June 5, 2021

For those of you who are working towards retirement in a traditional sense (i.e. no work/all leisure), if we redefined the “R word” to incorporate your work with your play and you could have your preferred (leisure) lifestyle while still creating impact and changing lives would your goal for retirement be the same?

It’s OK if you want to end work and begin retirement with no turning back since that’s what most people in the world choose to do (assuming they can afford to do it). 

But I have a feeling that many of you in my online family may not feel that way. Just a hunch. 

Therefore I have an alternative way to look at “retirement” through three additional “R’s” (with some poetic license). 

These “R’s” make up the core of our educational foundation: 

Readin’ (a.k.a. Reading), Ritin’ (a.k.a. Writing) and ‘Rithmetic (a.k.a. Arithmetic). 

Today I want to give you my spin on the relationship between the 3 R’s of education with the one R of retirement. 

My thesis is that there are other choices besides work or play…namely work and play…throughout your lifetime.

Readin’: Retire from things you don’t like to do

When someone says they are looking forward to retirement, one of the joys they seem to relish with all of that newfound free time is to catch up on all the books they didn’t have time to read while they were immersed in a full time career.

But do those things need to be mutually exclusive?

I maintain that whether you are a voracious reader or not, reading inside your field and outside your field needs to be a regular part of your ongoing education to maintain a lifetime of learning…and reading as much as you can all the time will give you insights into what you like to do most…and more importantly, what you don’t like to do…whether you are young or old, active or retired.

The “readin’” I’m referring to here was, for me, more in the area of non-fiction and biographies until I was schooled (or re-schooled) by folks smarter than me.

After reading all fiction in college and reading only non-fiction in my first 3 decades in business, I realized the errors of my ways which I detail in “The case against fiction (not really).”

Readin’ of any kind will perpetually inspire you to think of new ideas and to innovate whether you are in your “wonder years” or your “twilight years”…or any of the decades in-between.

It’s also the ultimate insurance policy that your mind remains lively in your formative years; and remains equally lively while you are experiencing more leisure in your “retirement.”

A mind is a terrible thing to waste…at any point in one’s lifetime.

My problem is that I’m a very slow reader which makes time to read a bigger issue and challenge–which I wrote about in “Surviving your library”.

My thesis in that post was that “slow readers make better writers”…which was at least a little self-serving—and controversial–as indicated in my follow up post where I shared thoughts from readers which I titled, “Reading is telepathy.”

No matter what your opinion is on reading during work time or play time, pre-retirement or in retirement (and as you can tell I’m intentionally blurring those lines), it is the one lifelong hobby that needs to be part of your lifelong occupation…which ultimately determines how you retire from the things you don’t like to do.

At least that’s my spin here on readin’ and relaxin’.

And whether you read fast or slow or read to become a better writer, or read just for the sake of reading, reading is fundamental…and I know that because I read it on the Internet. ☺

Ritin’: Retire from the things you don’t do well

The second of the “3 R’s of Retirement” is Ritin’.

To figure out what you don’t do well, you have to write…to yourself and to others.

And before you start ritin’, you need to become brutally honest with yourself…don’t feel bad that you don’t do everything well…because you can’t do everything well.

Write two lists side by side.

One with everything you do well (and maybe better than anyone in the world).

And the other list has everything else.

Dan Sullivan calls the first list your “Unique Ability” and it is the cornerstone of his Strategic Coach program.

This first list should also encompass all of your “non-negotiables”—that is, under no circumstances will you compromise excellence in any of the areas you excel in.

The second list is left for the stuff you can buy elsewhere, stuff you can adapt from elsewhere…and find someone else (from elsewhere) to do it for you.

The initial step is to admit what you’re good at and what you’re not good at…everything else flows from there.

Then…keep writing (and sharing) inside your expertise.

And leave everything else to experts other than you to write and share about their expertise.

Bonus: You can then read or hear about it from those experts and you learn without doing.

‘Rithmetic: Retire from people you don’t want to hang out with anymore

I guess this third leg of this definition of retirement can be summed up more as a math problem than anything else.

If you are a lifelong learner, readin’ to retire from things you don’t like to do and ritin’ to retire from the things you don’t do well will need some ‘rithmetic to count the appropriate friends who fit with your new definition of retirement.

You will need friends who are consistent with how you are improving your thinking and insights, what they can teach you to fill in the gaps…and while this is hard to say, the more you grow, the more you might have to create ‘rithmetic that is addition by subtraction.

Or at least addition by replacement.

Simply put, your new enriched life might need to include some new friends and even getting rid of some old ones…all done with diplomacy and love, of course. ☺

I learned at a very young age that “retirement” is not something to aspire to…it’s something to be earned and treasured as another step in the career called life.

And once you earn it–and that does not mean it just happens when you turn 65, 75 or 85–you can do whatever you like with the money, freedom (and golf) that comes with it.

Note that it also comes with accumulated wisdom whether you retire at 35 or 85…however at 85 you’ve got some more material to work with for sure.

“In my book”–those that I’ve read and the two I wrote–“retirement” does not mean “not working.”

And if there was a math book on “retirement” (and not one that simply calculates your net worth and how you won’t outlive your money of which there are many), it would be titled Working through Retirement and the Real Arithmetic Involved.

