Stop striving towards retirement. The biggest breakthrough of my life.

Me durring one of the best times of my life. Looks a lot like work.

Me during one of the best times of my life, volunteering at Resplandor Internacional in Cajones, GTO, Mexico. Looks a lot like work.

“I think that retirement is the first step towards the grave.” ~Hugh Hefner

Something big came to me just the other day. I debated whether it should be a blog post or a tweet. This would have been one hell of a tweet.

The goal is to retire some day, right?

If you were to look at my very first list of goals from way back in 1998, you would see that they all have lines drawn through them. All except one, “Retire at 50”. Actually let’s draw a line though it right now! No, I am neither retired nor 50 but as of just the other day, it is not longer a goal of mine. Turns out, having the goal to “not work” all these years, has been a mistake.

Why are we taught that we need to work our ass off in our youth so that at the age of 65, if we live that long, we can relax and not have to work at all? Sow the seeds of hard work and determination for 30 years so that you we reap all the rewards in retirement. The problem with this is, we’ll be old. I feel like when people are retired they are not enjoying their “golden years”, they’re just waiting to die. Isn’t this why people refer retirement communities like the ones found in Florida and the Southern California desert as “God’s waiting room.”

As a young man I witnessed my grandparents work their butt off until the age of 65. My grandfather in a factory and my grandmother as a house cleaner. They retired with practically no money, were in fair to poor health, and had no desire to go any where or do anything. My grandfather did paint every portion of the exterior of their home and get his citizenship but neither of these things took very long to accomplish and eventually he started to deteriorate. Their “golden years” were not very golden at all. Seeing this made me realize that I did not want to quit working as a 65 year old man, that would suck. So, I decided I wanted to quit working at the age of 50. At 18 years of age, I felt that this idea was genius. By just declaring that my retirement age was 50 instead of 65, I had bought myself 15 more years of enjoying life. Made perfect sense to me.

No, I am not retired but thanks for asking.

12 years later at the age of 30 I had nothing. As far as time went, I was 10 years closer to retirement but financially, I was as far from it as I was when I was 18. This was also the age I took my first vacation. I had been working in Iraq and took R&R in Italy with my girlfriend at the time. It was a lovely trip but very structured. My next trip was to Costa Rica where I did nothing but drink coffee and read for two weeks. That’s when I was bit by the travel bug. That’s when my life changed.

I went 30 years without a vacation then, in one year, I had taken two. This lead me to two questions; Why the hell did I wait so long and why the hell would I wait another 20 years to be able to do this?

Several years and destinations later I started getting the question via Facebook, “Are you retired?” “Nope, just enjoying my life.”

After five months in Mexico. I came back to the U.S. to find work. Soon after, I came across “The 4 Hour Work Week” By Tim Ferris. Among all the good stuff in his book, the most important thing I learned form Tim was the term, “Mini Retirement.” This is exactly what I had been doing in the years prior to this point and now, I had a name for it.

I didn’t have to wait till I was 50 to retire. I could start retiring now. Just a little bit at a time. This was awesome. In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think that taking mini retirements are cool but the ultimate goal is to take more and more of them until I  get to the point that they are no longer mini retirements but one big actual retirement. Hence, my continued effort to build a career or business that could produce enough money for me to quit working.

What happened to all the retirement talk?

Photo credit: Vanessa Soto

My grandfather, waiting for my niece to get off the bus. The highlight of his day. Photo credit: Vanessa Soto

Throughout the next few years, I read, heard, and thought about a lot of things, in relation to work, that contradicted this idea of getting to the point in your life where you stopped working. I have heard how much retirement sucks or how bored people get. For my grandfather, retirement equaled boredom. What is a man supposed to do, who had been working since he dropped out of the sixth grade, when he no longer has a job?

I am hearing more and more the sentiment that Hugh Hefner expressed in the opening quote. Retirement is one foot in the grave. We have all heard the “use it or lose it” theory. This does’t only apply to languages or our sex organs. This seems to be the case with our mind and entire body as well. It appears that if you stop working, you could lose both.

If you are doing what you love, why would you ever stop? Hef’s job is to be surrounded by beautiful naked women. I guarantee, if he ever gives that up, it is because he is dying not because he doesn’t want to do the work anymore. This is the problem though. Most people do not have jobs they love. They have shitty jobs and can’t wait to not have to work anymore so they can get away from it. So when the time comes they are like, yay I’m not working! But in most cases, they are celebrating the beginning of their death.

So what’s the big discovery?

I’m getting to it! When I wrote out a plan of action for all of my 2015 goals on new years eve, part of this process was to write a positive, first person, present tense, affirmation for each one. This is the affirmation I wrote out for the goal to triple my income:

I earn $6000 a month, three times as much as the last quarter of 2014. I give 10-20% of my income to others in need, helping other entrepreneurs as much as possible. I am working hard for it.

That last part, the “I am working hard for it” part, that just came out. It was not part of my plan of action. None of my action steps said anything about working hard but when when it came time to write out the affirmation it just magically showed up. I’m not sure what made me write it.

When I woke up the next morning, I got to work and I’ve been working non stop ever since. When you wake up one morning and, all of sudden, have 10 new goals written out with action steps that need to be taken, you have no choice but to work hard.

With in the following week there seemed to be a trend in all of the many podcast that I listen to. All of the successful entrepreneurs kept mentioning about how hard they work. These men and women were making a ton on money and had everything they wanted in life but none of them were sitting on the beach somewhere doing nothing, they were working. Even the ones that had enough money coming in to actually do nothing, weren’t. They all worked hard to get where they were and when they achieved what they set out to do, they started something else. Not only did they work hard to obtain their goal, they continued to work. One entrepreneur even developed an iPhone app that generates several thousand of dollars a month in revenue and only requires one hour of work a month to maintain it. You know what he ended up doing? Starting a company doing something that he loves but requires he work over 40 hours a week. He CHOSE to do this.

That’s when it hit me.

Retirement is out of the question. The primitive man did not retire. They didn’t have the luxury of retirement. Work was directly related to food, shelter, and water, the necessities of life. If the primitive man decided to stop working, he was literally deciding to die.

As modern cavemen, we do have the luxury of retirement but the results are the same. Stop working and our death could soon follow.

It all come down to this: Do work that you love. If you you happen to dedicate 30 years to a career you don’t love, it’s not too late. Find work that you love, and do it. I have a friend who is a talented artist and has actually mentored me in photography quite a bit. Does he do work that he loves? No, but I have a pretty good feeling that in a few years, when he retires as a Lt. Colonel, he will.

The new goal: To not HAVE to work.

When I discovered that this was the new goal, I was shocked to realize that I was already there. My measly income and minimalist lifestyle actually affords me to not have to work… but I am. I easily work 40+ hours a week, working on projects… that I love.

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2 comments on “Stop striving towards retirement. The biggest breakthrough of my life.
  1. April says:

    I like this… Good perspective!

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