My friend was lamenting the self created challenges he was facing in trying to overcome his own resistance to retiring.
He had spent most of his working life with the same company, rising to C.E.O., a position he has held for the past 7 years.
This was not the first discussion we have had about retirement.
He first broached the topic about three years ago and since then had raised it at least twice each year.
He has freely admitted that he is tired of the pressures of the job.
He has confessed to either no longer having the “fire in his belly” or that it had been downgraded from a raging inferno to a desolate flicker.
He has conceded that going to work has become a robotic experience that he endures daily, without a sense of engagement or connection.
Financially, he could have retired years ago.
And he really, really, really wants to do so now.
And pursue his many hobbies.
And travel the world with his wife.
And play golf.
And take up ballroom dancing.
And a cooking course.
And sit on a few Boards of Directors.
But he just can’t seem to make the decision.
And he finally told me why.
It seems he really enjoys being viewed as the C.E.O. of a high profile, very large and successful company.
And he relishes the recognition that goes along with it.
And the power.
And the media attention.
And the public recognition.
He explained it this way: right up until he leaves the office for the final time on his last day, he will be F.T., President of XX Co. and will have all of those things mentioned above and the moment after he leaves the building he will just be F.T.
And he isn’t sure if he is ready to just be F.T.
My friend has defined himself by his position and his whole identity has become inextricably linked to his title.
And so many of us are guilty of doing the same.
We wrap a huge part of who we are in a bundle with what we do as if they are woven together and the one has everything to do with the other.
Think of how we frequently describe, or even introduce, one friend to another.
“Bob, this is David, he’s a lawyer.”
“Brenda, I would like you to meet my friend Jan, she’s a realtor.”
“Pete, I think you should ask my friend Shannon out, she works for IBM.”
Why do we do that?
Why should David be defined by being a lawyer or Jan by being a realtor or Shannon by working for IBM?
And why has my friend connected being C.E.O. to who he is?
And what has this got to do with our sense of self?
You see, for my friend, having all the power and glory described above tells us a great deal about what he has.
And he has sadly confused what he has with defining what he is.
Which, in his case, is a wonderful father, dedicated husband, scintillating conversationalist, loyal friend, delightful host, caring and contributing member of the community, generous to a fault and so much more.
And long after he has been forgotten by those in the business world, he will still be all of the above.
And, ironically, little to none of the above is known about him to those who know him as C.E.O.
And with regard to David, Jan and Shannon, knowing they are respectively a lawyer, realtor and IBM employee, does that really give us any type of clue as to what they truly are?
Does it matter.
Will knowing what they do influence whether we want to meet them or not?
And, if so, why?
Is a lawyer a better person than a waiter?
Is an electrician a better person than a garbage collector?
Is a doctor a better person than a sales rep?
If we are to define people, is it not more important to define them by the size of their hearts and the character of their souls than by what they do for a living?
It is, isn’t it?
I thought so.
So please allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Rael.
I’m a wannabe writer.
How do you like me so far?
Till we read again.