Understanding aspirations, goals, commitments, and values…. and why they are not all the same


Early in the year, most of us are looking ahead to what the new year will bring. Often, that leads to creating resolutions for our personal lives and goals for our work lives. When we do so, are we creating our aspirations for the year… or are they goals? To some, they might be viewed as commitments. And, what about my values? This can be a bit confusing and can even result in misapplication of our efforts. So, I thought it might be good today to look at the real meaning of each of these terms and how they should be applied as we plan our future efforts.

First of all, let’s discuss a topic that I personally think limits the true potential of an individual and, thus, an organization. How many times have you heard a manager or senior leader say something like this, “Your goals for this year are your aspirations and plans. When business conditions change, your goals can be modified.” Sure! Easy to say! However, the reality is that few individuals really have the opportunity to modify goals as the business changes. Worse yet, if you fail to achieve any of your “goals”, your year-end rating is reduced. That top “exceptional” rating is reserved only for those individuals that achieve or exceed every goal. If you slip on just one, your rating falls. The result is that individuals tend to be conservative when establishing goals to help ensure that they cannot fail to achieve or exceed each one. Or, they reflect in their goals activities that should be considered their “basic job” or “standard acceptable functions” of the job. There is no stretch to achieve more that that basic level of performance. The fear of failure (and, thus, the fear of missing even one goal) drives the individual to aim lower than they could/should potentially achieve. We need to get away from this and allow individuals the ability to stretch, yet retain the ability to achieve the highest rating.

Anyway, let’s look at the meaning of each of these terms:

  1. Aspiration – an aspiration is simply something we hope to achieve. It is something we aim to attain, yet we likely do not develop a specific plan to get there. For example, I aspire to shoot my age in golf. For those that have seen me play, they know that is an impossible task. Yet, I can still aspire to achieve it. Companies often say something like, “We aspire to be the leading brand in our industry.” Yet, they have not put a strategic plan in place that is likely to lead to attainment of this aspiration. In many ways, an aspiration is like a wish. I aspire to be a great guitar player. I aspire to run a marathon. I aspire to be the best at _______. Without a plan followed by the required effort, aspirations are never (or rarely) achieved.
  2. Goal (or objective) – a goal is something we definitely plan to achieve and we put plans in place to achieve. You have probably heard the term SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) used regarding good goal-setting. Yes, goals should be SMART. A goal is something that allows you to say at the end of the year, “Goal achieved (or not).” There should be no ambiguity regarding attainment of goals. It is always amazing to me that the same senior management individuals that insist our goals be SMART publish goals that say something like, “Continue efforts to expand market presence.”
  3. Commitment – a commitment is different from a goal in that it is more like a promise. When you make a commitment, you will do everything in your power and ability to achieve it. It is much more than a hope, wish, or prayer. I’ll talk more about commitments in an upcoming edition of The Porch, but suffice to say today that a commitment should be treated as a solemn promise that others can trust. It indicates a dedication to a cause and, because it is so serious, often restricts the choices or freedom of an individual. Thus, we should carefully consider the risks and benefits before making a commitment.
  4. Value – a value speaks more to our core character than the other terms. A value is a belief or attribute or choice we make that supersedes others. A value is something that should be or become part of our DNA… it is inextricably part of us. An example of a value is “I will consider others before self.” Thus, when a conflict arises, my default will always be to consider first what is better for the other person. Values should not change year-to-year. They should be what drives us…. they are how we live, act, and think.

As you plan 2020, consider what is really a goal and how you will approach achieving it. And, don’t confuse a goal with a commitment. If you do, your activities will be driven in a direction that may not be best for you or the organization.

Have a great day and be on the lookout for more on commitments coming soon.

Time marches on….


On this last day of the decade, I’m reflecting on how fast time flies. It seems like only yesterday we celebrated the new millennium and now it has been twenty years! How did that happen?

Think back to New Year’s Eve in 2009… What were you doing? Where were you? What were the biggest things in your life? What was your biggest worry? Are those same worries even on your radar today? When the new decade arrived in 2010, my main worries were focused on my career (work issues), long-term finances (retirement), and a new house under construction. None of these hit my radar today. Now, the things on my mind revolved around my 7 grandchildren (we had only one when 2010 arrived), health issues (staying active and dealing with normal aging concerns), and mundane, day-to-day items (improving my golf swing). It is amazing how a measly 10 years can change our total focus. So, as we are perched on the edge of a new year and new decade today, let me just throw out a few observations that I’m sure all of us experience and most of us might be feeling today:

  1. Time provides a great perspective on what is really important and what is not – Those things that were most important to us a decade – or even a year ago – are no longer that important. Things change. When you are faced with multiple priorities and a busy schedule, ask yourself, “Will this really even matter a year from now? Or, a decade from now?” We need to keep things in perspective and continually remind ourselves to focus on those things of utmost importance – everything else is secondary.
  2. The years tend to shift our focus from enhancing our own situation to that of others – Isn’t it amazing how, as we advance in our years or our career, our focus tends to shift to making a difference to others? Serving others matters. Someone once said, “You can’t say that you’ve had a good day unless you’ve done something for someone else that could never repay you.” What is it that you can do for someone else today or this week or this new year?
  3. ‘Flexibility and elasticity’ often trump ‘plans and expectations’ – No matter how well we plan, things change. Planning is good provided it helps keep you on track. But, we can never develop an over-reliance on our “plan.” Knowing that change is inevitable can help us develop the skills of flexibility and elasticity. Yes, that’s right… these are skills that we can develop and enhance. Learning to “go with the flow” and make the best of a bad situation can provide important survival skills when you are faced with adversity.
  4. Don’t overthink the future – Analysis paralysis is the reason many individuals fail to act when needed. The future will come whether we prepare or not… it will come whether we are ready or not… it will come whether we want it to or not. Don’t over-analyze.
  5. Enjoy the journey and stop focusing so much on your destination – Likewise, take time to enjoy life as it comes. I know too many people that are so focused on retirement (or some other life event) that they fail to enjoy what is happening right now. As a result, they miss those important early years of their children or special times with their spouse. Don’t miss it!
  6. Expect the unexpected and plan for it – Understand that something unexpected will happen in 2020. It won’t go just as you hope or plan. Knowing this can help you make mid-course adjustments, when needed. Who knows… that unexpected thing happening next year just might be the best thing that has ever happened to you!
  7. There is always time to love, to show kindness, and to appreciate goodness – In this new year coming up, why not re-commit to showing love, kindness, and goodness more? Why not consider doing some act of kindness every day? Why not make this a priority to your life? I can guarantee you this… when you commit to demonstrating love and kindness on an everyday basis, the payback to you will be more than you could ever imagine. Challenge me on this… see if you get more from this than you could ever give.
  8. Worry really is really just a lack of trust in God – Consider this example I just heard from my Pastor… What if someone you love said they love every thing about you? What if you were the best thing that had ever occurred to them? What if they loved you more than anything else? BUT… they said they couldn’t trust you. How would you feel? That is how we often treat God. We say we love Him and we want to know Him more and better. Yet, we don’t trust Him in the details of our life. Think about it. When we truly trust Him, the worry that we often experience seems to dissipate. Give Him a chance to take away our anxiety. His Word (I Peter 5:7) says, “Cast all your cares on Him because He loves you.”

