By Michael Drak
How did the Victory Lap concept originate? I smile every time I think about the fact that Jonathan and I have written a retirement book about not retiring. I know it’s weird, but weird seems to work in today’s world …
It all started about five years ago: the day I woke up and realized I didn’t want to do my corporate job anymore. Thinking like this was strange for me because I had always liked my job. I was good at it and it paid well, providing security and a good living for my family.
But truth be told, over the last few years the job was starting to have a negative effect both on my health and on my personal well-being. The stress of performing at a high level year in and year out was getting to me. I was reminded of this every morning, when I took my blood pressure medication.
For a long time I hadn’t been taking proper care of myself. I wasn’t in a good spot mentally or physically and was out of balance. I had been so caught up in the competitions, titles, and salary increases along the way in my career that I had lost track of who I was in the process.
Material success doesn’t guarantee happiness
I had bought into the idea that material success would eventually bring me happiness, but believe me on this, it doesn’t! I really didn’t know what would make me happy, I just knew that I didn’t like how I felt anymore. I used to laugh a lot more and I didn’t understand why that had stopped. I yearned to get rid of that nagging feeling and the sense that something needed to change. I had to slow down the pace of life and get out of the rat race.
But what was I going to do? Was retiring my only alternative? And if I did retire, to what would I be retiring? I had no idea, but I knew in my heart that a full-stop retirement just wasn’t in the cards for me: I get bored easily and the thought of possibly spending more years in retirement, with nothing to do, than I had spent in my working life scared me a little—no, make that a lot. I didn’t want my story to be, “He went to school, married, worked for a company for thirty-plus years while raising a family, then retired.” I had worked and sacrificed too much over the years to have it all end abruptly like that. My corporate job had served its purpose, but I wasn’t done yet and I knew my best days were still ahead. I wanted more — much more — out of life.
In my search for answers I visited the local library and read every retirement book I could get my hands on. Most of them were limited to the financial aspects of retirement. But then I was lucky to get my hands on a copy of Ernie Zelinski’s book How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom that You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor.
Zelinski’s book sparked it
It was a few years ago now that my mom came to me and told me about this book I just absolutely had to read. As with most things my mother tells me, I nodded, and then continued on as if nothing was said.
After she gave me a copy of it, with key passages underlined, I kept the book on my shelf, along with many other parental recommendations that I never quite had the time to pick up and get to.
This past January, though, I was sitting around with my friends and they were all panicking about this book they were reading, and how their lives weren’t where they should be for our age, and how their entire perspective had shifted after reading it. Naturally, I was intrigued. What is this book and why is it so powerful as to elicit such a panic from my friends?
As luck would have it, the book they were discussing was the same book my mother had tried to get me to read years before, and I knew exactly where it was sitting on my shelf. I picked up The Defining Decade as soon as I got home that evening, and didn’t put it down ’til it was done.
The Defining Decade by Meg Jay is, as cliché as it may sound—a call to action. It is geared toward those of us in our twenties (the ‘defining decade’), specifically, but realistically I think it should be required reading for everyone on their 18th birthday.
It’s become a common opinion that our twenties are ‘party time’. They’re a time for us to figure out what we want, take it easy, and relax after those stressful college years. The attitude of “if not now, then when” is often on our minds, and it’s difficult for us to see a clear path in front of us toward our future. As popular as this mindset is, what Jay shares with us in ‘The Defining Decade’, is that it can be extremely detrimental to our ill-thought-out futures if we continue thinking that ‘real life’ starts in our thirties. Read more