Travel – 2

We just returned from the most complicated vacation we’ve taken — a month across Scandinavia and on into Russia.  Six countries, seven major cities, apartments, hotels, boats, trains, cars, planes, even a guide (in Russia, a new experience for us).  I researched, planned, and booked this all myself.

Talk about something I NEVER would’ve contemplated during my long career!!!

With time available here and there, however, I gradually assembled this trip over a period of about four months.

First, the timing.  We usually enjoy a summer vacation in July, but this year events were such that August would be the month.  This left out more southern locations as they’d simply be too hot.  And the possibility therefore appeared that perhaps the more northern countries, where it’s really only warmish two months out of the year (July and August) might make sense.

But this would entail several countries, lots of unpacking/repacking, and contrast with our usual plan of going someplace, renting an apartment and exploring from there for several weeks or a month.  This required some discussion and eventually led to an agreement.  And a stake:  everything we did would have to be easy.  If something felt like it would be difficult, it was scratched from the list.

From the top, I mocked up an itinerary on Excel.  This was very high level:  where would we be on what day, when would we travel from place to place.  After a couple of rounds of edits, the skeleton of the trip was in place.

Then I booked the flights (overseas leg on freebie miles) and an overnight ferry boat, wanting to ensure space availability.  And put on the calendar the dates at which to buy tickets for bullet trains that didn’t allow purchasing too far in advance.

Lastly came apartment rentals, for which I used (and highly recommend) AirBnB.com (as in air bed and breakfast), a very easy-to-use and information-rich site for renting directly from owners.  Another which folks often use is VRBO.com (vacation rental by owner), which I last used many years ago and found didn’t have enough capability in terms of filtering for only the attributes I wanted (perhaps they’ve improved now — haven’t tried it recently).  And then hotels.  And rental cars.

The nastiest part of the prep was the Russian visa.  The amount of info they want is prodigious, and to comply I laboriously compiled 10 years worth of travel dates/countries from old and current passports for my wife and myself.  But it yielded to brute force and a healthy dose of application fees, as well as a consulate visit in San Francisco.  I guess they require this of us because we require this of them — that seems to be the game…

And then a very fun part of the prep — buying the Dorling-Kindersley books for each of our stops (except Helsinki, for which they don’t have one for some reason) and leafing through to pick out places/activities of interest.  I love these books as they are very detailed with lots of photos;  and they dedicate almost none of the book to lodging and shopping, which isn’t what I am seeking anyway.

In the event, everything went without a hitch.  The trip was beautiful, fun, interesting, replenishing, and eye-opening — in short, the wonderfulness that travel has to offer.  Copenhagen, Norwegian fjords, Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Moscow all welcomed us and showed us a fine time.  In order for Russia to fit the metric of easy, we hired a guide to walk around (and hydrofoil) with us and I learned the Cyrillic alphabet so to not be clueless about what signs said (a lot of words are recognizable once one can decode the letters).  And it was easy.

OK, now let’s contrast this to vacations during my long career!  We’d pick a week (very occasionally two weeks), book a hotel room someplace warm by the water, book flights, go, sit at water’s edge, and decompress.  Period.  I’d bring books and magazines along and never open them, instead just staring at the water while my brain recuperated from the exigencies of my job.  My wife relaxed and read without the ongoing load of her family and household duties of that era.  And the kids romped in the delight of childhood at the water, large breakfasts, late nights, and sleeping in.

Well, these are pretty different animals.  Opportunities can really open up in the time after your long career.  And they’re there for the taking.  Partake!

 

 

Failure

Recently, I mentioned that I had done my first Tapas Life presentation to a group, and my last post was based on some comments I heard at the presentation.  So is this post.

When at the end of the talk I asked the attendees to talk about what they’d learned, one fellow said, “I can fail.”  So profound!

One of the things I’d talked about in my presentation is how I’d tried some things and failed at them.  These are the topics of earlier posts in this blog, one about my half-time stint in the Solar Energy industry (too much of a time commitment) and the other about my attempt to teach AP Environmental Science in high school, at which I failed to find the job I wanted (and pissed away a LOT of prep time, too!)

During my 28 years in high tech, I worked hard to never fail.  In fact, in all walks of life, I worked hard to never fail.  I’m guessing that this sounds quite familiar to almost all the eyes currently focused on this page.  In fact, if I go back through 19 years of school before that, my effort to not fail was ever-present.  And then when I swapped roles with my wife, I again set to work to avoid failing as a housedad.  So, we get something like 52 years during which I did much to avoid failing at anything.

