234: Creating a Purposeful Work Life in Retirement with Bob Foley copy
Today, I’m speaking with Richard Haiduck. Richard is a real-life retiree not just living out their dream, but helping so many others elevate their experience in retirement. He’s challenged the boundaries of his own retirement, using the freedom of the blank slate to prioritize what matters most to him.
In his book, Shifting Gears, he speaks to 50 Baby Boomers about their journeys into the world of retirement. If there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s that retirees have an unbelievable amount of freedom and a wide range of choices, whether that means summiting Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 70 after two hip surgeries or simply volunteering and reading books.
In today’s conversation, Richard and I talk about the artificial boundaries of retirement, how he found the people and stories he decided to include in his book, creating amazing family businesses, and the beauty of being able to walk away from what doesn’t serve you.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why the boundaries we impose on ourselves are almost entirely artificial.
- How Richard very gradually wound down his business and retired without losing a sense of purpose.
- The unique challenges retirees face in their marriages and romantic relationships.
- How Richard’s 12 and 14-year-old grandsons, who had no prior experience with digital marketing, helped him successfully market his book and get interviewed in Forbes.
- Why retirement is all about living your purpose–no matter what it is.
- "Retirement’s not like working all day. You get to do something different on Monday than you did on Tuesday." - Richard Haiduck
- "In retirement, you don’t get a demerit for trial and error. You get a mark for creativity and persistence in finding what’s right." - Richard Haiduck
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Casey Weade: Richard, welcome to the podcast.
Richard Haiduck: Thank you, Casey. I'm glad to be on the show.
Casey Weade: Well, Richard, I'm excited to have another real-life retiree here living out their retirement dream and helping so many others elevate their experience in retirement. I can tell that this gives you a lot of purpose, a lot of meaning in your second act. And I loved your book, but before we get into the book, Shifting Gears, which was the main reason I brought you on the show, after digging into so many other pieces of your bio, your past, your history, who you are as a human, and even some of the conversations we had before we got started, I said, "Boy, I think we need to spend some time on Richard's retirement first." And in your bio, it says that you were immersed in challenging the boundaries of your own retirement, the boundaries of your own retirement. What are the boundaries of your retirement?
Richard Haiduck: It's a great question, Casey. I think that the freedom that retirement brings you, it's a blank page. You can do whatever you want and figuring out how to do that, what you want, what's important to you takes a little bit of introspection. It takes a little bit of thinking about what's important to you, what matters, how you want to spend your time. And I think the other element of that is when you're working, you kind of make one choice. You get up in the morning, you go to work, you're there all day. Retirement's not like that. You get to multitask. You get to do something different on Monday than you did on Tuesday. And you've got kind of a blended solution of things that give you joy, give you a purpose, give you meaning in what you're doing.
So you might go out and take a long bike ride on Monday, but do community volunteering on Tuesday and read a great book on Wednesday. It might be scheduled. It might be random. It might be you get up in the morning and say, "What are you going to do today?" So, it's an adjustment to your routine and to your own set of choices of what do you want this to be, but the word I used a lot is freedom. You've got a remarkable freedom to do whatever you want as long as you're not breaking the law or hurting somebody, but you have a remarkable freedom in a range of choices. When I was interviewing the people for the book, I thought, this range of choices is unbelievable, like some things I never would have imagined you could have done in retirement.
And I'll just tell you one brief story. This lady in her 70s had two hip surgeries, two knee surgeries, had four new replacement parts. And she's a very gritty, feisty lady. And she said, "You know what? I'm going to go climb Mount Kilimanjaro." And her girlfriend also said, "You're crazy. You can't climb Kilimanjaro in your 70s after being on a cane for three years." She says, "You don't understand. I'm doing it." And I was just so amazed by her six-day climb up this mountain. She recruited her boyfriend to go with her, and they just had a remarkable experience. But the story is a Kilimanjaro story, but it's also a story about freedom. She felt free to make that choice and do something that she never imagined she would be able to do.
Casey Weade: And it sounds like when I think of these boundaries, these are artificial, maybe preconceived notions that we have about retirement. When I get to retirement, maybe I won't be physically capable of climbing Kilimanjaro, and it's maybe resetting our mind in retirement. I read somewhere that it took five years for you to completely transition into retirement. Why did it take so long? Was it you challenging and discovering what your preconceived notions where these artificial boundaries that you had created? Maybe you can even give us some examples of some boundaries that you thought were there that were really artificial.
