Broadly speaking, Americans spend the first 25 to 30 years of their lives – roughly one-third of their total life expectancy – devoted to two primary tasks. The first is to gain the education, training, and experience that they will need to succeed during the next third of their lives – their career. The second is to develop and nurture the romantic, family, and social relationships that will form the basis of their support system.
Given how much time and energy goes into getting ready for a career (what many refer to as the second act of life), it may come as a surprise to realize how little attention is paid to getting ready for the third act – retirement. Indeed, apart from the drumbeat to save money for retirement, there is relatively little other advice for this important phase of life. To help older adults prepare for a more purposeful journey during retirement, Park City Attorney Greg Bishop suggests these three rules of the road.
Yield to Uphill Traffic
Because most of mountain biking takes place on very narrow trails, one of the primary concerns is who should have the right of way when two cyclists approach each other. The unwritten rule is that the downhill rider always yields to the uphill traffic.
The underlying rationale is that it is more practical for those whose ride is relatively easy to give way to those whose ride is relatively difficult. In practice, not only do the downhill riders yield to the uphill traffic, but it is very common for them to share a friendly greeting and offer words of encouragement to those who are in a climb.
Mr. Bishop suggests that retirement is a great time to apply this rule more broadly. On a mountain, it is a simple matter to determine at any given moment who has the uphill climb, but it is less so in everyday life.
He notes that during retirement, older adults should assume that everyone they meet is in the middle of a difficult climb. Indeed, not only should older adults yield to others – who no doubt are battling an uphill climb of one kind or another – but they should offer them friendship and words of encouragement.
Take the Back Roads
A career may be thought of as analogous to driving in a NASCAR race – it is a time of dedication, focus, efficiency, determination, predictability, and, most importantly, speed. Like NASCAR drivers, employees are judged based on their accomplishments, independence, and ability to multi-task, and are driven by goals, the need to conquer, and the desire to succeed.
Yet despite the distances traveled and the speeds achieved, a NASCAR race is not a meaningful journey. Rather, it is by definition an exercise of going in circles, doing the same thing over and over again. In a similar manner, a career – no matter how rewarding – is not be a meaningful journey either.
It too can be a time of going in circles, doing the same things over and over again until an arbitrary finish line is crossed.
Mr. Bishop suggests that for a more meaningful journey during the last third of life – retirement – the actions of older adults should be less focused and more general; less determined and more varied; less prescribed by others and more self-directed; less predictable and more spontaneous; less fast and more deliberate; less efficient and more enriched; less intellectual and more emotional.
He argues that during retirement, ideals should shift from speed to safety; from accomplishment to enjoyment; from multi-tasking to being present; from independence to interdependence.
Retirees should be compelled less by accomplishments and more by experiences; less by the need to conquer and more by the need to embrace; less by the desire to succeed personally and more by the desire to help others succeed.
In other words, retirement is a time to leave the speed and efficiency of the NASCAR track and embrace the beauty and spontaneity of traveling on the back roads.
Get Out of the Fast Lane
The human body has two types of muscle fibers. Type I muscle fibers – known as slow-twitch fibers – generate less power and strength than Type II muscle fibers, but they can sustain activity for long periods. In contrast, Type II muscle fibers – known as fast-twitch fibers – generate more power and strength than Type I, but they fatigue much faster and require a longer period for recovery.
In general terms, people use fast-twitch muscle fibers in an intense, short sprint, and slow-twitch muscle fibers in a sustained, long jog.
As we age, there is a natural loss of total muscle mass, but Type I and Type II muscle fibers are affected differently. Specifically, there is a relatively large decline in fast-twitch muscle fibers, but also a small increase in slow-twitch muscle fibers. It is almost as if the body is signaling to older adults that it is time to move from the sprint phase of life to the endurance phase.
While retirement is not necessarily a time for slowing down, Mr. Bishop suggests that it is a time for getting out of the fast lane. He explains that retirement is less about demonstrating short bursts of power and strength, and more about expending consistent and sustained energy for the long haul; it is less about speeding (sometimes recklessly) past others to get to a destination sooner, and more about carefulness, safety and enjoying the journey; and it is less about life in the fast lane, and more about life in the vast lane.
As the (purported) African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
About Greg Bishop, Attorney
Greg Bishop is a business-oriented corporate attorney who always strives for improvement. He makes it a practice to only hire people who are smarter than him so that his team can raise the bar in helping the company be successful. He is passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others reach their full potential.