January 1, 2022

A New Year: Time To Re-Brand Yourself?

What is the most depressing word in the English language? According to Ernest Hemmingway, it is “retirement.” The dictionary defines retirement as an ending, a conclusion, a termination, seclusion –get the idea? These are not very pleasant connotations. Yet, this is the word we hear or use every day and it can affect how we think. Ask someone of a certain age what they do, and nine times out of ten, the answer will be "I'm retired."  

Of course, that doesn't really answer the question. Retirement is a state of being, but it is not who you are or even what you do, I hope.


What we need is personal re-branding. The goal is to change the image of the word. Retirement needs to be positioned in folks' minds as a period of incredible opportunity. It isn’t a conclusion, rather it is an encore, an additional performance added to an already great event. It is a time when your talents and creativity can reach new heights.

Companies rebrand all the time. They come up with a new product name, or design for the packaging. Old products disappear to be replaced with "new and improved" versions. Why not us? How would your retirement be rebranded? Here are a few thoughts:

Create a vision of how you’d live if you could start from scratch. Here’s a shocker: that’s exactly what happens when you leave the job behind. You are starting again with a clean slate. How you spend your time and energy, who you associate with, what new challenges you take on are all within your power. Obviously, finances or health will create some barriers. But, I contend there are fewer limitations than you had when you were working 40 hours a week.

Set timetables for turning that vision into your life. This doesn’t mean, “By Friday I’ll learn to play the guitar.” A realistic goal for the next year might be to become good enough to play a few songs for friends at a picnic. If your health isn’t where you want it to be, your goal could be to get your cholesterol numbers below 190 by your next physical. Setting goals that are too general and too open-ended won’t work. You must be able to measure your progress.

Tell friends and family what you are doing. “Going public” is one of the best ways to keep you motivated. None of us likes to say we are going to do something and then not live up to the promise. If you keep your goals and vision to yourself, it is much easier to waffle and make excuses.

Don’t accept the marketplace’s definition of who you are and what you can do. Being retired means only what you allow it to mean. For many this is the busiest, most exciting, most fulfilling time of their lives. To them, retirement means re-fire-ment: becoming fired up by all that life has to offer.

Don't be afraid to shake things up. Maybe that means moving to another part of town, or another part of the country altogether. Maybe you want to try living in a small condo in the center of the city instead of the suburbs or try full-time RVing for a time. Join a club, volunteer for something a little out of your comfort zone. Now is the time when you can experiment with your lifestyle. Do it.
    Rebranding this part of your life into what you want it to be can be one of the most important decisions you make. Don’t allow society to put you in a small box when you feel like a massive storage container.

    The start of a new year always feels like we have a clean slate. While not literally true, there is a psychological feeling of beginning anew. Lean into that freshness of 2022. 

    Being retired has nothing to do with who you are and what you can accomplish. Dedicate this year to not allowing the public perception to defining you.



    28 comments:

    1. Happy New Years, Bob. Another great post. I am glad that I was the first one to comment in this new year. Keep up the excellent job of getting people off their butts and into action.

      I've been retired for 22 years now, so I kinda get the ideas of what it can be. You know my major goal for this year is to being an advocate for those who have had major adversity in life particularly hearing loss and autism. I am going to demystify those two conditions and get people to understand that we are all at our core pretty much the same, so we should be supporting each other instead of looking for differences.

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      1. I am watching with great interest your push in the new year to educate and advocate for those who have struggled with adversities. You are living proof of what can be done when many of the odds are stacked against you. Your "re-branding" of yourself and the direction of your blog are exciting to watch as it all unfolds.

        I wish you the very best of luck and a major dose of patience and perseverance. Lord knows we need things that bring us together.

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    2. Thank you for today's post.

      "Retired" is a label we should just retire, like "retarded" and "colored."

      It means for most people "purposeless."

