Some Inspiring Success Stories
These people know how to Rock It!
This week, I thought I’d give you some inspiration for a Rockin’ Third Act from some folks who have figured it out. These people are living the life I advocate for in my writings. Most of them are my friends. All of them are role models. Their stories are all very different, but there are common threads. I hope they help motivate you to find your own path to your Rockin’ Third Act.
“In the first place, it was a tough decision to leave the workforce. I loved my job. And, after I got the house cleaned and did a little traveling, I realized it was difficult to just stop everything. I still needed some structure in my life, and I needed a purpose. A few days before I retired, my brother passed away unexpectedly, and about 14 months later, my sister-in-law passed away. Because I had a lot of spare time, I was able to go and stay with her and help take care of her in her last days. When her children decided that it was time to call in hospice, I was there and interviewed and registered her for hospice. The next day hospice showed up with a bed, meds, a social worker, a nurse - everything needed to make her comfortable. I was very impressed with the hospice program. I learned that in addition to all the medical assistance, hospice also provided a volunteer to come and assist with non-medical needs for the patient and family. A few weeks after she passed, I contacted the local hospice association in Sacramento and requested more information about volunteering for hospice. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel that my little effort helps the patient and family during a most difficult time. And for me, that big smile and Hello I’m greeted with when I arrive to visit with my patient/family, JUST MAKES MY DAY. “
Gretchen has shared stories with me about the last days she spends with some of her patients and their families. I can see the joy in her eyes as she talks about listening to the lives of the patients - who often just want to make sure their story is told - and interacting with those left here on Earth. Gretchen has always been a fantastic, giving soul, but I truly believe this activity gives back to that soul.
Another thing about Gretchen - she’s able to give back to others because she takes care of herself. She retired over a decade ago. She showed me how important it is to go to the gym, and she’s very active in her faith. Both of those things help keep her young. This year, she’s going to go walk 100 miles on the Camino de Santiago. She’s kinda my hero.
“I've been retired for 3 years. I spent the first year traveling and getting my house cleaned and organized to perfection.
“I realized by year two that I wanted to help other working women who are, no doubt, overwhelmed.
“I opened a care.com account and posted my resume. I said that I wanted to help a busy working woman. I don't like to babysit, pet sit, or house clean, so that limited me a little.
“Within 1 week, I had 3 viable opportunities. I accepted one initially, but I now have 3 clients. I cook, organize, help them declutter and downsize, buy and wrap gifts, make appointments, etc. I only do what I like to do and only work about 15 hours a week. I love it!
“I am very transparent about what I will do, and what I will not do. I have made myself indispensable, and get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I am improving their lives.”
Wow. So Paula has found a way to have meaning/purpose, connections and gig income all in one package! Impressive! I know Paula, and (this is my word) “mothering” others comes naturally to her. She takes people under her wing and just makes their life better by making them feel cared about. This gig is perfect for her. The people she is helping, I’m sure, feel more like friends and family than clients. That’s just who she is and she wasn’t able to be that authentic self as freely when she was working in her career (though she did find ways, amazingly).
Ronna was an HR generalist for many years. She retired early, tired of the corporate rat race. She spent the first 6 months of her retirement volunteering in a role that didn’t give her a lot of fulfilment. As she looked around at her friends who had also left the corporate world, the idea of freelancing as an HR expert, mostly training others in the corporate and public sectors, appealed to her. She was a natural fit, having a strong background in HR and a charismatic personality and a love for helping others. Today, Ronna has as much freelance work as she wants. (Sometimes more. The Rockin’ Third Act doesn’t come without its challenges.) She is much happier than she was when she worked in the generalist role in Corporate America. She gets to do the best parts of the role and leave the rest to those that she is training. And now she has time to invite her neighbors over for an outdoor movie night every once in a while, travel to see her son and grandson, and even take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the South Pacific.
Ronna found a way to throttle back on a career that she loved without leaving it entirely. She left room for the best part of her career and the best part of retirement, being able to have more flexibility and time for herself and her friends and loved ones. Good on her!
