Retirement is Death

Technically I’m “retired”. I left Microsoft in 2001 at the age of 44, a few years after some numbers on a spreadsheet said I could afford to.

I’ve been working hard ever since.

The concept of retirement is outmoded, outdated, and in my opinion downright dangerous.

It implies cessation of productive work. It implies a lack of purpose. It implies “doing nothing”. The stereotypical retirement happens at age 65 after a long career, often with a single employer, followed by a couple of years of “doing nothing”, except perhaps occasional rounds of golf.

An early death often follows.

That’s never been the life for me, and I strongly suggest it shouldn’t be the life (or death) of anyone. Ever.

The fact is we need purpose. We need “something to do”. I joke about needing something to keep my out of my wife’s hair, and that’s not far from the truth.

In my case it was finding a post-employment calling. My entrepreneurial life followed Microsoft as a way to keep doing what I loved to do: play with technology. Entrepreneurial life gave it focus, gave it connection, and perhaps most important of all, gave it purpose. The primary result of all that entrepreneurial activity, Ask Leo!, exists to serve others, while giving significant meaning to my time spent.

I sometimes joke that I work harder in my “retirement” than I ever did at Microsoft. I’m not certain that’s true, but that it’s even a possibility demonstrates just how much of my efforts it consumes.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Rather than a requirement, a “job”, where I spend my time in my “retirement” is a choice. If I choose to do something different … I can. If I want to take a day off, I do. If I want to spend some extra time finishing an Ask Leo! project, I can do that too. And every day there’s something to learn.

I have several take-aways from my little voyage of self-discovery.

Having a purpose, having a vocation, matters. It matters deeply, and it matters ’till the day we die. It matters more than most people think.

Feeling rewarded and fulfilled by the time we spend on our vocation matters. Not only do we end up having more fun, but we do a better job. This is as true for our employment years as it is for retirement. While it’s unfortunately accepted that we might work at a job we dislike for many years, the number of unhappy retirees tells me that it’s sadly being accepted post-career as well.

A post-retirement vocation can look like a job. Mine certainly does, to some, I’m sure. And that’s fine. What matters is that it’s a choice, and that it allows you to feel and feed your purpose.

Purpose can be as simple as “being there” for someone, or it can be as big as changing the world. What matters is that it be there.

The bottom line? The concept of “retirement” should be … retired.

If you reach a point where you’re financially well off enough to make choices … make them! You’ve earned it!

But don’t think of it as retirement at all. Think of it as simply moving on to doing something else.

Something with purpose.