Time marches on…. Today is a good day to look ahead, but let’s not forget the lessons of the past. And, above all else, cherish today because this is the only day promised to us.

Have a great end to 2019 and I hope 2020 is your best year yet!

What makes Christmas so magical?


It’s occurring again this year. Strangers hug in the streets. Smells are more distinct and intense than any other time of the year. Children clean their rooms without being told. The music sounds better, the sun shines brighter, and smiles come easier than any other time of year. Christmastime is special… almost magical. Why is that?

To many, Christmas is special because of the memories. My parents loved Christmas. We had plenty of presents, candy, cookies, decorations, lights, and lots of fun around our house. We were often awake most of the night on Christmas Eve in anticipation. When given a chance, almost everyone has multiple favorite memories of Christmas when they were children or when their own children were small.

To others, Christmas is special because of the traditions. Nearly everyone has a routine that occurs every year… without fail. Around our house, Christmas Eve always includes church service and a few specific food items afterward. Knowing that you’ll be enjoying familiar activities, events, and foods with loved ones truly does make Christmas special, but are they what makes Christmas “magical?”

To others, Christmas means they will see loved ones that they may only see rarely or not at all the rest of the year. To them, Christmas simply may mean “going home.” Perhaps, Christmas is special because it seems that people more readily express their love during these few weeks. Somehow, it is just easier and, possibly, expected that we express it more just because it is Christmas.

Possibly, Christmas is special because it reminds us of people lost from our lives. We remember times past surrounded by those we loved and miss. To have one more Christmas with them…

Christmas is special, alright, because of all these reasons. But, what is it that makes all of this happen. What is that “magical” piece that turns enemies into friends, strangers into buddies, sadness into smiles, and desperation into joy during Christmastime?

To me, the “magic” that makes Christmas special is the “light” that has come into darkness. For most people, the world can be a dark place. Just in 2019, we have witnessed many tragedies, both natural and man-made; hatred is the norm, not the exception; people live without hope; people are hurting; the future appears ominous. The world seems to be dark, lonely, and depressing. BUT, Christmas shines a “light” on that darkness. Christmas turns that dreary, cloudy world in which we live into one of beautiful sunshine… a place with hope and gives us a reason to believe in a happier, better future… if only for the season. The “light” of Christmas, of course, is Jesus Christ. When God sent Him into this dark, bleary world, He gave hope; He gave a reason for living; and He gave us a future that we can anticipate with gladness. God’s gift of Jesus was a gift of love. Because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” we have a reason to rejoice… a reason to hope… a source of peace… and, a way to be reconciled to God.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” – I John 1:5 – 

The “light” of Christmas (Jesus Christ) turns even a sinful, hateful, hopeless world into a special place at Christmas. And to those that accept Jesus as God’s Son, as Lord, and as Savior, the “light” of Christmas can shine in your life eternally. The presence of Jesus in your life will change you into a person with eternal hope and a new purpose for living.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

God’s Word says simply that all who believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that He gave His own life to pay our debt will inherit everlasting life. That’s it… believe and receive.

I think we all wish that it could be Christmastime all year round. The joy we feel during this time of year can make us forget our challenges, our sorrow, and our loneliness. When we accept the “light” of Christmas as a gift from God, we can have that “light” illuminating our lives every day of our lives… and, into an eternal future with Him.

Merry Christmas! May you experience the hope, peace, love, and joy of God through His “light” this year!

It was just an ordinary rock…


Are you striving to just get through today? Is your life marked by expectation and anticipation? Do you appreciate the opportunities that come with each new day? Are you assuming that tomorrow will be just like today? Here are a few thoughts that just might help you reset your perspective:

  • It was just an ordinary rock… until my grandchild turned it into a work of art
  • He thought he would work there until he retired… until his job was ‘rationalized’
  • It was just a date… until I fell in love and she changed my life forever
  • She thought it was just a lump… until it wasn’t
  • He awoke to just another ordinary day… until it became his best day yet
  • An ordinary phone call… became the best news she ever received
  • A simple act of kindness… changed the life of a distraught woman
  • The smile of a child… made him forget all his own problems
  • He yelled, “See you tomorrow”, but… tomorrow never came
  • It was just another night… until worry and fret pushed any chance for sleep away
  • I dreaded the day… until it produced my new best friend
  • I feared the unknown… until it became the best time of my life
  • Sunday night brought anxiety and worry… until she decided that was no way to live
  • It was just a few snowflakes… that turned into lifelong memories that we still smile about today

“Men spend their lives in anticipations, in determining to be vastly happy at some period or other, when they have time; but the present time has an advantage over every other–it is our own.”  – Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon

Today is the only day that we are promised. We have a duty – not only to ourselves, but to everyone we know – to make the very best of this gift of a day.

“Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”  ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

One day, the last time will really be the last time. So, make the most of this time we have.

What are you looking forward to? Is there anything coming in your life that, once you experience it or achieve it, will be cause for celebration and excitement like you might see for Baseball’s World Series champions?

Let’s not just try to get through another day. Let’s not take today for granted. Let’s look for opportunities to share a kind word, experience a smile, or make a difference for someone else. Don’t just let today happen – make it an experience to be savored and remembered. After all, today just might be our best day yet! There is still a chance, so keep you eyes open and your head up and expect the unexpected!


Practical Steps for Managing a Micro-Manager (hint: you can’t change them)

Everyone hates it… Micro-Managers! No one ever thinks they micro-manage others, but let’s face it… we have probably all had at least one. I’ve had my share. I kid others that if not for micro-managers, corporate training, and role-playing, I might still be working rather than retired!

I remember how it feels to work for a micro-manager. You never feel adequate, you feel as though you are failing, and your work is never good enough. After awhile, those thoughts make it seem as though you are groping through a heavy fog for direction and purpose.

As much as we hate working for a micro-manager, do they actually get better results? What are the characteristics of a micro-manager? Is micro-management an innate part of our personality or is it learned (genetics versus environment) or does it even really matter? How do you deal with and, possibly, even thrive under a micro-manager? Today, I’ll try to help answer these questions and, hopefully, provide you with some practical techniques or approaches to help you develop a plan forward.

The impact of micro-management on results

There are some individuals that might argue that micro-management is necessary to achieve positive results. They might point to someone like George Patton, as an example. Patton was a strong leader, yet his approach was very directive and demanding. A leader can be demanding without micro-managing.