But then in assembling my Tapas Life, the stakes were suddenly way, way lower!  I was no longer trying to prove my competence in school or at work or even as a housedad.  Nobody was relying on me to do well as I assembled my Tapas Life.  Moreover, as a result of my life experience, I had become confident in myself as a human, so felt no need to prove anything more to myself.

So, I gave myself permission to embark on a variety of totally new endeavors — and then failed miserably at some of them.  The ones I mentioned above, I simply gave up on — working in Solar no doubt forever, and teaching, at least for now.  Others, I did miserably at, but persevered and got to a better outcome.  This was true of cooking (my family wasn’t very happy with me the first year I was housedad) and piano (at the first dozen recitals with my piano group, my hands shook so uncontrollably that I almost couldn’t play at all).

What was the cost of these failures?  Nothing, really.  Au contraire — there was the benefit of learning.  On the Solar attempt, I learned that having discovered the Tapas Life, giving up even 20 hours/week to one activity on a steady, programmed basis was too intrusive.  On the teaching attempt, I finally learned Biology (which I’d never taken in school)!  And I came to learn that enough Science lives in my head as to pass all the State of California science teacher exams.  I sometimes describe myself as a Veritable Compendium of Useless Bullshit — and this was proof positive.  🙂

Again — no cost!  I hadn’t fallen off the ziggurat that is school, where if you fail someplace along the way, the whole journey can turn into a mess.  I hadn’t lost my livelihood and thus been rendered incapable of putting food on my family’s table.  Those scary downsides that most live in dread of no longer had any power over me.  And I’ve had enough self-confidence and self-awareness as of my 50s as to be unruffled by an abject failure here and there.

Indeed, how one frames it is soooo important.  I’ve gone into each and every Tapa I’ve worked to add to my Tapas Life with the view that it is a trial:  it may work out and it may not.  I’ve acknowledged the fact that, more than at other times of my life, some of the things I’ve pursued as Tapas were things I didn’t know much about.  Sure, I had an interest in these areas, but I truly didn’t know if they’d pan out.  Some did, easily.  Some did with a lot of sustained effort.  Some just didn’t — I failed at them.  And owing to how I approached the process, that was perfectly OK.

The fellow in the audience of my first Tapas Life presentation who said he’d learned that he could fail, said so with a voice of wonderment and awakening.  I’m guessing that this was a life-changing moment for him — that his post-long-career life will be fuller and richer because of this realization, that he will be willing to take bigger risks and reap bigger rewards (and, yes, learn for some fine failures, too).  He’ll be more alive.

When you step into life after your long career, do what you can to accept that the game has changed, and that for the first time in decades trying new things way out of your comfort zone is a very worthwhile experience, whether the end result is hugely successful, or whether the resulting failure merely serves to educate you about yourself.

Yoda’s observation that “There is no try” isn’t meant for the Tapas Life!

 

Courage

You’ve announced that you’re ending your long career.  Coworkers deluge you with “What are you going to be doing?”  When you see friends, they’ll all want to know “What are you going to be doing?”  When you go to gatherings, cocktail parties, reunions, just about anyplace — people want to know your plans.  And before you answer, they’ll have it in their head that you’re going to travel, play golf/tennis, and do some volunteerism.

It’s the model that people are familiar with and expect you to fit nicely into it.  Well, if you’re a really, really driven type, they’ll want to know if you’re going to start another career, if you’re going to do some consulting, if you’re going to join some Boards.

If you choose to relax and decompress (and, yes, travel some) for a while, that won’t surprise anyone and will totally meet their expectations of life after a long career.

If by and by you decide to ease gradually into a Tapas Life, that will break the mold that’s in most people’s head.  Huh?  You’re not just traveling and playing golf?  You haven’t started a new job?  This can be an uncomfortable time, in that you are stepping away from the age-old model of how life is expected to be lived.  Everywhere you go, whoever you see will want to know what’s new, what you’re up to now.  If after 3-6 months you don’t have much of an answer, people will either say “Oh” (as in, gee, he’s lost) or will prod you for some sort of plan.

Moreover, you yourself may find you are itching to get started on something.  After all, you’ve spent 17+ years of your life being educated and then 30-40+ years in your long career(s).  After all this doing, it’s really alien to not be doing.  It’s awkward.  It’s not what your or others are looking for in the you they know.  It’s quite challenging to simply stay with regrouping, introspecting, considering what you actually want from the coming decades.

