The Business Transition Blog

Why You Shouldn’t Trade Hard Work for a Rocking Chair

Want to Ski Whistler?

If the thought of retiring has crossed your mind, you may have started your ‘bucket list.’  It may include things like  ski the black diamond trails at Whistler, tour the museums of Italy, scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, sail the Caribbean, go back to school and get an MBA. You’re going to have lots to do!

Part of you may be thinking, that sounds like more work than it’s worth. You’ve worked hard all your life. You deserve to relax. You should take it easy. You just want to be a couch potato.

No you don’t! Not really. That’s not who you are or what you do. You’re an entrepreneur! You thrive on adrenalin, you love problem-solving, you like control and being the head of the pack. You’re probably not that good at relaxing. You’re more nervous when you go on holidays than when you’re in command back in your office. You may be tired and ready for a break, but shifting from being active and running a business to sitting in a rocking chair would likely kill you. Don’t go there!

If you’re feeling really tired, run down and just want to throw in the towel, you may be suffering from depression which wouldn’t necessarily be corrected by leaving your business. In his book The Healthy CEO, Dr. Larry Ohlhauser says:

“A chemical-related illness significant among CEOs is depression. This highly misunderstood illness is different from the usual sadness that accompanies hardship. Sadness is a legitimate response to certain circumstances. Although illness, significant stress or tragedy can trigger depression, this disorder is more than just feeling “the blues”. Clinical depression is a debilitating illness with sadness as just one of several symptoms. It cannot be overcome willingly, simply by putting “mind over matter.”

In his classic work, Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote about the importance of purpose and a goal in one’s life. As a survivor of Auschwitz, he witnessed the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. His experience in the camps and his subsequent research confirmed that people who lose their sense of purpose can will themselves to die and having done so,  they produce the outcome they expected. In the concentration camps, everyone was stressed, hungry, and sick. But the ones who just got word that their wife or child was killed in another camp would suddenly give up and die.  It was as if they just flipped a switch and it was over. Within days they would lay down and breathe their last breath.

We need a purpose. We need something to strive for. We need to stretch ourselves until the day we die, or that day will come much sooner than we and our families would like. All your life you’ve been living with gaps that you’ve tried to close. The difference between what is and what you would like it to be. You’ve had mortgages and loans to pay off, properties you wanted to buy, places to go, new product lines, new ways of doing business, new markets to go after, and competitors to beat. If you suddenly stop, and there is no creative tension in your life, you’re in danger of losing your purpose and losing your life.

When I was growing up we farmed next to a neighbor who always seemed pretty ancient to me. In his seventies he still farmed with a team of horses, worked hard every day and frankly was stronger than me even when I was a teenager. My family lived next to him for about ten years and we worked together to get the crops in each year. At 80 he was still wiry and strong, and worked as hard as any of us. But his wife who was much younger than he was, pushed him to sell the farm, move into town and take it easy. At last he relented. But within 18 months of selling the farm, he was dead. All his outdoor activity, his exercise, his routines and his sense of purpose were gone. It was widely believed that while his wife had the best of intentions, her insistence that he move off the farm became his death sentence.

So if you thought that when the time comes to retire or slow down from your business, it would be just one long golf game, think again. Unless you’re striving to get into the Masters.