Last summer, 62-year-old John D. Anderson published his first book, Replace Retirement, which began his transition into a new career as an author. After being inspired by a plethora of different writing throughout his life, John decided that there was no better way to leave a legacy for his grandchildren, than by embracing a new challenge and putting pen to paper himself.
John uses a combination of research, life experience and external inspiration to help readers see that it’s possible to make the second half of your life better than the first, by creating a purposeful, rewarding and inspired plan. In a recent interview with Rest Less, John delves deeper into his motivations for writing the book and discusses how our lense on life can have a significant impact on the way that we live out our later years.
John, what is the key message behind Replace Retirement?
The message is relevant to everybody; no matter what age you are. It’s based on the idea that when we reach a certain age in life – let’s say 60-65 – that maybe we shift gears and go into a sort of “extended vacation” mode.
On the surface this sounds okay, but there are plenty of data points that prove otherwise and my father was one of them. He was at the top of his game, enjoying life and then he stepped into “retirement” and within five years he was a shell of a former person. He seemed to be lost and he could no longer see what his value in the world was anymore. I don’t intend to go down that road. I’m trying to help others use the same tools and processes that I’m using to move into the next stage of life.
Replace Retirement is the first book that you’ve written. What inspired you to put pen to paper?
I was inspired by an author called Peter Diamondis who’s had a huge influence on my life. He talks a lot about exponential changes in technology and one of the things he puts to the audience is that you’re either going to be disrupted by this change or you’re going to become a disruptor yourself. This got me thinking about how my life might be disrupted by technology and with that – how I could be a disruptor in order to play in this game of exponential change.
Once I began thinking this way I also thought, you know what, I’m a baby boomer and there must be other baby boomers out there who would align with my way of thinking. So that’s the audience that I wrote the book for – the percentage of people who are looking for a way to embrace change in order to make the most of the next chapter of their lives.
I also decided to write a book because I want my children to see that their father is trying new things, taking on new challenges and stepping outside of his comfort zone. I’m in unfamiliar territory, embracing and chasing the fullness of life and I hope that this has some impact or influence. I contrast this versus the response that I would get when I would call up my father to ask how he was, and he’d say ‘I’m surviving.’ I don’t want to survive, I want to thrive – I don’t know any better legacy to leave for my grandkids.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career so far?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of my career. At the moment, my income comes primarily from coaching people who own private family businesses, as it has done for the last 20 years.
However, I’m currently going through a transition (which I like to try and do every 10 years or so) of becoming an author and a speaker. I will then use the learnings from this transition to help me prepare for another reinvention in the next decade, and so on. My goal is to live to 103, so I’ve got four transitions left!
What personal advice would you give to people over 50 who are thinking about making a career change or starting a new venture but are feeling hesitant?
We aren’t limited by our abilities, but by our vision. Imagine what your future could be, seeing in your mind a future bigger than your past. Write out your vision in as much detail as possible. Then, I would recommend sitting down with a journal and thinking through how you can get to where you want to be.
If you’ve got something that you want to achieve, then it’s about finding the process that will take you there, executing it well and repeating it until you start seeing the results that you want. When I was younger I didn’t value the power of process as much as I do now.
Have you had any thoughts about retirement and what this could look like for you?
I would say my retirement looks more or less like what I’m doing today. But I’m working on narrowing down the focus of my life to those areas that give me energy and gaining mastery there. These areas include writing, speaking and building important relationships.
For me, retirement is saying ‘where are the areas that will allow me to make an impact, that I can also get energy from and enjoy?’ In my book, I talk about waking up every morning feeling inspired and how you can adopt activities and behaviours that will help you manage your energy.
There is a natural gravitational force that seems to set in after age 50 and it does start to slow you down. Now I don’t know if that is societal and we’ve bought into this idea that we should slow down as we get older, or if our bodies do start to physically slow us down once we enter our 50s. One could argue that it’s probably a little bit of both, so over the next few decades I want to make sure that the work I’m doing, the relationships I have and the activities that I do during my rejuvenation time are all energy-giving, not energy-draining.
A masterclass with John D. Anderson…
When I was younger, I would try to create balance in my life but now I’ve realised that I’m not looking for balance. Now I think it’s about energy. When we fall in love, we have tremendous energy for our partner and they become the central focus of our life. Then when we’re deep in a career, that can take a lot of our energy. Then when we have children and they take the focus, and so on. We often get frustrated because our lives seem out of balance, but maybe that’s the wrong lense. Maybe it’s not about balance, but about asking the question – does it give me energy?