The most vibrant you may be submerged under the work persona you’ve inhabited for decades, and it is likely to take time and intent to find that truest you.  To be sure, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose work was their heart’s desire, what used their fullest capabilities to meaningful effect.  In which case, you may not have ended your long career at all (since that sort of idyllic life can be hard to replace)!  Sad to say, though, most of us weren’t living ourselves all that fully during our long career — or not during the work portion, or at least not during the last 10+ years of the work portion.  I know I personally was bored during the last 7+ years of my long career — and mine was only 28 years, less than most.

Yes, it takes time and intent to rediscover ourselves, while everyone incessantly pokes at us “What are you up to?”  And after rediscovering ourselves, it’s a gradual process to assemble a Tapas Life, starting in on something we love, and then adding Tapas over a period of months and years (mine took about 4.5 years to assemble), keeping some Tapas, discarding some, failing miserably at some.

It takes courage and perseverance to head down the new path of a Tapas Life, enduring other’s expectations that will remain unmet.  The closer the relationship, the harder it is to, in essence, make your friends and family feel that something’s wrong — simply because you’re not fitting into the model that’s in their head.  At the same time, look for those who believe in you and are willing to support you in a flexible way, willing to understand that it’s OK to walk a less common path.  They will be an excellent energy source and sounding boards and perhaps partners on your journey to the Tapas Life.

If you like to buck trends, are an iconoclast, stand up to the powers that be, or are otherwise a nonconformist, you’ll have an easier time of it, for sure.  If all that sort of behavior is foreign to you, and the Tapas Life appeals to you greatly, you’ll need some courage.

It’s worth swimming against the tide to enjoy a rich, fulfilling, meaningful Tapas Life during your second adult life!

 

Please introduce this blog to others you know a who are late in their long career or who have left their long career in the last few years.  You’re likely to be helping them greatly.  Thanks!

Empty-Nesters

This evening I gave my first public presentation on the Tapas Life.  This necessitated putting together a PowerPoint deck, which I do with pretty much all photos — not a bunch of text slides.  After the 6th draft, it was almost there, and then I chewed on it for about a week before tonight, tweaking here and there, changing the order of a slide, and so on.  And the feedback is that the session went well.  At my wife’s suggestion, I included a couple of activities for the attendees, and this got folks engaged with the topic from the get-go.  I was a good public speaker while in my long career, but haven’t done that in over 10 years.  It was good to find out that I haven’t forgotten how!

My second speaking event is on September 10th, and I’ll be working to line up a steady stream of these.  It’s all part of getting the word out about the Tapas Life, so people can realize that there’s a new type of life that can be assembled and lived fully and richly.  Getting the word out, as you may recall, culminates in a book, with some magazine articles along the way.  And hopefully lots of speaking engagements.  My talk is an hour long, including the activities and a bit of Q&A — if you know a group that might enjoy having me in, please put me in touch with them.  Thanks.

A benefit of the talk tonight is that I got some feedback — and it’s always helpful to get feedback.  A couple of people were talking and had an “Aha!” moment when they realized that at-home parents (mostly women) who become Empty-Nesters are in many ways in the same boat as people completing their long careers.  In fact, these parents have completed their own form of long career:  raising children — likely 20+ years worth.

How many times have you come across a parent who’s been primary caregiver to kids for a couple decades who is thoroughly lost when the youngest heads off to college?  A friend was in town a couple months ago and he said his wife is exactly there —  no idea what to do with herself.

Indeed, this is a demographic group for whom the Tapas Life is a wonderful possibility.  Just as the person at the end of any long career, they can decompress, catch up, introspect and figure out who they are after all these years, what their identity might be going forward, what they value, what makes them happy, and what they want out of their remaining decades of life.  And they may have more life left, too, because they may be closer to 50 than to 65.

They’re numerous, too.  There are over 5 million at-home moms (less than 200 thousand at-home dads) in the U.S.  And over half of them are over 35 years old.  This seems to me to be the pool of folks who will need to figure out what to do as Empty-Nesters.

Of course, some will need or want to find full-time work, either in the for-profit world or the non-profit world.

Others are excellent candidates for assembling themselves a Tapas Life.  (Which may well include part-time work of some sort.)