Richard Haiduck: So, I made a conscious decision to retire over time, to kind of put my toe in the water and do it gradually. I had a luxury of being able to do that, not everybody can, but I had a consulting business of my own and I had a number of clients. And so, I said, I can try out retirement and figure it out, figure out what's important to me, what gives me purpose, what gives me value, what gives me joy, but I can do it gradually. So, each year, I did one less consulting client and each year, I do more retirement activities. So, I get to do trial and error. I get to try some things and see if I like them. I got to allocate my time so I still have the sense of purpose from working. I still had a set of activities that I got up in the morning and did, but I was able to gradually move into retirement and try out a lot of different things and test boundaries and say, what is it that I want to do during this next stage?
And I actually started writing this book while I was retiring. So, I wasn't fully retired when I started writing the book. I think after interviewing about 75 people, those who are able to put their toe in the water and try some things that are retirement activities, they do better. The people who retire on Friday, they're working on Monday, they're retired, it takes them about a year to kind of sort out what they're going to do in retirement for the most part. So, I'm a real advocate for ease into retirement. Even when you're working full time, start doing something that you think might be fun in retirement. And volunteering is a great example. A lot of people do volunteering in retirement. And you can do that part-time. A lot of people do that while they're working.
Casey Weade: So, is this really about trying new things to you?
Richard Haiduck: It is. One of the guys that I interviewed said he wanted to do volunteering, and he said, "but I don't know what that means. I don't know what volunteering is for me." So, in a fairly short succession, he tried four different things and he'd say, "This looks like it's pretty good, but I won't know till I try it." So he tried it. He got into it. He says, "No, that's not the one." And then, he did it again, did it again. And on the fourth one, he said, "Nirvana, I found the great volunteer opportunity. This one's perfect for me."
This guy has been a coach and a mentor all of his life. And he wanted his volunteering to build on those skills. And a lot of the ones that he tried initially didn't have enough mentoring for him to feel satisfied. Now, mentoring may be right or may not be right, but the point of that story is trial and error. When you're working and you say, "I'm going to do a trial and error with my career." You're screwed. You don't have a cheat. It's like, I'm going to do this for a few weeks and then quit. While you can do that maybe once and then you do it again in a few weeks later, you quit the second job, you quit the third job, your career is marred for life.
And in retirement, you don't get a demerit for trial and error. You just get a mark for your creativity and your persistence in finding what's right. And this guy was a remarkable example. He found something he loved, but only through successive iteration, through trial and error, and being hands-on in a way that he really got an experience that he could judge.
Casey Weade: And you share that you live somewhat of a hyperactive retirement. Was that something that you expected in retirement? Or was that a boundary that was challenged that you said, "Hey, this is something that I really love and I am able to push myself"?
Richard Haiduck: I think that the hyperactive part kind of goes along with the way my life has been. I've always had a lot of different activities, both work and family and play and that sort of thing. What I didn't know was how they were going to fit together. I didn't really appreciate what a one-week block of time would look like. I knew that I wanted to do exercise on a regular basis. What does that mean? Does that mean every morning I take a walk? Does that mean I take a long bike ride on Tuesday? How do you fit exercise into a pattern that allows you to then do volunteer work or allows you to write a book or allows you to do certain other things?
So, the learning for me was putting it together and deciding which things would take the most amount of my time. Just one other comment, Casey, I think for a lot of people, they're worried about how will I fill my time? Do I have enough of those activities? And I think that that answer is different for each retiree. They can have some time where they sit back and watch Netflix or they sit back and read a book or they sit on the rocking chair on the porch, and it's just relaxation time. It's not time with purpose. It's just time for goofing off. And that's okay. You've earned it.
There are others who say, I want to go a thousand miles an hour every day and I'm going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or I'm going to volunteer at the food bank or I'm going to do this or that. And for them, that's right. So, finding your balance of the set of activities is a real learning curve. And that's where this kind of easing into it can make a lot of sense.
Casey Weade: So many retirees that I hear say, "Wow, I'm busier now than I've ever been. I don't have time for this. I don't have time for that." Is that something that you think is consciously chosen? Has someone made the conscious decision to be that busy? Or did they somehow fall into that and it wasn't planned?
