This wise friend was Professor Charles Handy lecturer at the London School of Economics, President of Royal Society of Arts and author of many books on personal and organisational change. In his book The Empty Raincoat Charles explores the optimum stage of change using the ‘Sigmoid Curve’ as a visual representation of the development process.
"It doesn’t matter if you’re learning to ride a bike or starting a new career - the cycle of experiment, feedback and new experiment is always there".
- Charles Handy
For those of you not familiar with this simple, yet powerful, model it shows the stages of growth over time of a business from inception, growth, maturity and decline. However, this model can be applied to any situation requiring change as change is constant and universal.
Charles’ observation to the management of change and to help develop continual, healthy growth is that it is best to introduce disruption, uncertainty and challenge when things are going well. Not at the fully matured state or when things are in a decline. The reason being that if you shift when things are going well you will have the energy, passion and resources to respond and manage dips and disruptions.
So, whilst all was good in my world, Charles suggested I choose to be disruptive in my own life. I’m not always going to, or will need to, work at the level of intensity that I was. I will want to retire. Unfortunately, Charles counseled, my generation were going to have to wake up to the reality that pensions are not guaranteed and we may end up not getting back what we put in. This, I should add, was prior to the pension scandal, banking debacle and credit crunch but the writing was already on the wall. Charles could just see the impact of greed, anger and mindful ignorance on an overly complicated and badly monitored financial sector.
The other reason for starting to think about a new ‘post-work’ model was the increase in age related illness brought on by a work life full of deadlines, disagreements and uninvited disruption. Again, this was before the significant rise in our understanding dementia related ailments such as alzheimer's and parkinson's. Once again Charles was proving his credentials as a practical visionary. Whilst the writing was on the wall for all to see, Professor Handy, chose not only to read it, but to act upon it and, thankfully for me, to share his insights and guidance with others.
In order to manage the financial impact of this new world we had to move away from the idea that we go from ‘working’ to ‘retirement’ in one go. He advised me that I should have three income streams: bread and butter clients, that will cover my basic needs; higher income clients that may be demanding and more of a challenge and risk but will provide the jam should they come off and social, charitable clients that I don’t charge a fee for. These free clients are just good for the soul. Based on my family and business needs I shift my focus between jam, bread and butter and thin air. This requires frequent, continuous and conscious personal disruption.
So, as my children move out I shift my work to cover the costs needed to support them whilst keeping an eye on my own well-being and needs. This meant going against the trend of expecting increased annual income year on year. What was needed was a more adaptive financial model ending up with enough cash in my accounts.
Charles also reminded me we have four accounts: material, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. We need to check in daily that we are in credit in all four. To do that we have to be adaptive to change. Some years were more profitability financially than others. Some years proved to be more profitable creatively, emotionally, physically or spiritually.
I left that meeting with Charles inspired. I spent the next few months exploring a realistic alternative to a life without a pension and came up with this what I like to call, a 'life without a pension, pension plan' for managing my old age based on a seven day week life that would feed my mind, body, heart and soul.
In my 40’s I was working for five days (local, national and international) had part of my weekend taken up with admin, trying to write and study and time with family and friends.
Whilst it has been a struggle over past decade I have succeed in my ten year challenge it has taken not a little effort and significant disruption, particularly over the past few years but my average week is now:
- three days work
- one and a half days learning, admin and writing
- one and a half days retirement.
The key to this model is making sure that there is always a new learning, new challenge, and new skills being developed. Preferably skills I do not need for my current work but will need for my next wave. For example, I have always had a passion for maintaining physical fitness and I’ve recently qualified as an Tai Chi instructor. I am creating links with centres around the world focusing on retreats exploring well being. This means I'm now disrupting my 50’s so that, in my 60’s I'm in credit in all my accounts.
The chart below shows the basic framework for managing this transition into older age whilst maintaining this dynamic balance between where we are and where we are going next.