If you know people who are in the neighborhood of the challenging transition that attends becoming an Empty-Nester, please have them peruse this blog to become acquainted with the Tapas Life concept and to find some ideas about how to get started (e.g., Do Something You Like).  In fact, I started my quasi-random walk to my own Tapas Life (without knowing I was doing that) when I myself became an Empty-Nester, after being a housedad for 5 years (which in turn came after my long career).  I guess what they say is true:  necessity is the mother of invention.

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p.s.:  My wife and I formed an Empty-Nester dinner group with two other couples whose youngest had just gone off to college.  We got together for dinner every six weeks and shared notes about our experience, how things were going for our kids off in college, and life in general.  It was a very helpful support group for me while my Tapas Life gradually fell into place.  And it was a very helpful support group for my wife, notwithstanding that she was working full time.  If you’re an Empty-Nester or are soon to be one, you may want to consider such a thing, or a coffee group, or a dog-walking group, or whatever — just something to make that difficult transition a little easier.  A dividend is that we still get together with that group, just to enjoy each other’s company, six years later.

Transition

In earlier posts, I’ve talked about modifying one’s way of being that worked well during one’s long career (Competitiveness) and I’ve talked about finding a meaningful Tapa (Meaningful Tapa Emerges).  What we really have here, on a fuller scale, is an ending and a beginning.

It’s worth taking good note of this fact, since we’re often not so good at endings, and that can make finding new beginnings harder.

In his book, Transitions:  Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges writes about the process of ending something and starting something else.  When something important ends, for our purposes one’s long career, Bridges points out that denial, shock, anger, frustration/stress, and ambivalence are likely to ensue.  After all, one has just ended a fairly consuming activity that ran for perhaps 30-40 years!  And one might just have a scary amount of their identity tied up in the long career that was.  In a sense, this is almost like death — although fortunately just the death of a part of our lives, viewed from a useful perspective.  It’s far from game over.  So the ending needs to be celebrated, observed, felt, explored, inhabited, honored, mourned, and in other ways processed fully:  the retirement party will simply not suffice.  So talk about it, write your thoughts and feelings, paint about it, get drunk and cry about it, share your pain and confusion (or joy and delight, or all of the above) with others early and often.  Have a ceremony and bury your company ID card.  Do what it takes to move through the steps that Bridges lists above.

And this will help you arrive at what he calls The Neutral Zone.  Now you’re not in your long career anymore, but neither have you got a complete new life assembled.  This can be a place that feels unglued, where decades of attachment and structure no longer exist, a place of untetheredness.  And it can be a place where emerging freedom and possibility can be experienced.  One must live in the Neutral Zone for enough time to have new beginnings start to poke their nose out into the open.  How long?  Who knows.  I’ve blogged about it taking me 18 months after leaving my long career before I took on the new opportunity of piano lessons.  This must be different for everybody.  And yet, the Neutral Zone must be traversed, for if one doesn’t allow their Ending to be processed and a time of gathering and regrouping to take place, the possibility of a sustainable new Beginning is diminished.

As new beginnings start to form up in our mind, Bridges continues, we meet them with skepticism:  “I’ll never be any good at that.”  “They’ll never want me.”  “It’ll never work.”  Etc., etc., etc.  This may defeat and relegate to the junkyard a number of potential paths or Tapas, or merely delay them to another time.  Eventually something will emerge that you can accept as within your imaginable grasp/reach/energy.  And you’ll be able to ascribe some importance to it without becoming too fearful of it being unobtainable.  This will lead to hope and then enthusiasm and then you’ll be off and running with a new career, if that’s where you’re headed, or with a Tapa to start or add to your collection.  And you will have run the course of Bridges’ Transition model.

Quite a process, eh?  If you’re mindful of it, that will help you travel the path a bit more easily, and perhaps with more awareness of what’s going on.  He notes that Change is Fast (your long career slammed shut one Friday afternoon) and Transition is Slow (takes a while to work through the Ending, dwell in the Neutral Zone, and gradually gather energy to embark on a New Beginning).

Another key takeaway at this juncture is that the first half of your adult life (and even your childhood/adolescence before that) is taken up with proving your competence here on Planet Earth.  The second half, the half after your long career, is taken up with finding meaning in your journey from dust to dust.  Thus my reference to the Competitiveness and Meaningful Tapa Emerges posts.

Safe travels on your journey!

