Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Discovering the Wisdom of a seven-year-old

By Richard Haiduck

How did it happen?  After all of these years, how did I decide at age 72 to finally become an author?

When I was seven, I wanted to be an author.  No doubt about it.  Fireman? Test pilot? Those careers had moments of interest, but never rose to more than a second choice.

My parents got me a writing pad, some #2 pencils, and a much needed eraser.  I was off and running towards being an author.

The stories started to flow.  The stories were all fiction, with lots of sci-fi and imagined worlds. No story longer than one page.  Lots of pats on the head from parents and teachers gave plenty of encouragement to continue writing.

Then the writing stopped as quickly as it had started.  I was a kid.  I changed my mind.  There was no precipitating event, but just a moving on to friends and sports and other fun kid stuff.

The passion to be an author stopped for 65 years.  I got busy getting an education, then having a family and building a career.  My creative writing was stone cold.  Nothing happened on the author front.  Life experience and maybe even a bit of wisdom was accumulating. Better listening skills evolved.  The new skills were useful in my life, but not applied to writing.

As I got to retirement age, I gradually phased down my biotech consulting business.  I transitioned into an active retirement that included family, travel, biking, reading, learning experiences at Stanford, and mentoring of social entrepreneurs.

Then something happened. It would result in a big change in my retirement. I began hearing fascinating things that my friends were doing in their retirement.  They reinvented themselves into a new set of activities that took advantage of the freedoms associated with retirement.  One was competing in the Senior Olympics.  Another was taking a poetry course along with the 18 year-olds at the community college. One was volunteering to help build houses for the homeless. One was figuring out his path after a difficult divorce.  

As they told me their stories, I found myself engaged with their new interests.  Some of these people I had known for years, but now they had taken on a whole new persona.  They also had a strong curiosity to hear the stories of other retirees.  Collecting and sharing these stories needed to be done.

Suddenly, the idea of being an author was like a breath of fresh air.  It hit me.  I could do this.  I could return to the aspiration that I had a seven-year-old.  I would be an author, finally, and this time without having to use #2 pencils and a note pad.  There was a good topic, lots of people expressed interest in these untold stories.  It was personally interesting to me, I had the time, and it was a new adventure to try.

It would be an interview based book.  The starting point would be the friends and family who were doing remarkable things.  Referrals from initial interviewees broadened the range of stories.  Proactive methods were used to seek out additional specific topics.  

The result was Shifting Gears; 50 Baby Boomers Share Their Meaningful Journeys in Retirement. In future editions of this podcast, we will talk about the activities of these people, but also the emotions and challenges of their transition to retirement.

Further information can be found at or follow me on twitter @richardhaiduck






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