I was asked about my plans for retirement recently. Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines “retired”:
Withdrawn from one’s position or occupation : having concluded one’s working or professional career.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a few months off after rarely taking time off for the last decade. I gave myself permission to disconnect. I wasn’t thinking about anything that resembled work. I wasn’t thinking about how to solve problems; I wasn’t tinkering with new ideas. I wasn’t checking email (regularly). I wasn’t talking business with anyone. I focused on doing things I couldn’t do while I was leading a company, like spending a few weeks with a family member who was recovering from a life-threatening medical condition. I completely withdrew from work.
I enjoyed the time off and being able to reconnect with people. It was a much-needed respite after years of grinding. But I also felt like I was at a standstill. As a founder, I was constantly having to rise to the occasion to overcome the latest hurdle. That kept me in perpetual learning and growth mode. I didn’t always enjoy the things I had to work on or learn as a founder, but I enjoyed the personal growth. My time off felt odd because I wasn’t being challenged or growing—not quickly at least. Mental stimulation was missing.
I did learn from the experience how powerful controlling your own time can be. Other people have affected my calendar since I was a child. If it wasn’t a school schedule, it was a work schedule or a business issue or something or someone else materially impacting how I spent my time. But during my time off, my calendar was under my sole control. I wasn’t working on stuff I didn’t want to work on. I wasn’t spending time with people I didn’t want to spend time with. I was in complete control of my time. It was quite liberating.
At the end of my down period, I concluded that my goal isn’t to retire. I’ll never want to retire (in the traditional sense). I’ll never want to walk away from the professional things I enjoy and the mental stimulation they bring. Instead, I want the freedom to work on the things I enjoy and that are mentally stimulating.
My goal isn’t to retire—it’s to control my time in perpetuity. I want the freedom to work on things and with people that bring me joy (so it doesn’t feel like work). If it doesn’t feel like work, I’ll end up doing more of it. I’ll be as engaged and busy as ever!
My retirement plan is to never retire.