 

Competitiveness

I was eating breakfast with my brother-in-law this morning and at one point in the conversation, he asked me, “Are you competitive?”

This got me to thinking about how competitive I’ve been at different times in my life, and in what circumstances.  And it turns out that this is an important thing to contemplate after one’s long career.

Think about it:  first, you compete for grades in high school and college.  Then you compete for job advancement and likely also job assignments.  Eventually, competition for a spouse — an effort ongoing in nature a gazillion times a day.  Maybe along the way you played competitive sports.  Perhaps you play(ed) an instrument competitively, whether as your work or not.  It might be that you’re even competitive in conversations, trying to make the best or last point.  That’s decades of competing, and an ingrained competitive mindset.  And some of it goes along with Jung’s view of the phases of life, proving one’s competence and one’s usefulness to society.

After your long career, you may find yourself without a life full of the need to prove yourself, without a lot of situations that call for you to be competitive.  What will you do with the competitive part of you?

It’s entirely possible that along the way, you may have morphed from a competitive drive to a more collaborative outlook, more of a desire to share and mentor than to compete and beat.  Or perhaps you’re still deeply imbued with a desire to outdo others or yourself.

When you complete your long career, the thing to keep in mind is that the playing field of the past few decades has changed.  If you’re still strongly competitive in many ways, you’ll need to find new places to apply that competitiveness.  This can either be with others — sports, hobbies, performances, new part-time or full-time work, etc. — or against yourself — achieving new personal bests at an number of things.  If you don’t find new places to apply your competitive spirit, you are at risk of finding yourself competing in unhealthy ways with the people around you, perhaps the people you love.

If over the years you’ve become more collaborative, more of a member and team player, you may find that completing your long career leaves you bereft of people with whom to be that way.  You may well want to seek new milieux where there are others to work with, lest you feel lonely and become depressed.  This could be anything from team sports to new work, to volunteerism, to coaching and mentoring of people of a range of ages.

I answered my brother-in-law’s breakfast question by saying that I am very competitive, but not so much on an ongoing basis.  In me, it comes out suddenly in odd places.  I remember a time a few (more than a few?) years back when my wife and I were playing charades (for the first time in decades) with several other couples at a get-together.  Man!  Did I ever get competitive, snarling at friends and seeking to best the other couples.  It was awkward and embarrassing.  Most of the time, fortunately, that doesn’t happen.

Another awful time, I was following a person going slower than I like on the way to our swim/tennis club.  I pulled around their car like a madman, got to the club, and parked only to have the slow car park right next to me, and a Minister we know get out and ask me “What was that about?”  I looked at her like a deer in headlights…

Not sure why that part of me jumps out at times, but I do know that the competitive part of you needs to be addressed mindfully after your long career comes to a close and life’s venue changes for you.  You may want to consider putting suitable Tapas in place, if you’re assembling a Tapas Life, as to be appropriate places to exercise your competitiveness.

Family to the Fore

The number of conversations I’ve had with people about the Tapas Life in recent weeks blows me away.  I keep running into folks who are contemplating what to do with their next 2-3 decades of life.  I find it heartening that a goodly number of them realize that they will be living into their late 80s or early 90s — and that poses the obvious challenge of “what to do.”  This is much better than the folks who are still a number of years from ending their long career and figure “they’ll play golf and travel,” without realizing what that really means when placed against the backdrop of their life expectancy.

Meanwhile, this time I’m writing about Family.  It’s the end of the school year, and that marks the progression of a certain cadence in our family.  It means that my wife, Carole, is wrapping up another year of teaching, submitting quarter-end grades (after reading and providing feedback on a zillion pages of papers), having meetings with a bunch of students and alums who want to connect with her, and preparing for Graduation ceremonies.  She was once again invited to do a so-called Last Lecture this year, and hers is a fine one, indeed.  And then we’re into summer.  Aaaaaah.  To be sure, she’s teaching a goodly chunk of Exec Education sessions/courses, and that will have her busy for a bit, but the pace is calmer, and it feels like summer.

At the same time, we have the treat of our son, who just completed his first year at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, having moved home for the summer today.  He’ll be working in the area this summer and he and his roommates for next year sublet their house for the summer (several will be out of the area), so he’s home until Fall quarter (not counting his vacation time).  After he lived in DC for 7 years, it is really great to have him here.  He is a good guy, fun to have around, and an excellent customer at dinnertime!

