In my neighborhood, I am surrounded by ex fighter pilots and ex drag racers. This is not surprising since Nellis Air Force Base and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway are located nearby. These guys have an aura of quiet confidence that I attribute to their cautious courage in their previous lives. I am in awe of and a little jealous of their exciting past lives.
However, that is not what I want to write about. Each of these people lived a life filled with numerous dangerously scary experiences. Their lives were at risk often and yet they embraced the danger in the rush of excitement. Then, they retired from all that.
What do you do when your best work is behind you? How do you transition to a grounded life without the dangerous bursts of speed? When I asked if they would go back the reply was something like, “In a heartbeat.” That is when I can see the sadness in their eyes for a life never to return.
One racer told me that his transition was relatively smooth. He said that he was beginning to realize that his edge was becoming slightly reduced. He remained in the racing world by manufacturing specialized racing engines. The fighter pilots mostly did not have a choice for such a smooth transition. Either they retired from the military or were replaced by the younger crowd. Either way, they were relatively quickly grounded into the civilian world.
A few of the fighter pilots retained a part of their previous world by becoming contracted instructors and mission planners as civilians. One actually wrote a great book about how he restructured the fighter pilot training by acquiring MiG jets to train against. He set up a special program that eliminated combat casualties in that era.
Yet they all feel sadness for the passing of their former life.
So why am I taking valuable advertising space from this issue to talk about this? Most of us either have been or will be there. What do we do when our best or most exciting work is behind us?
You younger folks still have time to achieve greatness and make the smooth transition to the next life. Identify the things about your work that drive you to get up in the morning. What excites you and provides a feeling of accomplishment and value? Find your love. Write it all down so you can look at it and study it.
Also identify what demotivates you. What are the things in your work, and your life, that only serve to disrupt and disturb? Determine which can and must be changed and which cannot be changed and must be accepted.
Then find the follow up profession, job or task that will provide similar positive motivators and feelings. Plan for the smooth transition and act on it. The past is now behind you, not in front of you. You cannot grasp the future while holding the past in front of you. Your future life is ahead of you not behind you.
If you are old like me, then quit lamenting about the past. Bask in past glory but don’t bore all who stand still long enough with your past accomplishments. Find a quiet hobby and move on with the remaining few years. Embrace past success and then let go.
In the end, the world will move on without you. You have always belonged to you, and in the end you will still have you. Give yourself a hug.
I admit that sometimes I miss the excitement of being in this great industry of ours. My transition was not as smooth as I recommend here. I have always been a poor planner. However, I fully embrace that my best work is behind me. As for my future, I have a foolishly devoted wife and a palm tree to sit under with a glass of wine.
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