e-tirement

BloggerI was browsing through Pulse on the iPad reading the news and happened upon my friend Irving’s post “Reflections on the “Post-Retirement” Phase of My Life“. It reminded me that I have been meaning to write something similar about my “e-tirement”, a term coined by Irving back in 2001 when I e-tired. Irving wrote his reflection after three years and I have yet to write mine after nearly nine years. This is the problem with “retiring” — there just isn’t enough time to do all you want to do. It reminds me of a reflection by a retired friend who said that he needed to go back to work so that he would have more spare time. This post is intended to share what e-tirement is all about for this one fellow traveler.
For many people, the shift from full-time employment is all about golf. Nothing wrong with that and I can see how happy it makes many people. I played golf once. It was in August 1976 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. That was enough — the day confirmed that golf was not for me and I still do not see it in my future. Like Irving, I have found the shift to be from one primary focus area at one company to multiple focus areas with multiple organizations. As I say on my homepage, I am fortunate to have quite a few affiliations and I get to work with people from whom I am constantly learning.
Serving on boards, both corporate and non-profit, is a very rewarding experience. Not financially — but in the sense that you are able to help with a new idea, or to share an experience that can be helpful. In the old days being a board member meant going to a quarterly meeting and hearing from management and then voting to approve their actions. Governance has evolved significantly and in a positive direction. Directors are expected to read board materials and be prepared for discussion at meetings and to speak out when there is something they don’t understand or agree with. Directors also participate in committees of the board and that is often where more significant ground work takes place. Serving as a member of the planning and technology committees at the regional hospital enables me to be involved at the forefront of the rapid changes in healthcare. Serving on two compensation committees and as chair of the audit committee at two for profit companies is “continuing education”. All things considered I find that board service is a way to remain challenged while at the same time giving back some of the experience gained from nearly four decades at IBM.
When asked for “occupation” on various forms I usually say “consultant” but I don’t make visits and write reports in the classical consulting model. I do maintain a relationship with IBM and act somewhat as an ombudsman at various technology conferences. This enables me to provide an “outsider” perspective to the company from time to time. Not sure if I am an inside outsider or an outside insider. Conferences provide an important dimension of e-tirement for me. Speaking at them or just attending them is a way to stay involved in the industry. There are a lot of good conferences where technologists, investors, business leaders and media come together to network, share ideas, and explore the business impacts of key innovations. Catching up with former colleagues and making new friends is also a highlight. The social networks and many great blogs provide a huge amount of information but there is no substitute for getting together in person and chatting in the hallways during coffee and meal breaks a few times a year. The speaker circuit at company and industry trade group sponsored conferences has suffered an understandable slow down with the economy but hopefully will bounce back during the second half of this year. It has been a privilege to be on the roster of the Washington Speakers Bureau since 2002. Speaking at various not or profit events is also rewarding. Public speaking has been a key part of e-tirement.
And then there are hobbies — so many hobbies, so little time. The patrickWeb blog has many stories about the motorcyling adventures, conducting Beethoven and Mozart, personal computing, gadgets, hiking, geocaching, home automation, reading, and travels. The one hobby that dropped off the list is running — too many marathons and decades of pounding the pavement wore out my knee. Technology came to the rescue and the new oxinium knee has allowed for a full rehabilitation. Although running is not possible, walking and the elliptical cross trainer have enabled me to reach an average 13,000 steps per day — just short of 5 million steps since the new knee was implanted 21 months ago.
All of the hobbies are shared in the blog and, of course, blogging itself is an important hobby. As Irving pointed out, blogging is a way to chronicle one’s activities and connect with many people who have common interests. There are roughly 1,000 stories in patrickWeb dating back to 1998. Someday my grandchildren will find the blog of interest. How about if the Romans and Greeks had been bloggers? What an impact blogging will have hundreds of years from now as researchers try to understand what pepole were thinking and doing way back at the turn of this millenium. I marvel at the research done by Edward Gibbon as he wrote the six volmues of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. As I read his autobiography and also that of Benjamin Franklin recently I thought how awesome it would be if they had been able to blog their thoughts.
I don’t say much in the blog about my wife, our four children, or the three grandchildren (about to be four). I leave it to them to decide what and how they want to share. I will just say that I am proud of them all. Thanks to Irving for inspiring me to write something about e-tirement. Now when I mention the word in future posts I will have a permalink to point to!