So one of my Tapas over the last couple of months has been the latest stage of updating the house after 20-odd years, as I’d mentioned.  Just in time, we finished getting the new “Guest Bedroom” ready this week for his arrival.  It’s painted, has new bed/bedclothes, new furniture, new art, new lighting, and some space liberated in the closet.  Since it’s such a treat to have him home, we wanted to make sure he’d be comfortable.  And, of course, same for actual guests, once he’s back in school.  It’s been a fun project and the room looks great.

As it happens, my Life Coaching Tapa has been in a bit of a coma lately, and that made some time available for the project.  I have one client who’s got a fair amount of turmoil in his life at the moment, and so he’s gone radio silent.  Another with a sick elderly father who’s caught up in caregiving and also radio silent.  Anew one who said she’d be starting and then pursued some career counseling instead.  Another with whom I’d completed a coaching engagement and who came back to start another round and then got swept up in her life and went radio silent.  I’ve got broad enough shoulders and good enough client feedback to know that it’s not me, but it is frustrating to have this very meaningful Tapa in hibernation.  Well, at least I interviewed a new client last week and he will hopefully choose to get started.  Even though he was ready to get started, I encouraged him to talk to one or two other coaches to be sure he had the best fit for himself.

Continuing on the Family front, the other fun thing I’m really happy to have time for is a new shared interest with our son:  Golf.  I’ve been working to bring my game back to life after giving up my 11 handicap (if you’re not a golfer, know that that’s passably decent) to raise kids.  And while I’d taken him to the driving range a number of times over the years to hit some balls, now that he’s in business school, the bug has really bit him hard.  He told me today that he’s hit 150 balls a day for the last 10 days — and that’s a serious case of golfitis.

Today was something I’ve waited 60 years for:  we played 18 holes of golf together.  I’ve been giving Nick some lessons and he is a natural athlete, so he’s picked the stuff up in a hurry.  And you probably know the end of this story:  he cleaned my clock on the back nine!!!  When else in life can you lose miserably to a newbie and love it??

When exactly, one wonders, would this happen during my long career?  Had no time, no energy.  Was all squeezed out like an orange at breakfast during those years.  So it’s a precious part of life to now be able to experience the Family Tapa to its fullest.

It’s also been my pleasure to be available to our daughter Molly to help with some DMV bullshit paperwork.  And resumé editing.  And fun conversations and outings.  And to provide good champagne for her roommate/landlord’s company’s acquisition celebration. And to share our unusually warped senses of humor and the language.

Fine times with a fine family.  This is the Family Tapa, and there’s no better!

 

Connection

One of the most important things of all, if you wish to have a happy, healthy post-long-career life, is human connection.  Life quality and length are both badly impacted by a skinny or non-existent social network (not talking Facebook here, but I suppose that counts, too, to a degree), and that conclusion has been reached in study after study.

When I hear about people ending their long career and deciding to move to a city where they know nobody, I always think to myself, “I hope they’re gregarious,” or “I hope they’re joiners.”  Some people, no doubt, will make a fine new set of friends and acquaintances wherever they go, but it’s not so easy for everyone.

While I know a lot of people, I tend to make a few deep connections, and those are the people central to my social network.  Sure, I meet up with other folks sometimes, but I do have a smallish core group.

And I’m not a joiner.  I’ve never joined any group, other than our synagogue — and that was for the benefit of our kids’ (and it turned out our) upbringing.  For those who are drawn to joining groups, well, one call always join service groups (Lions, Rotary, etc.), churches, clubs, or a variety of special interest groups (e.g., the group who gets together Friday nights in Palo Alto to watch a movie in French and practice their French language conversation).  There must be a lot of other types of groups to join, but I’m so group-challenged that I don’t even know what they are!

Yes, one really needs the human connection of close friends and family to nourish one’s wellbeing.  So it was important to me to stay put after my long career — here, I know some fine people and enjoy deep relationships of long standing.  OK, and my wife works here, so it was a foregone conclusion.  🙂   We also like this neck of the woods and will most likely continue to be planted here as and when my wife’s latest career (she’s on her 5th or 6th) is completed (actually, unimaginable to me — she loves it so much!).

Wherever you are, though, you need that social network.  So be thinking about that as you contemplate life after your long career.

