I know what you’re thinking. Does it go something like this?
You’re a 23 year old kid, what the hell do you know about retirement?
Heck…why are you even thinking about retiring if you are in the early stages of starting your career?
Wait…if you love your job at Designli bringing clients’ software ideas to life, why would you even consider retiring now?
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement, albeit not in the way you may think. I’ve been thinking more along the lines of why the model for life – “working towards retirement” – is the way it is.
The more I sit back and contemplate, the more sickened I feel. All around me, I see big business career workers doing things they despise for 8 hours every single day, 5 days per week, roughly 50 weeks a year. And I see friends who are fresh off the college printing press entering the workplace aiming to follow this same path. Why do they grind through their monotonous jobs day in and day out even though they get no personal satisfaction out of what they’re doing? Because of the promised land; the promise of retirement and never having to work another day. Having enough money in the bank to “stop forever.” It’s what new workers keep in the back of their minds to justify their long days, and this internal justification sticks with them their entire working lives.
I think this is backwards.
Let’s crunch some numbers. At 40 hours per week, with 50 working weeks per year, that’s 2000 hours of life. 2000 hours per year that you are doing something you derive no personal satisfaction from, just because you have to. 60,000 hours over a 30 year career equates to sitting behind your desk for roughly 83 months. Imagine that. But…you have to do it in order to get a paycheck and survive, right?
No. No, I don’t think so.
It disturbs me that the best and most capable years of peoples’ lives are spent pent-up in their cubicles working on someone else’s problems because they were told to do so. It almost seems cruel.
Why delay the feeling of self-satisfaction, doing what you love when you want to do it, until you “finally have time” in your later years? Shouldn’t we be doing more while we are young, full of energy, with ideas of where we’d like to travel and a brain that is ready and willing to soak up the world’s knowledge?
I invite you to try a little experiment with me.
Let’s experience life regardless of whether or not “free time” allows. Let’s pledge to do one exciting or otherwise unusual thing each month — something that will allow us to feel a sense of accomplishment in an area other than work. Otherwise, we’ll look back in 30 years and see our lives as a sea of various business-oriented stresses and successes without anything to punctuate it.
This monthly experience doesn’t have to be as complicated or in-depth as a trip to some worldly destination. Nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg. It doesn’t even have to be out of your comfort zone (although you get bonus points if it is).
Think of these experiences as monthly highlights. Decide on the activity and fill it in months in advance, otherwise your work schedule fills in the blanks for you. The stresses of your work will creep in and suddenly you’ll feel like you don’t have time for anything else and you’ll go back to the evil self-justification of saying “it can wait ’till retirement when I don’t have so much on my plate.”
Let’s brainstorm. What could you accomplish this month?
Attend your first jiu-jitsu class. Read the book that you’ve been meaning to get around to for the last few months. Take an impromptu drive to visit your family with no reason (read: holiday) obligation. As you can see, making your month count doesn’t have to necessarily take away from your business life either.
Now for a disclaimer. I have the distinct advantage of not being tied down to a cubicle with a fun-sucking boss breathing down my neck. If you have been able to negotiate a remote-employee working arrangement, then you find yourself in a similar situation as myself with a looser schedule than the average forced 9-to-5. If you have this benefit, then there really is no excuse. And if you don’t, then you’re still out of excuses as you can simply schedule up those weekends.
Let’s get to it! Don’t let this month slip by just like any other. Spurts of joy and excitement can come from your newfound plan for mini-retirements. Let’s not wait until we finally have the time when our sense of adventure has been lost.