Three years ago I retired as CEO of a successful advertising agency.
Our transition of leadership faced most of the big challenges all firms do.
As full attention is given to the business side of a successful transition, it's easy to ignore the personal considerations. What's to plan anyway?
Lots. Mostly, the right frame of mind for a lifestyle you've never had the opportunity to enjoy. And one that may be very different than you anticipate.
My three years of retirement have been the best years of my life. Not once has the thought ever crossed my mind that I'd like to be back running the agency.
To this day, when I chat with a friend who is considering retirement, I become greatly concerned if they ask me, "What in the world can you find to do every day?" These friends may have few interests other than their work, and most should not retire. But I have yet to find an advertising person who has ever asked me this question.
Here are some personal observations-some ingredients-I believe will influence a happy retirement.
Be married to someone you really have fun being with.
It's better if both of you are in good health.
Have enough resources so it is not necessary to reduce dramatically your lifestyle when the regular monthly check is no more.
Interestingly, not one of these first three ingredients can be "fixed" at the last minute.
Recognize that once friends and acquaintances learn you will be retiring, they assume you will have time on your hands and will be looking for new involvements. Don't let yourself get caught in the big retirement trap. Tell everyone who asks you to join their board or chair their drive the same thing. Explain to them you have made a small vow to yourself not to make any commitments until you have been retired for at least 12 months. If you wish to break that promise before the first year is up, you do it with a much better understanding of your new life.
As much as you may have taken their efforts in stride, there were many people who worked to make your job go smoothly. That support was there every day. This may set you up for a fall after retirement day. Make sure you don't expect your mate to provide any of those kinds of support activities.
Don't anticipate phone calls from the agency asking for counsel and advice. Remember each new leader wants to establish an independence from the past. You did.
Recognize your situation has changed and so will the friends you see regularly. I was warned of this but had serious doubts it would happen. But it did. You will discover new friends-some you've known casually for years, but now have time to enjoy all over again.
nCut the cord in every way with your former employer. Leave no reason to second-guess their decisions-such as any share of ownership. Keep their friendship. Let them know you respect them, but stay out of the way.
Work hard to support personally and publicly the changes and successes of the company. It builds a positive attitude. In addition, it is more pleasant for all.
For years, your schedule was influenced primarily by others. You worked hard to make sure you squeezed in time for important activities. Now, don't wait for others to make things happen. It's up to you.
Make sure you get yourself involved in an activity that will pump up your adrenalin once in a while.
A year after he retired, Cochrane Chase told me that the "old war- horse" in us who spent years preparing and participating in high-pressure presentations needs to revisit the pressure situation periodically. Cochrane would agree to lecture a particularly challenging group on a subject requiring great preparation.
Any surprises? Sure. I found out God designed the human body for about 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. After 20 or 30 years of 5 hours practically every weeknight, I have discovered the joy of no alarm clock.
Marathoners talk of "hitting the wall." I've completed three marathons over the years, but my running is much more casual now. Perhaps there is a "wall" for me to hit in this delightful jog along the retirement road. But based on the first 40 months, I really don't believe so.