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Archive for April, 2012

“Getting Used to Retirement”

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Leaving work behind and just “doing what I want” is a powerful dream. But there’s more to what we do for a living than we typically see while we are at it full time and full throttle. A recent article by Trevor Pryce highlights this well. Pryce is a former defensive lineman for the New York Jets. After 14 years of going at it for thelove of the game of football, he hung it up after this  year’s Super Bowl.

Lucky for us, one of the things Pryce has been developing in those six months of every football off-season is his skill as a writer.

True, most of us don’t get to retire at 36. Most of us aren’t part of the NFL’s version of a retirement program. Most of us aren’t going to be letting go of getting beaten and bruised every Sunday from mid-summer to mid-winter. But what he says about “getting used to retirement” is valid in many contexts.

Check out his article.

What’s Wrong or What’s Right?

Friday, April 20th, 2012

A mindset that sees what needs to be fixed rather than what’s already great has many uses. But is it a good way to live?

At the moment, I am in the process of selling my house. No mortgage issues.  No corporate move that requires me to be in a new city by a certain date.  It’s just time for me to move on to “the next thing.”

Selling a house is a daunting challenge right now and one I would not consider doing without a realtor–or five.  I did a bit of a dress rehearsal of this project late last fall with a realtor who’d been giving me advice on what to update and what not to worry about for five years.  Life intervened, and I had to suspend the listing while I dealt with other things.

Then when I was ready to get back into it, she had decided to retire.  So I had to find a new realtor.   The market is hard to figure these days and those who are still in the business of selling real estate have been culled down to the ones who are serious about it as a job.  But there’s still a lot of variety in what they have to say.  I knew I needed to talk to more than one to make a good decision.

I tend to prefer personal recommendations in this kind of situation so I asked a business friend if she knew a good realtor.  Of course she did; she even provided an e-mail introduction.  I also have  a neighbor who’s a realtor so I decided I would talk to him as well.  When I went online, I discovered a website that gives your name to three realtors who are currently effective in selling real estate in your area and your price range.  They all contacted me.   So I ended up talking with five different realtors.

And that’s where the “what’s wrong” versus “what’s right” dichotomy came into focus.

They were all pretty much in the same ballpark regarding the recommended listing price.  But they fell into two distinct camps in terms of how they saw the house.  With two of them, the focus was on the “problems.”  One suggested the roof might need to be replaced soon.  (I had a roofer look at it and he said it was fine.)  One said the house was dark and recommended that I get rid of at least 20% of the oak furniture.  (This seemed a bit odd to me since the realtor I used last fall was pleased with how much light the house has.)

The other camp was excited about what was right.  Those realtors saw the updates. They saw how great the gardens look.  They were excited about everything from two closets in the master bedroom to a corner window in the kitchen.

Much as “what’s right?” and “what’s wrong?” do contain the words “right” and “wrong” I’m not trying to suggest that there’s only one way to sell real estate effectively.  Pointing out problems before someone else does later in the process is a service.  It does tell the seller that you will help them see things they need to see.  Being excited about a house is contagious, so there are all sorts of pluses in that, too.

The thing that struck me about this is not “what’s the best way to sell real estate?”  The lesson I got out of this was more personal.  Do I want to live every day looking for what I need to fix next?  Or do I want to live everyday excited about what’s already good in my life?

I’ve been “working on” this house since I moved in eight years ago.  At first, it was creating beautiful outside spaces.  More recently, I’ve replaced all the carpeting, updated the bathrooms and totally renovated the kitchen–plus replacing the water heater and putting in a high efficiency gas furnace along the way.  The painters just finished redoing the exterior.  I have done a lot to deal with the “what’s wrong” of this property.  I could keep doing that forever, even though everyone who visits tells me how great it looks.

What this collection of real estate professionals helped me see is that it’s time for me to go back to looking at the good stuff that’s already there.   Albert Einstein put it well: “There are two ways to live your life.  One is as thought nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

And yes, I went with a realtor who got excited about what’s the house has to offer.  Stay tuned.


10 Ways to Limit Your Life

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

It’s very easy to let life pass by while you are waiting for the “good stuff. “ A good life isn’t about winning the Powerball jackpot. It’s about noticing all the little pluses that happen every day.

Here—with absolutely no deference to David Letterman’s top 10 lists—are ten ways to miss out on your own life:

1. I will be happy when….
The current focus on goals might be good for getting you motivated to achieve certain, specific things, but it has one big downside—you forget to savor what you already have because of what you’re working toward. Even worse is to just wish for things without taking any action whatsoever. If you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen—and you miss the magic in today in the meantime. If you’re spending your todays marking time for your tomorrows, you’re squandering your life.

2. Being so busy you don’t realize what you are doing.
There are times when life is on fast forward and just getting everything done is a gargantuan challenge. Try to minimize those times. When you can’t, at least take a few seconds to notice what you’re doing every once in a while.

3. Erasing yourself.
Even if your life is crazy busy, there are ways to be who you are at the same time. Sing along to a favorite song on the radio or savor the sunset as you drive home from work (finally).

4. Not spending time on what you want.
Okay, you don’t have time to write that novel this year. Write something. Or maybe you want to learn to play tennis but don’t have time (or maybe money) for lessons. Start by learning all you can from a book. The key isn’t spending a lot of time at it; it’s spending some time at it—every day.

5. Forgetting the importance of what you’re doing.
When your days are taken up with a loved one’s doctors’ appointments or the demands of a newborn, it can start to feel like slavery. Remind yourself of what made you commit to doing what you are doing.

6. Obsessing about what other people are doing—or not doing.
Focusing on the wrongness of other people’s behavior is an incredible waste of time, energy, and life. Focus on what you can do to make your own life work well instead. (And that task is not something like “Get Mom to stop doing… whatever.”)

7. Waiting for someone else to do it for you.
“My life will work when my husband gives me better self-esteem by paying attention to me.” Even if he wanted to, dishing up self-esteem for someone else is impossible. You get self esteem by thinking better of yourself, not by having someone else build you up. Most of what we need in life is up to us to find or create. Delegating any of it to someone else instead of getting on with it yourself is futile.

8. Not accepting what is.
Life doesn’t come prepackaged in the flavor you prefer. Learn to get the most out of whatever is happening. That starts with accepting what is actually going on.

9. Worrying about the “small stuff.”
Expecting every little thing to be the way you think it should be is just a naïve attempt at unattainable control. Not everything is going to go right. To live happy now, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

10. Assuming that once you retire, none of this matters.
In reality, everything matters more once you retire. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning. But it’s up to you to make something of it. Life is not over when you stop working. It’s different. Figure out the best version for you. Too often, we walk into retirement thinking there’s nothing left but puttering. What an incredible waste of 20 to 30 years.

Life is short. Notice it. Savor it. Live every moment.