Richard Haiduck: One guy said, "I failed my retirement. I said yes to everything. And now, I don't have any time for myself." And he had to go back and undo all of the things he said that he said yes to. I think, let me just clear one thing to your audience, because I'd like to ask them a favor. The people who are not retired assume that the retirees are not busy and they say, "Oh, I'm calling. Let's do Tuesday at 10 o'clock." "Well, no, Tuesday at 10 o'clock, I got three other things already going. I can't do Tuesday at 10 o'clock." So don't assume that the retiree is this kind of set of slackness that can always fill in. You can't always babysit for the grandson. There are certain times that you're committed and certain obligations that you have or certain things that you want to do, but I think figuring out that pattern of how to stay at the amount as busy as you like to be and to identify times when you don't want to be busy, when you want to say, I just want to relax and do something that isn't physical, that isn't with purpose, that it's just relaxing. And you get to do that and you can choose how much of that you want.
Casey Weade: Seems like it's something that takes conscious effort to maintain this balance. And you have so many different interests and hobbies and passions. You talk about your family, talk about the grandkids. You talk about writing. You're doing a podcast right now. Is there a typical day in retirement for Richard? How do you ensure that you're filling all those different buckets that mean so much to you?
Richard Haiduck: I make it up as I go along. I don't have kind of a master plan that says I'm going to do X number of things this year, but when I get up in the morning, I've got a set of things that I have either thought I would do or I've made arrangements to do. So, it's very tactical. It's very opportunistic. And it's as busy as you want it to be with what you want to fill it with. One of my favorite stories. One is a guy who said, "I've worked hard all my life. I want to go fly fishing for my retirement." And I said, "Rich, fly fishing for your retirement?" He says, "Yes, it's an intellectual experience." I said, "Wait, wait, wait, wait. Intellectual experience, fly fishing?" And then he took me through the set of stories of how he has to intellectualize tying the fly on the line, figuring out where the fish is, figuring out what stream to go to, where to stand in it, and how his mind is engaged to the point where he was standing in a river one time, and a bear walked up near him. And he didn't even notice it until the very last minute because he was so engrossed in it.
And I said, "But you can't have your whole retirement fly fishing." He said, "You don't understand. I live in Montana. I'm near four great rivers. I can go every day and I try to go fly fishing every day." Now, you think about that as a purpose. That is his purpose. That is meaningful to him, and it gives him both physical and mental stimulation. And he loves it. And it's a perfect retirement for him. And he does some other things, but not much. That's the cornerstone of his retirement. It's perfect for him.
Casey Weade: Yeah, well, I could see, if I went fly fishing every single day, I know how happy my wife would be about me fly fishing all day, every day, or golfing all day, every day, probably in my case. You've been married for 52 years. Talking about boundaries or challenges, where there are some boundaries that were maybe crossed or needed to be laid? Any challenges that you experienced when you transitioned into retirement from a marital perspective?
Richard Haiduck: I've been fortunate to have a wonderful wife for 52 years who shares the same joy of being busy with a lot of different stuff. So, she, for example, has some volunteer activities that she does at the same time that I'm doing mine. We share a lot of retirement activities with things like travel and being with friends and that sort of thing, as well as exercising. We bike together and hike together. So, we're companions for a bunch of it. We have our own independent activities for a bunch of it as well. So, it was a natural transition to that new set of activities.
Casey Weade: And when you made all these interviews, did you come across some marital challenges with those individuals that you encountered?
Richard Haiduck: Yes, two late-life divorces. So, the book is not all joyful. It's a cross-section of people, some of whom are pleased with where they're at, some of whom are still figuring it out, but two late-life divorces, both of which were fairly tough. One guy, it's actually a gay guy, and his partner of 18 years, they split up. And what's really tragic about the story, this guy was losing his vision at the same time that he was losing his partner. So, he had to deal with both things. And he told his story very candidly in a very revealing way. And he said, "I want to tell this story because I worked through it." And he discovered a spiritual solution that got him through it. He discovered something I'd never heard of called trillium, which is a kind of a spiritual approach where half of you is mortal and half of you is immortal. And you blend those two things together in a way that you develop a whole new attitude towards what you're going through. And I never heard of it, but it worked for him. And he said, "At the end of my trillium experiences, I'm now happier than I've ever been. I've lost my partner. I've lost most of my vision, but I got through it in a way that I'd like others to hear that story." And just an amazing guy. He's been through a really tough experience and came out the other side. And all of this was happening in his 70s. So, it's a sad story, but it's one of the most uplifting stories as well.
Casey Weade: It makes me want to explore trillium at this time. I don't know about trillium. I don't know if I can believe or buy it, but it does sound intriguing. Never heard of it before.
Richard Haiduck: Yeah, it's not well known. I did the internet stuff on it. And trillium is also a flower and the flower comes up all the time.
