Fight the Retirement Virus
Hey Dave! When are you going to retire?
Lost track how may times I’ve been asked that.
I knew the poser of the question ulterior motives. The real, unstated question was:
Hey Dave! When can we have unfettered access to your time?
You’re just so darn useful to have around here. But you’re never here exactly when we need ya!
And, largely because I knew the unstated question, I'd answer, When you see me go out of here in a box, I’ve just retired.
It’s the curse side of the Middle Age coin.
You’re young enough to be strong, healthy and energetic. (And therefore useful to those who aren't. Gimpy knee notwithstanding.)
But old enough to Not Be Stupid Anymore. So you're actually an asset.
So how come people you volunteer for, can see your value? Why are they so desperate to lock you down?
And how come those who PAY you for your time, can’t and aren’t?
Human beings chronically undervalue what they have, and overvalue what they don't.
Is it Take-for-Granted Syndrome? (Also known as ingratitude.)
The scene: In a workplace, someone leaves the company, or a new need arises. The corporate instinct is to hire from the outside. Did anybody think to look around to see if the necessary skills were available inside?
Hell, NO. Don't be silly. We haven't got any people THAT smart.
The Gratitude Habit cures this syndrome, if you develop it. (Not many do.)
Is it a bad attitude towards service? (Also known as Selfishness.)
When I answered, When you see me go out of here in a box, I’ve retired, I wasn’t being dishonest. I don’t want to retire, at least not as we conventionally think of retirement in the western world.
But I was nevertheless peeved that someone else thought they were entitled to help themselves to my time whenever I did retire.
Did they have an attitude of entitlement? Probably, which doesn’t say very much about them.
But my reaction doesn’t say much about me, either. Somebody else sees a need, which they think I can meet. What's my reaction? In your dreams, pal. That’s a bad attitude towards service, on my part.
Two years ago, as I was finishing up a contract for a major UK defence firm, a colleague (who'd been a lifer in that firm) muttered something about retiring soon. I asked him how far away that was likely to be.
“One year, one month, and eight days.”
Right. Sounds like he’s looking forward to it, then. “What are you going to do when you’re finished?”
“As little as possible.”
I could understand it on one level. That work environment was toxic at times. Whatever passion and energy he’d had when he started had long since been beaten out of him.
But he had also LET IT be beaten out of him.
If an employer or client goes psycho on you, you can make them eat your dust.
It's do-able. Believe it or not, boys and girls, employers and clients can be fired, too.
There are bigger and better ones out there.
Most retirees, unless they are already actively and heavily involved in some form of service at retirement, don’t cope well with the sudden glut of free time.
Human beings need to feel valuable.
You NEED a purpose for YOUR existence, with some level of social emotional contact with other people.
All of those needs come from service, given in exchange for economic benefit.
We crave freedom to do our own thing, but we NEED to serve.
Just as much as others NEED the benefits of our service.
If you’re chomping at the bit to retire, or your employer is a pain to work for . . . .
Maybe you’ve forgotten how to serve
Maybe you’ve gone selfish
Maybe your employer ... or clients ... have gone toxic on you.
And you need to get the hell out of there.
But for your own sake . . . for OUR sakes as well . . . . find another, better place to SERVE.
The word servant (in the English-speaking world at least) carries very negative connotations.
(“How DARE you talk to me like that, I’m not a servant!”)
Even civil servants and customer service representatives don’t carry the respect they did in years past.
Employers, for their part, often seem eager to rid themselves of their longest-serving employees, because they can’t possibly have any useful service left in them.
And well, frankly, they’re OLD. They remind me of my PARENTS, whom I’d rather forget.
And they remind me of something else I’d rather forget:
Which is that one day, I’m going to DIE.
So by all means, GET THE OLD TIMERS OUT OF HERE. They're making' me uncomfortable.
If the Old Timers have forgotten how to serve, or haven’t kept their skills up, then yeah, they’ve done themselves no favours. And on their own heads be their miserable retirement.
That doesn't have to be YOU.
You can make yourself such an attractive and useful servant, that when that numpty who's your boss or client is stupid enough to dismiss you . . . .
. . . . there’s a line of people outside the door and around the corner.
Not waiting to replace you.
Waiting to snap you up.
One of the few Star trek scenes that has stuck in my memory is the memorable meeting between Captains Kirk and Picard:
“Captain of the Enterprise, eh? Let me tell you something: Don’t let them retire you (italics mine). Don’t let them promote you. Don’t let them transfer you. Don’t let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship because while you’re there . . . . . you can make a difference.”