Refire! Don't Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

Refire! Don't Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

by Ken Blanchard, Morton Shaevitz


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Refire! Don’t Retire asks readers the all-important question: as you look at the years ahead, what can you do to make them satisfying and meaningful?

Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz point out that some people see their later years as a time to endure rather than as an exciting opportunity. Both research and common sense confirm that people who embrace these years with energy and gusto—rather than withdrawing and waiting for things to happen—consistently make the rest of their lives the best of their lives.

In the trademark Ken Blanchard style, the authors tell the compelling story of Larry and Janice Sparks, who discover how to see each day as an opportunity to enhance their relationships, stimulate their minds, revitalize their bodies, and grow spiritually. As they learn to be open to new experiences, Larry and Janice rekindle passion in every area of their lives.

Readers will find humor, practical information, and profound wisdom in Refire! Don’t Retire. Best of all, they will be inspired to make all the years ahead truly worth living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626563339
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 02/02/2015
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 644,071
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ken Blanchard is the founder and chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies and one of the world’s most prominent authors, speakers, and consultants. He is the author or coauthor of sixty books that have sold more than 21 million copies, including the iconic The One Minute Manager.
Morton Shaevitz is the clinical director of Shaevitz and Associates; a voluntary associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine; and the chair of the geriatric psychology section of the California Psychological Association and served on the Leadership Council of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

Read an Excerpt

Refire! Don't Retire

Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

By Ken Blanchard, Morton Shaevitz

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Polvera Publishing and Morton Shaevitz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62656-335-3


A Wake-up Call

Larry Sparks took his wife's hand as they headed to the entrance of the hotel ballroom. He did so partly for moral support, but mostly because after nearly forty years of marriage, he was prouder than ever of Janice, his still beautiful bride.

"The registration table's got to be up here somewhere," he said.

Around them a crowd of people—nearly all of them approximately their age—moved with Larry and Janice toward the ballroom doors.

Larry leaned over and whispered into Janice's ear. "Who are all these old geezers?" he joked.

She looked over at him and smiled. "I'm sure they're thinking the exact same thing about us."

"Nah," said Larry. At that moment the registration table came into view beneath a sign that read:


Janice ducked into the ladies' room and Larry was busy filling out a name tag when he heard a vaguely familiar voice behind him.

"Larry Sparks! Is that you?"

Larry turned to see what he thought was a complete stranger making his way toward him. The man appeared world weary, with slumped shoulders and thinning gray hair. It wasn't until the man gave Larry a good-natured slap on the back that he recognized Rob Briggs, the smart kid who'd helped him through chemistry and physics in his junior and senior years.

"Hey, Rob. Wow. Long time no see! How you been?"

"Ah, you know, not great—but consider the alternative, right?" Rob let out a half-hearted laugh. "I wasn't sure if it was you or Kevin. But I knew it had to be one of you guys."

With those words, Larry had a major flashback. This was just like high school, all right. During his entire four years at Lincoln, Larry was forever being mistaken for his fraternal twin, Kevin.

"I'm afraid Kevin couldn't make it," said Larry. "He's off somewhere putting together another deal." Larry shook his head. The sibling rivalry he'd once felt with Kevin had mellowed. Still, he couldn't help but compare himself to his twin.

"So Kevin's still an overachiever, huh?" Rob laughed. "I guess things don't change that much in forty-five years. Are you still with Janice?"

"Absolutely, and we're having more fun than ever."

Right on cue, Janice appeared at Larry's side. She recognized Rob at once and gave him a big hug. The three of them caught up on kids and careers and promised to reconnect during the big dinner and dancing event at the end of the weekend.

* * *

Two nights and a lot of reminiscing later, Larry and Janice returned to the hotel ballroom and enjoyed a surprisingly good reunion dinner. After a chocolate mousse dessert, the music began. Janice—the extrovert of the pair—dragged Larry onto the dance floor for a few numbers and then encouraged him to join her in finding and catching up with old friends.

They were heading back to their table when they finally found Rob again.

"You two having fun?" Rob asked.

"We're having a blast with a lot of folks," said Janice, "but I'm worried about a few people in this crowd."

