Retirement One Week In

I retired on July 20th, 2018. But really, the first few weeks of my retirement consisted of travelling through places like Geiranger, Norway, pictured above.

In other words, I was on vacation for the first few weeks.

Now that I am back home, I can look at this week as being my first week of retirement. I did not go back to work after taking a vacation, which is what I would have done for the past 35 years or so.

How did the first week of retirement go?

In a word, terrific. Every night a Friday night. Every day a Saturday.

I did set out a calendar which included the following activities for this first week:

  • 1-2 hours of cycling each day.
  • 1-2 hours of content creation each day for rvcastaways and this blog.
  • 1-2 hours of guitar practice each day.
  • 1-2 hours post processing photos from our Norwegian cruise and creating videos from our Norwegian cruise each day.

I had several lunches with different friends. I took my son out to Mission Impossible. I walked the dog. Lorraine and I went out to a few lunches. I’ve been reading a couple of books. I managed the investment portfolio. We started packing for our winter trip south.

I’m having a great time so far. And I am not worrying about much of anything at the moment.

I decided that for the first few weeks (months? years?) of retirement, that I can loosen up a bit although with enough structure and challenge to the day that I have a sense of accomplishment.

So far, so good.

Retirement

I retired on July 20th, 2018.

And after the retirement festivities, Lorraine and I had a wonderful celebratory cruise in Norway.

We’ve been gone for about two weeks and this site has been a bit quiet of late. I’ve been actively posting on my other site, rvcastaways.com. That site will cover our travels and adventures in retirement.

This one?

I’m not too sure. I’ve been posting here since April of 2004. Over 14 years.

Time for me to reimagine this site and to start something new with it.

I’ll leave you with the speech I gave at my retirement. It was a challenge to write a retirement speech and I am very glad that I only had to do this type of speech once.

Having returned from what was really a lengthy vacation, it still hasn’t hit home that I have retired. Except that I did not have to go into the office today.

I can get used to that I think.

RETIREMENT SPEECH
For Delivery, July 18th at 2:00pm

Thank you for all the kind wishes and wonderful comments.

I am indeed a very, very fortunate man. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, an amazing family, good friends, and, clearly, the best looking team of colleagues in the world!

My life, your life, is not defined by a state of working or a state of retirement.

Our journey in life is defined by our relationships with each other, by themes of love, family, faith and self-acceptance.

I was taught at an early age that there several stages in life:

A time to learn.
A time to work.
A time to retire.

And so I went to school. I got a job. And now I retire.

Mission accomplished!

Although I do worry a little bit about the stage after retirement.

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about what makes for a fulfilling career. Lessons that I have learned over the past 40 years or so.

Three words to remember: mission, mastery, freedom

Let’s start with mission.

Everyone here in this room has the talent and capability to create a great life for yourself, for your family and for your community. And everyone here in this room can make our company an even better company in the future than it is today.

It starts with answering one very basic question:

Why are you here?

Having a higher purpose, a mission, a cause that you believe in will make all the difference to you and to your career. You will know, that in some way — large or small — you have made our company a better place because of your work.

Have you ever experienced a moment where your life was changed forever?

It happened to me when I was 16 years old.

I lived in a small house in Lachine, Quebec that was built just after the second world war. My father had been battling cancer for several years and all I knew was that he was very, very sick. But I thought that he would make it. That he would come home from the hospital.

I can remember the telephone call as if it happened yesterday. It was early. 6AM. My mother answered the phone and all I heard was her screaming and crying.

Dad was gone.

He left no will. He had no insurance.

We were left with nothing. We had to sell the house and my mom and I had to find jobs to make ends meet. Life was very hard during those years after his death.

I made a commitment to myself that when I grew up, got married and had a family, that I would provide well for them. To make sure they were protected and to be financially secure if anything happened to me. That was the core part of my mission in life.

And that is why I believe so strongly in our company.

We help Canadian families with their financial security. We help Canadian families build wealth. Our promise to them is simple, fast and easy. We have a great company whose underlying mission you can believe in. A company that makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

Why are you here?

What is your mission?

When you know why you come in to work everyday, you have a mission. And that mission you will carry you throughout your life. That mission will be your anchor when you face challenges and it will be your reason to celebrate your accomplishments.

After mission there is mastery.

Getting better and better at the skills and talents that you use in your work leads to mastery. People will see you doing great work and great work always gets rewarded. Always.

But it is not just about getting better at what you do. It is about helping others to get better at what they do.

Keep learning. Keep developing. Keep pushing yourself to get better at the things you really love doing. And then one day it will happen. You will become a Jedi Master. Every Jedi Master must take on an apprentice.

And then you get to help someone else get really, really good at what they do. That is the true reward of mastery.

