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NEW MAN JOURNEY
FINDING MEANING IN RETIREMENT
By STEPHEN W. SILVER
David C. CookCopyright © 2013 Stephen W. Silver
All rights reserved.
Let's Get Real
To get our New Man Journey started in the right direction, we've got to be honest with ourselves about who we are and where we're going.
All journeys begin somewhere. Was there ever a time in your life when you had the urge to just pick up and go? Try something completely new? Break the mold, shake it up, maybe even change your life? Do you remember the excitement? The anticipation? Those great feelings are usually the domain of youth, but they don't need to be. As we get older, the circumstances of our lives may limit our physical explorations, but those inner longings have no such constraints. These aspirations ignite journeys of the heart and spirit.
We're here at the beginning of what will be one of those journeys—one that will illuminate our understanding and challenge our views about how best to live the rest of our lives. That's a big statement. This is a big topic. Stay with me. The juice is worth the squeeze.
We're built to learn, change, and grow. To become who and what we were created to be. If we're not there yet, something inside stirs a longing for more, for something different. That's a good problem to have. I had it.
My need for a more purposeful life reached a crescendo ten years ago. At fifty-five, I'd achieved business success and financial stability. I was on good footing with my wife, family, friends, and faith. A comfortable early retirement was in sight. Life was good. Things were stable. I could finally relax and coast.
Yet something was wrong with that picture. It was incomplete. Had I finished one major phase of my life just to sit in an easy chair? I knew that dog wouldn't hunt. I needed more. More in my friendships. More in my marriage. More with my family. Most importantly, less of Steve and more of the Lord. Knowing I couldn't do this alone, I engaged others as sojourners on that quest and discovered that my needs and desires were the same as theirs.
Over the last ten years, these travelers and I have discovered two things that are essential for this journey: honesty and humility. These character cousins are the guardrails on our road. Without them, we'll lose our way. With them, we'll reach our destination. I'm excited to travel this road with you. Along the way, I'll disclose personal challenges that are a little uncomfortable to share. There are things I've had to admit to myself to make progress on my journey. I'll be asking you to be honest with yourself as well—to get real. I believe we're alike in many ways, so there won't be many surprises.
A few of the stories in the pages ahead are composites of the journeys of many men I've known. We'll see ourselves in them. Learn and grow with them. Let's begin with one about a former postal worker I'll call Gary and see how he's faring.
Gary's wife, Audrey, still wears her winter coat as she stands in the kitchen. She yanks open drawers and cabinets. "I don't know what to make for dinner," she says. "We're out of everything."
Gary sits at the kitchen table going through the mail. He's got his coat on too. It keeps the heat bills down.
"We could go out," he says.
Audrey knows better. "You know we can't afford that."
Gary feels his face redden. Is it his fault that the recession kicked in right after he took early retirement from the post office? That they'd drained the rest of their savings helping their kids get through community colleges? That now, not even the local grocery stores seem interested in hiring a sixty-year-old?
"I had an interview today," he snaps. "I'm doing the best I can."
Audrey turns away from the counter to look at him. "I know that."
He tosses a pile of bills onto the corner of the table and stands up. "Why can't you plan ahead? How hard is it to figure out a few meals for the week?"
Audrey's mouth opens, but for a few seconds nothing comes out.
"You know I'm helping out with the church auction," she finally says. "This is a crazy week for me. Don't you have time to help me just a little?"
Don't I have time? he thinks to himself. Sure, I'm not working. I have all the time in the world!
"Forget it," he says, his voice rising. "You don't have to make dinner for me. I'll get my own." With that, he stomps out of the room and the house, slamming the front door behind him.
A brisk breeze hits Gary in the face and instantly lowers his body temperature. The frigid air cools his anger as well. What's wrong with him anyway? Why is he so mad? He knows he shouldn't blame their problems on Audrey. Sure, he isn't too happy about needing to go back to work, or the fact that he's having so much trouble finding a job. But in many ways, life is good. They're both healthy, and the kids are doing fine. His daughter and son-in-law are even expecting their first child.
So why does the future feel so bleak?
Gary thought that by the time he was in his sixties, he'd have life pretty well figured out. He thought he'd have enough money set aside to live on and a loving family with whom to share his retirement years. Now that he's there, it's not quite what he expected. Disappointment. Emptiness. Confusion. Gary feels as if he's riding a train into a dark tunnel and isn't too sure he wants to know what's ahead.
A man named Tom is in a very different place ... yet not so different. His story is next.
I don't understand.
Tom eases the new, fully loaded, red Mercedes SL500 roadster out of the dealership and onto US Highway 1. Though it's a crisp October day, he has the top down. He can see the leaves turning in the maples alongside the road. He can also see his reflection in the mirror: the strong chin, the Louis Vuitton Evasion sunglasses, the full head of hair with some graying at the temples, a look some describe as "ruggedly handsome."
