Early Retirement

How to retire the right tasks...to energize your future

Two of my colleagues recently resigned from corporate life to pursue an entrepreneurial venture.  Not the typical venture…they’re running concessions at an aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ice cream and sea life in the Sonoran Desert!  Sounds to me like they pulled the cord on an early retirement.  Am I jealous?  Yes!

Feeling no need to protect their identities, I’ll refer to my former colleagues as Mark and Doug, their Aquarium as OdySea and their concession project as Frozen Penguin Ice Cream.  I’ll also refer to them as friends since we’re no longer colleagues.

Yesterday two things happened that again reminded me of my friends and their early retirement.

First, I received one of Mark’s emails (I now occupy Mark’s previous job and he left me his forwarded email as a parting gift).  This particular one was a car rental confirmation which I promptly forwarded to Mark.  He responded by saying, “It’s nice to land in Colorado and not have to work.”  Thanks Mark.  My last 2 visits there were to complete work you started versus my previous 20+ which were ski trips and fishing excursions.

Second, as I sat in my office on a conference call knee-deep in Mark’s former workload, I witnessed a man wearing flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt talking to the team outside my door.  As people swarmed the visitor I was intrigued to know his identity.  I studied the relaxed man momentarily and it was Doug’s warm smile that gave him away.  He’d come to say hello to his former team and model both the 40 pounds he’d lost since leaving – as well as his Coppertone tan (perfected perhaps at the OdySea beach).

At age 46, retirement is more than a 7-Iron away.  However, Mark and Doug got me thinking again about 2 retirement concepts that condition how I think about that hurdle sitting near the finish line of my life.

Retirement is man’s creation…not God’s

If you live in a Western culture you might presume retirement is a God-given right.  It’s not.  It’s the creation of man.  And while its debatable how we came to believe we’re all entitled to a relaxing retirement replete with fishing, golf, daily happy hours and extravagant vacations…the fact of the matter is most of us are destined to work for a long time.

The good news is God weighed-in on this and has much to say.  I’m not going to try to cobble the passage about “on the 7th day God rested” into a case for 30 years of retirement.  Rather, I’ll outline God’s case:

  • I expect you to work joyfully
  • I’ve given you some very unique skills and abilities (aka Spiritual Gifts)
  • I’m your provider and you need to trust me
  • If you love me, I’ll prepare a room for you in heaven where you can enjoy an eternal retirement

So if God doesn’t guarantee an earthly retirement, and we’re expected to work joyfully for an unspecified period of time…what does that look like in practice?

Retire tasks…not yourself

For a three-year stint in my career, I participated in an incredible coaching program through Strategic Coach.  Amongst the dozens of philosophies, strategies and tactics I learned, one that resonated was a concept of retirement shared by founder Dan Sullivan.

Dan has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs for over 40 years and he’s discovered that there are 4 types of tasks.  These tasks are characterized by the level of proficiency with which we perform them, and the amount of energy we derive from them.  Once you understand these tasks, creating a retirement plan becomes easy.  In Dan’s words (I’m paraphrasing), “Retirement isn’t about leaving the workforce.  It’s about retiring the tasks you don’t enjoy so you can focus a higher percentage of time on things that energize you.”

The 4 categories along with the path to retirement are as follows:

Task Proficiency Energy Level Retirement Path
Incompetent You’re unable to consistently complete these tasks without making mistakes. Depleting Immediate: Delegate
Competent You’re proficient and can complete these tasks without mistakes.  However, there’s nothing special about how you do them. Neutral to Depleting Immediate: Delegate
Excellent You’re likely better than anyone in your organization at completing these tasks so everyone looks to you to do them.  You’re often rewarded for performing these.  However, you find no energy or enjoyment in them. Depleting Long Term: Create a plan to identify and hire someone with a unique ability for this task and delegate to them as soon as possible.
Unique Ability There’s nobody better at these than you.  You could do them all day long and want to get up tomorrow morning to do them again.  Your Unique Ability is likely why people hire you. Highly Energizing Immediate: Begin moving more of your time towards these activities.  By spending 80% or more of your time doing these things…you could work until you die and have fun doing it.

Welcome to retirement!

I’ve been attempting to do this now for about 7 years.  Trust me, it’s not easy.  Our employers, our culture and our own minds work against the idea of discovering and doing what we’re uniquely gifted to do.  The very things that energize us more than anything else.

Maybe it’s time we changed our goal for retirement.  Instead of trying to save enough so we can afford to walk away, maybe we should strive to discover our unique abilities and retire all the other tasks.  Accomplishing this so that we never quit doing that which we’re uniquely gifted – and energized – to do.

Question: Are you willing to make the discovery of your Unique Abilities your OdySea (pun intended of course)? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Early Retirement

  1. I like your comments and, being a recent “retiree,” agree. I recently spoke to someone who was also looking at an early retirement and noted that he didn’t like the term retire as it reminded him of expire and he wasn’t ready for that. He is telling people he is refocusing, not retiring. I completely agree.

    • It’s great to hear from you Pam. I hope you’re enjoying your “retirement.” I like the notion of refocusing. I’d love to hear from you again if you have any ah-ha moments as you reflect and refocus. May this season brings you many blessings.