What do retirement and birds feeding have to do with each other? Well, usually not much. I guess you could say that retirement gives someone the time and freedom to watch the bird feeder in the backyard, and that's true. But, that is not where this is going.
I was watching birds eat on a particular morning not too long ago. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Dozens of them flew into the yard at first light and swarmed the feeder, suspended on a pole 7 feet in the air.
Those that couldn't get a clawhold on the feeder's lip waited patiently on the walls.
After an appropriate amount of time (in bird-time), a new batch would flap to the feeder and push away those who were already feeding. This process repeated itself for at least 20 minutes. I moved on to something else as most of my morning visitors flew off to start their day.
Before leaving my chair and heading inside, what suddenly became obvious was the way some of the birds acted. While the majority jostled for space on the feeder's bottom tray or waited their turn on the wall, a handful choose a different approach.
They were fully aware that the mass of hungry birds were knocking lots of seeds to the ground. These little fellows realized that their morning meal was available to them without fighting for position or waiting for space on the feeder; they just had to pick up the seed that had fallen to the ground. No battling for position, no flapping of wings, just an easy stroll on the lawn and around the flower pots.
So, what was the lesson learned? What does this have to do with retirement? Simply that there are often different approaches to the same problem. One choice is to be with the crowd. There is safety in numbers. If we share we will get our portion in due course. We are social creatures that thrive as part of a group.
The other choice is to see a different path, the path less chosen, to borrow a Robert Frost phrase. Rather than pick the obvious solution, some of us find greater satisfaction in going against the grain. We still reach our objective, just a little differently.
Importantly, neither is right or wrong. Both groups of birds ate their fill. The larger flock followed the expected pattern, ate, and moved on. The smaller crowd had to work a bit harder to find the fallen bird seed, but had less competition. Both groups flew off at the same time, onto wherever birds go to spend the rest of their morning.
Retirement can be like that pattern I watched that morning. We might approach a problem to be solved somewhat differently, but in the end we achieve our goal and move on.