“Retirement is an artificial construct, stop thinking about it. Think about reinvention instead. I know too many people in their 60s who have “retired” from their occupations and are, basically, sitting around waiting to die. There is no moral or religious code calling for the excitement of life to end before life ends.”
— Alan Weiss (a consultant I highly respect)
Recently at a farm family meeting of siblings we were trying to analyze why the parents were so reluctant to let go of farm asset ownership. I suspect that one of the key factors keeping transition planning stuck is the fact that many farm men do not have an identity, role, or purpose beyond their decades old role of “farmer.” Jokes about carrying a CWB permit book don’t work anymore, as the wheat board marketing system has changed.
Is your dad looking for permission to continue owning a pickup that he can fuel with farm gas or diesel, and does he still want a few cows to keep “busy?”
Last summer my farmer and I bought an ocean kayak that we have to fuel ourselves with our arm power. We have explored many of the local lakes and plan to have more adventures next spring and summer. We also made sure that the craft can support young children who would delight in using it as a floating dock. We also enjoyed the powerboats that our cousins own, but decided a kayak suited our current needs better. Perhaps our son will foot the bill for a fishing or ski boat for fun.
In coaching terms, people let go of old habits and ways when they have something new to look forward to and do. What is it that you need to unlearn? What new things can you learn this year that would excite you enough to spend less time managing the farm as you transfer decision-making to your successors?
Here’s a possible list of hobbies for farmers: kayaking, golf, hunting, tinkering, volunteering to drive Cancer Care folks, leadership institute work, camping in Russia and training new leaders (Kingdom Ventures International), building new homes for MDS (Mennonite Disaster Service), politics — local or provincial, ag policy leadership, entrepreneur mentoring or new deal making, starting a completely new business, selling farm machinery, helping at auction sales, reviving a trade such as electrician or welding, art — creating art from “junk,” Oxbow historian clipping from the Producer, flying remote planes or real-life-size planes, working with the poor in Haiti, house parent in a teenage group home, fishing in winter and summer, teaching kids 4-H projects, emcee for community events, writing your life story, photojournaling, making memory books of photos of the farm, playing in a band that entertains many groups, driving seeders and combines, literacy classes at local school, recycling volunteer, flower planter and landscaper to keep town beautiful, teaching English in a foreign country or in Brandon, cutting rags at the local thrift store, refinishing furniture or repairing things for sale at the thrift store, baking to do random acts of kindness, and helping single moms, cross-country skiing, working in the food bank, feeding the birds, and building amazing feeders.
One of the great things about the Internet is that you can Google “how to do… anything…” and come up with amazing ideas. You might also want to check out vocation vacations, elder volunteering, and chat with your local librarian. There are many workable ideas for all types of farmers.
Remember that you will have more excitement about getting out of bed in the morning when you feel that your life has purpose. Find out what “flow” is for you, the thing that you do when you lose all track of time because you are enjoying the activity to the max. I am in flow when I write, and paint watercolours. I also enjoy visiting.
January is a great time to declutter your house and shop, to donate the things that you don’t use or need anymore. That will create a new space and energy for a new hobby or latent hobby to be reborn.
I sure would like to visit the farmer who told me he is restoring three older cars as a gift for each of his adult children.
Let me know what hobby is keeping you alive with delight for a full and purposeful life.
Remember you have a choice. Act now. †