Casey Weade: I think that's the only trillium that I've ever heard of, but I'm sure you encountered all types of really interesting stories that probably led you down trillium rabbit holes from time to time. I guess the perfect time to kind of shift gears over to your book, Shifting Gears: 50 Baby Boomers Share Their Meaningful Journeys in Retirement. Why did you set out on this journey? And how did you even find all these individuals? How did you make your selection on who you're going to interview, for that matter?
Richard Haiduck: I was with a buddy of mine who I'd known for a long time, and he started telling me the story about being in the Senior Olympics. And I said, "Dave, Senior Olympics, we've been buddies for a long time." He never told me that. He says, "Well, I'm trying to kind of modest about it and would appear like I was bragging." And I said, "Dave, tell me the story. Come on, buddy." And so, he tells me the story. And he won a medal and he had all these experiences and he actually won medals in a couple of different events. And I thought, what an amazing story. I said, "How come you've never told that to anybody?" And he said, "Well, I told it to a few people." And I said, "That story needs to be told."
And then, this was kind of a weird set of coincidences, but over the next few weeks, that happened two more times. Somebody that I had known, partly because I started asking questions, but they told me things I didn't know about them that were making a rich retirement for them, making a joyful retirement. And I kind of woke up one day and I said (A), I've always wanted to be an author since I was age seven. And (B), these stories are amazing and need to be told, maybe I could invest some time in doing this. And so, I said, "Well, I'll make a deal with myself." It's a retirement activity, condition number 1, it's got to be fun. If I'm not having fun, if it gets to be a pain, I quit. I'm not doing it. This is trial and error. I'm going to do the trial and if I don't like it, I'm stopping.
And then the second thing is, as I got into it, it had to feel like a book that would offer something to people that wasn't there already, that was useful for the reader. So, I got into it, and the two conditions turned out to be both things. It was a great fun experience and it kept evolving, too. Yeah, that's a story somebody needs to hear about.
Casey Weade: Well, I love that you said that it had to be fun. And if it ever came to a point where it wasn't fun, you just leave it behind and move on to something else. And that reminds me of a friend of mine, a conversation that I had with him last summer. And he was talking about it from a family perspective and business. As he tries new challenges, and business takes on new ventures, he always sets these off-ramps or these exit ramps where he says, "If I get it to here and it starts taking up too much my family time, then I can exit at that time, and not feel like it was a failure. I don't have to continue to stay on this path forever."
Richard Haiduck: The other part of your question is how did I find the people to interview? And so, a logical starting point was people that I knew then that were retired that I thought were doing some interesting things. And so, I'd have those interviews with them, but my last question was always, after hearing this interview and the kinds of things we talked about, who else should I talk to? It's a kind of traditional networking. And almost everybody gave me, at least one lady gave me like four or five of her friends who were some of the most amazing stories in the book.
And so, the network just started expanding. And pretty soon, I had more than I could handle. I had actually cut it off because people just kept coming in. And most of the people in the book are people I'd never met before. Most of the people are geographically dispersed. They've got different backgrounds, different kinds of things. And so, the selection part was pick those that don't overlap with each other, make sure that each story has its own unique kind of sequence and meaning.
Casey Weade: Well, and I wonder if there was another incentive for you going down this path and becoming an author, putting this book out you shared before you hit the record button here today that you're 12- and 14-year-old grandsons helped in promoting this book. Did you see this when you started this as a way to teach them a little bit about business and finance?
Richard Haiduck: Not at the start. Around Christmas time, I was talking with my daughter and son-in-law. My wife and I were talking with them, and the issue came up of COVID and distancing. And then we had a great relationship with all four of the grandkids, but the two that were up in Seattle, we just felt like we were drifting apart from them. We'd have a Zoom call and we'd always be nice to each other, but we ran out of things to talk about. There's only so much you can do on a Zoom call.
And so, we came up with the idea of let's find a meaningful project to do together with the grandsons. And I was right in the middle of launching the book at that point and I thought maybe they can help in some way. And we came up with this idea of setting them up, each in their own startup company. And the startup company is a book promotion company. And what they do is Amazon ads, which are these very complex, sophisticated digital marketing, where you have to, not just prepare the ad, but decide which keywords you want to search, how much you want to bid for those, what circumstances your ad will appear and what circumstances it won't. And you then set budgets for all of this. So, it's running a little business of digital marketing.