"What do you mean?" asked Rob.

"Based on our observations over the course of this weekend, the biggest activity for some of our fellow classmates is eating," Larry replied.

"And eating a lot," Janice added. "Not to mention drinking."

Rob shrugged. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do at a reunion?"

Larry nodded toward the dance floor. "Yeah, but they're missing out on the dancing, and only a few people have turned out for the outdoor activities that have been happening the past couple of days. I at least try to stay in shape. As I always say to Janice, 'Someday I want to be one of the four guys on the tour bus in Hawaii.'"

"The tour bus in Hawaii?" said Rob, looking puzzled.

Larry laughed. "Yeah. Whenever you see a crowd of seniors getting off a tour bus in Hawaii, there are about thirty well-preserved women and only about four old guys—because all the other men have died off."

They all had a good laugh at that.

"Kidding aside," said Janice, "it makes me sad that some of our fellow Eagles are approaching getting older as a life sentence rather than a wonderful opportunity."

"It's not just seniors who act that way," said Rob. "I work with a bunch of thirty- and forty-year-olds at a tech firm. You'd be shocked how many of these people do nothing after work but go home to their couches, complaining about old athletic injuries and mumbling jokes like, 'Old age is no place for sissies.'"

"That's a funny line, but it's a terrible motto," said Janice. "I want to embrace what's left of life, not complain about it."

Larry, an avid golfer, nodded and said, "I know I'm on the back nine, but I want to finish strong."

"If you want to finish strong, that's the person you should talk to," said Rob. He pointed to a handsome man with a thick head of salt-and-pepper gray hair who was chatting with some others near the dance floor.

"Is that our ninth-grade biology teacher, Mr. Jeffrey?" asked Larry.

"Yeah," said Rob, "but it's Dr. Jeffrey now. He taught for a couple of years but left teaching to go to graduate school and get his PhD. He now heads the department of psychology at our local university and teaches in the interdisciplinary psychology/philosophy program. He's become pretty well known. Really, you should go talk to him."

* * *

Larry tapped Dr. Jeffrey on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, sir. You were my favorite science teacher." He extended his hand. "Larry Sparks—and this is my wife, Janice."

"Good to see you, Larry!" said Dr. Jeffrey, vigorously shaking Larry's hand. "And hello, Janice."

"Biology wasn't exactly my best subject," said Larry. "Thanks for the B on that final. I know you were being kind."

"I'm sure you earned it," Dr. Jeffrey said with a laugh.

"I have to say, you look great," said Larry. "What are you up to these days? Are you retired?"

"I'm not even considering it!" bellowed Dr. Jeffrey. "Some of the greatest people in my field made their best contributions in their later years. I'm not retiring—I'm refiring!"

"Refiring? That sounds intriguing," said Janice. "What does it mean?"

Dr. Jeffrey didn't hesitate in answering. "To refire is to approach life with gusto. It's to see each day as an opportunity for adventure and learning! It's to infuse passion and zest into every area of your life—emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual. Heart, head, body, and soul." He punctuated each word with the very passion of which he spoke.

"Sounds like you've given this some serious thought," said Janice.

Dr. Jeffrey nodded. "I've spent the better part of the past decade studying aging and exploring how the later decades in life can be rewarding and dynamic rather than limited and depressing. I teach and write extensively on the subject. I'll be happy to give you guys some coaching if you ever feel yourself falling into a rut."

Before Larry or Janice could answer, a woman in a red dress grabbed Dr. Jeffrey by the sleeve and pulled him onto the dance floor.

* * *

All the way home, Larry and Janice compared notes on the reunion. Once again they talked about how sad it was that some of their classmates seemed resigned to declining health, limited activities, stale relationships, and dreams turning to dust.

"Do you think we're in a rut?"

Janice's question took Larry aback.

"No. Why?"

"You don't exactly seem as excited about your construction business as you used to be. And I know I'm not approaching my life with gusto and infusing it with—what did Dr. Jeffrey call it?—passion and zest."

"Yeah, but come on," said Larry, suddenly feeling defensive as he pulled into the garage. "Is that even realistic? I mean, to a certain extent, life really is a grind."

