I'm continuing to write a set of Sunday posts that revisit in turn the ideas Tony Schwartz offered in "Turning 60: The twelve most important lessons I've learned so far". This week, I'm considering the ninth of Schwartz's observations:
The feeling of having enough is magical. It rarely depends on how much you've got. More is rarely better. Too much of anything eventually becomes toxic.
In thinking about Schwartz's idea, I'm reminded of my father, who (as I've described elsewhere) had mixed luck in his professional life. There were reasons for at least some of the bad luck, but he picked himself up in his later 40s and retired at 65 from a company that took good care of its employees.
Walking up to the time he retired, my father developed and stuck to a simple plan: he was going to buy a small plot of land in a development outside of Orlando, Florida, construct a small, modular house and work part-time at Disney World, probably handing out towels.
He also planned to golf most days. The site he ultimately chose to buy backs up onto a small (nine-hole), accessible course that he can drive to in a golf cart in about two minutes. For much of the time he has lived there, he has golfed a bit each day, getting exercise and a few holes in one along the way.
And he did get a part-time job at Disney, not handing out towels, but directing people to the right places at the resort's "Wide World of Sports" complex. I imagine quite a few visitors to the park got involved in conversations they never thought they'd have with an usher.
He retired from Disney a few years ago, after some bypass surgery limited how much time he could spend in the heat and the sun. But he still golfs, and sometimes you can get him to talk your ear off for no reason at all.
I remember the time, perhaps 25 years ago, when my father first told me he was going to hand out towels at Disney World. I wasn't all that enthusiastic. He had graduated from Boston College at the age of 20, raised six children, seen them through high school and in many cases college and graduate school. All of us are over-achievers in one way or another.
But he felt grateful to have reached an age at which he could plan to retire, with his health and his faculties, and do something that he found rewarding. As has been the case throughout his life, my father didn't really care what other people thought. He had enough, and he was going to enjoy what he had.
As I wrote last week, I've spent much of this year moving eight miles a minute for months at a time. It serves a purpose, and it may be necessary. But I'm now the same age as my dad was when he decided he'd be happy handing out towels. It's starting to make sense to me.