Mission, mastery, freedom.

And I don’t mean Freedom 55.

When you have a mission and you get really good at what you do, you will have freedom. The freedom that comes from being passionate about your work and why you do what you do. The freedom that comes from being really, really good at your work and helping others to be really, really good at their work.

Suddenly, your career becomes part of who you are. It does not define you. You define your career.

There is one final thought that I would like to leave with you.

I am more and more convinced, having gone through many different passages in life, that the things I value most are the warm, caring relationships I have with the people who have passed and are passing through my life. These things are eternal and the rest is like dust before the wind. These relationships are the things to value and so I strongly encourage you to measure your success in this life by the quality of care you give to those around you. We need to be friends. We need to take an active role in the people who pass through our lives. We need to care, to trust, to support and to cherish our family and our friends.

I am grateful and thankful for the support of my family. I am grateful and thankful for the support of the leadership of our company.

I cannot adequately express the gratitude that I have for my amazing team and my wonderful colleagues.

All I can say is thank you for this incredible journey. I will carry many wonderful memories of our time together.

Thank you.

Am I Ready?

Retirement is just 17 days away now.

We have been planning for this moment for a long time. There are other perspectives about the retirement years and it does not look like it’s all Walt Disney World.

Some of them make for fun reading.

Chuck Underwood, founder of consulting firm The Generational Imperative in Ohio, said what’s not to like: “Most retirees badly underestimate the severity of the impact of awakening each day without a major purpose. Retirees who feel grandparenthood, volunteerism, travel, and just ‘relaxing’ will fill the purpose void consistently learn this hard lesson: for decades, their jobs have guided their entire lives, claimed the most vital eight hours of their weekdays, and been the source of most of their thinking. For decades.”

So what happens when the purpose provided by work is gone. Said Underwood, “The thought that fills the void is, ‘My life has lost its greatest purpose, I am aging, and I’m on final descent toward death.'”

Some retirees plummet into depression. Many develop opioid habits. Others drink too much booze. That’s not what any of them had in mind as they contemplated an end of work. But those grim realities are indeed all too real for many.

Yikes.

And this.

It’s one thing to be financially prepared for retirement, but don’t discount the mental upheaval that might ensue once you leave your career behind you. Though many seniors look forward to the downtime they’ve been missing during their working years, you may come to find that your newly unstructured existence throws you for an emotional loop. In fact, according to the Institute of Economic Affairs, retirees are 40% more likely to suffer from clinical depression than younger Americans are, and a big reason has to do with that loss of purpose, so to speak, in life.

And this.

Retirement is a huge lifestyle change. For many of us, work is a big part of our lives and identity. It is important to think through how you will spend your free time and what your aspirations are. I suspect many people postpone retirement because they have not taken the time to think through this important transition in their lives. As such, they continue to work as it is what they are comfortable with and all that they have ever known.

It goes on of course. If you follow this line of reasoning, you would never retire. Too scary.

I have a sense that governments, anxious to keep people paying higher levels of taxes as long as possible, attempt to create a narrative that, in effect, says that it is better for people to work longer, much longer, than the traditional retirement age of 65.

This despite the Statscan data showing very little movement in public sector retirements. The average age has remained at just over 61 for the past five years for public sector employees whereas private sector employees tend to retire on average closer to 64.

For the record, I will be 61.8 years old at retirement. I’m able to retire a bit earlier than the average private sector employee thanks to defined benefit pensions and a decent investment portfolio.

I have thought about the social, emotional, physical and financial aspects of retirement. Being a goal-oriented person, I have certainly put a lot of thought and effort into each one of these areas throughout my life.

I’m looking forward to a wonderful stage of life in retirement with Lorraine.

The starting gate is just around the corner.

Capsule Wardrobe

I started travelling light back in 2011. Or at least, travelling lighter back in 2011. Lorraine and I were still hauling 40 pounds or so of luggage when we travelled.

We eventually found a way to really cut down on our luggage and with numerous trips to Europe, we found our stride and we can now comfortably tour with one small carry-on bag and one small personal bag each.

As retirement approaches, I am re-thinking the whole clothing thing. For the past decade or so, I have been working in a predominately business casual environment with the odd business suit day.

I have two suits, six dress shirts, six pairs of casual pants, four jackets, as well as a rather large collection of clothing that I wear when I am not at the office: shorts, jeans, t-shirts, casual shirts, jackets, sweaters.

Clothes. Lots and lots of clothes.

Time to simplify that part of my life.

But where to start?

Capsule wardrobe.

Steve Jobs embraced the minimalist approach. His wardrobe: black turtlenecks, Levi’s jeans, New Balance sneakers.

According to Wikipedia, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that do not go out of style and can be augmented with seasonal pieces.