So, I funded them each a hundred bucks of seed money so that they could absorb their losses in the early going, and then they started running their ad campaigns. They've each just done a Mother's Day gift campaign and a Father's Day gift campaign, one did one, or one did the other. And they had to design the ad, figure out what keywords to search, how much to bid, how much to budget, and how to measure results. And each week, we have a sales call and we say, how are we doing this week? What's working, what's not? What do we kill? What do we expand?
And we're back. I mean, the relationship with the grandkids is now built around the previous relationship, plus the set of activities of them learning digital marketing. And the older one said the other day, he said, "You know, when I'm out in business, that's the way marketing is going to be done, and I'm getting a head start." He says, "This is great." He says, "Oh, by the way, I just got a dividend of 110 bucks too." He didn't mind at all, but he earned it. It was a piece of the action of the book sales. So, we're having a ball with that. And that's probably been the coolest thing about this book, is now connecting with the grandkids to learn this new skill together because I didn't know anything about digital marketing either. So, they keep thinking, well, I'm teaching it to him. No, I'm not teaching. We're learning this together and having a ball with it.
And what is surprising is they were quickly successful, which is how many 12-year-olds and 14-year-olds have had their first startup successful in digital marketing. So, this story got actually picked up by Next Avenue, which does stories about retirees. And then Forbes magazine picked up the story as well. So, now, these 12- and 14-year-old grandsons have appeared in national media telling the story about their expertise in digital marketing. And I couldn't be more proud of them.
Casey Weade: Well, they've done a great job. That's how I found you. And it is Amazon ads over there shifting gears. So, yeah, they're doing a great job. And I don't want to stay on this too long, but I think there are individuals out there that would love to find neat ways to connect with their grandkids and help them be more successful in their lives. I just want to ask a detailed question. You mentioned they receive a dividend check. You gave them $100 seed money. How do they get paid for doing this digital advertising?
Richard Haiduck: So, the dividend is qualified based on the profitability of what they're doing. There's a very detailed answer, which is probably not so useful, but we have to be profitable to a certain degree for them to earn a dividend, but they get paid on the number of people who click on the ad.
Casey Weade: They're getting paid per click, essentially.
Richard Haiduck: Getting paid per click, but only if we're profitable. So, if all they do is generate clicks, and nobody buys books, then they don't get a dividend. If people buy books sufficient for us to pay for the advertising expense and then some, then they get their dividend. So, they just got their first dividend and they're thrilled.
One of them said, "I never realized how important it is to kill bad ideas." He says Amazon ads, you try something, you get feedback very quickly and you find out if that was an idiotic idea, a great idea or somewhere in between, and you try to figure out why, but it's all analytical. You look at it and you look at the data. And one of the boys said, "We got to kill the bad stuff fast." I said, "That took me 20 years of my business career to figure that out. I always thought you persist, you persist, you persist. Now, you know. If you get a bad idea, you kill it fast." And he's learned that lesson kind of 20 years before I did.
Casey Weade: I look forward to seeing what these guys do and their future in the digital marketing space. It sounds so really awesome.
Richard Haiduck: The younger one is actually bumped into somebody who has a book and he may get his second client at 12 years old.
Casey Weade: Oh, my gosh.
Richard Haiduck: That's probably a long shot, but the discussion has been had.
Casey Weade: Well, people say they need to start teaching finance in schools. I say we need to start teaching it at home first. And it sounds like that's what you're doing, teaching some really useful life skills to these kids. So, back to the book. As you interviewed all of these individuals, what impact did it make in your retirement? And maybe that's too broad. What's the biggest impact that it made in your retirement?
Richard Haiduck: So, we have just relocated from our home of 18 years in Woodside, California, to now move to a place called Pacific Grove, California. I had a complete change from living in an isolated spot in the redwoods where we couldn't see our nearest neighbor to now being in a friendly neighborhood community. And one of my friends said to me, "Did you move to Pacific Grove because of the book?" And I said, "That's a great question that I have never asked myself," but as I reflected on it, I met so many people who were boldly going forward with something they always wanted to do, and retirement gave them the opportunity to do that. And I now believe we would not have relocated from a place that we really enjoyed and a wonderful place to live to now be 60 steps from the ocean in a neighborhood environment where we now have met more neighbors in the new place than we did in our whole 18 years in the kind of isolated place of Woodside.
