When Men Retire

I know what happens when men retire.

I do not know what happens when women retire. Perhaps they are plagued by the same maladjustments, discomforts and discontentment as men, but I doubt it. As Michele Miller points out in her audiobook, The Natural Advantages of Women, females of our species are gifted with different neurological wiring that helps them be less obsessive, more able to adapt. She doesn’t use exactly those words, but that’s my interpretation of what the medical research seems to indicate.

But men. I do know men.

I’ve spent 40 years watching businessmen step up and out to make way for new leadership stepping up and in.

Two Things Happen When Men Retire:

  1. Most of us lie to ourselves.

“I’m going to play golf.” “I’m going to go fishing.” “I’m going to travel.” But as my friend Don Kuhl pointed out recently, these activities get old fast.

  1. Within 12 months, most men return to doing what they have always done.

I’ve never seen it fail. A successful man will not be happy in retirement until he finds a way to redirect the superpower that made him successful. Warren Buffet calls this superpower, “your circle of competence.” The problem is that most men don’t know what theirs is.

Acquired skills are conscious competence. But special talents, instinctive superpowers, flicker outward like invisible tongues of fire from your unconscious competence.

Have you ever received instruction from a talented person? They speak poetry and think it is science.

Rare is the talented person who is aware of – and can consciously explain – their unconscious competence. But I’ve known a few talented men who were aware, and who could explain it. And each of them was able to move elegantly from one season of their life to another.

My father-in-law, Paul Compton, understood all things mechanical. If Paul had kept a sketchbook of his inventions it would have rivaled the sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci. It’s little wonder that Paul quickly rose from working in a stone quarry to become an expert repairman of jet engines for American Airlines.

When Paul retired, he bought expensive machines at auction that were beyond repair and then repaired them. He made a profit when he sold them, of course, but he wasn’t doing it for the money. It was just a new and different way for him to aim his superpower.

Sean Jones is a good friend, a former client, and a genius who consciously understands his unconscious competence. Sean’s superpower is that he can look at a business, any business, and see precisely how to systematize 80% of the recurrent activities so that he might personalize and humanize the remaining 20%. Sean made his first fortune when he bought a small chain of jewelry stores and then used his superpower to skyrocket that company to unprecedented success. He sold that company for the kind of money people fantasize about when they buy lottery tickets, but Sean never-for-a-moment thought of retiring.

He is now buying other companies in completely unrelated categories and working his special brand of magic on them, as well.

Paul Compton and Sean Jones didn’t retire, they merely redirected their superpowers in new and different ways.

Last week I had a 6-hour lunch with a close friend who is about to sell his company. He told me of 3 different things he was planning to do during his “retirement” and then asked me whether I thought he was crazy, because all 3 ideas – on the surface at least – were crazy.

I asked my friend if he knew what it was that had made him so successful in his chosen field.  He knew. I knew, too. But now that it was on the table, I was able to point to it and show him how each of his 3 “crazy” ideas was just a new way of directing his superpower.

He was very happy to hear it.

Are you considering changing how you spend your days?

Every man has an unconscious competence. When you have identified yours, you will have found the key to your personal success, and an abiding sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Do you need some help finding your superpower? It’s easy. Just ask those people who know you best.

Ciao for Niao,

Roy H. Williams