(The above picture resonates with me in a big way! Kite surfing is on my agenda within the next 5 years, together with diving Lake Malawi).
Reaching retirement and finally having the freedom to do all the things that you ever wanted, sounds deliciously enticing.
But maybe not.
I wonder how many retirees are that happy?
A client of mine told me the story about his father:
“My late father was a very interesting case in point. He was the CEO of a large corporate bank and was probably one of the smartest people in the asset finance industry. With a background in accountancy, he started his own financing company in his early forties and rapidly built it into a significant business.
“Within 10 years he sold out to a large multinational banking group and. in the process, landed himself a senior Board appointment in a substantial organization.
“At the age of 60 he decided to call it a day. The bank was moving from a niche boutique financier into a vanilla HP consumer funding provider. My dad had no appetite to manage this transformation and he opted to take early retirement.
“His employer valued his contribution over the years and, in a sense, was reluctant to see him go. After much cajoling he finally agreed to stay on as a consultant. As it turned out there wasn’t much work and they only consulted him on the odd occasion.
“Within two years he was dead – literally.
“He could not deal with the mediocrity of a retired lifestyle. He wasted away. It was sad to watch – from hero to zero.
“What was clearly apparent was that he felt that he had lost his own value. All his value had been tied up in his corporate title and all the benefits that it gave him. That is what he had striven for. Once that was no more, he saw himself as a nothing.
“Although he had the financial means to enjoy an enriching retirement, he landed up depressed and despondent and. yes, finally dead”.
As our sessions progressed it became apparent that he was also turning 60 within a few months. He had recently suffered a personal injury and the company where he worked as the CFO gave him the opportunity to take early retirement.
After what had happened to his father, he was apprehensive to stop working. He had sufficient means but that was not the issue.
I poked around a bit to see if I could see any passion coming through. He was a most conventional sort of guy and, besides a bit of gardening here and there, he did not display any excitement about anything.
That was until in one session he started to talk about natural healing. His whole demeanor lit up as he explained his theories on conventional medicine and how he believed healing was all in the mind. He went on and on about books that he had read and courses he had done, expounding on the virtues of natural remedies, meditation and regular exercise.
When I proposed that he should possibly consider a career in natural medicine, he nearly walked out my office. There was no way, he explained, that he could monetise this and make a living. He said it with such frustration and despondency that we were both taken aback. Here was a competent financial expert being asked to throw it all away and do what he passionately believed in and really loved.
It was so preposterous that we both laughed.
But the best part of it was that it just made sense!
He was also astute enough to see that he was losing traction with himself and that if he failed to deal with it, he would land up like his father.
It is never easy to make changes especially at a stage where one is reaching the end of one’s career – damn scary stuff!
And then it all came out.
He told me that his entire career was a struggle. He reached the heights of professional achievement, including the appropriate financial rewards. But as far as life’s purpose was concerned, there had always been this gaping chasm.
He knew deep down that there was always something missing. He always had this nagging sense that he was a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.
At the end of all this nice stuff we arrived at the reality that, due to financial constraints, retirement was not an option!
And finding another job?
He would have rather taken a bottle of pills! He could not bear the thought of becoming someone else’s lackey and being told to be at work at 8.00 am. “Call me arrogant and bombastic” he said “but that’s my truth”.
So I simply suggested that he become a natural healer!
At our next session he bounced into my office .
“I went home, told my wife and the next morning I opened my doors and declared myself a natural healer!”
Just like that.
That very same day he received a call, completely out of the blue, from an old acquaintance asking him if he would help him with his headaches that no doctor had been able to cure.
And so the journey began.
But that is not what I wanted to tell you.
I want to tell you that he recreated his whole experience. At the career-concluding age of 60 he found his life’s purpose.
All these years he had been pretending that he wanted to be part of the big corporate executive space whilst ignoring his true calling – his deep desire to help people stay heathy and vital.
Well, the truth had finally come out.
I have never seen a person more at peace and more sure about anything in my life.
And he’s not working any more!
He’s having fun.
So how about this . . . . life begins at 60!