Tom feels eyes on him as he signals left. A blonde in a black BMW slows down and lets him change lanes for the turn onto Putnam Avenue. She takes a second glance as he makes the turn.
I just don't get it.
Tom had written a check for the full amount to buy the Mercedes, more than $130,000. He'd briefly negotiated on the price—he is a derivatives trader, after all—but the effort was only halfhearted. The point is that he no longer needs to haggle. After all these years, the eighteen-hour days and seemingly endless running of models and computations have finally paid off. Commissions, bonuses, and promotions have come his way. His credit cards are no longer issued by Kmart and Kohl's but by Neiman Marcus and Saks. The little home he and Brandy shared has been exchanged for a 6,500-square-foot estate—which doesn't include the pool house.
It's not supposed to feel like this.
Tom and Brandy are members of the most prestigious country club in Greenwich. They and their two kids summer on Nantucket and ski Breckenridge over the kids' winter breaks. Tom is fifty-five years old and, at last, everything is coming together the way it's supposed to. He's in position to enter early retirement and enjoy his golden years. The Mercedes is the final jewel in the crown, a symbol of all he's achieved and become.
So why do I feel so empty?
He steers onto Stonebridge Court, maneuvers past the manicured lawns and iron gates, and pulls into his driveway. His hands shake slightly as he presses the automatic garage door opener and aims for the middle space in the immaculate three-car garage. Even in the dim light, the Mercedes glows.
Tom turns off the engine and stares out the windshield for a full minute. Then he covers his face with his hands and begins to cry.
Defining The Problem
Can you relate to Gary or Tom? Maybe you're a guy who, like Gary, has watched the recession or some other catastrophe chew up your well-laid retirement plans like a paper shredder. You're frustrated with your situation and sparring with your spouse—yet you sense deep down that the real problem is something quite different.
Maybe you click with Tom's story. You've been devoted to your career for decades. You've made fortunate financial choices and are now set up to enjoy the retired life. However, your meaning, identity, and security have gotten too wrapped up in your success, prestige, and nest egg. Something inside is telegraphing that this is hollow. That you may have missed an important turn along the way. That all is not well.
Or you may have been retired for a while now, but the daily rounds on the links and holiday visits with the children and grandchildren aren't quite as invigorating as you'd hoped. You feel as if you're making a farewell tour so that you can quietly step aside. You're missing the passion and purpose that your old job provided, but don't quite know how to fill it.
My story is a little like Tom's. I started out with nothing. Then I discovered I had a talent for problem solving, became a management consultant, and built a firm. I achieved success early and enjoyed the benefits that brings. Despite all that, I was insecure. When speaking with friends and colleagues, I dropped the names of my well-known clients and in other subtle (and not so subtle) ways conveyed that I was a "player," that I was important.
In other words, I was still operating too much out of what I call my Old Man—the self-focused attitudes and habits that were part of me from way back.
I've been working on this Old Man/New Man transformation since I gave my life to Jesus Christ forty-two years ago. I was a young man of twenty-three at the time. Before then, my life was my life, my goals were my goals, and my standards of personal excellence were loosely based on role models and my own sense of right and wrong. That was enough to get by, but not a North Star—certainly nothing worth committing my life to.
Then, through an extraordinary set of circumstances and an evening dialogue with a beautiful young woman who would become my wife, Jesus stood before me and invited me to follow Him. I didn't hesitate. I'm glad I didn't. That late night is when the self-focused life I'd known took a backseat and the one I'm now living for Him became my purpose and passion. It's hard to imagine how the last forty-two years would have unfolded if the Lord's Word, friendship, and guiding presence had not been etched in my mind and on my heart.
Don't get me wrong; this hasn't been a walk in the park. The Old Man who controlled me BC (before Christ) and who I renounced way back then hasn't died an easy death. He still tries to backseat drive. Killing him off has been a hard-fought battle, because I'm a stubborn, willful guy. I've given up chunks of the old Steve over the years and known the freedom and release a man feels when he can at last put down a really heavy suitcase. But until five years ago, I still carried, not in my hands but on my back, a bear of a burden—money.
Starting in 2008 and continuing in 2009, my efforts at personal transformation were deeply challenged. Lehman Brothers collapsed and the S&P 500 was cut in half—as were thirty-five years of my retirement savings. Suddenly, I discovered how far I'd plunged. My physical security system was an ATM: Attachment to Money. My hope and sense of value depended on the size of my bank account far more than I'd realized. With that threatened, I felt exposed.
Yet I was right where I needed to be. My financial setback was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was the explosive needed to blow apart my carefully crafted security shell, opening my mind, heart, and spirit to new possibilities. I was at the point in my life where I needed to slay the big dragon Mammon once and for all. I was finally ready to kick the decades of my New Man Journey into high gear.