I left the workforce early, knowing that I wanted some kind of gig to keep me off the streets. I also knew I would feel better if I had some kind of income to supplement my retirement income. So, a few years before I retired, I went in search of my next “thing.” And I found woefully little information about how to plan for what was next, after retirement. Oh, there was plenty out there about investments and financial planning, but what about all of the rest of life that I was going to have to figure out? You know, things like what I was going to do with my time, how I was going to have a rich, healthy, full 30 years of retirement and stuff like that? As I was searching for that type of information it dawned on me that I was amassing a treasure trove of information that wasn’t easily accessible in one place for retirees. BAM! My newsletter was born - along with, hopefully, some workshops, coaching, tools and maybe even a book or speaking gigs. We’ll see.
As I was researching and learning about newsletters, a strange thing happened. I found a request to pitch to a local news service for a newsletter curator position. Hmmm… I needed to learn about newsletters (and pitching to media, for that matter). A professional journalistic organization should be able to teach me something, I reasoned. So I pitched. And I got it! Now, I earn some income curating three “hyper-local” newsletters and I’m practicing my writing and learning about editing and promotion at the same time. Weird how things work out.
Chris was born in Salem Massachusetts. He is a graduate of Exeter, Harvard College and The University of Virginia Law School. He spent his 25 year professional career at the New York City law firm, Davis Polk, mostly as a partner in litigation. He had a very impressive career, including arguing a case before the US Supreme Court.
Chris considers himself that comparative rarity: a happy lawyer but he retired early, at 56, because he ‘wanted to live more than one life.’ After retirement Chris and his wife, the portrait painter Hilary Cooper, moved to Aspen Colorado for five years where she painted and he lived out his old dream of being a ski bum and leading the vigorous, outdoor life. During this period, he got the idea for what would become the Younger Next Year books.
“I truly believe,” he says, “that the most important thing I can do with my life is to spread the word about the Aging Revolution. The way most of us live in this, the best country on earth, is an appalling waste of our potential. And most of it is ignorance. My great task is to make as many as possible realize that we can be radically healthier, more energetic, more fit, more optimistic and effective by making modest, behavioral changes. Putting off 70% of today’s aging (70%!) is a simple matter: Move a lot more!…quit eating crap!…connect with others! The combination of our bone-idleness and the slop we eat and is wrecking our lives and ruining the economy. We spend 20% of our national income on health care. We could save half of that dough because 50% of our bad health is simply the result of the ridiculous way we eat and live. That’s nuts! We simply have to change,” he says. “Being part of that change is what my life is all about. It is deeply worthwhile, and a ton of fun! which is what I bring to the party…making it real but making it fun.”
So Chris is “living a second life” in his Third Act which is radically different from his Second Act and he is making a huge impact (one could argue even bigger than his impacts as a lawyer) on the world. At the same time, he’s finding time for his relationships and making exercise his new job. There’s a lot to be inspired by, here.
As I look at all of these success stories, I’m struck by a few things they have in common. First, they are all wildly happy people who are optimistic about their futures (me included). Secondly, not a single one of them is living a “traditional” retirement with lots of sitting and resting. Also, you didn’t see any mention of big spending, like unending travel or new toys, in any of these stories. In fact, lifestyles probably didn’t change much, at all, from a spending/Joneses perspective. Finally, there is a factor of “growth” in all of the stories, whether branching out into a new field, or just growing into the relationships and wisdom gained over the years.
Something for me to ponder
The thing I found interesting was that everyone took some time to wander down a few backroads in retirement (one to three years) before they found a road they wanted to stroll down for a while - and most of them found a few roads, one of purpose, probably one of connections, often one of wellness and maybe even one of FUN. I’ve been advocating doing this “planning” before you retire, but maybe you need a while in retirement to meander before your plans can really formulate. I still think it’s important to be aware of the need to find your paths in retirement and do some “pre-planning” before you retire, but retirement may not be that line in the sand where your plans have to be ready to go that I thought it was. Something for me to ponder.
I hope you found some inspiration in these stories. They are certainly all inspiring to me! My friends seem to all have this retirement thing nailed. They don’t need me. Maybe I’ll go meander down a backroad for a while and see what comes up.
I’ll be out next week, but I’ll be back in your inbox in two weeks!