When micro-managers are allowed or encouraged in an organization, individuals willingly give up their own opinions and defer to the micro-manager. I remember one manufacturing site environment that was led by a classic micro-manager. This individual demanded to see every document, every report, and review every action before it became final. After a while, individuals in that organization stopped being innovative, stopped feeling that their work mattered, and essentially relinquished their job to the micro-manager.

When micro-managers are allowed to lead, these negative things happen:

  1. Other leaders stop doing their own job – Why take a chance to be second-guessed? If he/she is going to rewrite my report anyway, I’ll just let them do it.
  2. Work quality declines – The micro-manager thinks that their hand on every activity will ensure that the work gets done right. In fact, the reverse is often the case. When the experts stop spending the time to do things well (because they know the micro-manager will redo it anyway), the motivation to go the extra mile is extinguished.
  3. Work productivity declines – When the micro-manager has to touch everything before it goes forward, he/she becomes a gate-keeper that slows down progress. I recall having a manager like this once and his “to do or to review” pile was over 3-feet high. It took weeks to get even the most simple report off his desk!
  4. Morale is negatively impacted – Clearly, individuals that are micro-managed lose the motivation to go above and beyond. They already feel unappreciated, so the ongoing feeling of inadequacy fuels a never-ending morale decline. Then, as a result, productivity and work quality are impacted.

Characteristics of a micro-manager

Before we go any further, I need to make a statement:

“Micro-management has no place in good leadership. An effective leader influences others to be productive largely through positive relationships. A micro-manager cannot trust others, thus, cannot create the positive relationships that define a good leader.”

Let’s look a little closer at a micro-manager:

  1. A micro-manager trusts only self – Most micro-managers have an elevated opinion of their own abilities and performance. As a result, they feel that the work quality needed will be achieved only if they have their hand on the final product. So, they only trust themselves to do work to the required level.
  2. A micro-manager lacks self-confidence – Most micro-managers I have known are insecure. This manifests itself in performance over-reach for themselves and others. Thus, they feel a need to overcome their own inadequacy by criticizing (actively or passively) the abilities and work of others.
  3. A micro-manager operates from a position of fear – The insecurity of most micro-managers results in a fear that they will not be successful. Thus, they feel a need to touch everything, to oversee to an extreme, and to keep a tight rein on others they manage.
  4. A micro-manager always assumes you are keeping information from them – The insecurity and fear that drive most micro-managers results in a feeling that, when you don’t inform them of everything, they will look inadequate to others. This fear of looking bad to others drives their over-reliance on information. They also have this fear that you might outshine them in front of their own management team.
  5. A micro-manager believes that only they are capable of making critical decisions – Many micro-managers think so highly of themselves that they feel a need to have their own fingerprints on every critical activity. So, they elevate their own status by demeaning others. As a result, your own feelings of inadequacy grow over time.
  6. A micro-manager is always looking for a way to deflect blame away from him/herself – Most micro-managers fear being all alone when a bad decision is made. Thus, they continually seek to protect themselves by either deflecting blame or by ensuring that their culpability is protected.

Practical steps for managing a micro-manager

Here are a few steps I have taken or directly experienced from others that might help you deal with your own micro-manager:

  1. Recognize that you cannot change a micro-manager – Yes, that’s right, you can’t make a micro-manager change into a trusting leader. So many times, I’ve heard colleagues tell me about how they believe that their micro-manager will start trusting them after they have gained some experience with their work style and work results. It won’t happen! It is possible for a micro-manager to mitigate their negative behavior, but they must do it. They have to initiate this significant behavioral change on their own. Even this is nearly impossible. In fact, I have never seen a true micro-manager loosen his/her grip on knowing every detail or verifying every action. You might be able to eventually gain some latitude with a micro-manager, but it is temporary (until the next issue or surprise) and is simply in hibernation. It won’t last! So, once you recognize this, you change your approach from trying to change your micro-manager to learning to manage him/her.
  2. Begin over-communicating – Micro-managers tend to always think you are holding back information they need. Thus, they feel a need to know what you are doing, the status of every project in real time, and what is next… in detail! I once had a micro-manager that exhibited this behavior. Despite the fact that I was responsible for operations in several countries with several hundred personnel, he constantly felt the need to know mundane details of those operations. Ultimately, I simply got tired of providing him with multiple updates daily on topics that should not have been on his radar. So, I began keeping a log of key activities during the week (a simple list). Then, every Friday, I would provide him with a detailed report of those activities from the week with a list of planned key activities for the following week. In essence, I started over-communicating. Yes, this did consume a couple hours of time each week, but I quickly found that this weekly report helped immensely in keeping my micro-manager informed enough to leave me alone.
  3. Have a frank discussion with your micro-manager – It could be possible that your micro-manager inflicts severe oversight on you simply because he/she believes you prefer that management style or that they do not realize how it impacts you. Perhaps, they are not a true micro-manager, but they just need a nudge from you to back off. This is probably rare, but I have seen it occur. This approach is more successful if you have a respectful relationship with your micro-manager. Simply telling him/her that your performance is being stifled because you don’t have the freedom to operate might encourage the micro-manager to ease up. However, don’t be discouraged if this approach is not successful.
  4. Get honest feedback on your own performance – The reason you are being micro-managed might be because you need it! It could be that you lack the experience or capability to actually perform to the level desired. Find a peer or mentor that can be unbiased and provide open, honest feedback regarding your performance and why your micro-manager might feel a need to provide extreme oversight for you. Another good indicator for this might be whether others reporting to the same micro-manager are also being micro-managed. If you are alone, it could indicate a need to modify your own performance rather than blame the micro-manager.
  5. Seek advice from others that have successfully worked with your micro-manager – In most organizations, you can easily find other individuals that have seemingly survived or at least coped with your micro-manager in the past. Because circumstances may be similar for you, ask for advice on what worked for that individual. What did that individual do to fend off or deal with the constant oversight that plagues you?
  6. Learn to cope until circumstances change – In some cases, nothing you can do seems to help. Your micro-manager cannot be influenced to loosen the reins or provide you more freedom. Techniques you have used do not help. And, to top it off, you must remain in this position because of geography, family circumstances, etc. In these cases, you must simply develop personal techniques to cope with the problem until it is resolved by other means (the micro-manager leaves, for example). In one of my difficult positions in the past, I forced myself to leave the site every day at noon to get away. I would get lunch at a drive up restaurant and listen to my car radio while eating. This time away gave me a chance to clear my mind and begin the afternoon with a clearer mind… a fresh start. Others I have known take a walk at noon, listen to music, or some other way to change focus from work to something more relaxing. Another way to deflect your anxiety is to focus on helping others. It is amazing how your perspective changes from your own problems when you are helping someone else deal with their own. In short, until something changes, you need to find a way to escape for a time to allow your body and mind to recharge.
  7. Leave – If everything else fails, it might be time to leave your current situation and find another role. Life is too short to spend most of your time at work in a situation that causes you significant anxiety. When you’ve tried everything else to no avail, begin looking for that next chapter. How do you know when it is time? My two keys for knowing a change is needed were: How do I feel on Sunday night when I begin thinking about work on Monday morning? Where do I want to be 5 years from now and can I get there from here? When you honestly seek the answer to these two questions, you’ll know when the time to make a change has arrived.

