If you enjoy what you do and others find it valuable, I see no reason why you would want to retire. Sadly there is a limit to how long you will be physically able to keep enjoying the benefits of a career that makes you and your stakeholders happy. But there are things you can do to extend a productive career.
One person who is doing that is the legendary guitarist for the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, who at 74 is finding new ways to do what he loves while delighting his audiences. According to the Wall Street JournalWeir “is busier now than he has ever been, juggling multiple projects including a memoir, an opera and a stage musical about Negro League baseball icon Satchel Paige.”
If you are interested in extending what you love to do beyond the normal retirement age, Weir offers three lessons.
1. Overcome your fears.
When you’re working, fear is almost inevitable. People are depending on you to do what you promised and you might not always feel up to the challenge. If you are having doubts, the ensuing fear makes it harder to push through and do what you must.
I was surprised to learn that Weir has tremendous fear every time he prepares to walk on stage. As he told the Journal, despite performing thousands of shows in front of millions of people since 1965 when he co-founded the Grateful Dead, he has always had “horrendous stage fright. Those last few steps onto stage are like walking into a torture chamber” every single time.”
Weir has what strikes me as a unique way of overcoming stage fright. He imagines himself embodying characters whose stories he feels compelled to tell the audience. As he said, “I give my body to those characters so that they can tell their stories. The more I give myself to them, the less I’m there to experience the stage fright, and it goes away.”
The takeaway for business leaders is clear: make sure your company has an emotionally compelling purpose that engages you and your employees. A mission that pulls you out of yourself can motivate you to overcome your fears and do your best work.
2. Keep your mind sharp and your body fit.
If you have the good fortune to have found work you love that other people appreciate, you can’t keep doing it if your mind and body are no longer up to the task.
Weir has a daily routine that keeps him performing. A former high-school football players and mountain biker around his Marin, Calif. home, he keeps himself “fit and sharp with daily workouts and meditation,” noted the Journal. As a result, he has still has “gas in the tank” after three hours of playing.
He works out because “the job demands it.” And he employs people who post his daily workout routines on social media. If you want to be able to keep serving what you see as your purpose, you could do worse than follow what Weir does to keep fit.
3. Tackle new challenges.
While Weir’s first two lessons strike me as crucial, I resonate most with the third one — applying your skills to new challenges. Simply put, I get bored easily and need to tackle new challenges to feel engaged and relevant to what is happening in the world.
Weir’s unique strength is rhythm playing “based on counterpoint and riffs…rather than using consistent, repetitive chords to build a groove,” noted the Journal. He has applied this passion for improvisation to writing songs, learning new time signatures from Indian music, and using Photoshop to “paint” on his computer.
He’s tackling a new challenge which will bear from in October 2022. That’s when he and his Wolf Brothers band will perform at Washington’s Kennedy Center. Along with the National Symphony Orchestra, his band will perform Grateful Dead songs with “full classical orchestration.”
Weir relishes the new opportunities coming to him which he says, “make life worth living so I got to go for them. Retiring is not an option,” wrote the Journal.
This brings to mind what the late President John F. Kennedy told a reporter three weeks before he was assassinated. When he liked being president, JFK responded, “I’ve given before the Greek’s definition of happiness — the use of your powers the lines of excellence. I’ve found that therefore the presidency provides some happiness.”
If you want to maximize your happiness in the time that remains, follow Weir’s three principles.