Why Stop Now?

Why would anyone retire? I’m serious. Why not just pivot to work you enjoy doing. (As soon as I wrote “pivot” I thought of Ross moving the couch on Friends. Anyway…)

All of us have at least three different levels of capacity. First, we have what I will call abilities, things at which we are good, but the work doesn’t feed our souls. I’m good with finances, and run the finances of RLT Pathways, but I can’t say I enjoy it. We are competent when we work within the realm of our abilities, but we are not inspired. If you are relegated to the realm of abilities, I understand why you might want to retire. No one wants to do soul-sapping work.

In addition to abilities, we have gifts. A gift is something at which you excel that you enjoy doing so much you lose track of time when you are doing it. For me, writing is a gift. Running an organization is a gift. Counseling is a gift. If we are lucky and have had good mentors along the way, we also may be able to identify our pinnacle gifts. A pinnacle gift is work at which you excel beyond others. If you don’t know what your pinnacle gift is, you can determine it by asking a single question: What do people most affirm about you? The answer is likely your pinnacle gift.

My pinnacle gifts are public speaking and coaching and developing other public speakers. At TEDxMileHigh earlier this month I got to practice both of my pinnacle gifts, by coaching our speakers through the memorization and delivery process, while also emceeing the event. I was in seventh heaven. To make it even better, though a little stressful, I preached at Denver Community Church the next morning, then preached at Left Hand Church that night. Both were brand new messages. All weekend I was in my sweet spot. Monday I crashed.

Which brings me back to my opening paragraph. Why would anyone retire? Now you see why I might ask that question. I don’t want to retire. I want to reach higher. Oh gees, I just realized that rhymes. It’s okay, I’ll stay with it anyway. I want to reach higher.

At this stage of my life, I’m not interested in working 70-hour weeks, but I do want to achieve the greatest return on investment of my time. Whether it is preaching at Left Hand or another post-evangelical church around the nation, working with TED or TEDxMileHigh, counseling clients, speaking for corporations, or serving on the town board here in Lyons, I want to serve within my wheelhouse and in the areas of my gifts or pinnacle gifts. If I am doing that, why would I retire?

I call what I am currently doing semi-retirement, though most people would not consider it to be that. Friends half my age often say they have a hard time keeping up with me. But I’ve always been fairly productive, so for me, what I am doing is, in fact, semi-retirement. For instance, I do not want to be the lead pastor at a church anymore, though I love preaching regularly. I do not want to run a non-profit, though I’m happy to volunteer for several. And I do not want to do anything early in the morning. So you can forget that breakfast meeting.

I suppose the bottom line is that I hate being bored, and I want to make a difference in the world. I want to alleviate suffering, while causing as little as possible. Turns out that last part doesn’t get easier with age.

My parents lived well into their 90s. Dad was still driving at 95, though the wisdom of allowing that was, uh, a bit suspect. He only really slowed down in his final year. I hope I have that kind of time remaining, and that I can approach it with the kind of energy Dad sustained. I don’t think about my age much. I still take on the kinds of new challenges I took on at fifty. Back then it was working for the first time as a television host. Now it’s coaching TEDx speakers in their script finalization, memorization and delivery, and serving TED speakers as a Speaker’s Ambassador.

And oh yeah, the running for public office thing. I did that too. I mean, five-hour board meetings that start at 5:30 pm might be a bit much, but I’m learning a lot, and I love our little town.

This week, it’s been writing a sermon for Sunday, met with the November 12 TEDxMileHigh speakers for their inaugural meeting, served folks from the last TED event, pastored people from church, and dug into the 165-page staff draft of the Lyons Thrive Comprehensive Plan. Yeah, that last one is a bit much. But hey, they’ve diligently done good work and I will read every single page.

And so it goes.