That math “problem” equates to adding and subtracting, as needed and desired, to your online and offline families…with the result summarized by the quote below.

I have shared this quote with you in the past and I first read it on the back of the business card of my mentor Marty Edelston.

Going down the Google rabbit hole, it has been sourced as a Zen Buddhist Text or as a variation of a quote from authors such as Lester Thurow, James Michener and Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (and I’m sure there are others who want to take credit for it):

The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

Whoever reads this, writes this or creates a math problem from it, it seems to nail an excellent definition for “The Big R”…and a lot more succinct than this blog post. ☺



P.S. All this talk of “the R word” (in the context of the “three R words”), reminded me of a story I told in Chapter 2 of Overdeliver…and if you haven’t heard it before, or even if you have, it’s something to file under “good copy is everywhere as long as you are paying attention.”

Here’s the headline that inspired the story:

How to Succeed in Business Retirement without Really Trying

This headline, “without really trying,” was not only the outer envelope of a successful launch package for a new retirement newsletter, it also hints at what I spoke about in my post above (i.e. that a business/job/career is not replaced by retirement but rather enhanced by a new definition of retirement).

The headline and package were written by the legendary copywriter Bill Jayme for my beloved company Boardroom Inc…and if you’ve never heard of him before, you’ve heard of him now (which is good news for you).

After every winning assignment, the aforementioned Marty Edelston (President at Boardroom Inc. in addition to being my mentor), sent a celebratory gift to the copywriter of every winning promotion…and Bill was no exception.

That was Marty’s style—to treat the people who helped grow his business like royalty–because it’s just as important to treat your partners and vendors as you treat your customers and employees.

After Marty sent Bill one of these gifts, Bill sent Marty a small white envelope with these provocative words penned on the outer envelope:

Deeply and Irrevocably Personal . . .

Enclosed was a funny, witty thank-you note like no other from Bill. The guy could write eloquently about anything to anyone. (I have two personal notes from him framed and hanging on my wall in fact.)

Marty took Bill’s envelope, marched into our art department, and found the artist who was mocking up a direct mail piece for our niche book The Encyclopedia of Estate Planning (EEP).

Marty told him that we had an envelope test for him to execute . . . and the plain, standard outer envelope with the words “Deeply and Irrevocably Personal” in simple typewriter font became the control envelope for that book for years.

Though it had never been intended as creative material, this “copy” on the outer envelope went on to sell millions of dollars’ worth of a book about estate planning (one of those topics everyone needs to know about, but no one wants to know about).

That package for EEP, written by our secret weapon copywriter Mel Martin, was already doing well before the Jayme envelope was added to the mix.

However, the new text drastically lifted response, and the estate planning book became an even bigger winner despite being on a narrow topic most people would rather not think about much less buy a book about it.

We sold more copies of this book on a niche topic than many New York Times bestsellers at the time once we started using that envelope.

This is a prime example of what I call “stealing smart,” which comes from a quote I use often:

“Stealing is a felony; stealing smart is an art.”

Bill’s “copy” captured Marty’s attention, and he knew it would capture our audience’s attention too.

The lesson is that great copy, headlines, and subject lines can come from anywhere; don’t assume it has to be a formal assignment for your copywriter.

Never stop searching for ideas while watching the news, reading a book, or looking through your mail (online or offline). Make a virtue of being aware of what conversations are happening in people’s heads.

These little gems can turn into headlines and subject lines—and they are everywhere.

You have to be ready to pounce on them at a moment’s notice.

Bill was famous for saying that the outer envelope was like the “hot pants on the hooker”; and I am sure he would say the same today about anything that could capture the attention of your prospects whether on an envelope or in the subject line of an e-mail.

Like all of the most successful copywriters and marketers past and present, read everything you can and always be on the lookout for ways to get into the minds of your prospects, to collect the language and perspectives that would draw people irresistibly into your offers.

When Marty realized we would be able to mail millions of names because of this new Jayme envelope, he sent Bill a check for the “new copy.”

Bill tried to return the check, which was for thousands of dollars, obviously surprised that Marty felt the need to pay him for simply using a line he wrote in a personal letter.

Another lesson here: Pay to play, especially when you are using someone else’s “work” regardless of how little or how much you use.

I believe Bill ended up keeping the money on Marty’s insistence–and knowing him he donated it to a favorite charity–but what Bill was most pleased about was that his off-the-cuff work was getting such a good response…copywriters love winning in any and all forms…like all of us.

P.P.S. And here’s something that is NOT deeply and irrevocably personal…but it is deeply and irrevocably valuable…and you can use it in your work and your play:

The Bill Jayme Collection: Master of Direct Mail Marketing

Don’t let “direct mail” in the subtitle fool you…this is a swipe file of 210 individual direct mail efforts in PDF format, indexed by category and completely searchable, all on one USB thumb drive, with a bonus video presentation from Bill included with the swipes.

It’s a lifetime of work from one of the greatest copywriters who has ever lived…and full of ideas to “steal smart” from this one-of-a-kind genius.

Hopefully you are smart enough to see the value…and if you do, you can order here.

If you prefer The Bill Jayme Collection on 11 CD’s and 1 Bonus DVD instead of the single USB (for the same price), email me and I can send you one of the four (4) copies still available in that format.

But for the USB format, order here.

You won’t regret it.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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