Editor’s note: MBJ publisher Joe D. Jones, CPA, is recovering from a back injury. His column will return next week. This week’s column was first published in the Aug. 16-22, 1999, issue.
I have irrefutably arrived at middle age. For the most part, my kids are grown and gone. In a mere 11 years, I can file for early Social Security. Thanks to some lucky breaks and hard work over the years coupled with a lifelong conservative attitude toward finances, I can see my way clear to retire at 62 with about the same income I have now.
One would assume that this state of personal affairs would produce joy in abundance. I mean, isn’t this where everybody is scrambling to get? This is what I hoped and planned for in my younger years and it has come to pass. Why am I somewhat pensive when I should be jubilant?
When I was 30-ish I had definite career goals and derived satisfaction from working hard and seeing benefit of my labors. Success, alas survival, was not a given and challenges had to be grappled with just to stay on the playing field. My work provided much of my self-worth in those days.
Much later, when survival was no longer a day-to-day issue, I began to reserve more time for my personal interests. My vision was to continue slowing down and withdrawing from the business scene until eventually I wouldn’t be there at all. With the control I enjoyed over my schedule and the excellent employees I was fortunate enough to have, I self-indulged more and more.
As I passed the half-century mark my attitude took a definite turn from the direction I had envisioned. Self-indulgence gets old after a little while. I have a need to do some constructive things and make contributions. I’m not ready for retirement.
I got places to go and things to do!
Gail Sheehy wrote in one of her self-help books that success in life is discovering your passion and pursuing it with vigor. Note the word “discovering” as opposed to “deciding” ones passion. We have to live life for awhile to “discover” what is really significant to us; we can’t merely decide our passions and act accordingly.
Upon reflection, the happiest people I have known were those who were doing something they felt strongly about and believed that their efforts made a contribution in furthering that cause. These people do not aspire to retirement. Rather, they seem to be content to keep doing what they are doing indefinitely.
These reflections have provided me a resurgence of enthusiasm for my career and my “passions.” I have put self-indulgence on the shelf to be taken down and enjoyed in lax times. Based on statistics, I have at least another 25 good years to pursue my passions with enthusiasm and that is what I intend to do.
As millions of us Baby Boomers cross the 50-year threshold, I imagine lots of folks are dealing with this same situation. Early retirement packages resulting from downsizing and almost a decade of record stock market profits have likely produced a crowd of my contemporaries who can afford to retire around age 60.
Everyone in this enviable position should see themselves as freed to pursue significant endeavors rather than waiting to rust-out. Whether as a volunteer or paid staffer, there is much that needs to be done and human nature needs to set and accomplish goals to maintain self esteem.
After ‘em tigers!
THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT
Existence was given us for action, rather than indolent and aimless contemplation; our worth is determined by the good deeds we do, rather than by the fine emotions we feel. They greatly mistake who suppose that God cares for no other pursuit than devotion.
— E.L. MAGOON
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.