I’ve watched friends retire well and friends retire poorly. Those who retire well seem to thrive in the new garden of retirement, while those who retire poorly seem lost in the weeds, strangled by the lack of identity and relevance.
The lesson I’ve learned is that there appear to be (at least) two traps to avoid in a career (and maybe life in general). The first trap is the trap of self-importance. We all want to matter, but perceived importance has nothing to do with truly “mattering” – all it does is feed the ego. No matter what my job is, someone else could do it better than I do, and it would be no big deal if I stopped doing it. In fact, I should be looking for folks who can do my job better than me, and either learning from them, or getting them into my job.
Professional athletes may be the worst with regard to this first lesson. They often hang on way past the point when they should, because they can’t live with who they are when nobody seems to be worshipping them. They’ve lost their self-importance, and they don’t like the tiny little person they see when that self-importance fades.
The second trap to avoid is one of identity. I need to do the best job of using my life to discover myself as completely as I can. I need to explore my passions, and find the ones that truly feed me, energize me, and help me to become the most valuable and fulfilled me I can be. If I waste my life hiding behind a career, then the little tiny thing I’ll find when they take the career away won’t know how to bloom and grow.
Next, how well do we do at avoiding the traps?…