      In this regard, Hemingway's full comment (made to his biographer and friend, A. E. Hotchner) is revealing:

      “The worst death for anyone is to lose the center of his being, the thing he really is. Retirement is the filthiest word in the language. Whether by choice or by fate, to retire from what you do and what makes you what you are, is to back up into the grave.”

      "Retired" means "half-dead, half-gone, half-forgotten."

      No thanks.

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      1. Mr. Hemmingway can cut to the chase better than most. In his day, retirement was the rocking chair on the front porch and the last few years waiting for the end.

        Obviously, the reality of what retirement means has changed since his time. Now, the majority of retired folks understand the amazing opportunities for growth and significance.

        The hackneyed view of what retirement is remains, however, among the general population. If there were another word, I would welcome it's adoption. Like the words you mention, we need a new term that doesn't have so much negative baggage,

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      2. Hemmingway is a bit outdated in 2022. In 1950 average life expectancy was 65.6 for men and 71.1 for women. More than half died before reaching 65.

        What would he say in 2022 when life expectancy is 76.1 for men and 81.1 for women?

        I don't mind at all being retired. I have a whole new world to enjoy and create in my waking hours rather than spending 75% of them at paid-employment.

        I look forward to hearing more thoughts on this.

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      3. Very few who are retired would agree with Hemmingway's description today.

        If there is a misinterpretation, it still is present in the media or entertainment. I am hard-pressed to think of many movies or TV shows that accurately portray the reality of a fully-lived retirement.

        And, advertisers have virtually no interest except in promoting new drugs.

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    3. Huh, that's interesting. In my universe, retirement connotes being free from the shackles of a 9-5, to finally be free to pursue passion projects, slow travel and generally a less stressful lifestyle. In fact, early retirement is a goal for many of my cohorts!

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      1. The word, and what it means, is changing. The last year or so of what is being called "The Great Quit" or the "Great Resignation" is giving a lot of people a new appreciation for the joys of more free time and the freedom to have more of a say in the work-living balance.

        In my 21 years of retirement, I have seen a seismic shift in the appeal of retirement and the realization that this phase of life is nothing to fear, rather welcome.

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    4. I take great joy in saying I'm retired, and I didn't realize it was a pejorative, I guess. I still have working friends, so maybe it's just the gratitude of being able to quit working and still enjoy pretty much anything I decide to do.

      I saw statistics on how many people retired during Covid and was shocked. Honestly, once you feel that freedom and if you're confident you have enough to live on, I can understand not wanting to go back, especially since older people are more at risk. It really makes a lot of sense. Being vaccinated and boosted is some comfort, but we're still being careful enough that quite a few things we'd love to do are postponed. Health is everything at this age.

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      1. I kind of look forward to someone asking me what I do. I don't say I am retired. I usually say I am a blogger, dabble in painting, and play a rather marginal guitar.

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      2. As I was reading your post, I, too, realized I never call myself retired. I was a writer, sometimes working as a contract writer and sometimes working on my own books. I'm trying to rejuvenate my fiction-writing career. I'm intrigued by genetic genealogy and learning all I can about it. I'm just as driven, but this year, my goal is to grant myself an occasional day when I do nothing but read all day. I used to long for days like that, so why am I not allowing myself to have them now? Happy New Year, Bob! Thanks for all the thoughtful posts.

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    5. I much prefer the Spanish word for retirement - jubilacion. I think it better captures the sense of freedom and joy not having being in the 9-5 grind anymore makes me feel. I also think it's sad that, in our society, we commonly ask others "What do you do?" as if what one does for work defines them. Maybe we need to change that to "What brings you joy?" or "What do you do for fun?" or "What are your interests?".

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      1. My answer? What I want, when I want, if I want 😉😉😉

        Love: jubilacion!

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      2. Yes, jubilacion is a tremendous improvement.

        "What do you do" too often prompts a very incomplete response.

