Lake

Lake
Near Yellow Mountain

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Thoughts on Milestones and the Passage of Time

I love the last few days of December. Christmas has never stressed me out which probably indicates who does the heavy “Advent lifting” in our house. The kids come home, caloric and workout concerns are suspended. Prohibitions against binge watching series on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime are ignored.

Spending time with my daughters is great especially since, at this stage in life, I learn more from them than they do from me. Maybe that was always the case but it is not the point of this installment.

It is enjoyable to talk to both of my kids about their future plans and how they plan to get there. I take pride that each one has identified what they want to focus on in life. It took me quite a bit longer.

I have always been an early riser; however, neither my progeny nor my better half fits that description. It is in the morning quiet hours spent with just the company of my faithful dogs (well, normally, at least one of them) that I reflect on the waning moments of the current year and consider the prospect of the upcoming trip around the sun.

In 2017, I will mark the passing of another milestone birthday and experience my 還暦 (kanreki) which means I will have made a complete revolution (5X the 12-year Zodiac) around the lunar calendar. Please don’t tell anyone. The concept of kanreki is that since you have completed the lunar calendar journey you return to the beginning… or childhood. In Japan, for many people, kanreki marks the end of a life of gainful employment and stepping aside to make room the younger generation. As much as I love Japan, I am “passing” on the retirement aspect of kanreki but I am hoping for the party (hint, hint).

It takes five circuits of the Zodiac to make the lunar "trip"

As the youngest child in a big family it takes some getting used to being the “old guy” now in many settings. Seems like it was just yesterday that I had a dual role as freshman class president and the 125 lb. starting varsity QB playing behind a line of seniors that averaged about double my weight.

Although my hair color may tell a different story, I feel like I am just getting the hang of trying and learning new things. This year I focused on learning the benefits of Wim Hof breathing and ice baths (www.wimhofmethod.com). I also tried to diversify my workout portfolio doing some things my 30-year-old self would never have considered. My marathoning days are long past not because I couldn’t make it 26.2 miles but after going the distance more than 25 times – there are more interesting ways to spend my exercise time. Running a few miles seems like enough these days.

I was fortunate that my very brief forced early retirement at 55 turned out to be more of a work style transition than anything else. My 350,000 frequent flyer miles this year put me on the doorstep of 5 million lifetime miles so when I say “my life is flying by” there is a literal and figurative aspect to the statement.

I am not a fan of the word retirement. Four years ago when I found myself suddenly forced into a “brief” period of not working; I knew we could survive economically with a modest pension and a nest egg built based on a lifetime of living below our income. My larger concern was - not finding something interesting to do with my time and being relegated to the purgatory of boredom at a relatively young age.

I need not have worried. It is amazing what good friends, business contacts, reading the right things, reflecting on your situation, journaling and listening to the stories of people smarter than you are via quality podcasts can do for your brain. Take those factors and add a dash of Legal Zoom – suddenly you have a global business. My tiny company has clients on five continents but doesn’t even have a website. Linked-In, Twitter, We-Chat and Skype are the global communication tools.

Last week I signed the legal documents to start my LLC’s pension plan and 401K. Four years ago I was worried about ennui and planning to live life primarily off my savings. The reality is that with a (lot of) help from my friends I am now turning down more opportunities than I accept.

The best part of being free from the shackles of working for a big company is that I can spend the majority of my time focusing on creating value for clients rather than “managing up” which is what I was often told was the key to success at my former employer. Since I have been working for myself, I have been blessed to work with dozens of interesting people around the world who I learn from on a daily basis. Yes, I have many friends that have rich, full lives working in the corporate world but once I was out; I knew I would not return. Although I realized many years ago that I would rather be working for myself, I didn’t have the courage to jump off the big company band wagon. Fortunately, the big company decided to “double nickel” me (a term I just learned last week flying home from Chile).

Twenty years ago the technology did not exist for me to reach a global market on a daily basis from a converted bedroom in my home. Even as I began the new business I wasn’t smart enough to use more than email and the phone initially to make contacts. My “twentysomething” daughters had to guide me into the world of social media. A year after I started my business, it was my wife who pointed out a glaring “miss” in my business. After listening to her and making one change - something that takes less than 20 days a year of my time earned me more in 2016 than my previous corporate salary. It isn't just books and podcasts I continue to learn from.

I am extremely fortunate the business I spent my career learning is now in a boom period but even when boom ultimately busts I am confident that as long as I keep learning and looking ahead, good things will happen.

I play golf regularly with a group of retired corporate types. I am frequently asked when I will “finally” retire. “Hopefully never” is my standard reply. If what you do everyday is fun, why should you quit?

Yes, my kanreki, is less than 3 months away but it seems more of a beginning than an end.