For a man, a capsule wardrobe could be as simple as the following:

  • A suit
  • A pair of jeans
  • A coat
  • A few t-shirts
  • A few cotton shirts
  • A sports jacket
  • A pair of casual pants
  • A pair of dress shoes
  • A pair of casual shoes
  • A sweater
  • A watch
  • A jacket

How many items? Well, Project 333 would say 33 items or less for 3 months. They even offer a microcourse on how to dress with less and create your capsule wardrobe.

My motivation is practical. In just a few months time, Lorraine and I will be heading south in our motorcoach and we will need to be very minimalist in what we take with us as we will not have much space for an extensive wardrobe.

It’s Official

Upcoming retirement – Information Technology

Richard has announced his plans to retire in the third quarter of this year. Richard joined our company as Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer in 2008.

Over the past decade he has ably led our Information Technology division, tackling the myriad of issues that come with the rapid evolution of technological change and digital innovation and ensuring the organization’s IT and project management capabilities are keeping pace with the change.

We will miss his deep knowledge and his ability to share complicated ideas and concepts in a clear, simple and engaging way.

We are focused on a transition plan in light of Richard’s well-deserved retirement and will share news with you as decisions are made. In the meantime, I am fully confident that the strong IT leadership group Richard has built will continue to enable their teams to meet the needs of our business.

Please join me in thanking Richard for his many contributions and in wishing Richard and Lorraine all the best for a long, happy and healthy retirement together.

Details on a retirement reception will be shared within the next few weeks.

Mark
President and Chief Executive Officer

The Secret to Career Success

A bit of an unlikely source for career advice although no question that John Berardi, co-founder of Precision Nutrition, has been exceptionally successful with his chosen path.

If there is a formula for the kind of success most people want, even if they don’t know what that looks like yet, it might be something like this:

Strong personal mission
+
High competency
+
System for execution
=
Personal and career satisfaction

Have a look around.

You’ll find there’s almost nothing more powerful than someone with a deeply held motivation to do their work plus high level of skill plus a blueprint or system for executing every day.

Retirement Transition

5 months and 5 days.

According to my countdown app.

Not that I pay much attention to the countdown, other than to remind myself that I do not have much time left at work to finish a number of objectives.

I have been planning for this day for many years. The date itself is a bit later than expected. I thought I would retire in my late fifties. I will be sixty-one when I make the transition into retirement.

When I say planning for retirement, I really mean financial planning. Although Lorraine and I have a good sense of how we hope to spend our time in retirement and, as with all new experiences, we are not necessarily sure what to expect, most of our planning time has been spent in looking at the financial side.

As the date is quickly approaching, I am a touch uneasy. There are a number of challenges that many seem to encounter when they make the transition into retirement: loss of identity, loss of structure, and a heightened sense of mortality.

Over the past several months, I keep encountering “endings” in my life, a stark reminder that my time on this earth is closing. I’ve allowed myself some negative thoughts. I wonder what I might lose next.

All due, I suspect, to being in-between the world of working and the world of retirement.

I’ll make it to the other side and, when I do, I’ll give myself some time. To relax, to get myself reoriented to a new way of living. I’ll craft a new identity, create new routines, build new friendships and relationships, and find a new path to travel.

5 Tips To Becoming A Better Musician

RJ Ronquillo published a YouTube video where he shares his perspective on how to become a better musician.

I’ve paraphrased his points a little:

  • Find your inner rhythm, the drummer within.
  • Play with others
  • Take chances and go outside your comfort zone
  • Listen to music, really listen to music
  • Don’t take it all too seriously

Like many things in life, the journey of a musician takes a lot of discipline and effort to master an instrument. Much of it is physical and mechanical. Learning where to place your hands. Learning how to play in time. Learning how to make an instrument sound good. All of which could be described as developing the conscious musician.

There comes a point where the advanced player transcends the conscious musician. The physical and mechanical attributes of playing an instrument fall into the shadows. The musician discovers a musical voice. And that musician can speak with their instrument without conscious thought. There is no active consideration of where the hands need to be placed. There is no active consideration of how to create music through the instrument.

For want of a better term, the music flows through the artist. And you can see it when that happens.

All too often I see players fixated on reading charts. Unable to be free of the mechanics of what to play when, they invariably play poorly. Almost stilted. As if the chart itself is somehow making them play the correct notes.

For myself, I try to move from conscious to unconscious play whenever possible. And that usually means freedom from a chart. In addition to RJ’s tips, I have found that learning arrangements, committing them to memory, and playing them without worrying about where the tune is going, provides so much opportunity to play with freedom. And playing with freedom generally means playing better.

Here is RJ’s 5 tips to becoming a better musician.