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Saturday Bike Rides With Bob: Career Wellbeing Before Retirement

Posted by Joe Antle on May 30, 2021 3:15 PM EDT
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In earlier Saturday bike rides with my friend and former newspaper industry colleague, Bob, he confessed to....

...feeling that he has never felt more fulfilled than in his retirement.  While he has been retired for over three years now, he says that he has never been bored and could not be happier. In saying that, he reminded me of anecdotal conversations he has had with other recent retirees who have admitted being lost a bit in retirement, perhaps lacking the structure or other elements that they found fulfilling during their working years.

Bob also has cited research that as recently as a few years ago revealed that 42% of retirees feel less fulfilled during retirement, many admitting that they were not happy retired.  He said that the most recent study from the same research source said that more than 51% of retirees were not happy, were either bored, had suffered some sort of financial strain or physical illness, and were not about to fully leverage their newfound time with social activities and community engagement.  These are all aspects of the five essentials of wellbeing that were discovered by Gallup Inc. in its global research on wellbeing published a few years ago.

So, before our most recent bike ride, I asked Bob to give some thought as to exactly what were the factors in his finding his retirement to be so fulfilling and provide him happiness even more so than he had in his working years despite having a very successful and productive career, working for almost forty years with the same company in the same industry.  My question literally was, "So what are the secrets to your retirement happiness in retirement when by definition you will be giving up one of the key essentials of a life well-lived according to Gallum Inc. global research, career wellbeing?

When we started our bike ride I congratulated Bob on his recent recovery from a minor medical challenge, nothing that was life-threatening, but at times cause him discomfort. Kidney stones....if you have had this condition before you can sympathize with the pain and discomfort that they can cause. Bob happily replied that he was grateful that one of the key aspects of wellbeing, physical wellbeing, has gotten back on track for him.

As is usually the case, Bob had very well thought out answers to the question of how has he advanced his overall happiness and sense of a life well-lived when he no longer has career wellbeing as an essential element.  In doing so, he eventually arrived at a set of factors that cleverly serve as an acronym.  And you know how I and the other two bloggers on this platform like acronyms!

Bob said that during his career he had several balance scorecard types of factors that he always tried to use as a plumbline for how things were going for him in his work life.  And while many people see income as one of those, or significant upward career advancement or more formal authority as key parameters or their career wellbeing, none of those met Bod's "vital few" career wellbeing benchmarks.  For Bob the key questions whose answers let him know that his career was going in the right direction were these:  

-Am I learning new things and becoming better at important aspects of my job and does that show in my performance?

-Am I making a positive difference in the work performance and professional growth of the people that I lead and manage?

-Do I continue to be able to contribute to important projects which add value to the company, satisfying customer and lead to business growth?

-Am I able to become involved through my work with important community improvement projects and help my employer fulfill its mission as a community steward?

So, because Bob has admitted that he felt his career was deeply fulfilling as evidenced by forty years in the same company and industry, one would assume that these four factors were in good standing throughout his career.  And when asked that question, Bob answered and affirmed that assumption.  He said that while some people would measure their career wellbeing through the lens of personal finance, authority, titles, and significant business achievements for him the key four benchmarks were filled most of the time during most of his career.

So, that makes the question even more interesting in terms of how can one have a more fulfilling life in retirement than they had during their career is their career was so meaningful, purpose-filled, and enduring?  Logic would that Bob would be in the 51% of retirees who would say that not working when working was so important and fulfilling, is a bummer!

Not Bob!

Bob said that while he had thought about the "homework assignment" that I had assigned to him earlier of defining his best practices and secrets for success in happy and fulfilling retirement, it wasn't too difficult because he had prepared himself for retirement.  (And while BOB did not say that preparation was one of his key reasons for success in retirement, my guess as he spoke was that it was somehow part of the recipe). And that his "busyness: in retirement was even more active at times than in "business" was due to a consistent focus on what he calls the "four pillars".  

So, the following are Bob's "four pillars for a happy, healthy, and fulfilling retirement", with an emphasis on being active physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually-and never being bored:

1.  Lifelong Learning:  Bob says that he looks to reading, purposeful research through the web and other sources, webinars, podcasts, deep discussions with people he feels have insights into specific topics, and a host of other things to help him continue to become more knowledgeable in the other three "pillars" that follow.  For Bob acquiring and honing his knowledge is both an honorable objective but a practical one as well.

2. Impart practical wisdom that helps others achieve their own wellbeing:  Bob shared that he serves as a mentor for some of the staff who use to work with and for him.  He is always trying to add value to his relationship with them and to fulfill his need to make a difference in the lives of others, in this way fulfilling career wellbeing by helping other people fulfill theirs.

3.  Volunteer in support of community improvement projects:  Bob mentioned several important projects where he and his wife contributed their talent and time which had measurable outcomes, whether it was helping provide food for the needy during the pandemic or helping travelers who visit Virginia Beach to have a great time and want to come back again.  And tell their friends about "VB Strong" as well.

4.  Explore new places, new experiences, and new skills:  Bob has always enjoyed traveling.  However, now he and his wife seek travel experiences that let them explore new places, meet new people and do things that they have not done before.  He cited a recent trip to West Virginia as one example, and several trips abroad.  He also mentioned he is learning to play a musical instrument and becoming more and more interested in cooking.

Bottom line, Bob says he has not been bored at all.  And that the secret for him to better living is to L-I-V-E.

When we finished our bike ride, Bob turned the tables on me and asked me since I still work what would I do if I suddenly found myself unable to continue my current work, which I had professed to be meaningful and fulfilling....even though financially it may not be as lucrative as my earlier career.  I told him that one aspect of the work I do allows me to work with new ventures and to support community-based projects, even including interacting and collaborating with nonprofits and NGOs.  

He listened patiently and then said that my thought process was a good one and a good way to fulfill the career wellbeing essential element when the career is over.  However, he made an even more important statement which was:  Joe you have an opportunity to amp up a part of your life when you have the gift of more time and that is to give my grandkids more precious

P-R-E-S-E-N-C-E (not just presents).

Upon hearing such "imparted wisdom" I could only say "touche"!

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