I’m fascinated by the forces that shape different generations, and because of my work, I get to observe many of these trends from a front-row seat. I recently wrote a piece about transitions and received great feedback. Today I’m going to focus on work transitions, specifically the ones that occur in the second part of our working life.
I write this against the backdrop of my good friend Chris King’s retirement, and he has given me permission to share some of his thinking. So first let’s begin with the idea of retirement itself, and a retiree’s value to society.
In ancient cultures, the older people in a community were the storytellers, the keepers of the cultural legacy. Because of their intrinsic value to society, these elders are revered and respected for their wisdom. It seems a paradox to me that in western society, the word elder is really only used in the context of the elderly. Same word, very different context.
In his book Wisdom at Work, author Chip Conley provides a practical guide to reinventing the second half of your career. He argues that wisdom is on the brink of a comeback, so it seems crazy to me that a person simply retires and leaves the workforce behind, just so they can achieve a better balance in their life.
Chris always intended retiring young – while he’s enjoying good health. He has always been pragmatic about work and takes it seriously, but has always placed greater emphasis on living well, having fun, and experiencing life to the full. He has never aspired to be the wealthiest man in the cemetery. So, when he first broached the idea of retirement about five years ago, I wasn’t that surprised. He wanted less stress and greater freedom. Freedom of time to do more of what he wanted to do. Having planned well and reached the point of financial security, it was time to act.
In a small business like ours, the retirement of a key person is a complex undertaking. (Chris has been our most active business developer and has earned a peerless reputation as an adviser – particularly to business owners, where he helps them unpack complexity.)
Over five years we have worked with Chris to help him achieve what is important to him – his freedom.
What has evolved is Chris’ transformation into a Modern Elder. Chris’ new role in our business is as a special adviser and the activity he is relishing most is being a mentor to our emerging professionals’ group. Aged 25-30, this group of young people is the future of our Firm but when Chris was working full-time, he didn’t have the time or capacity to spend time with them. His wisdom and clarity will be incredibly valuable – so long as it is two days per week.
When some people retire, they lose their pay packet, their tribe, their purpose, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. In thinking about a transition it’s easy to be clear on what you’re retiring from, but it is just as important to know what you’re retiring to. Chris has achieved this with great success. He’s retiring on his terms and leaves a legacy to be remembered for many years.
Chris is the embodiment of a professional – clear thinking, direct, kind-hearted, good-humoured, and considerate. He has also handled his exit from Capital Partners with great flexibility and humility. We thank him for his friendship and service, and for the wisdom, he continues to share with us as a Modern Elder.