Being micro-managed is no fun. But, by understanding its source and how you might effectively deal with it can make life better and your stress less burdensome.

Retirement Q&A


For those of you nearing, pondering, or working toward that last day of your career, I thought it might be helpful to provide some basic information that I have learned in my first three years of retirement. I must admit that I am not an expert on many technical aspects of these topics. However, I feel that I now have enough real-world experience that can assist you in your own preparation. If you have other questions that you would like me to try to address in future posts, just send me a separate note and I’ll add your questions to the list.

Just to set the stage, I retired at age 61. My wife is also retired. We have no pension and do not plan to work part-time during retirement.

  1. In your opinion, what are those key markers or indicators (financial or otherwise) that tell you that you can consider retirement? – There are three elements of preparing for retirement: financial (Do I have enough money to live how I want that will last the rest of my life?), emotional (To a large extent, my work has defined me for the last 40 years… can I give that up?), and social (How do I replace my workplace social network with a new network). So, you need to consider factors in all three areas to determine if it is time to consider retirement. If you are comfortable with your answers to these questions, the time might be right:
    • Financial – Hopefully, you have been looking at your own financial picture in preparation for retirement for several decades. At its core, you simply must determine if you have the financial means to provide enough ongoing income to live the lifestyle you desire and maintain that throughout the rest of your life. Several questions must be answered before you can check the financial box:
      • What income is required?
      • Do I have debt?
      • Will my lifestyle change (e.g., relocation, downsizing, etc.)?
      • Is my health good?
      • What sources of income can I expect in retirement and are they sustainable?
      • Am I prepared to handle unexpected large expenses (such as a new car, new roof, new furnace, etc.)?
      • Am I planning on leaving a legacy inheritance upon my death?
      • Can my finances withstand long-term care expenses?
    • Emotional – Most people do little to prepare for the changes to their routine and personal identity that come with retirement. Certainly, we all look forward to having more time for neglected hobbies. Filling the days with activities is not difficult. However, filling the days with activities you believe have value may be another thing entirely. Being prepared to handle these significant changes can mean the difference between a happy retirement and a depressing time of life. Several questions to help you prepare for this include:
      • Am I OK with leaving behind my career position, status, and everything that goes with it?
      • Do I have hobbies that I enjoy that can provide fulfilling activity and, possibly, interaction with others?
      • Is my spouse ready for me to spend more time at home?
      • Are there things I have been looking forward to doing once I have more time?
      • Can I truly relax (by this I mean… Can I be satisfied sitting on the deck for an hour each morning observing nature and enjoying time doing nothing? Or, am I miserable when I’m not actively involved in a project or other activity?)?
    • Social – Perhaps, one of the biggest shocks in retirement is going from daily/hourly interaction with your work team – possibly, individuals you have known and worked with for decades – to more isolation? In other words, will you go nuts without the frequent people interactions that defined your work life? Here are several things to consider:
      • Do you have other individuals in your life that you’ll spend more time with?
      • Do you enjoy quiet hobbies that you can do alone, such as reading, writing, crafts, etc.?
      • How much will it bother you to not be “in the loop” for work things?
      • Can you imagine, and accept, that your work colleagues will quickly be so consumed with their own work that contacts with you will become less and less frequent?
      • Are you readily able to make new friends and seek new social relationships?
  2. What are some of the unexpected things you have experienced, so far, in your retirement experience? – Whenever you move into a new, unchartered chapter of life, there are always surprises or things you didn’t expect. I have had a few myself:
    • My wife and I did not expect that we would buy a vacation home shortly after retiring (more on that below).
    • I think our actual monthly expenses are lower than we expected. We monitor our expenses carefully and had conservatively estimated what they would be in retirement, but, so far, they have been lower.
    • The free time is even more enjoyable than expected. I tell people, “Every day is like Saturday, except Sunday.” The big difference is that, as opposed to Saturdays when you are working, if you don’t get a project done today, there is always tomorrow… or the next day. There is time to read (an activity that I simply didn’t do when I worked), resume old hobbies, or take up new ones. It is OK to accomplish nothing significant today. It is OK to stay up late. It is OK to take a nap. It is OK to do things for others because you still have so much time to do what you want.
    • I have not missed work. I can honestly say that I have not yet awaked wishing that I could go to work. Certainly, I miss interacting with friends and colleagues, but the transition to retirement for me was easy… when I drove away that last day, I left my work life behind.
  3. How did you know when you were financially able to consider retirement and what tools did you use to monitor financial progress? – To be honest, I began monitoring my retirement savings progress shortly after taking my first job. I felt it was that important to ensure that I was staying on plan. The bottom line is this… when your combined retirement income (savings, pensions, and social security) safely exceeds your ongoing expenses AND you have a safety net to address unexpected expenses, inflation, etc., you are probably in a position financially to consider retirement. For me, there are three things that helped ensure that I stayed on track:
    • A trusted financial advisor – We have been advised for about 30 years by the same individual. Jean has a calm, financially conservative approach that has helped keep us investing intelligently, consistently, and in a focused way.
    • A personal finance tracking tool – I have used an Excel spreadsheet to tracking our retirement savings for many years. At least quarterly, I review account totals, then meet with our advisor annually to make any needed changes. About 5 years from retirement, I began projections of retirement balances that go 30+ years into retirement that considered social security, inflation, expected investment returns, projected spending, etc. to ensure that the numbers worked through the rest of our lives. This tool helped provide confidence when that ultimate retirement decision was near.
    • A careful spending plan – My wife and I are probably considered very conservative on spending. Our lifestyle was always good, but we didn’t feel the need to make many spontaneous or impulse purchases. We also were careful about big purchases, such as college expenses, wedding expenses, etc. By developing the habit of careful spending, we did not have to make significant lifestyle changes in retirement.
    • A commitment to avoid/eliminate debt – Debt is one of the most significant barriers to retirement for many. Our approach has been to pay off our mortgage as soon as possible and avoid debt to finance car and home repair expenditures. Thus, when it was time to consider retirement, we were not burdened by debt as an additional issue to consider. A lack of debt just makes the overall planning process easier and less complicated.
  4. The biggest concern most people have for retirement is medical costs. What have you experienced, thus far, around medical care and costs? – While it is true that medical costs in retirement can be significant, there are ways to mitigate those costs. First of all, if you retire before reaching Medicare eligibility age (65), you can purchase COBRA coverage for up to 18 months. This coverage is comprehensive, though expensive. If you pay for full coverage, you can expect to pay over $1400/mo for a couple with no other dependents. After COBRA, you can purchase medical insurance either privately or through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the exchange at healthcare.gov. If your retirement income as a couple is below the threshold, you may be eligible for a tax credit that reduces significantly your cost. The ACA insurance should be viewed as catastrophic insurance, e.g., it may not be the most comprehensive, but it should protect you from potentially disastrous medical costs. In addition, if you are healthy, the ACA insurance might actually be less expensive that the coverage you had with your employer. The ACA insurance covers all preventive costs, such as annual check-ups, tests associated with it, and immunization costs. For us, COBRA followed by ACA insurance has bridged us from employer’s coverage to Medicare very well! One more thing about budgeting and medical insurance in retirement. For planning purposes, I have always assumed the worst-case costs. This would include premiums plus total out-of-pocket costs. Certainly, you should expect to spend less than that, but this gives you a planning amount that can help take unknowns out of your planning.
