Retirement provides an opportunity to finish well
About 20 years ago I interviewed Peter Hillary (son of Sir Edmund). He’d made his first successful attempt on Mt Everest in 1990, which made them the first father and son to reach the summit.
During the interview, he made a comment that has stuck with me. Reaching the summit is not the ultimate goal. In his words: ‘That’s what you’ve been headed for, but you haven’t finished the job. Finishing the job is getting yourself back down.’
And when you climb your Everest, whatever it may be, there comes a question of … what next?
Reaching the peak in your job may be an achievement, but what next? What thinking have you done in preparation for retirement? What adjustments will you need to make?
There are some lessons to learn from Chris Wright’s book, No More Worlds to Conquer. He interviews a whole range of people who climbed their personal Everest and then went on to have successful lives beyond that moment or that success.
They include a number of astronauts who walked on the moon; Nadia Comaneci, the 14-year-old Romanian gymnast who scored three perfect 10s (the first 10s ever) at the 1976 Olympics; Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier; and Joe Kittinger, who jumped out of a balloon on the edge of space and parachuted to earth (in 1960—not until 2012 was his record broken).
They may be remembered for these achievements, but they moved past this defining moment and got on with life.
The next stage
Alan Bean was a moonwalker. He piloted the lunar module on Apollo 12 and became the fourth man to set foot on the moon. He continued with the space program for a time and was commander of Skylab 3.
Art was calling him. When he was training to fly the Shuttle, he came to the realisation that others could do what he was doing, ‘But I’m the only guy who’s interested in art, who cares about art, who can celebrate this great human achievement in paintings.’
He decided he needed to learn how to paint better, for this was his new calling. Alan Bean’s moonscapes (his paintings are always moonscapes) give a feel for the reality of the moon—with scraps of real moon dust added and texture from his moon hammer and moon boot.
One of his paintings, If we could do it again—are you ready for some football? shows Bean chasing a football thrown by fellow astronaut Pete Conrad. It never happened, but you can dream. It sold in 2004 for $US182,396.60, a record for a moonscape.
Now in his 80s, he’s still painting.
If your job has been your Everest, what’s next? What’s your plan when you get down? When your job isn’t there anymore?
You don’t have to do an Alan Bean and start another career, but if you have no plan, now’s the time to think again about what you will do. The question could be, what can you do to finish with a successful retirement?