Why retire?

Why do we have the notion of retirement? I asked this question recently and my grandpa Michael pointed out that during the heyday of the industrial revolution, people laboring in factories had very hard jobs, and their bodies would eventually break. The company needed a way to bring in fresh blood, so ‘retirement’ was born.

As we shift into more of a knowledge economy, many of these backbreaking jobs are being automated. But people still desire retirement. I was one of them – that’s why I ended up voting to bring in venture capital to a company that I helped build, because eventually as owners we’d need an ‘exit’ so that we could ‘retire’. But I’ll save that story for another day. Suffice it to say, I fell into the same belief trap, and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Imagine working for a company where there were no hierarchy, no departments, no barriers to your contributing where your passions lie. Imagine that you were paid enough so you didn’t have to be worried about money all the time. Imagine that the company provided not only for the physical health of you and your family, but for your development as a whole human being – physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Imagine that the company’s ethics were based on caring, and the environment was one that nurtured the development of all of the staff. In such a workplace, coworkers would spend more time helping each other and less time blaming and shaming each other. There would be no question of ‘work / life balance’ because you’d not stop living when you walked into the workplace, and you’d have plenty of time to spend at home with your family. And if your passion turned toward something other than work that the company could provide, the company would help you start your own business and this model would thus replicate.

Sound like utopia? I believe that it can be done. But first you need to ask yourself, are you living your passion? Joseph Campbell spoke of following your bliss, and Sir Ken Robinson called it finding your elementIf you are waiting to retire to be able to do what you really want to be doing, maybe it’s time to rethink that strategy!

I’m starting to think of this as ‘organic business’, much like Robinson uses the term when he talks about what schools could be.

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