So, the example isn't that we relocated. The example is that the interviews opened my mind to consider things and just kind of step back and say what is something I've always wanted to do. Well, living near the ocean is something we all want to do at some point. And so, we said, why not? What's stopping us? And the answer was nothing stopping us except ourselves. So, we made this decision to move. We had already made that decision to move. We had already bought the house and then discovered that the book opened our minds, both my wife and I, to consider new things that we might not have ever considered. And I think the book influenced us.
Casey Weade: That kind of goes along with your boundaries, right? It sounds like you had an artificial boundary in your mind that we want to live near the ocean, but could we ever do that? We could. The freedom that you had was there to go challenge that boundary and live by the ocean for a while.
Richard Haiduck: Yes, exactly. We've been here a couple of weeks, and it's turning out to have been a terrific decision.
Casey Weade: Well, I imagine it is. Everyone, as you said, was just naturally drawn to the ocean and naturally drawn to water. What would you say from the book would be, and maybe this was a piece of advice, maybe it's a specific piece of advice you received from those that you interviewed, what was the most common advice that you say was delivered to, say, you, a relatively new retiree or someone that's maybe even 30 years out from retirement? Was there a common thread of advice or guidance?
Richard Haiduck: We touched on it a little bit before, Casey, but I think this idea of, get your toe in the water, what you want to do in retirement. Do not have an abrupt retirement. My heart goes out to those people who get laid off, where they're going along and they're expecting to work another five years. They come into work on Monday and the boss says, "Sorry, buddy, but you're gone. Here's your severance package." I think that to the extent that you can be prepared for your activities of retirement, your sense of purpose in retirement, you'll have a much better retirement.
One of the guys I interviewed, a really interesting guy, had been a fire chief, and he had retired about two months before I interviewed him, and I said, "How's the transition going? How are you thinking about this?" And he said, "I'm not retired." "What do you mean you're not retired? You don't go to work anymore." He said, "No, I still go down to the station. I talk to the guys. They still called me chief." He says, "They still call me whenever they've got a problem." He says, "I'm officially retired, but I'm not." He says, "I got to get on with it." And he says, "Here's all the things I want to do, but I've still got my mind back being fire chief."
And being fire chief, you can imagine that's a job that's very engaging, very connecting. When there's a fire or there's something going on, the fire chief's job, they call the old boss and get his advice because he's been through all this stuff. And so, for him, that disengagement process and re-engagement in something else, he was right in the very start of that. And I'm sure he's doing well now. In fact, I've had some contact with him, which shows that he really has made the transition, but I think, be into the new things at something, not just planning it, but trying it, doing it, having an activity or two that predicts what you're going to like and what you're going to do.
Casey Weade: And I don't want to take a sidebar here too far, but our neighbor is a fire chief and he is at our house every single time the fire alarm goes off. We had a brush fire the other day. He's out there with the fire crew putting out the fire. He is always listening to the scanners. I think that's just the fire chief thing. They never truly retire so from my observations, but talking about volunteering, I think it's a good transition to one of your blog posts, A New Direction for Your Retirement. Let me ask this, and I may just butcher this name, who is Muhammad Yunus? And what impact did it make in your life or the volunteer side of your retirement?
Richard Haiduck: That name is exactly right. He is a Nobel Prize-winning guy who invented microfinance several years ago. And the microfinance that he invented was in Bangladesh. And his idea was that if he can provide funding of $10 to $20 per person who are trying to start maybe a basket weaving business or some sort of simple craft business, he can get these people up and independently operating, and then they can become self-sufficient. Remarkable, remarkable guy. And he had an enormous effect on the bottom of the pyramid in Bangladesh and won the Nobel Prize for it, became very well known for it, wrote several books about it, really just an amazing guy in terms of how important his work has been.
I've read a couple of his books. When he introduced one of his recent books, we went with some friends to watch him speak. He's a captivating speaker, not because of the way he delivers, but because of the content of what he has to say. He's just a really caring guy. And he said some things that really got me engaged. He said the people who are in this audience are all people who care about stuff and are trying to help and that sort of thing. He says here are some things to ask yourself. Are you doing the right kinds of things to help? Are you doing things that you can have the most impact on society? Are you any good at what you're doing? What do you mean, are you any good at it? You're a volunteer, you don't have to be great.
At that point, I was teaching kids in an after-school kind of homework mentoring program, kind of 10- and 12-year-old kids. And I'd go in there and I'd meet with them. And some days, we'd just hit the ball out of the park and we would have this revelation, and they'd be great. Most days weren't like that. I'm not a teacher, 10- and 12-year-old kids were fun, but I'd never really had that much experience with them. And when he said, "Are you any good at what you're doing?" I had to say, you know what? I'm really average. I'm really average. Could I be doing something more productive?