  5. What is your biggest worry or concern in retirement? – I have a friend that says his biggest worry is “whether I should use a 6- or 7-iron on my next shot.” I wouldn’t say that retirement is that worry-free, but it is a time of less overall stress. By the time you reach retirement, many of those things that busied your mind previously have been resolved… your kids are educated, out-of-the-home, and off the payroll (hopefully!!); you have either retired your debt or something close to it; you no longer have to set an alarm just to get up, fight the traffic, and hurry to work; and you have reached a financially stable point in your life. However, that doesn’t mean that all worries have evaporated. By this time of life, there are still issues to deal with:
    • Aging – Someone once said, “After age 60, if you wake up with a pain anywhere in your body, get used to it… it will never go away.” There is some truth to that. Despite your best efforts to eat right, exercise, and do the right things, our bodies will break down. Staying active and busy help keep our minds off these personal ills.
    • Family members – Many retirees have other family members that consume time, energy, and worry. It is amazing how many retirees are still caring for aging parents. Others have dependent children and grandchildren. Helping them may increase overall stress.
    • Finances – Hopefully, careful planning can circumvent financial worries. However, there is always that small voice in your head that whispers a worry every time the stock market drops.
    • Purpose – Many retirees worry about whether they are still contributing to society. In other words, some wonder if they still have a purpose or do they still add value. Of course, this is preposterous, but one way to fend off these thoughts and worries is to find a way to serve others.
    • Decisions – Though life in retirement is simpler than earlier days, there are still decisions to make. Some individuals find it more difficult to make decisions as they age. Or, they worry more about the decisions they do need to make.
  6. Is buying a vacation home or time share a good or bad idea? – We made the decision in our first year of retirement to buy a vacation home. We spend part of the year at this home each year.  Our decision was perfect for us because we found a lake cottage in an area where we formerly lived. We know the area, we still have great friends there, and we have plenty to do on and around the lake. We believe that our purchase was for an appreciating asset that can easily be converted to cash in the future if we are no longer able to visit. Before making any such purchase, you should consider the following – if you can answer affirmatively on each question, it may make sense for you as it did for us:
    • Can you afford it based on your retirement financial plan? – Don’t let this one expenditure destroy the plan you’ve made.
    • Can you foresee using the home/time share year after year without getting bored with that one location? – Will you wish later that you had more flexibility in locations?
    • Will the home/time share be an ongoing financial drain (repairs, maintenance fees, travel expenses, etc.)? – Be sure you carefully look at these in the context of your financial plan.
    • Do you have friends, family, or connections nearby? – This was important for us. We had a built-in network of friends in our lake cottage location.
    • How easy will it be to eventually sell or liquidate the home/time share? – If needed, can you convert this back to cash to supplement your income, if needed?
  7. Everyone seems to have a recommendation about when to begin receiving Social Security. What have you decided about Social Security? – We decided to begin receiving social security at age 63. We have heard all the pro/con arguments for taking it early versus delaying and decided this made most sense for us. Our financial advisor said she has calculated this many times for clients and it almost always makes more sense to begin taking it early rather than waiting, assuming the client was invested in other long-term growth assets. This is an individual decision and a significant one, so combine the best advice you can get with your own situation to make this important decision for yourself.
  8. What about Medicare? How should I plan and prepare for it? – We are nearly ready to begin Medicare coverage in a few months. I am in the research mode now. However, I have found that there is ample information available online AND friends that have already begun Medicare coverage are a tremendous source of help. In essence, do your research and determine the plan that best suits you. I have found that my insurance broker that provides home and car insurance was able to help answer most of the questions that we had. And, if you decide to purchase supplemental plans (such as Part G), shop among several insurers. We found a difference in price of over 35% between the highest and lowest insurers for the exact same coverage.
  9. What have you experienced regarding ongoing expenses? I hear some say that you should plan on securing at least 85% of  your pre-retirement income in retirement. Is that reasonable and a good estimate for planning purposes? – I personally don’t think these standard estimates should be used by most individuals as their target. The best way to estimate needed retirement income is to do your homework regarding your current and needed monthly expenses. I would recommend tracking carefully your actual monthly expenses. This should be done over at least one full year to cover any significant expenses, such as repairs, taxes, etc. Once you have a complete picture of your ongoing expenses while working, you can better estimate your retirement expenses. For example, you may consume less car fuel when retired. You may also eat out more. Focus on where your expenses will be rather than trying to achieve a percentage of your pre-retirement income.
  10. How do you spend your time? Do you get bored? – I think it is amazing how busy you get in retirement. You start doing things you have delayed for decades and enjoy new activities you’ve been waiting to try. For us, we are fully busy every day while at our lake cottage. These are activities we never did while working, such as kayaking, bike riding, etc. It is good to play more golf these days. My wife and I really do enjoy our extra time together. I admit, though, that there are times and days when there is not much to do. On those days, I read or enjoy other activities I didn’t participate in years ago. In short, for most people, you find that new activities fill the days of retirement in ways you didn’t expect.
  11. What are a few of my recommendations for a satisfying retirement? – Here are a few things I do that makes my retirement time even more enjoyable:
    • I still create a weekly to-do list. Yes, I know that seems contrary to all the free time I now have, but there are times when you just need to feel as though you are making progress and doing things of value. Creating a list keeps the important things at the forefront of your mind PLUS it gives you positive motivation when you check things off the list.
    • Shop for bargains. With the added time you have in retirement, you can take the time to shop for the best deals on things like restaurants, travel, etc. And, take advantage of discounts offered for seniors.
    • Feel free to rearrange your schedule. On many days, we now often eat our big meal of the day at lunchtime. When eating out, this allows you to take advantage of lunch specials that are not available for dinner. You can also get better deals on movies, golf, etc. if you are flexible on when you go.
  12. As you approach your later years in life, do you become more introspective? In other words, do you start to be concerned about the end of your life and what comes next? – Yes, I think for everyone, as you get past a certain age, you become more introspective. You start wondering what you might have done differently. You begin thinking about what’s next. There are three things that everyone should do to best prepare for that day when you’re gone from this world:
    • Ensure you spouse/children know the details of your finances and assets – I have heard many stories of left behind families having no idea what assets exist, where they reside, and how to access them. This should not occur. Be sure that a few people close to you know what you have and where to get it. One thought is to ensure that your financial advisor has information on all your retirement holdings, then ensure that family members know how to contact that advisor when the time comes. Don’t hinder your family by keeping this important information from them.
    • Prepare a will or trust – It is very important, as well, that you help your survivors by legalizing the distribution of your assets. Many individuals nearing retirement either have no will or it is sorely outdated (e.g., it still talks about guardianship for your now grown children). Take the time and minimal cost to update your will or create a trust to ensure that you minimize confusion, time, and heartache for those you love most after you pass.