Well, I lied.  I actually joined a group a couple years ago, much to my amazement, and am still part of the group, perhaps even more to my amazement.  I wasn’t seeking to join a group.  I merely signed up for a Leadership course with the same outfit where I studied to become a Life Coach.  I wasn’t even interested in Leadership (whatever that word means), but rather really liked the experiential learning and wanted to continue the personal growth spurt I had going.  The course was two 6-day and two 5-day retreats, spread out over 11 months, mostly up in Sonoma. Very fascinating stuff.  And I really grew attached to the other 23 students.

At the end of the course, I was sitting with a couple of my peers and noting that “I’m not a joiner, so you most likely won’t see me again if there are any reunions or such.”  And I was wrong.  Innocently enough, we continued some weekly calls where we supported each other in our quests to get to where we want to be.  And pretty soon, I found that I really wanted to be on those calls — it wasn’t just an objective-related task.  And when a reunion was announced, after little deliberation, I signed up.  Stunning — and totally new to me.

Perhaps you’ll find, or have found, groups to which you have a similarly strong affinity.  Or perhaps you’ll be groupless, as I have been until now.  However it works for you, be sure you assemble friends, family, whatever human connection you can have plenty of, because it’s so important.

That’s the “do.”

The “don’t” is to be the person who ends their long career, had their entire self tied up in it — and finds themself with no-one and nothing.  Those are the ones who drop into a sad downward spiral.

Human connection — so important!

 

TapasLife Conversation

A few days ago, I met with a couple other guys in my age range (I’m 60) for a conversation about the Tapas Life.

This came about because one of the fellows and I had lunch to talk about life in general a few months back and he was really intrigued by the Tapas Life.  Apparently, he’s been chewing on the concept ever since.  And he made the acquaintance of another gentleman who is at the stage where it could be of interest to him, as well.  So, a meeting was arranged for the three of us to get together and talk Tapas Life — supposedly over coffee, but turned out to be over Pellegrino.

The man I met with months ago is an investor, and we’ll call him A.  The third man is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, and we’ll call him B.  This is a courtesy to protect their privacy.

A is at a juncture in his life that is full of decision.  He can re-up in his industry, making some changes to how he’s going about it.  Or he can pursue more of a Tapas Life.  Or some combinations of the two (re-up at reduced capacity, to provide room for some juicy Tapas).  It feels to me as though he’ll pursue the combination.  He’s already doing a bit of Tapas and is really liking that.  And he does well with emerging situations that he can jump into and add value — which sounds like Tapas-shopping to me.  Planning a path is not so much his deal, and that really plays to selecting Tapas as they appear.  He’s full of energy, and so will no doubt continue to sprinkle good in the world for decades to come.  I’m betting that he’ll do that in an ever-expanding array of places/circumstances.  And he’ll probably be most comfortable keeping a foot in his erstwhile full-time world.

B is a planner.  He’s always laid out a big goal and then pursued it relentlessly.  He played the questioning skeptic in our get-together.  How can one make good progress without a big goal to go after?  How can one be focused without a big goal to go after?  I noted that one can have areas in which one has big goals to go after, but they can have a ring-fence drawn around them that limits the portion of one’s waking hours that are dedicated to them.  I also talked about how I had set life goals in 1983/1984 that I then stayed ultra-focused on until the last was achieved, in 2000;  and I talked about how much of life was lost to me during those years since I was so focused on my goals, and couldn’t see much else.  Softening one’s focus makes space for unexpected/unforeseen/unimagined gems to pop into view.  In 2002, I decided not to make new goals;  but since then, I did create a Piano goal for myself:  10,000 hours by age 65, because I really like the piano and want to be decent at it, as I enjoy it even more that way.  But I limit myself to 2 hours/day of practice (OK, sometimes I go overboard, but not often), so there’s plenty of room for other Tapas.

Another question was raised by B:  How can one operate without the organization that structure provides?  I noted that one can have as much or as little structure as one wishes to put in place.  I can envision a highly-structured Tapas Life, if that’s what one desires — it merely has time slots provided for each Tapa, and probably some open time slots, as well.  My Tapas Life is a lot less structured because that’s how I like it.  But even my Tapas Life has some structure to it:  Monday lunch business meeting, Wednesday morning Leadership group call, Sunday night computer back-up, riding my bike out in the afternoon to buy fresh ingredients and making dinner in the evening, and so on.