He went on to talk about social entrepreneurs around the world, and he said, if you have business skills, they need your business skills. If you have mentoring skills, they need mentoring. There are some really bright, energetic kids that are in their 20s who are trying to solve a major world problem. You can help those people with your involvement with them. And I turned to my wife and I said, "There are 200 people in this audience, but he's talking just to me," because his message is exactly my situation. I'm really average at what I'm doing. I'm having a hopeful impact, but tiny. I've done mentoring and coaching of executives all my life, both when I was in companies as well as in my consulting practice. I'm really good at that. I should be doing exactly what he says and be mentoring social entrepreneurs.
So at that moment, I then said, "I'm going to do that. I'll figure out a plan for doing that." And I went on about a six-week cycle where I interviewed 50 different people to say, tell me what you do, tell me how you do it, tell me what kinds of opportunities there might be for someone like me. And I looked at a lot of different kinds of things and then came up with one where essentially I work with CEOs of social enterprises around the world through a group at Santa Clara University called the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. And in fact, as soon as this call is complete, I've got a call with the Miller Center to go through the next group of people that we're going to be mentoring.
But the point is that I was open to Muhammad Yunus and his message. I internalized it. I didn't reject it. I then explored it to say, "How can I do that and make it fit for me?" And I found the most rewarding sense of purpose of my whole life, of my whole career. When I was working in business, I always felt like I was accomplishing some things and all that, but working with someone who trying to provide improved shelter for refugees and when they succeed at it, it's an important piece of work. I'm now getting started with an organization that is doing biogas in India. So, they essentially take cow manure and reprocess it for small farmers to make their fertilizer for free out of repurposed cow manure. It sounds kind of weird, but it has a major impact on the productivity of the farmer and solves kind of a waste disposal problem at the same time.
Casey Weade: Seems like many of the things that you're doing in retirement have come from experiences in your past or strengths that you have. You've pulled those things into retirement with you. You're really leveraging the opportunity to spend time in those areas where you make the biggest impact than those things that you might call your unique ability. Richard's unique ability is coaching executives or maybe teaching business or teaching business to your grandkids. You're doing a lot of those things that you're really good at, and maybe you left one of those other things behind. I don't get the feeling that Richard's completely reinvented himself. And I think some have this idea that when I get to retirement, I have to reinvent myself or I'm going to reinvent myself. What are your thoughts about reinvention and retirement? Do we get that wrong?
Richard Haiduck: I think the way you've described it is probably better than I'll describe it. Casey, I think it's building on what I've got in a way that applies it in a reinvented way. So, when I was mentoring CEOs of biotech companies, I developed a set of skills applying that to someone who is doing biogas in India. The mentoring skills are the same, the outcomes are different. The people I'm dealing with are kind of half the age of the people I used to deal with. So, there are some refinements to it, but it's building on skills I already have, but doing something that is kind of remarkably different in terms of how it feels to me, how it impacts society, that kind of stuff. So, I get the freedom to do that. And it's really the group of people who do this mentoring in the Miller Center, when we get together, we just look at each other and say, "Isn't this great? Isn't this a great time of our lives?"
Casey Weade: There was a quote that I came across in one of your blog posts titled Inward Experiences, and you said being versus doing in retirement. And one of my favorite guests I've had on the podcast, Dr. Sachin Patel, he says that we are human beings, not human doings. At that point, it sounds like Richard is just right on par with that. What do you think happens from an experience standpoint, especially an inward experience standpoint as we step into retirement? How do we allow ourselves to be more of a human being? And what does that then create in our lives?
Richard Haiduck: You asked earlier about what did I learn from the people I interviewed. I think this whole idea of inward experience is a new learning. One of the guys had a very successful business career and then retired and was diagnosed with prostate cancer about the same time. And he started his treatment. Kind of a long story, but I'll shorten it up. He started his treatment. Things turned out well. They made some good decisions and it turned out this is, how can I give back to you? How can I help your cancer efforts in this community? And they said, "We need a cancer house, a treatment house." And what that is, is a place to stay while you're being treated, a place for your family to stay while you're being treated, and that those kinds of resources were not available in his community.
