adapted from Beyond Survival by Léon A. Danco
As a successful business owner do you have a finish line? I’ll bet you don’t have a document which says that at a given time under any given conditions you are going to retire without being an approving party to the event. An irrevocable retirement clause? That doesn’t mean deferred income, a board chairmanship, or a consulting job. It means retirement.
Retirement is usually an unpleasant subject. It’s often not something founders of successful businesses discuss because it’s most often equated with castration or death.
That’s unfortunate because I think that the more competent a man is in his chosen profession, the more important it becomes that he decide at the height of his powers, his own finality. While at his peak he should determine the date on which he will confer authority and get out.
I often hear, “I have a plan for retirement. I’m sort of semi‑retired. I come into the office a little later. I’m not making all of the decisions. I look around a bit, but the kids are really doing a wonderful job. I take a lunch hour and I play a little golf. We head to We head to Arizona in the winter for several months. I’m more or less retired.”
This is what I’m told, but what I hear is, “I don’t know what to do with my life. I’ve always loved business and I’m not going to make it on the senior’s tour‑‑ the only thing left is to go into the office, bang on the table, intimidate the help, alienate the customers, and mess up the business part‑time.” This is called “more or less retired.” You should hear what the successors call it.
Work is noble. We don’t want to give it up. Yet, it is the height of impertinence for us to think that we’re going to die at the peak of our power. Nothing quits at the peak. Flowers don’t just disappear in full bloom. Athletes don’t die after they’ve won the Stanley Cup.
Everything has a period of perfection. And everyone has their peak. But it doesn’t last forever. A 17‑year‑old girl may skate her way to an Olympic Gold Medal. How good will she be at 35?
It was only in the days when you got shot in the saddle by an errant knight in armor, or the life expectancy was 35 that people died at the height of anything. Now, with life expectancies of 70 – 80 years, we are likely going to last past our peak.
Retirement is only considered unpleasant if we lack purpose.
If you expand your world there are an infinite number of things that are fascinating. The expansion of our world is truly the work of retirement. This is the renaissance of man. I invite you to share it.
Retirement is renaissance. It’s a time of renewal and transition from success to significance. It is a time of mentoring people and giving back.
Retirement is to celebrate your “students.” If you can’t prepare your management to revitalize your business, then you have failed. If you think retirement is impossible and nobody else will follow you…that’s tragic. I would like to remind us that no matter what we do, we cannot insulate our lives from those who will follow us.
The world will be better off when you have explained what you know to those who must follow. Your final glory is in the achievement of your students. They need and want you. The future will thank you and remember you.