Retirement for me has been a wonderful journey, thus far. I hope today that my experience can help you prepare and navigate through your transition from the work life to your next chapter.

“Consensus management” is a poor excuse for leadership

In business and society today, there is the philosophy that in the first step in any discussion, project, initiative, or, in some cases, relationship, everyone involved must agree. In fact, agreement is often considered more important than truth. This approach is wrong! A leader that seeks consensus over truth is a poor leader!

There is a Chinese proverb called “Three men and a tiger.” The story refers to an individual’s tendency to accept absurd information as long as it is repeated by enough people. A lie, if repeated often enough, will eventually be accepted as truth.

I recently ran across the following quote that speaks to the fallacy of seeking consensus:

“Consensus means that everybody agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.” — Abba Evan

There are at least seven reasons why a good leader should NOT seek the easy, lazy way to make decisions and solve critical problems:

  1. Consensus management is lazy management – By deferring decisions to a majority opinion, a leader is taking the easy path toward a decision. Reaching the best decisions using facts, data, and truthful information can be hard work. By allowing a simple discussion and vote, the leader has abdicated responsibility for making a potentially critical discussion to a popularity contest.
  2. Consensus management often ignores truth – When a leader allows opinions to dictate decisions, driving facts may be ignored. Participants will often emphasize opinions, rather than facts, to influence others as the group drives to a consensus. Facts must always trump opinions!
  3. Consensus management often defers to the loudest voice in the room – By seeking a consensus, the leader essentially allows the voices of a few to drive the decision. And, these voices are often those that are the loudest and most emotion, rather than those delivering facts, alternatives, and potential issues.
  4. Consensus management inhibits participation – When faced with some voicing strong opinions, many individuals will simply choose to not speak up. This is especially true for individuals less outgoing or more introverted. Allowing only those with strong opinions to dominate the discussion inhibits those that quite possibly have the best input.
  5. Consensus management is often emotion-based rather than fact-based – When seeking a consensus, the discussion becomes one of influencing others to one path rather than the best path. It becomes a process of winning votes rather than identifying what is best for the group. Thus, emotion becomes the key factor to influence and dissuade others rather than objectively reviewing and discussing the facts of the situation.
  6. Consensus management inhibits individual and innovative thought – Consensus drives toward the majority opinion, not necessarily the best decision. As a result, the group tends to discourage thoughts considered “outside the box”. Thus, innovating thoughts and solutions are rarely considered.
  7. Consensus management often ignores the root issue – Consensus tends to strive for a fast decision without considering the root issue or without seeking answers that should address the core issue. For critical decisions, speed is often the enemy of truth.

Certainly, there are times when a “vote” or “decision by majority” is appropriate. For example, when trying to decide issues in which individual “preference” is involved, a vote following discussion of available facts is appropriate.  Selection of the All-American college football team is a good example. A case can be made with facts for several different choices, thus, reaching a final choice must often be made by a vote of individuals with specific knowledge of statistics supporting each choice. However, most decisions in management should be seeking the best path forward, not the favorite path forward.

Real leadership is always a challenge. Making key decisions is difficult enough without the added challenges and limitations associated with consensus management. It is often easier and faster to abdicate your responsibilities as a leader to the group. However, don’t fall into that trap!

“Real leadership seeks the best answer… not the one based on opinions, the one reached most expeditiously, or the one considered most politically acceptable. The wrong answer is still the wrong answer even if everyone thinks it is the right answer.”

10 things that will guarantee your child will NOT grow up to be a ‘Snowflake’


The term “Snowflake” to describe a person or group of persons is relatively new. It seems to have arisen around 2010 and is defined as “individuals or a group or class of people that have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.” The term has been applied to colleges that promote safe spaces, new accommodations in the workplace, political identities, support animals, and a general revision of cultural norms to fulfill the “needs” of these overly sensitive individuals.

The term “Snowflake” is commonly associated with Millennials, BUT it is true that there are individuals in all age groups that fall into this definition. Personally, I hate to generalize regarding individuals or groups. For many individuals, special accommodations ARE needed. For instance, support animals for individuals suffering from autism or veterans impacted by PTSD represent a significant step forward in helping these individuals assimilate into life. However, this is not true for others.

Many reasons have been posed for why society has become more sensitive, overly-emotional, and unable to cope. Some blame an over-reliance on electronic devices. Others blame over-worked parents. Clearly, turning our hearts away from God is a factor. Still others claim that the need to “protect” children from any possibility of harm is the root cause. Whatever the reason (parental choices, social media, affluence/poverty, etc.), I believe that there are things that we – parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, bosses, friends, coaches, and influencers – can do to guarantee that tomorrow’s adults will be more independent, capable, and resilient.

Let’s look at 10 things I believe we must teach and instill in our children to prevent the continued epidemic of “Snowflakes” in our society:

