Monday, February 23, 2009

Boomers and Retirement

While Baby Boomers have advanced relentlessly toward retirement, the muddled economy has befuddled many of them. With 401k plans shrinking worse than wool sweaters in hot water, the word “retire” suddenly provokes anxiety.

For many “Boomers” – the oldest born in 1946 – this means foregoing long-anticipated retirement dreams to remain active members of the American workforce. Disappointing? Perhaps. But not necessarily bad.

We often hear discussions about preserving our natural resources. But one resource we seldom consider is the cumulative experience and expertise of veteran workers, sometimes too eagerly replaced in the corporate world by cheaper, fresher, more tech-savvy personnel. You can educate, but you can’t teach experience – whether it’s for safe driving, raising children, or successfully carrying out job responsibilities.

That’s why we somehow need to learn how to tap into this growing reserve of workplace experience slowly phasing itself out of the workplace. Colleges and technical institutions may teach the “what” of work, but often only time and experience can teach the “how” and “why.”

The Bible addresses retirement in only one scenario. Speaking of Levitical priests, who handled responsibilities of ceremonial worship, it says, “but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties . . . but they themselves must not do the work” (Numbers 8:25-26). Other types of work have no such stipulation.

Without question many workers deserve, even need, to ease out of full-time work. But it’s a matter of stewardship: After 30, 40 or more years of productive work, senior workers have much they can teach their successors, whether through direct training or mentoring. Sixty-somethings have forged a rich workplace legacy – worthwhile practices, values and traditions for others to preserve and add onto for future generations. We can’t afford to lose that.

Monday, February 16, 2009

That Crazy Thing Called Love

Many of us just observed Valentine’s Day, America’s annual celebration of love. But who knows what “love” really is?

Popular media tell us love consists of emotions and hormones. Take, for example, “The Bachelor”: Two dozen amorous females vie for the eye of Single Guy. Within weeks, with no other male options in sight, the surviving candidates declare themselves “in love” with Mr. Handsome. (By that juncture, they would probably fall in love with a telephone pole if it had biceps and an Adam’s apple.)

Do you remember the old sitcom – “The Love Boat”? Each week during a few days’ cruise, couples would discover the loves of their lives. With all those good-looking, trim and fit people cavorting about, it should have been “The Lust Boat.”

We talk about “falling” in and out of love, as if gravity has something to do with it. Does falling out of love involve a disturbance of gravitational force?

Emotions and hormones are important, but there’s much more to love than that. Shared experiences, conflict, laughter, tears, struggle – and mutual commitment to one another, no matter what – are keys to enduring love.

The Bible, interestingly enough, speaks about romance and sex, but gives other perspectives on love as well. It teaches that love is unconditional and sacrificial: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

We have heard 1 Corinthians 13 recited at weddings so often it’s almost a cliché, but still it goes a long way in defining true love. It describes it as patient, kind, humble, selfless, truthful, trusting, hopeful, persevering. It says nothing about love being “sexy” or “hot,” but if those other qualities are present, the hot, sexy part will follow!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Not How You Start, But How You Finish

This week NASCAR officially gets its season underway. For years the sport’s colorful spectacle, powerful race cars and skilled drivers have fascinated me. But I have been intrigued even more by principles for successful racing – many of which also apply to successful living.

One of them immediately comes to mind: “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” This principle holds true for many forms of competition, but none so dramatically as motor racing.

The coveted “pole position” entitles one driver to start the race in first place, but has virtually nothing to do with the race’s outcome. You can race well in the early going, even dominate much of the contest, but if you have a wreck, flat tire, blown engine, transmission failure, or get passed by a faster vehicle – even on the final lap – you still lose.

It’s similar in marriage, parenting, education, work, relationships, hobbies, even our spiritual journey. We can start with great enthusiasm and energy, but the test is how we sustain our commitment in the face of obstacles, struggles, everyday tedium. Do we lose heart during tough times and fall back?

Finishing well is a recurring – even dominant – theme in the Bible. In Philippians 3:14 the apostle Paul states, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” In Paul’s final letter to his disciple, Timothy, he writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). And Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

More than 60 years into my time on earth, I’m closer to the end than to the start. So it’s a worthwhile question to consider: Am I finishing well?

How about you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Fascination That Is Football

When the final second of Sunday’s Super Bowl ticked off, the 2008 football season officially came to a close. (The 2009 season technically commences on Wednesday, the first day new recruits can sign national letters of intent to play for their colleges and universities of choice.)

Have you ever wondered what it is about football that’s so compelling, so fascinating, that it has become a virtual year-round sport? We could list many reasons, but I think there are two in particular:

First, every play matters and we have ample time in between to analyze each play and anticipate the next. True, the slow pace of baseball gives ample time for chit-chat, but so much of it is irrelevant – balls, strikes, foul balls, trips to the mound.

Second, football offers such dramatic ebbs and flows. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ last-second win over the Arizona Cardinals was a classic example. After three quarters of virtual futility on offense, the Cardinals took flight in the final quarter and struck for two touchdowns, the second giving them the lead and, seemingly, the victory.

But the Steelers staged a heart-thumping comeback of their own, capped by Santonio Holmes’ finger-tipped, tip-toed touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone. Arizona euphoria turned to despair; Pittsburgh’s dismay transformed to ecstasy.

Even then, Arizona had nearly a minute to pull off the seemingly impossible. Having just seen two other “seemingly impossibles” become not only possible but actual, Cardinal diehards clung to faint, fading glimmers of hope.

Alas, the celebrated rags-to-riches saga of Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner had no storybook finale this time, although he came within a flea’s eyelash of being a Super Bowl hero for a second time. Valiant in battle, he was vanquished but not bowed, noble in defeat.

Can’t wait for football season to start!