the next level of adventure. To new opportunities for excitement. To new responsibilities that better confirm our competence and our interests. We may not have all the answers about the thing we are going to do next, but we are expecting to do something. And it’s gonna be more satisfying than what we’re leaving behind.

Retirement should be a matter of moving up to the next level. A level that allows us to fill our lives with things that are important to us. The financial resources are there so we don’t have to work anymore. But that doesn’t mean we are done with everything.

For some of us, that day will never come– because we like what we are doing too much to give it up or the financial situation isn’t conducive. Some of us will “graduate early.” But all of us need to see this transition as a chance to move to a higher level of life. We need to ditch this silly notion that we can, should, and will just “drop out.”

Most of you are probably looking for the tar and feathers by now…I’m challenging what we have been using as the light at the end of the tunnel for a work life that is ridiculously demanding and grossly out of control. I’m not suggesting the current level of frenzy–that we call a career–is what you need when you don’t have to show up everyday anymore. What I am saying is that a life of 100% leisure is likely to leave you every bit as dissatisfied after a while.

You can make the transition any way you like. To take time to decompress. To clean the garage or enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning. Maybe you want to travel extensively—to live what you’ve dreamed when facing impossible deadlines and difficult work challenges. Do all that, sure. But also think about what you want to do along with those things—and after you’ve lived those dreams.

What’s important to you? What do you believe in so strongly that you want to DO something about it?What makes time stand still when you’re involved in it? These are things you need to know before you walk out that work door for the last time. Then when the travel starts to seem like” the same old thing” or lingering over coffee doesn’t pack quite the punch as a source of joy anymore, you have something to move toward.

Please also note: The notion that we are no longer ABLE once we retire is toxic. We have to get rid of that drivel. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” If we believe we can’t, we won’t even try. With better lifestyle choices and the current pace of medical advances, we should be able to do plenty for a long time. But not if we assume we can’t because we are “retired.”

The idea that we will not work in retirement is equally silly. Work isn’t just about money. Work is a way to add meaning to your life.To stand up for what you believe in. Maybe it will be for pay, and maybe it will be as a volunteer, but work is an essential part of a happy life at any age. But don’t make it “a little something to keep me busy.” Find what really turns you on, and then do it. Do it well and with gusto. Do it with commitment.

When you graduate, you gain a larger world than you had before. Retirement can be that in spades. But only if you refuse to buy in on the rocking chair.