I hope you're ready too.
Years ago, I had a dream—or maybe it was a nightmare. In the dream, my house was a big, beautiful home on a street filled with other great homes. A few houses down the street was my second home, a little vacation house. This second house was much smaller than the others and didn't look like it belonged. I went inside. The paint on the walls was chipping and peeling. The ceilings were low, the floors crooked. The volumes on the bookshelves were mildewed and smelly. The furniture was in disrepair. The floors were stained. It wasn't pretty.
I went to the bathroom and flushed the toilet. To my horror, the water flowed over the rim and kept coming. Wastewater ran everywhere. The fluid was three inches deep in every room in the house before it stopped.
I looked around at the mess. I wanted to slap a Condemned sign on the front door and just walk away. However, I owned the house. I'd invested in it. I had an obligation to put it back in repair. The task seemed overwhelming and unpleasant, but I was resigned to take it on.
I scrubbed and mopped. Within minutes (remember, this was a dream), the water subsided and the floors returned to their dry but stained condition. I knew my first order of business was to address the septic issue. I went back into the bathroom with the intention of clearing the blockage causing the backup. Next to the toilet was a small manhole cover, which seemed like a good place to start.
When I slowly lifted the cover, I was horrified. Solid waste proceeded to pour out of the hole onto the floor. I slammed the cover back down. My problem was much bigger than I'd thought.
Mercifully, that was when I woke up. I was back in my real home—clean, organized, and in perfectly good working condition. What a relief that I didn't have to deal with that awful septic mess!
Or did I?
Dream interpreters say the house in your dreams represents your life. Ugh. If that contaminated house was my life, I was in serious trouble. Of course, this was just a second home, one I apparently didn't frequent too often. Yet it was still mine. Maybe I had some work to do after all.
Why am I sharing this most unpleasant of personal dreams? Because I believe we all have some version of that toxic house. It's a part of our life that, though out of sight and out of mind, is in need of maintenance, maybe even pumping and flushing. You may say, "Hey, don't project your septic problems on me!" And you might be justified. You may be flushed clean and pure, with fresh springs running from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. If you suspect, however, that you may be among the unflushed, please read on.
Retirement is great. No doubt about it. Travel. Golf. Fishing. More time with your wife, children, grandchildren, and friends. But what if that's not enough? What if we could have something more powerful, more effective, more permanent, and even more fulfilling? What if getting to those required some preliminary assessment and investigation? Would we be satisfied with throwing a couple quarts of Drano into our version of the septic monster? Would we be okay with straightening up a bit, dusting off the books, throwing on a new coat of paint, and applying a dose of Glade to mask the odor?
While that's easier than professional cleanup and renovation, we both know we wouldn't be satisfied if our house was in that condition. If there's a chance your inner life needs housecleaning, you have the time and inclination in your retirement years to undertake the project, and you have a good contractor lined up for the work, are you willing to make the investment?
If your answer is "Yes" or even "Maybe," you're in the right place.
What Do You Do?
I wish you could join me at a place called the Front Porch Cafe in Putney, Vermont. Imagine a quintessentially quaint and cool town of sixteen hundred residents. Now, add a little main street with a general store, town hall, library, volunteer fire house, post office, book and gift shop, art gallery, pizzeria, public vegetable garden, co-op grocery store, church, and, of course, my beloved Front Porch Cafe, where great ideas are discussed and most of the world's problems get resolved. I love Putney, especially the little perch from which I can see the comings and goings of the town in summer and enjoy a great big fire in an overstuffed chair around the holidays in the winter.
This place is one of the great joys of my semiretirement life. I bring friends here every chance I get. It's a place where time stops, the soul takes a deep breath, and the problems of life are temporarily as far away as the thirties and forties music playing on the stereo.
Maybe what I love most about Putney is that everyone is content to just be themselves. No one wastes time trying to impress the people around them.
That's not how it is in most other places I've been. Back in the land of male bonding, whether we're talking about guys who are still in the game, are semiretired like me, or are fully embracing the golden years, it's a different dynamic. If your world is anything like mine, when I meet another guy, the questions go something like this: "Hi, where are you from? How long have you been here? What brought you here? Where do you live? Tell me about your family. Are you still working? What do (or did) you do?"
Excerpted from NEW MAN JOURNEY by STEPHEN W. SILVER. Copyright © 2013 Stephen W. Silver. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Dr. Hayes Wicker 17
Chapter 1 Let's Get Real 25
Chapter 2 What I Don't Know Won't Hurt Me 41
Chapter 3 What Lies Within? 69
Chapter 4 Our Dual Nature 89
Chapter 5 The Missing Part 115
Chapter 6 Choices 133
Chapter 7 The New Man Defined 157
Chapter 8 New Life 183
Chapter 9 New Suit 211
Chapter 10 Ultimate Victory 233
What Now? 253