If you get energy from your work then great, but if it’s taking energy from your relationships then perhaps you need to evaluate that. If you look at all the different slices of your life and realise that one portion isn’t giving you energy, then think about how you can redesign it. Your life may never be perfectly balanced, but that’s often okay if the things you’re doing are giving you energy.
...on the benefits of having a growth mindset
I think that the most important ingredient that you can have at any age – young or old – is a “growth mindset” which author Carol Dweck has written a book on. If you have a growth mindset then you’ll be in a continuous state of learning. You’ll be someone who is always looking to read another book, listen to another podcast, go to another seminar etc, whilst considering how you can continue adding value to your life.
If you have a fixed mindset then your life will usually follow a set path, for example, you’re born with a certain IQ, into a certain way of life that you never deviate from and that kind of sets the whole path for your life. If you have a fixed mindset, then books like mine won’t usually have an impact on your life, but if you have a growth mindset, then you’ll have a really good foundation to work with because there has never been a better time to find a new role in the world than right now.
My instinct is that when we reach 80,90 and then 100 (if we can live that long), that relationships are going to be all that matters in our lives. We’re all influenced by the attitudes of people that we spend time with, so it’s a good idea to consider how you can build 10 or 20 year relationships with people that are very impactful and will change your life.
I have a great relationship with a guy named Peter, who acts as my mentor. He’s 82 – so is exactly 20 years older than me – and has had a huge impact on my life emotionally and financially. He introduced me to some opportunities that I couldn’t have had otherwise; one of which was heli-hiking! We build off each other. I inspire him, he inspires me and it’s a very healthy relationship.
I have a lot of energy now but in my 20s and 30s I had more. I used to work in sales and I remember in sales school, we’d party all night, get home at 4am and then be back in the classroom at 8am and I was able to hold it all together. Today I don’t have that energy, so I have to be much more thoughtful and intentional about that. I realise that I need to have some downtime, so I allow myself 100 minutes every morning to do things like meditation, journaling, reading and/or exercise. I need these little disconnects on a daily basis.
I also go off to Quebec and snowmobile for 3 weeks at a time. I’ll snowmobile 8000 miles during that time – I love it! I make sure that I’m completely disconnected electronically. I don’t look at emails, I don’t look at any work or take any phone calls. I want to be fully immersed in that activity and disconnect from the world.
I think that part of being able to do this is finding peace with the idea that I can go away for three weeks and the world operates just fine without me! The first time I experienced that was when my mother died. It felt like my world had stopped but I had this awareness that the rest of the world didn’t stop at all. Traffic was still going, everyone was still doing their lives. The world didn’t stop, and so that gave me the realisation that you can take time off. You aren’t the centre of the universe and it will do just fine without you. So I found comfort in that. I think our phones give us the illusion that somehow we have to be at the centre of everything, but I’m not buying into that.
Everyone can have their own version of disconnection – it could be sailing, travelling, walking in the countryside – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s rejuvenation time where you’re completely disconnected. I think that as we age, it’s important to have downtime both daily and for longer, scheduled periods. I build that in and I talk about that more in my book.
I’m a recovered alcoholic, so I understand the power of habits, both good and bad, and I’ve worked at replacing the bad with the good. We all have a habit-forming ability programmed into us – it’s just about how we channel that.
I noticed that many people around me were benefiting from meditation so I decided to try and adopt that as a habit by introducing it into my routine. I started small and did it for 10 minutes a day with the guidance of an app. I stuck with it and around 66 days in, I started to notice the benefits and it became an integral part of my routine. We all have habits; it’s just about finding the ones that help, not hinder.
...on ageism and staying visible
If you want to stay visible then it’s important to think, ‘how am I going to continue to put myself in a position where I’m creating value in every experience, every relationship, everywhere I go so that I’m not going to be dismissed?’
Ageism is a way of saying to people that they don’t have value anymore, so it’s about what you decide to do with that statement that matters. I certainly don’t accept it – I’m aware that I have a lot of value and I am far from done, so I’m going to keep going out there and giving it my all. The most important perception out there is yours – how you feel about you and the choices you’re making.