"Now that's a zesty attitude, right there," kidded Janice as she got out of the car.

Inside the house, the phone was ringing.

"I'll get it," said Larry. He raced into the kitchen and caught it on the final ring.


The line was silent. Larry thought he'd missed the caller and was about to hang up when he heard the distinct sound of a woman crying.

"Hello? Who is this?"

"It's Angie."

Angie—his brother's wife. Beneath her snuffling, her voice was very small.

"Are you okay, Ang?"

"He's gone, Larry." She sobbed openly now.

A cold wave of fear f lowed through Larry's body. "What? Who's gone?"

"Your brother had a massive heart attack. He's gone, Larry! Our Kevin is gone."


A Visit with Dr. Jeffrey

Over the next several months, Kevin's death had a major impact on Larry. While he'd loved his brother with all his heart, he had always been concerned that Kevin was missing out on life because he was working all the time. Kevin's career had taken its toll not only on his health but also on his relationships—Angie was his third wife. Kevin had three kids from prior marriages. Reconnecting with them at the funeral, Larry realized they hadn't known their father very well. Kevin had always talked about the great things he planned to do someday, when things slowed down. Now that day would never come.

"I'm seriously thinking about stepping back from the business, Janice."

Janice looked up from packing her briefcase. "That's ironic. Here I am getting ready to interview to be the director of Learning Is for Everyone and you're planning on cutting back."

For the past five years, Janice had been a committed volunteer at Learning Is for Everyone, an organization that brought college students together with underprivileged kids for tutoring.

"The timing doesn't sound ideal," said Larry. "This means you're not going to be around nearly as much."

Janice said, "I know this isn't perfect timing for you, but the job's not going to be full-time. And when this opportunity came up, I thought about Kevin's death and I started to wonder, 'What am I waiting for?' Remember, your old teacher Dr. Jeffrey encouraged us to refire and add some zest to our lives, right?"

"But as I recall, refiring wasn't just about working. Jeffrey mentioned relationships, learning, and other things, too. Kevin's death has really got me thinking how much time I'm spending working. So I know I want to refire, but I'm not sure what that will look like for me."

Janice closed her briefcase and put it aside. "Dr. Jeffrey offered to give us coaching about refiring. This seems like the perfect time to take him up on that offer, since we're both searching for what's ahead—for each of us personally, as well as for us as a couple."

"Let's go see him!" said Larry.

* * *

As Larry and Janice pulled into the university parking lot for their appointment with Dr. Jeffrey, their first problem was finding a place to park.

"Now I see why they say a university consists of thousands of people gathered together around a common parking problem," Larry joked.

"That certainly seems to be true today, doesn't it?" said Janice. "I remember reading about Clark Kerr's final speech when he stepped down years ago as president of the University of California. He said he wished he'd known at the beginning of his tenure what he knew then—namely, the three goals of a university: First, winning football for the alumni. Second, sex for the students. And third, parking for the faculty."

"That's a good one," said Larry with a laugh.

After finally finding a spot, they walked to Dr. Jeffrey's building, where they sat in a pleasant waiting room until the receptionist called their names and ushered them to his office.

Dr. Jeffrey stood to greet them. "Come on in," he said.

"We appreciate your kind offer to give us some refiring coaching," said Larry.

"This works out for me too, because telling me about your experience will help me in my research," Dr. Jeffrey replied.

"Speaking of research," said Janice, "what are you finding in your studies that could help us in our refiring journey?"

"First," said Dr. Jeffrey, "it's become clear to me that a lot of people who have experienced outer success in their lives have inner turmoil. They are not lovers of themselves. We've found conclusive evidence that achievements and accumulation of wealth do not make people happy. Happiness is an inside-out job."

"I'd like to hear more about that," said Larry.

"When you're externally motivated around your achievements and popularity with others, somehow that doesn't result in inner peace. Your focus is on success, which plays out in accumulation of wealth, recognition, and power/status. While there's nothing wrong with accumulating wealth, receiving recognition for your efforts, and having some power and status, what's wrong is when you think that's who you are. When that's the case, you have to keep on getting more of each of those."

