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Adventures of Re-

Nils Flaatten: Prepare for the 2nd half

Oscar Foulkes April 17, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
While waiting for my coffee shop meeting with Nils Flaatten, I was eavesdropping on a financial adviser running his client through her expected financial position at age 65. It was more than a little sobering to process the numbers. It’s a good thing I don’t have any retirement aspirations!

Nils has intimate knowledge of casting around for new opportunities, having spent two years looking for his next big idea.

His advice to me was simple: “Look at your swim lane.” In other words, what are your fields or skills, and is there a way of finding an overlap between them? This would admittedly be the more conservative way of approaching this kind of situation than an outright fresh start in a completely new direction/lane. People in the tech world would describe this as a ‘pivot’. The rest of us will just say that someone has reinvented themselves.

His observation, also, is that for all its apparent economic vibrancy, the Western Cape is a difficult space in which to launch new ventures.

He went to great lengths to illustrate how shallow one’s ‘network’ can be. If one starts the process expecting little of the network there is less room for resulting disappointment (if not outright depression). Having said this, ‘the network’ is a useful route to “adjacent possibilities” as described in this interesting TED Talk.

Nils asked me some key questions, the first of which related to the kind of financial buffer I might have. In other words, how long before the money runs out? It’s not something one likes to think about, but it’s an important parameter.

His second question was as direct, although it dealt with a different aspect of this process: “What are you going to do at 10.00 on a Monday morning?” In other words, the school run is finished, you’ve possibly had a coffee with someone at 8.00, and now you’re back home.

This partially relates to active recovery, but it’s also about warding off boredom, isolation and depression.

Nils disagreed with me saying that I was hitting the reset button, making the point that this was more a recalibration for the second half of my life. In fact, with us living productive lives for much longer (not to mention the likelihood of our retirement savings not lasting) we have to keep preparing ourselves for the economies of the future.

He asked me if I listen to podcasts, and then proceeded to recommend Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale.

When I mentioned that I’d thought of blogging my experiences during this process, he suggested that I name it Adventures of Re- (with apologies to Ravi Naidoo for appropriating his concept).

The prefix “re-“ is attached to a bunch of neat words that fit in with the concept of making a fresh start. Given the progression of the morning, you might think that “retirement” is a negative slant on things.

However, I invite you to look at the etymology of “retire”, which has French origins:
re- (back)
tirer (draw/pull)
So, withdraw.

In French, a corkscrew is un tire-bouchon (in other words, draw/pull the cork, which relates to the Afrikaans kurktrekker).

I like the idea of looking at the years leading up to reTIREment as a pulling of the cork in order to release something beautiful. Perhaps, despite our failing bodies, parts of us can get better with age. Just like wine.

Swimming Pool Lane, a photograph by Skip Nall

Swimming Pool Lane, a photograph by Skip Nall

Ravi Naidoo: Life of Re_

Oscar Foulkes April 17, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
I shouldn’t have expected anything less than supercharged inspiration from my hour-and-a-bit with Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo.

In reference to my ‘fresh look’, I observed that I’ve come across many men my age taking a sabbatical with a view to starting something new. However, it seems that this isn’t always a period in which new directions flourish.

Ravi’s view is that many have left corporate life, so the absence of defined structure or direction turns into a problem. On the other hand, entrepreneurial types live the life of modern day hunter-gatherers. It’s not to say that this group doesn’t experience difficulty in the face of not being able to kick-start that fresh beginning, but it’s more ‘normal’ to be hustling for opportunities.

In chatting about the implications of this downtime, I painted the picture of the stereotypical wait for the telephone to ring.

Ravi spoke about the value of ‘active recovery’. He was referencing weight training, but there was active recovery throughout my cycling training, so the concept struck a chord with me.

In essence, recovery from intense training sessions requires some kind of appropriate activity, not complete rest.

The implication for this ‘fresh look’ period is that one should remain active, even if it’s volunteer work. For inspiration we could also be immersing ourselves in new experiences.

Finally, Ravi introduced the concept of “Life of Re_”, which has wide-ranging implications. To quote from the YPO conference he is organising with that theme:

“In the tech world, software is in perpetual beta, never fully finished, constantly updated. As newly minted digital citizens, this is a process we could emulate. To live La Vida Beta. By leaning forward optimistically into the future to re-skill, re-tool, re-boot, re-invent. Welcome to the Life of Re_. A new way of being. A life of constant upgrade and improvement.”

It’s all about words that start with “re-“.

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Introducing a new theme

Oscar Foulkes April 16, 2018 Adventures of Re- No comments
This blog started as a repository of writings about things that give me pleasure; alternatively subjects that are covered ‘at my pleasure’. Eating and drinking featured, for obvious reasons.

2015 was a particularly barren year, and then 2016 kicked off with a few posts about the experience of being ‘treated’ for cancer with radiotherapy (absolutely no pleasure in that!). I led straight into two years of sharing my experience of training for – and riding – Cape Epic. Reading the blog is optional, of course, but there wasn’t much for people that weren’t interested in following the journey of a person willfully putting himself through a tough time (that journey has been covered by others here and here, if you want a quick snapshot; alternatively follow this tag on my blog).

The central theme over more than 12 years, though, is me sharing personal experience. There are times that I tend to rush where angels fear to tread, which can result in some ‘interesting’ experiences. There’s always learning involved, but seeing as I’m as happy learning by experience as getting told stuff, this is not a bad thing.

Which brings me to the experiences that I’m expecting to provide the theme for blog posts for the foreseeable future. As a result of parts of the family business downsizing, I am voluntarily without structured employment.

I’m using this as an opportunity for ‘taking a fresh look’. It’s also a prime opportunity to catch up with people I’ve been meaning to see, but have just not got around to. Getting guidance on this ‘fresh look’ thing wasn’t the objective, but the first few interactions have spontaneously yielded such great insights that I have to share them.

I should add that my daughter, in her final year of undergraduate study, is on the lookout for productive internship or part-time employment, and my matric son is having to make decisions about what to do next year. So, while I’m in a different position on the ‘life curve’, all three of us are going through a similar process.

Updates to follow…

One cannot talk about making fresh starts without referencing Oh, The Places You’ll Go.