Carl Richards is a financial planner, published author (The Behavior Gap and The One Page Financial Plan), and regular columnist for the New York Times. He is also fondly known as the "Sketch Guy," based on his napkin drawings that make difficult concepts more intuitive. In September 2018, he wrote a column entitled "Your Future Should Be Bigger Than Your Past. Here's How to Do It," that included this sketch:
Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura make the same point in their book, The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your Future Bigger than Your Past:
Your future is your property. Because, by definition, it hasn't happened yet, it exists only in your mind. This means that you can choose to make it whatever you want. The act of making your future bigger than your past is the very act of growth itself: a bigger future is the vision, and growth is what makes it real (p. 7).
Greg Bishop, a Park City attorney, points out that many people believe their future will be bigger than their past, but only up to a certain point – retirement. He explains that as a society, we have become conditioned to thinking of retirement as something smaller, less important and less fulfilling than a career. But he indicates that the exact opposite can be true.
For example, employment is restrictive by nature – where you live, when you get up, how much time you spend commuting, what you do during the day, who you associate with, not to mention how well you eat, exercise and sleep – are all largely determined by the demands placed on you by your job. Similarly, your relationship with your career is essentially reactive – you are expected to meet your deliverables, help the company succeed, keep the customer happy, as well as respond quickly and appropriately to all inbound phone calls, emails, texts and instant messaging.
In contrast – and putting to one side any financial or health concerns – Mr. Bishop explains that there are relatively few limitations in retirement. Once your job-imposed restrictions cease, you are free to pursue a more self-determined life. You no longer have to live close to the office, skip your workout, fight the traffic, work through lunch, check your phone, be distracted during dinner, miss a family event, or reschedule your vacation. You can be more present, more connected, and more understanding. You can be less stressed, less distracted and less exhausted. You can:
- Grow from what you did for a living to who you really are
- Embrace the transformation from being time deprived to time privileged
- Transition from multi-tasking to being present
- Shift from collecting things to enjoying experiences
- Adjust from a high-pressure, fast-paced, workaholic environment to a more low-pressure, slower-paced, leisurely lifestyle
- Evolve from a reactive, career-directed existence to a more proactive, self-determined life
- Modify your financial expectations from accumulating wealth to spending responsibly
- Cultivate better relationships, particularly those that may have suffered over time because of the demands of your job
- Deepen and broaden your life by taking better care of yourself in terms of strength, endurance, balance, mobility and nutrition
Ultimately the decision of whether your retirement is larger or smaller than your career is up to you. As Andy Dufresne wryly observed in The Shawshank Redemption: "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."
About: Greg Bishop is an attorney with extensive experience in litigation, corporate work, M&A, licensing, IPO preparation, and HR, as well as corporate and board governance. Personally, he is passionate about helping others, including spending seven years working closely with the largest organization helping the homeless in Washington, D.C. In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, mountain biking and traveling, as well as helping others achieve personal and professional success.