It was a really interesting discussion.  The thing I loved about it, was that A and B were in such a place of contemplation, entertaining what to do in the next phase of their lives.  They’ve each been very successful and are aware of the fact that they’ve got another whole adult life (25-30 years) ahead.  And they are each full of the drive and life energy that got them to where they are.  They’ll no doubt continue to consider their options and may choose a path forward in several steps.  Or may try something and then make changes.  The great thing is that they have stepped off the path of their last few decades to have a look around at the terrain, to see where they’ve been, and to survey where they might go.  It’s a time pregnant with possibility.

I felt honored to get to connect with two such powerhouse guys to savor the Tapas Life opportunity.  What an excellent way to enjoy a couple hours.  And my own Tapas Life made room for that, comfortably.

What will you do with your one wonderful life once you end your long career?

 

Some of Each

One of the benefits of the Tapas Life is that it is a collection of activities.  This is helpful, because it may well be that at any given moment, some Tapas are going swimmingly and others not so much.  This allows one to at least enjoy the good Tapas while working on the ones that need help.  This contrasts with one’s Long Career where, if it’s got big problems, it can make all of life seem pretty bad.

A good analogy is the “balanced portfolio” which is meant to reduce one’s investment risk. With the Tapas Life, one is instead diversifying one’s risk of having no happiness, or no fulfillment, or such.

Right now, I have Some of Each, as in this post’s title.  Some of my Tapas are doing really well.  Others are not where I’d like them.

On the tasty side:  piano, golf, exercise, family/friends, travel, and more.

  • I’m pretty much ready for my piano group recital of Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance — a wild and fun piece.  And 5 months into working on Liszt’s La Campanella, I’m where I thought I’d be after 12 months (and still have plenty to do).
  • I set a goal to get back under 90 on the golf course this year and recently shot an 87 (albeit it on an easy course).  Plus my new (from the pro who I took some lessons from) swing is getting more stable, which bodes well.
  • I’m getting a lot stronger at biking and at my workout, moving up the gears on the former and increasing weight and reps at the latter — all of which feels great.  It also led to an inch coming off my waistline.  This all stems from adopting, a few months ago, the program noted in the Younger Next Year book I’ve mentioned, and which my B-school roommate turned me onto.
  • Wife and kids are doing well and are healthy.  Enjoyed a fun visit in Texas with my brother and his wife.  Lots of activities with friends and Exotic Fish.
  • A couple trips ahead in coming weeks and a couple more in planning, for summer and beyond.  All good.
  • Fifth (final?) phase of house tune-up in full swing.  Over the past few years, we’ve gradually undone the signs of 21 years of wear since the last round…

On the needing-condiments side:  coaching, board work, Tapas Life book.

  • I like to have 2-5 Life Coaching clients at any given moment.  I currently have only one active.  One had a family issue which suspended our work;  I hope we’ll start up again sooner rather than later.  A new one who was about to start up decided to do some career-counseling work first.  One who completed the 4-month engagement I enter with clients said they wanted to start anew after some time had passed, but after a couple false starts seems focused elsewhere.  Remember, Life Coaching is my meaningful Tapa, so when it is running on low, I feel it.  I’ve never sought to find clients — they’ve all found me.  Now I’m wondering whether the universe will come through as it has the last couple years, or whether it’s time for some BizDev.
  • A friend requested I join his company’s Board of Directors and, to be a good friend, I agreed.  Part of me is no longer very interested in Business.  But part of me wanted to try some Board work.  And all of me wants to be a good friend.  So, I agreed.  This has turned out to more complex than I imagined and isn’t the easiest thing for the friendship.  It’s also all the stuff I was tired of in Business.  At least there’s some new learning for me, and that always feels good and, in often not-yet-known ways, useful.  But it’s what I call thrash, and that’s something I don’t enjoy very much at all.
  • I want to get the Tapas Life book out there to help folks (as per the intro post on this blog).  And I’m making progress on interviewing the 24 people/couples I need to in order to provide richness to the book (10 down, 15 to go).  It’s just soooo much work.  And we really need to get some magazine articles out there to increase readership of this blog.  I’ve signed up to do a talk with a group about the Tapas Life, in order to increase readership of this blog — and now need to create that talk and the photo-laden PowerPoint that goes with it.  (ANY HELP INCREASING READERSHIP OF THIS BLOG WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!

It’s certainly true that the needs-condiments issues I’m grousing about are First World problems.  Can’t blame a guy for seeking to live the best possible life, eh?

If you choose to assemble a Tapas Life of your own, you will soon appreciate this “life portfolio” strategy’s benefits.  And they are big ones!