Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Aspire Stories, Not Perfection

Have you ever noticed the family stories that get told over and over again are NOT about the times when everything turned out perfect? Instead, they are the occasions when we look back and laugh at ourselves, or the situation.

A friend was telling me about her Thanksgiving dinner. She's a great cook and gracious hostess. And yet this year, something went wrong with every part of her Thanksgiving dinner. Her kitchen has two ovens. And with so many people in the kitchen, the one with the turkey inadvertently got turned off. No one noticed until someone said, “I don't smell turkey cooking.” The butternut squash was runny and had no flavor. You might think nothing can go wrong with mashed potatoes, but somehow hers turned out dry and gritty.

Fortunately the table setting was beautiful, and the appetizers and desserts were delicious, except the whipped cream never whipped. It was more like thick milk. 

Still, more guests commented on this being the best Thanksgiving, more so than from the years when everything turned out perfect. What's up with that?

Similarly, I was challenging a workshop participant to figure out ways to make more of his interest in camping. I suggested he devote one trip to preparing all the meals over an open fire. This goal might require research on the best techniques and recipes—and if so, even better. We're not trying to make retirement easier. We're aiming to make it more interesting. He was intrigued by the idea of cooking over an open fire instead of the electric stove in his pop-up camper. If a few meals turn out bad, oh well. He has a good story.

Click here to read about my camping experience. Great story. One that gets repeated with equal laugher four years later. More actually since I was quite frazzled when I went through the experience.

At this point in our lives, our goal shouldn't be perfection. What we need and love are stories. Not that we intentionally cook a bad meal, or choose to get lost between the bathroom and campsite, but when it happens, so what?

Are you playing retirement too safe? Are you still aiming for perfection?

Author James Marshall Reilly, in his book Shake Up the World: It's Not About Finding a Job, It's About Creating a Life, says, “When you are young, there is no wrong choice other than the safe choice.” Reilly suggests that young adults have very little to lose, that they are “gifted a uniquely low-risk window of time to invest in themselves.”

I propose the same is true for those of us in retirement. Lighten up. Live life more whimsically. Now is the time to delight in your stories.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What's on Your Mind?

This past month I asked three different audiences to write down what they were thinking about when it comes to the non-financial side of retirement. The questions and comments that I didn’t have time to address in my presentation, I promised to discuss on my blog.

Since many of the questions or comments can be grouped under common themes, I’ve compiled archived blog posts that relate to each topic. Simply click on the titles that interest you. While you're at it, check out additional blog posts listed in the archive section to the right of this page. You'll find some really valuable information and inspiration!

When to retire:

Managing time:

Reimagining your life:

Working in retirement:

Relationships in retirement:

What’s next?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Retirement Evaluation

When we were in the workforce most of us experienced annual performance reviews. A supervisor rated our performance on a continuum. We learned where we were doing well, identified areas for improvement, and set goals for the future. Hopefully the evaluation kept us on track for achieving personal and professional success.

In retirement, no one is completing a performance review on us. And while that might bring a sense of relief, if we’re off course, if we’re paying attention to things that don’t align with our goals, (if we have goals) a supervisor isn’t going to get us back on the path. The good news is your job isn’t on the line. Instead, what’s on the line is your happiness, which might matter more than a job.

When was the last time you evaluated your retirement?

In the beginning, also referred to as the “honeymoon stage,” you might experience retirement similar to the euphoria you felt when you landed that dream job. It’s everything you hoped for—freedom to do whatever you want, going to bed without setting an alarm clock, traveling to foreign countries, and spending more time with friends and family.

However, when the honeymoon phase begins to lose it’s luster, (which happens to most of us) or when we start to take our freedom for granted, we settle into a pattern of living. Time goes by without pausing to question, “Is my retirement the life I want?”

A regular “performance review” will remind you that this is your life—your one life. What do you want to do with it?

Imagine that you have to write a report for your supervisor. Set aside a time and place to give serious consideration to these questions. Add questions that fit your needs, dreams, and goals.

Have you set clear goals and expectations for retirement? Please describe.