So, he took on that project, but what he said was, and he ended up leading the project. It was a long, complex project that raised several million dollars, all that sort of thing, as well as do all the work to get the cancer house built. He said, "but I operated in a different way. The way I operated was with a relaxed intensity," which sounds like a contradiction. He said, "I was able to relax and still have the intensity of accomplishing something because I didn't have a boss breathing down my neck, I didn't have a deadline, I didn't have mandatory activities, I just had the big picture of accomplishing something." And he said, "I was able to laugh more. I was able to have fun along the way." He says the team that we assembled were all volunteers who were there because they wanted to help rather than because they wanted to make the house payment.
And he said you can operate in a far more relaxed way, and your greater relaxation gives you an ability to accomplish more than when you were all uptight. When you're all uptight, you're kind of worried about this and worried about that and you end up being unproductive. And he said relaxed intensity is more productive than focused intensity. And some of those are his words, some of those are blended with words from some others, but I think relaxed intensity is part of a sense of purpose in retirement. You get to do it your way and you don't have to get all tangled up in your underwear on stuff. Does it make sense? I was kind of...
Casey Weade: You got me excited because I love that relaxed intensity. It gets me thinking about what we're always talking about on the show, being job optional, right? If you're job optional on the way to retirement, you need the money, you need to save, you need to make more money. You need to do this, you need to do that. You're very focused on getting more money so that you can step into retirement. And we have this idea that we step into retirement, we have all this money and we're just going to retire, but instead, if we think of it as this is an opportunity to have, not the focus intensity, but the relaxed intensity, that's what financial freedom gets us, right?
If we have financial freedom, now, we don't have to worry about money anymore. We can have fun. And if we just have fun and focus on creating more value for other individuals and not worry about the money aspects of it, or well, if I lose the business, I lose everything. If we don't have to worry about that, the business is more successful. And the impact that we're able to make in others' lives is more successful. We just have a better experience in life.
Richard Haiduck: Yes, and that's right. What you and your group do is so important. Two of the conditions of a great retirement, in my view, are health and wealth. You got to have enough money that you're not broke in retirement. If you're broke in retirement, your choices are really crappy. You can't get a good-paying job when you're in this age group for the most part. Your choices are win the lottery and not win the lottery. There's not a gradual way to have wealth sufficient to retire if you didn't plan for it. So, I think that wealth part is really important.
And then, the health part, some of the people that I talked to had some health problems and some of them dealt with it, some didn't, but again, staying healthy is enabling of a great retirement, not being broke and not being sick, and you can have a great retirement if either of those conditions are met. Your retirement, you might still find a way to navigate through it, but it'll be harder, a lot more challenging, and a lot of this freedom that I talk about, the choices that you can do, if you're sick or you're broke, those choices just get diminished.
Casey Weade: Well, Richard, there's a lot of wisdom laid in throughout this conversation. And I want to pull out one more piece of wisdom from you from a philosophical perspective. What does retire with purpose mean to you?
Richard Haiduck: Means to me that you are identifying what's important to you and directing your activities towards that. So, retire with purpose might be-- my purpose is to go fly fishing every day because that gives me what I want and what I've earned. Retire with purpose might be build a cancer house and make a major impact on the community or might be somewhere in between those, but I think, the idea that you've figured out what's important to you, and it doesn't have to be monumental, it doesn't have to be an earth shattering kind of thing. It can be something simple, but it's what's right for you and whatever that purpose might be.
Casey Weade: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for that, Richard. And I think there's a lot of individuals out there, they're listening to this because they want to hear other individuals' experiences. They want to go into retirement prepared and have the ability or the knowledge to avoid some of the pitfalls of others. We've had some of our guests that recommended that you go out and interview other retirees, ask them about their experiences.
Well, you've put a whole book together around that, and we want to give it away today. I think this is a perfect book for those individuals that are, say, five, ten years out from retirement, maybe they just stepped into retirement. A great opportunity to see what other individuals' advice, experiences, challenges have been. The book is titled Shifting Gears: 50 Baby Boomers Share Their Meaningful Journeys in Retirement. And Richard so graciously sent us over, not just copies of these, but we have a box of signed copies of Richard's book, Shifting Gears, and we want to get those into your hands.
All you have to do is this. If you'd like to get a free copy of Richard's book, just go on over to iTunes or use your iPhone right now, scroll on down, write a review, an honest rating and review on iTunes, and then shoot us an email at email@example.com, that's firstname.lastname@example.org with your iTunes username. And we will send you out a free copy, a free signed copy of Richard's book, Shifting Gears. Richard, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. I look forward to talking again soon.
Richard Haiduck: Thank you very much, Casey. You've had some great questions, and this is a very enjoyable way to start the day.