The special night had finally arrived.
30 of my closest co-workers, from 33 years in business, made time for the event. My wife drove 2 hours to be there. The CEO even popped in for a surprise visit.
The time had come.
My Retirement Dinner.
Gulp. Does that mean I have to prepare a retirement speech? No surprise to my readers, I’m sure, to hear that I’m a Planner. My retirement dinner was no different. As I thought about MY retirement dinner I had to plan what I was going to do for a retirement speech. After 33 years in Corporate America, what should I say?
Should I write something formal?
Or should I wing it?
I decided to write.
Below, in its entirety is what I decided to say in my retirement speech… (names changed to protect the innocent)
My Retirement Speech
I’ve been debating whether to give a “formal” retirement speech for weeks. I think back to Jim Smith, who gave the best retirement speech I’ve ever heard. It was written. Those of you who know me well know that I love to write.
AND, while I’ll be retiring from the world of Corporate America in 23 days, I’ll most likely continue to write for years to come.
So…I decided to “go formal”.
I Decided To Write.For My Retirement Speech, I Shared 6 Lessons I've Learned During 33 Years In Corporate America. Click To Tweet
6 Lessons Learned In 33 Years
Tonight, I’d like to share 6 lessons I’ve learned during my 33 years in Corporate America.
On July 5, 1985, I walked into the Warren plant for the first time in my life. I’d just graduated from college and was arriving for my first day on the job as a Customer Service Representative.
I made $21,500 that first year. $21k, and yet here I am now, retiring at Age 55.
Lesson One: If you want to retire, save early, and save aggressively.
If you’re not saving 20%, you’re not aggressive enough. Learn how to manage your money for yourself. Let me give you a hint: I’ve heard of a pretty good website called The Retirement Manifesto if you’d like to pick up a few tips.
My boss in that first job in Warren was Tom Smith.
Somehow, I survived.
I continued to survive for 33 years. And I’ve learned some things along the way.
I learned, for example, that Warren, Ohio was a great place to find a wife. After work, Tom and I would go to a local fitness club to play racquetball. It so happens that there was a very attractive young lady who worked behind the guest counter at that fitness club, and I’m thankful that the company placed me in Warren, where I met my wonderful wife, Jackie.
We married on October 17. 1987 (30 years ago), and she’s been with me every step of the way.Tonight isn’t a celebration of MY retirement. Rather, it’s a celebration of OUR retirement. Click To Tweet
I love you all, but I don’t think it’ll surprise any of you to know I love my wife more. She’s put up with 9 relocations, and countless missed birthdays and anniversaries as I’ve accumulated 1 Million Miles on Delta Air Lines.
Starting on June 8th, that’s all behind us.
Our spouses make sacrifices for our careers, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity, publically, to thank Jackie for all of the sacrifices she’s made for my career.
Lesson Two: Find someone to love in this life, & love them unconditionally.
Nobody is perfect, so be quick to forgive, & recognize that life is better if you have someone to enjoy it with.
In the past 33 years, I’ve also learned that every career goes through periods of HIGHS AND LOWS. I’ve learned that we can’t always control the situations we face, but we can always control the attitude with which we choose to face it.
Along those lines, I’d like to read this quote from “Decoding the Science Of Ultimate Human Performance” (click here for the book)
“Scientists who study human motivation have learned that after basic survival needs have been met, the combination of autonomy, mastery, and purpose are our most powerful intrinsic drivers—the three things that motivate us most.”Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose are the 3 things that motivate us most in life. Click To Tweet
Each of those 3 have played a major role in my successful career, and I’d like to say a word about each:
- First, Autonomy (Or, the desire to direct your own life)
Always realize that you have control over life. Don’t make excuses if things aren’t going your way. When I was the Director for Specialty Sales, I specifically asked Pierre Benoit, the President of North America at the time, if he’d consider me for the open Berea Plant Manager job.
From Sales Guy To Plant Manager? What was I thinking? The role sounded interesting to me, and I wanted to give it a shot.
I got the job, and my career took off.
Lesson 3: Realize you have the ability to direct your own life. Pursue Autonomy.
- Second, Mastery (or, the desire to learn, explore and be creative):
Any of you who know me know that I’ve always been a lifelong learner and, God Willing, I always will be.
If you’re going to do something, do it well. Learn every aspect of your job, and explore areas in your “outside life” that interest you.
Two stories: One from work, and one from my “outside life”
- Harbor Conference: Mastery – 16 index cards, memorized every word. (I wrote about that experience in When At Work, Work!) The pursuit of Mastery.
2) The Retirement Manifesto: A lot of you know about my blog, but I suspect few of you know the background. I built it out of curiosity, as a way to learn and be creative. It’s become something I never imagined, and it’s worked out perfectly as a “bridge” into my retirement. Most important to me, and based on a LOT of emails I’ve received from my readers, is that I’m impacting people’s lives through my writing, and that’s rewarding beyond words.