"Interesting," said Larry. "What's the answer to that?"

"There's plenty of emphasis on success in our culture. I'm finding we have to help people focus on significance as well."

"What's the difference?" asked Janice.

"Significance focuses on three different measures: generosity, service, and loving relationships.

"Generosity is the opposite of accumulating wealth. It involves giving your time, your talent, and your treasure to others," Dr. Jeffrey continued.

"That makes sense," said Larry. "I've always thought that making money for money's sake wasn't very valuable, but it has given me the opportunity to help others."

"Remember," said Dr. Jeffrey, "in our later years it's not only money we can share but also our wisdom, our time, and our talent.

"That leads to the second aspect of significance: service, which is the opposite of recognition. Now the focus is on helping others, not yourself. A pastor friend of mine put it well when he said that real joy in life comes when you get in the act of forgetfulness about yourself."

"And that happens when you are doing something kind for someone else," said Janice.

"That's true," said Dr. Jeffrey. "That leads to the third aspect of significance, which is loving relationships—the opposite of power/status. A friend of mine, John Ortberg, wrote a wonderful book called When the Game is over, it All Goes Back in the Box. It's a story about him and his grandmother. When he was young, she was an incredible Monopoly player. At the end of the game, she had everything and John had nothing. She would get this grin on her face and say, 'John, someday you're going to learn how to play the game.'"

Dr. Jeffrey continued, "One summer when John was about thirteen, a kid moved next door who was an ace Monopoly player. John practiced with him every single day, because he knew his grandmother was coming in September. When that day arrived, John ran to greet her and said, 'Hi, Grandma! How about a Monopoly game?'

"His grandmother's eyes lit up and she said, 'Let's go, John.' But John was ready for her this time. He came out of the chute and wiped his grandmother out. He said it was the greatest day of his life! His grandmother smiled and said, 'John, now that you know how to play the game, let me teach you a lesson about life: it all goes back in the box.'

"'What do you mean?' John asked. She said, 'Everything you accumulated—all the hotels, houses, utilities, cash—it all goes back in the box.'

"And how true that is," said Dr. Jeffrey with a smile. "You can accumulate all the money, recognition, and power/status you want in life, but at the end it all goes back in the box. The only thing you get to keep is your soul, and that's where you store who you loved and who loved you."

"That reminds me of the ending of the movie Ghost," said Janice. "It ties right into that."

"I think I saw that a number of years ago," said Dr. Jeffrey.

"Yes, it's been around for a while. It's the story about a young financier, played by Patrick Swayze, who was killed by a supposed friend. He gets to stay on earth as a ghost to protect his girlfriend Molly, played by Demi Moore. And he gets to talk to her through the help of a clairvoyant by the name of Oda May, played by Whoopie Goldberg. At the end of the film, Sam has avenged his death and he, Molly, and Oda May are on the rooftop of Molly's apartment building. A white light starts coming toward them. Oda May says, 'They're coming for you, Sam.' Sam turns and looks at Molly. When he was alive, he never told Molly he loved her. She would say, 'Sam, I love you' and he would say, 'Ditto.' Now, with tears coming down his face, he says, 'Molly, I love you. I've always loved you.' And with tears in her eyes she says, 'Ditto.' Sam turns toward the light, then stops and turns to Molly one last time. 'Molly,' he says, 'the remarkable thing about this is that you can take the love with you.'"


Excerpted from Refire! Don't Retire by Ken Blanchard, Morton Shaevitz. Copyright © 2015 Polvera Publishing and Morton Shaevitz. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
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

Introduction by Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz
1 – A Wake Up Call
2 – A Visit with Dr. Jeffrey
The First Key: Refiring Emotionally
3 – Love Is the Key
4 – Building Relationships
5 – Nothing Ordinary
The Second Key: Refiring Intellectually
6 – Mental Stimulation and Challenge
The Third Key: Refiring Physically
7 – A Moment of Truth
8 – Dealing with Setbacks
The Fourth Key: Refiring Spiritually
9 – The Big Picture
10 – Another Perspective
11 – The Refiring Gang
12 – Sharing the Experience
About the Authors

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