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      3. I love jubilacion! That's the great thing about studying other languages. You gain insight into a culture not your own. I remember the first time I learned how to say "I dropped" something in Spanish, using the verb "caer," to fall, as in "the plate fell away from me." The realization that the speaker doesn't have to take responsibility for dropping the plate, but rather it's almost as if the plate has some agency in falling away was a revelation. Here was a culture perhaps not so centered on blaming oneself.

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    6. "'What do you do' too often prompts a very incomplete response." So very true! I was recently asked that very question by a 50+ woman who still works FT. I could not answer. In fact, I stammered!
      In hindsight, I realized that I could not define myself by a traditional 9-5 job.
      I chastised myself for not having a clear answer, Im still working on finding a phrase that captures the fulfilling days of my retired life. In fact, maybe it needs to be a verb. I’m constantly on the move; exercising, drawing, sewing, caring for my husband, cooking, maintaining our home, gardening, learning new things like technology. I am thankful to have purpose. I still possess a forward vision.
      Thanks for bringing this up. I look forward to reading how others describe this rich season of life.

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      1. I like your comment about a retirement phrase being a verb. In your case (and mine, too) this part of life is quite active, so a verb would be a good choice.

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    7. How does "Involved" sound?
      "What do you do?"
      "Well, actually I’m INVOLVED in quite a few things…"

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    8. Another great topic, Bob.

      For me, "retirement" has been a "return to the self." I have rekindled or strengthened my hobbies and interests, some of which stretch back to my early youth. It has been less of a rebranding than of a rediscovery of who I am, and always was. Our professions and lives have a way of defining and distracting us. I worked in an environment where people often BECAME their jobs. It was their identity. Not surprisingly these are the people who either cannot retire or have great difficulty when they do. I was never my job. I always looked upon it as something I do, not something I am. When people would ask me, "what do you do," I would respond: "I am professionally curious." And I am privately curious now.

      A time for all to pursue their passions, and that may include continuing to work. But for me it is a return to authenticity.

      Rick in Oregon

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      1. Rebranding of our public face and rediscovering our private self: the perfect balance, Rick.

        It is important that you note returning to some form of employment is a completely legitimate choice during retirement. If that is something that will make life better or "scratch an itch" then go for it.

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    9. I always joke that I don't know how I ever had time to have a job! I loved this post and the comments/responses. How interesting that just even the word "retire" evokes so many reactions ranging across a wide spectrum. I also appreciate the different cultural associations.

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      1. Yes, the word jubilacion sounds so much better to my ears than retirement. I don't know the lexicon of that word, but something like English's jubilation to mean retirement would get my vote.

        BTW, all readers check out Galen's idea of a burden bowl in her post of last week. That is something The Lowry household has adopted.

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      2. Yep, jubilacion/jubilation gets my vote too. Thanks for the kind words about the burden bowl post. So glad you and Betty are trying it out.

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      3. We decided to use a small jar for burning small slips of paper that have a written burden we have been carrying that day.

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    10. I love the Spanish word "jubilacion" for retirement. I think it behooves all of us retirees to rebrand this time of our lives and I strongly believe that will happen when those not retired see how we engage in life, prompting them to shift their view of retirement. There have been many words that take on new meaning in new times (As in Tim McGraw's song, Back When). It's always been a challenge to me to describe who I am without relying on my career moniker. Like Oprah said, when someone says to you in that tone -who do you think you are? we are challenged to stand up and answer that. It took awhile to come up with an answer to that question - what do you do? I now reply - I look after myself and my home. That's the short answer and if the questioner is truly interested, I can give the long answer. I still believe that question is reflective and the questioner is really wondering what he/she would do without the 9-to-5. Time needs to be managed whether going to "work" or not, maybe even more so in retirement when you're not relying on someone else to call the shots. Happy New Year, Bob.

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      1. I look after myself and my wife/husband is an excellent response because it almost begs a followup question from the questioner that allows for a more detailed answer.

        Happy New Year to you and your family, Mona.

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    11. Retirement = Refirement. I love it!

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