Me. Retire? Never!

It is 5:30 am.  The sky is gun-metal grey and the humid air drapes heavily over the hilly, densely-wooded country of Northern Ontario. It’s the wrong day to be wearing black nylon.  The ‘breathable fabric’ promise on the label fails to deliver. 

Jason P. is about to put this executive team through their paces. It is the second day of the strategy retreat, and during the next hour we will walk or run through a review of yesterdays discussion.  By the time we reached the finish line, big decisions had been made. 

Jason is a member of a small but growing and increasingly influential segment; the over-60 healthy and wealthy, movers and shakers.

Jason started a high-end kitchen fitment business 30 years ago.  Through a mixture of organic growth and acquisition he built one of the foremost brands in North America with gross margins 50% higher than the nearest rival. But a downturn in housing starts, malaise in the US economy and imports from China are putting great pressure on business performance.

But Jason is not retreating.  As he presses through the dampness at a 7 minute mile pace, the focus is on the next 30 years, not the past. He lays out an exciting, energetic series of strategic options though at this stage we’re too breathless to respond. 

He is passionate about making a difference in the lives of customers, employees and his family. He eats modestly but well. He is physical and competitive, and wants to improve his personal performance—in all aspects of his life. He is atypical of his age group.

In North America, 40% of those over 60 take 5 medications per day or more. Over-60’s are 14% of the population, but account for more than 50% of the health care costs. 

The attached graph* lays out the facts in the barest form. Human beings fall off the Cliff of Health in the absence of fulfilling work. We withdraw at a time when our problem-solving bank is richest. 

Not Jason. Work, diet and exercise are combining to ensure his contribution to society increases—at diminishing cost.

And he’s not alone. Dave Snowden is at the forefront of complexity thinking and narrative research.  Next year his birthday cake will bear 60 candles and he will celebrate the occasion by building more businesses and developing more novel material. He will also walk every one of the 1030 miles around Wales.

Some of my peers are spending more time looking back than looking forward. Not me. The future is more exciting than ever. In the past 12 months I have added more value to more people in less time using IP that didn’t exist 2 years ago—I look forward to saying the same in a years time.  

We should be building and maintaining the functionality of our problem-solving capability; and seeking to maximise a return on it.  We putrefy if we don’t exploit our problem-solving capability.  It has to flow from one person to another in order to have value.

We should be clever enough to learn from our past mistakes, and wise enough to make new ones.

It’s a sign of living.

"He who seeks rest finds boredom, he who seeks work finds rest" Dylan Thomas

* C Ratzlaff Br J Sports Med 2012;46:699–701 

Thanks to Drs P Davies and A Jethwa for provision of original article.

Simon LuntComment