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Retirement

Last week I turned 64. For the first time in my life I tried to listen and remember the words of the Beatle’s song, When I’m 64.

Days after my birthday I was traveling to Indiana to see a couple of great franchisees. I was sitting on the shuttle bus when I heard one of the guys on the bus say to his traveling buddy, “My goal is to retire as soon as I can. Basically, I’m very lazy and I can’t wait to do nothing.”

The guy who said this was, I’d guess, not that much older than my daughter. She is too busy traveling, enjoying her own business and having fun. The word ‘retirement’ never enters her mind! At 64 I can picture some things about retirement – but not everything. I still love going to work. I still love writing articles and can’t wait to go to Auto Glass Week this year! I’m not sure if I can do those things when I “officially” retire. Oh, yeah, there’s that paycheck thing every other Friday, too.

I can’t imagine saying, “I’m basically lazy.” Even if I was, I wouldn’t admit it to anyone. It’s just not how I was raised. Boys from my neighborhood learned a strong work ethic – being lazy was never one of our characteristics.

Let’s take what this person said to the employer level. Do you want anyone whose ONLY goal is to retire? Do you want someone who is “basically very lazy” working for you?

Being 64, makes one look at life differently. We focus on relationships and spending time with family. We look in the mirror and at our wife, and pray that they think we look half as good as they do. Muscles? Sure – but not important. We still have to be able to open jars without asking for help. Having a relationship with God? Absolutely.

It’s important employees know I’m focused on leading the company – not retirement. Do I want to retire at some point? Sure – MK and I call it ‘graduation’ – graduating to our next quests in life: traveling, grand parenting, writing and speaking. Now? No way! We have so many things we want to accomplish before we retire – then another list of things we will do at graduation.

Look at some of these accomplishments I found on the google machine:

  • At 65, Colonel Sanders started selling his secret recipe for chicken.
  • At 66, Noah Webster completed his monumental “American Dictionary of the English Language.”
  • At 69, Mother Theresa received the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • At 70, Cornelius Vanderbilt began buying railroads.
  • At 70, Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence.
  • At 75, Nelson Mandela because President of South Africa.
  • At 77, John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space.
  • At 89, Arthur Rubinstein performed one of his greatest recitals in Carnegie Hall.
  • At 90, Marc Chagall became the first living artist to be exhibited at the Louvre museum.
  • At 92, Paul Spangler finished his 14th marathon.
  • At 94, comedian George Burns performed in Schenectady, NY, 63 years after his first performance there.
  • At 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma.
  • At 99, Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt. Fuji.

Perhaps I’ll ask MK if she would do what the Beatles suggested in ‘When I’m 64’:

If I’d been out till quarter to three

Would you lock the door?

Nah, not going to happen. Having too much doing that stuff with her!

Leadership Lessons—Planning for Retirement

My best friend, Greg, retired last Friday. Sixty years old and he was able to retire. I hired him in my previous life in 2003. (The same year I met my wife Mary Kay—a very good year!) He retired from that company—13 years and several positions later.

When I spoke with him Friday afternoon he mentioned that this was the first time since 1971 that he wouldn’t need to go to work. If he left a job on Friday for a new position, he started the new job on Monday. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth; if anything, it was a plastic spork.

We went to the same high school but didn’t know each other until just after graduation. In the years since then we have shared some amazing memories, lessons and discussions about the future. Since I’ve known him he always said he’d retire by the time he was 60. He did.

How does this happen and how is this a leadership lesson for us?

First, this wasn’t something that he thought would be nice to do. It was something he was going to do. As leaders we need to make sure that our goals stay top of mind.

Second, he and his wife always lived beneath their means. It was important that they lived well, but they weren’t trying to keep up with the Kardashians. They never even competed with the neighbors. Their favorite vacation is camping—and sleeping in a tent on a foam mattress.

Third, they invested. They had an investment counselor since they were very young. The reason? They knew this was necessary if they were going to retire early. Saving was a must—not something they would someday do.

Next, they made decisions together. The kids didn’t play one against the other. The parents were partners and this meant not always being friends with the kids. It was their job to do what was best to help their kids become responsible adults.

So what is our lesson here? Should we be like them?

As leaders we must set clear goals and have focus on what we must do to reach them. I’m always amused when people say they are “stuck” in a job, in a career, in whatever. All that is stuck is their will to do what is necessary to succeed.

Leaders know that it isn’t easy doing what is necessary. Many times it isn’t popular. But it is necessary to achieve their goals—their dreams. They must ask themselves what they need to do—not just want to do.

Is retiring at 60 the American Dream? Not necessarily. Greg is a golfer but he isn’t focusing on his golf game. He is focusing on walking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim over Labor Day. To get ready he is working out and walking five miles with a 30-pound weight in his backpack.

Surprised? Not me. Leaders set goals, do what they need to do to achieve them, and set new goals.

One of my favorite speeches was delivered by Al McGuire, former coach of Milwaukee’s Marquette Warriors. He won an NCAA basketball championship as head coach. One of his goals was to coach a game at Madison Square Garden and sell it out. He talked about the night he walked in to Madison Square Garden, heard the announcer say that all that was left was standing room only. He enjoyed a quick smile and then moved on to his next goal.

That is what leaders do. Doing what other simply won’t. Congrats, Greg. I can’t wait to watch your journey.