Lesson 4: Never stop being curious, never stop learning. Pursue Mastery.
Third, Purpose (or, the desire to matter, the desire to contribute to the world)
No offense, but Purpose isn’t about some glitzy video. Find something that REALLY matters to you, and put some energy into developing that aspect of your life.
I’m willing to bet it’s not your work. I know work was never my Purpose. For me, and I suspect for many of you, my God and my family always meant more to me than my work, and they always will.
Lesson 5: Define your own Purpose. It’s important. Find a way to Impact A Life.
Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose – 3 of the most important things I’ve learned in my career, and they’re all in your control. But there’s more:
I Have Learned…
- That no one lives a perfect life, but the mindset with which you approach life is within your control, and the mindset you chose to live your life matters. A lot.
I Have Learned…
- That having friends matters. At work, and in life. Treasure friendships.
- That many of the things we worry about, aren’t worth worrying about at all
- That being a Lifelong Learner is the only way to live this life. Take time to explore.
- That your role at work and at home aren’t the same. Appreciate the difference, and love your spouse more than your job.
- That your children are going to leave the nest one day. Teach them to fly.
I Have Learned…
- That Financial Independence brings Freedom, and only you can break the chains that bind you to your desk.
- That life’s about a LOT more than work. Live your life fully, and keep work in perspective.
- That sharing things you know with the goal of helping people is a good way to live.
- That making a difference in someone’s life is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.
I’ll share a secret with you, now that I’m retiring. For the past 25 years, I’ve kept a “secret file” with 3 things I’ve learned from over 40 people in our company. People I’ve worked for, and people I’ve worked with. The name of the file is “Lessons Learned”.I have a secret file titled Lessons Learned, with over 100 Lessons I've Learned from others during my career. Click To Tweet
Some of those lessons are things I’ve admired about someone, and I’ve tried to incorporate them into my own life. Others are things that irritate me, blind spots, perhaps. Those are the traits I try to avoid. There are over 100 lessons in that file, and it’s a file I’ll never share with anyone.
I’ve shared some of the lessons from that file with you today, and I hope you’ll consider writing down 1 or 2 of them in your own private file. In summary, Lesson #6:
Lesson 6: Learn from everyone you come in contact with, and write down the lessons you learn.
Be self-aware, and modify your approach to life based on what you learn from others. Always strive to make your life better, and never settle for “Good” when you can go for “Great”.
From Jim Smith’s Speech (I know because it’s in my secret Lessons Learned file):
- Before you speak, listen.
- Before you write, think.
- Before you spend, earn.
- Before you criticize, wait.
- Before you pray, forgive.
- Before you quit, try.
- Before you retire, save.
- Before you die, give.
Jim gave that retirement speech over 10 years ago, but I remember it. Why? Because I wrote it down.
In My Lessons Learned File.
The 6 Lessons Learned In My Career
In Summary, the 6 Lessons I’ve learned during 33 years in Corporate America are:
- Save Aggressively
- Love Unconditionally
- Direct Your Own Life. Pursue Autonomy.
- Never Stop Being Curious. Pursue Mastery.
- Pursue Your Own Purpose
- Learn From Others, And Write It Down
The One Thing To Remember
It’s been a great run over these past 33 years, and I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with you all. Realize that your life is about a lot more than work, and invest energy into developing your life outside of work. The closer you get to retirement, the more important your life outside of work becomes.
Eventually, your work will end and you’ll all be giving your own retirement speeches. I don’t care if you write your speech, or if you wing it at the last minute.If there's nothing else you remember from my retirement speech, remember this. Click To Tweet
What I do care about, however, is that each of you does all that you can, while you’re still working, to ensure that your retirement will be the best retirement you can build. If there’s nothing else you remember from my retirement speech, it’s my hope that you remember the importance of designing your own retirement, and that you never accept anything less than the best life has to offer, whatever that means to you.
God Bless you all, and I wish you the fulfillment of your dreams in your careers, in your lives, and in the lives of your families. I appreciate your friendship, and I sincerely hope to keep in touch. If you’ve not done so yet, please sign up for my blog’s email, you can track us through our retirement in the words that I’ll be writing there. If you’re ever up in Blue Ridge, be sure to reach out, Jackie and I will be retirees up there in the mountains, and we’ll always have time for each and every one of you.
In closing, as Arthur Black (radio host at CBC) said at his retirement at Age 58,
“I’m kind of sorry about leaving, but not sorry enough to stay.”
With that, farewell for now. In a few weeks I’ll be gone, but hopefully not forgotten.
Thanks again, for 33 Great Years.