  1. There are consequences to your decisions and actions – Good or bad, we reap what we sow. Too many individuals have failed to learn this basic truth. When you make bad choices, don’t expect good things in return. When we fail to teach our children about consequences, we allow them to assume that any choice is good and that adverse consequences are not their fault. Individuals must learn that OUR choices impact what comes next. When kids think that nothing in life is their fault, they assume the role of victim whereby others should be expected to correct the “wrongs” that have befallen them. Parents, please teach your children that they have to live with the result of the decisions they make… and, don’t bail them out when they make wrong choices. Doing so, encourages future poor choices.
  2. You can’t always win – Learning to lose is an opportunity to learn and grow. Children must understand that life doesn’t always go their way. You don’t always get a trophy at work when your competitor beats you. You won’t always get the promotion you want, the job that looks perfect, or the accolades you feel you deserve. Teaching our children to be good sports must begin early and be re-enforced often. I spend a lot of time with my 5 year old grandson. When playing games, he often wants to change the rules to his advantage, so he can always win. Don’t let your children always win! Show them that they can still have fun even when they lose. Sometimes the journey of life is more fulfilling than winning in the end. Kids learn this at an early age. When they fail to learn this, every loss or disappointment represents a failure that can drag them down into victimhood.
  3. Bad things can and sometimes do happen – How we respond to adversity is a measure of our character. When things do go wrong, do we respond by learning from it or do we pout? Teaching our children that, in fact, life will not always go their way is important preparation for adulthood. Show them that responding to life’s bumps can be rewarding. Teach them to look for alternatives or detours around life’s roadblocks. Demonstrate to them how to react when unexpected negative events occur. Help them learn to react calmly, rather than with anger or resentment.
  4. You get ahead by earning it – Children must learn that work has value. They must learn that those things we value most are things we earn, not the things we are given. Too many children fail to learn this because we give trophies to those that do not win; we eliminate awards because we do not want to offend the losers; or we expand the requirements to make it easier to achieve. Parents, we need to teach our children that work is good, not something to be looked down upon. We need to teach our children the difference between effort and results. Too many young adults have never worked in their lives until they graduate from high school or college. As a result, they have not developed the discipline required (be on time, do what is expected, do it day-after-day, etc.) to be successful. Parents, that is on us!
  5. Kindness and respect are always appropriate – People today are fed-up with rudeness and disrespect. You don’t have to scroll far on LinkedIn to read an article talking about how hiring managers now value kindness. You can’t get far in today’s world unless you respect others, especially those different from you. Kindness and respect are learned early in life. Parents that allow children to control them are beginning to spiral into abuse and disrespect. Children need to learn early that there are limits and boundaries that cannot be crossed without consequences (see item 1 above). The most important factor in learning kindness and respect is to observe how others (e.g., parents) treat people. If your parents were kind, chances are you “learned” that kindness is a basic expectation. Don’t fail your children by allowing them to disrespect others, including you!
  6. Serving others takes the focus off our own problems – It seems to me that much of what currently falls under the “Snowflake” umbrella these days is a result of self-focus. Safe places are needed because one needs to be shielded from perceived oppression. I want… I feel offended… I am angry…  When we focus all our attention on ourselves, the world naturally begins rotating around us. By helping our children (or, employees in the workplace) learn the importance of serving others – putting the needs of someone else ahead of their own – their entire perspective will change.
  7. Perseverance and patience are learned – I have been in a number of positions in the workplace in which we hired college graduates with little or no experience. I remember, more than once, one of those individuals coming to me after six months on the job asking, “What do I have to do to get promoted here? I have done everything anyone has asked and it seems like my career is stagnant.” Can you imagine? Parents, teach your children the value of working hours or days or months on a project. Teach them that patience has its rewards down the road. Show them the importance of working patiently to accomplish something. Help them see that immediate gratification has its risks and costs.
  8. We have to solve our own problems – I frequently read articles from well-intentioned parents talking about how to plan play dates, seminars, conferences, camps, and organized activities to occupy their children during all their “free” time. Don’t “schedule” every hour of the day. It does not do your children a favor to remove from them the opportunity to find their own activities. When parents feel the need to orchestrate every activity of the day for their children, the kids often fail to learn to solve their own problems and do basic things for themselves. How many stories have you heard about parents walking their young adults to college registration, finding classrooms, and eliminating every potential unknown before leaving their child alone on campus? Do you think that actually helps the student? I have heard stories of parents coming to their child’s workplace to help them solve issues regarding work schedules or issues with coworkers. Parents, let your child learn by doing. Let them solve their own problems. Begin by allowing them the “burden” of being creative in filling their own time.
  9. Authority must be respected – If you cannot submit to others, you’ll never be successful in work or in life. A child that fails to learn to respect authority will never be a good worker, a good parent, a good spouse, or a good friend. When I look back to individuals I have known that have experienced a lifetime of struggling with work – finding, keeping, and thriving in the job market – almost every individual is one you might conclude has a problem with authority. Parents, teach your children that we all answer to someone. We all have to submit to some individual, some authority, and to God. Learning to place our own desires and demands aside for the greater good is essential for future success.
  10. Be grateful because much of what we have (including our freedom) came through the sacrifice of others –  Finally, every child needs to learn to be patriotic…to be grateful. Everyone needs to understand our history and how our freedom was won. We all must understand that our freedom was earned by the blood of others. When children fail to learn this, they grow up feeling entitled. They fail to respect what they have. They fail to be grateful. Expressing gratitude – for our freedoms, for our blessings, for what others have done for us – is a character marker that will impact that individual’s success and contentment throughout life.


If we teach these things, and demonstrate them through our actions, we can guarantee that our children will not become “Snowflakes”. When children grow into adulthood with these truths embedded into their hearts, their character, and expressed through the actions of their lives, they will almost assuredly be participating, contributing, and independent adults. After all, isn’t this our primary responsibility as parents?







Things I have learned in my first 900 days retired

I will celebrate my 900th day retired in a few days. I thought it might be a good time to share some of the things I have learned and experienced. I know that in the years before I retired, I had a number of questions and concerns. I had read advice from “experts”… most of whom were still working. I had based my plans somewhat on their advice, but there are just some things you cannot know until you experience them for yourself. Anyway, let me do what I can to pass along some of the things I have learned to those of you approaching that big day.