Do you know how you want to invest your retirement years? Please describe.

What was your greatest accomplishment in the past six months?

What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?

What’s missing in your retirement and what are you going to do about it?

Where do you feel there’s room for improvement? What is your plan to address this area?

Overall, rate your retirement lifestyle on a scale of 1-10. Then describe what you will do to increase your rating by one or two points.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 29, 2018

First Love

To celebrate my 60th birthday, my two sisters treated me to a baking course at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT. We joined eight other food enthusiasts, many who had traveled across the country, to learn how to make wood-fired flatbreads.

Kim, Laurie and Patrice at King Arthur Flour baking school.
From the moment I walked into the classroom, something awakened in me. The individual cooking stations, bright red KitchenAid mixers, large canisters of flour and sugar on the counter, along with other small bowls of measured ingredients that we'd need for our baking, transported me back to my seventh grade home economics classroom.  I came alive over the next four hours as we measured, stirred, kneaded, and baked the dough into beautiful and delicious flatbreads. 

It's not surprising that I felt so good while baking with others in a classroom setting. As a teenager, I loved cooking classes—so much so that I majored in home economics in college. This was my career path for about seven years before having children. Then, as with so many people, I headed in another direction when I pursued my master and doctorate degrees.

Fortunately, my birthday baking course reminded me how much I enjoy baking with others in a communal setting. It awakened my first love! I’ve decided I want to create more of this in my life. I'm looking for a way to bring baking and people together. Now that I know what I want, I can begin to make it happen.

A woman, who I'll call Susan, came up to me after a pre-retirement seminar to tell me how she stumbled upon her first love. When Susan was younger, she enjoyed playing the violin. As she was thinking ahead to retirement, her plan was to pick up the violin again. But, a request to play at a friend's wedding propelled her plan into action. Susan didn’t want to say no, but she also knew that it had been years since she opened her violin case. Putting her fear aside, Susan said yes. She had four months to prepare. She put herself "on the hook."  

The joy that Susan received from this experience is why she shared her story with me. She said she came alive practicing and preparing for the big event. The wedding was several months ago, but Susan continues to pick up her violin everyday. She's grateful that she didn't wait until after retirement to reconnect with her first love.

Perhaps reconnecting with your first love is a great way to add meaning and enjoyment to your retirement years. Ask yourself, "In what situations do I feel most alive?" and "What did I enjoy doing as a 12-year-old child?" Retirement is a great time to learn new skills and have new adventures, but it's also a perfect time to reignite the spark from your first love.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 15, 2018


I just returned home from a week in London. My husband and I went "across the pond" to see our son present his start-up tech company before an audience of venture capitalists, successful business owners, and supportive mentors. In total, ten founding CEOs delivered a 5-minute "pitch" for funding, all presenting a compelling vision with infectious passion and unrelenting drive. 

Many of these founders previously worked for Google, Amazon, and financial companies. They had great jobs, earning incomes that afforded a comfortable lifestyle in some of the trendiest cities. Still, they left these positions to create something of their own. As one guy said to me, "I decided I wanted to support my own dream, not the dream of my former boss."

I returned home thinking about my own dreams. The allure of being a founder is seductive. How cool it is to have your name attached to something great! And yet, instead of equating founding with success, what if I invest my time, skills, and resources in an existing organization where I can have a meaningful impact? 

This is the advice given by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, in their book A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. The authors remind us that we need people to invest their lives in the existing organizations. When we put our egos aside, we can experience the same benefits as the founders, just by contributing our gifts and knowing that we’re making a difference.

Cheryl Dorsey, the head of Echoing Green, a nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurs says, "The biggest need now is for the 'intrapreneur,' the person who can move into an existing enterprise or institution, shake it up, and boost its productivity." I can do that.

I returned home from London with a renewed sense of purpose and energy—to approach my work with a couple non-profit organizations with an "intrapreneur" mindset. The same passion and drive I experienced from the young people in London, I can bring to my volunteer roles. And when asked, "What do you do?" I can talk about the impact my contributions are having in the lives of people around the world. Now that sounds like a dream worth pursuing.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.