  1. Everyone has a unique financial situation, so don’t get overly concerned with standard “retirement rules of thumb” – I think we have all been influenced by retirement pundits, experts and financial advisors discussing basic rules that need to govern our planning. You have probably heard the “4% rule” that says you should plan to deduct no more than 4% of your retirement portfolio annually. Every professional advisor can provide general guidelines that should be considered by anyone contemplating retirement. It is good to listen and consider this advice, BUT each individual circumstance is unique. So, be open to assess your own financial plan based on your own needs. Here are a few suggestions I have regarding financial planning:
    • Retirement financial planning becomes much more simple and doable if you have eliminated all debt before that day. Yes, you can carry mortgage debt into retirement, but having none surely makes for easier planning and sounder sleep at night.
    • Get a good handle on your expected ongoing monthly expenses. Track this for at least two years to ensure that you are using credible data to manage cash flow.
    • Find and use a financial advisor that you trust to assist with portfolio balancing, investment research, and expected returns on your portfolio. This individual can also help minimize tax burdens and can provide unbiased (and unemotional) input regarding difficult decisions.
    • Don’t be afraid to use expected Social Security in planning calculations. You should get an annual statement that shows your estimated SS income, so include that in planning assumptions.
  2. Be open to new adventures and spontaneity when you retire – Before I retired, my wife and I had never discussed buying a vacation home. However, less than a year into retirement, we decided to invest in a lake home where we now spend significant time. The home should retain its value and our annual outlay for maintaining and running the place is relatively small. The point is that we would never had considered such a purchase if we were not open to new experiences. Now, we thoroughly enjoy our time at the lake and it gives us an energy that we never would have experienced otherwise. So, look for opportunities to move outside the box. Consider doing something that enhances your lifestyle… even if it might never had been in your retirement plan.
  3. Medical insurance may not be as complex or costly as you think – One of our primary concerns going into retirement was medical insurance. After all, that is one of the most prevalent concerns noted by the media and others relating to retirement. My wife and I had to fill a gap in time between insurance carried by our employer and the time we qualify for medicare. We opted to look at policies offered by the Affordable Care Act (healthcare.gov). The ACA policy we chose provides excellent preventive coverage (for example, our recent annual physical exams, including laboratory tests, mammogram, etc. cost us nothing). And, because our annual income is below ACA limits, the monthly premium is very affordable. My advice for others is to avoid delaying retirement just because you are concerned with medical insurance. Look at options, including policies covered by the ACA, before simply assuming that policies are unavailable or too expensive.
  4. Social security can play an important role in your financial security – Yes, I know… everything you hear says wait to claim SS until you are at full retirement age or greater. There are positives and negatives regarding when to claim, so I think this decision is truly an individual one. However, I can say that filing was very simple and the checks are direct-deposited every month, as promised. SS can be a very important component of your retirement financial situation that helps answer that “will I have enough” question we all face.
  5. “Value” has a new meaning in retirement – During my work years, the focus all day long was adding value… to the company, to coworkers, to customers, to patients, etc. The thought was, “If this activity is not helping someone or something, then I probably should not be doing it.” In retirement, you’ll need to shift that philosophy slightly. There is still meaning in adding value, but the value shifts from the big three of the workplace (fast, cheap, and good) to a new big three of retirement (others, service, and enjoyment). Retirement allows you to arrange your day in ways that allow you to serve others in your life. I have heard one definition of retirement as “a time when you pays yourself to do whatever you want to do rather than what others demand that you do.” Retirement allows you to add value to the lives of your spouse in ways you’ve never had time to do in the past. It allows you to spend time with children and grandchildren in new ways. It allows you to do things that add value to your own life. So, as you approach retirement, begin thinking of ways that your newly found time can make a difference to others in new ways. And, it is a good time to adopt the attitude that “I don’t have to do something productive every day.”
  6. There is plenty of time – One of my favorite sayings these days is, “Everyday is like Saturday, except for Sunday.” In retirement, you have multiple days each week to accomplish those projects and activities that had to be compressed into Saturdays during working years. Not only does the extra time allow you to do more, but it allows you to do it better. How often before retirement have you felt rushed to get back to the office after lunch with a friend? Have you taken the time to visit all the county or state parks in your area? Hobbies that you’ve shelved because of lack of time can now be enjoyed or even savored because you now have the time. However…..
  7. Time is short – Retirement is a daily reminder that our days are numbered. Many of my retired friends speak often of how quickly the time has passed and how they know there are limits. Though you have much more time to do as you please during retirement, knowing that the days are short make each day more valuable and precious. Retirement is a true mix between allowing yourself to relax and enjoy the beauty of life AND the knowledge that the clock is ticking. So, work to find that balance between counting the days versus making the days count.
  8. Relationships will change – One thing that you have to understand about retirement is that nearly every relationship you have in life will change. Time with friends you have worked with and beside for years will diminish. Though you commit to regular lunches and catch-up times, these will slowly decline as you begin having less and less in common. Your relationship with your spouse will change as you suddenly have 50 or more additional hours every week together. This has been a blessing for me, but I hear stories from others about this being a challenging transition. Retirement is a time to restore relationships with friends and family members. I have enjoyed the time to reconnect with friends from 30 or more years ago. New friends emerge during retirement. I have enjoyed becoming part of a group of other retirees at the lake that play golf once a week. A dozen guys from different places and different backgrounds spending time together through a hobby we each enjoy. As you approach retirement, understand that relationships will change, but the new time you have will allow the relationships you have to become even stronger and better.
  9. Do healthy things, but don’t allow your health to define your life – I think we all know that our bodies were designed with a finite useful lifespan. As we age, our parts start wearing out and doing unexpected things. Retirement is a time to tweak (or dramatically change) our lifestyle to improve the function of our finite, limited bodies. Finding healthful new hobbies is a great retirement plan. We all know that our retirement years also bring about health issues. Most retirees I know can spend hours talking about their surgeries, medications, and multiple ailments. However, I would caution any new or soon-to-be retiree from allowing your health (good or bad) to define your life. We need to take the attitude that “our health is what it is”, but it will not dominate our thoughts, our conversations, and our actions. Living through pain and inconvenience will allow our lifestyle to be more fulfilling and enjoyable to those around us.
  10. Find ways to give back and serve others – Finally, retirement is a great time to improve the lives of others. When we serve others, our own problems seem to melt away. Spending time serving others is fulfilling, but also helps us meet our need to add value and use our limited time wisely.

Retirement is a joyous time of life. It should not be a time to dread or avoid. Rather, it can be a wonderful, fulfilling, enjoyable time for yourself, those you love, and others you serve.

And, never forget… “Today could be your best day yet! So, take the time to look up and enjoy the journey.”


The journey is often better than the destination


Last Saturday, my wife and I visited the largest nursery I have ever seen. This place (Countryside Nursery in Allendale, MI) has over 10 acres under one roof of flowers, plants, trees, and everything you could ever need to nourish and grow these to ultimate perfection. This place was so busy that they had three police officers directing traffic around the place! This nursery certainly fulfilled all our expectations… and then some!

Our visit to the nursery included two other couples that have been the best of friends with us for around 35 years. The day was filled with catching up with family stories, laughs, and unending needling. These couples are among the most wonderful people I have ever known and my life is richer because of them. I wish everyone had such friends in their life!

Our day made me think (again) that often, the journey is better than the destination. Despite the amazing nursery we visited, our day was a terrific one because we spent the day with good friends. We could have been driving 2-3 hours each way to visit a grocery store and it would have been a good day because of our time together.

How often do we get so caught up in trying to reach a life destination (graduation, marriage, promotion, debt elimination, retirement, etc.) that we simply keep our head down and try to get through the day? You have probably heard many versions of this… “If I can just get that promotion, my life will be better.” Or… “Once my mortgage is paid, everything else will fall into place.” Or… “I can’t wait until my kids graduate and get out on their own.” However, when you look too intently on the destination, you often fail to enjoy the blessings and fun that come with the journey.

Hopefully, I am enjoying the journey, though I have certainly entertained my share of goals and objectives throughout my life. When my days are finished, I want to truthfully say that my regrets were few. I want to be able to say that I enjoyed those days changing diapers, helping with algebra homework, and trying to juggle our finances. I want to fondly remember the good and tough times at work, the deadlines, and thriving despite bad bosses. I want to smile when I think of all the good times along the way. I want to cherish every day I have had with my wonderful wife.

Don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day routine that you fail to savor those good times that, once gone, will never return. As I have said before (check out this link:someday, the last time):

“Some day the last time really will be the last time.”

Take a pause today and look out the window as you travel along a road that you’ll never travel again.