The Joy of Not Working, by Ernie Zelinski
As I mentioned last week, I thought I’d go ahead and report on a few highlights from the book, The Joy of Not Working. As so many of my readers have retired or especially for those yet to retire and are wondering what’s it all about and how does one retire successfully and lead a healthy happy life after work.
The book is written by a Canadian author (Woo hoo to all my Canadian friends). At the age of 29 he decided to take a 10 week vacation, having not taken a single week off in 3 years. After returning to work, he discovered that his bosses hadn’t appreciated his time he’d taken off or his happy demeanor once he returned. They fired him.
It didn’t take Ernie long to realize that the heavy work a day world was not for him and he vowed to never work a 9-5 job again. Now most of us couldn’t imagine such a life, even though it is possible. What Ernie does in his book is provide many opportunities for viewing the world in a different perspective with the hope that we will be able to structure our own lives in a more joyful way during our working years and beyond. With emphasis on the non working years of course.
So here are a few highlights that jumped out of the pages at me:
- North America has become obsessed with the idea that the more work we do the more self worth we are. IE if you enjoy leisure time, you are in effect not productive and therefore not as worthy as others. To the point, many workers brag about the extra hours they work each week. If this is you, it’s a warning sign.
- “Leisure consists in all those virtuous activities by which a man grows morally, intellectually, and spiritually”, “ it is what makes life worth living”. philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero.
- “The early Greeks and Romans relegated ALL activities done with the hands, done under orders, or done for wages to the lower-class citizens or to the slaves.”
- “Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle cited leisure as ultimate wealth; leisure was desirable as an end in itself so people could use it to think, learn, and develop themselves.. Conversely, pursuing wealth, power, and status through work was considered a form of voluntary slavery that failed to enhance the human condition.”
- Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. Oscar Wilde
- Many people see there self worth in the work they do which is furthest from the truth. It's what you do with your life that gives a person true worth.
- “If there is anything that will keep you from getting what you want, it is not knowing exactly what you want. Reaching your ideal destination is highly unlikely if you don’t know what that destination is. You must do some soul-searching and really understand yourself before you can determine what your wants are. Only then can you proceed toward getting what you want out of life. “
- To enjoy leisure time it must be done in an active, not a passive activity. TV being the number one passive activity.
- “If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead” Erma Bombeck.
- What are active leisure activities? The author lists Writing, Reading, Exercising, Walking, Painting, playing music, dancing, taking a course as examples. He lists over 300 activities that expand the mind body and spirit in the book.
- “If you are still in the workforce and spend most of your leisure time in front of the TV set, this is certainly not good training for an active retirement.”
- “I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me” Fred Allen
- “Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for:” Mark Twain. I thought I’d throw this one in for my writer friends…. :)
The Zen idea being to live in the moment, as one can never live in the past or future anyway. As a fully engaged retiree, I had always had the belief that one prepares for the future, but one lives today. That meant making sure I worked and played to keep in balance mind/body/spirit.
- “Being in the now is the essence of Zen, an Eastern discipline that has personal enlightenment as it’s goal.”
Lost, yesterday, somewhere
Between sunrise and sunset, two
Golden hours, each set with sixty
Diamond minutes. No reward is
Offered, for they are gone forever.
- This might be a bit heavy, but here goes. Time seems to stretch, sometimes being short and sometimes being long. The faster we go trying to fit everything in, the less time we seem to have. The more we slow down, the more time seems to stretch out. So in essence, if we hurry, we have less time to do the things we want to do. Vice versa, if we slow down, we now have all the “time” we need….
- If you haven’t taken all of your leave lately, it’s a sign you will not enjoy retirement. I’ve recently met a number of strangers and friends who have told me they have not used all of their leave each year. A manager at Red Lobster told me she just took 3 days of leave out of a couple of weeks she has not used and didn’t know what to do with herself. The book goes in depth as to what a person like this needs to do to balance their life out.
- “Knowing others is wisdom, Knowing yourself is Enlightenment” Lao Tzu
- “According to a 2002 survey conducted by AIG SunAmerica, the people most likely to enjoy retirement are those who have planned for it…. 78% of people who prepare for retirement both financially and psychologically view it as a whole new life.”
- Another book on the subject is: Breaking the Watch, by Joel Savishinsky. And; It’s only too late if you don’t start now: how to create your second life at any age, by Barbara Sher.
- “Do not worry; eat three square meals a day; say your prayers; be courteous to your creditors; keep your digestion good; exercise; go slow and easy. Maybe there are other things your special case requires to make you happy; but my friend, these I recon will give you a good life: -Abraham Lincoln
- “It’s oldish thoughts that make a person old” -James “A Farley
- “Above all, let go of your attachment to the idea that you should work hard. Clearly hard work doesn't guarantee happiness. If hard work guaranteed happiness, over 90% of Americans would be happy.
- “Do something everyday to make your life less complicated. Learn to identify the unimportant. You will find life’s a breeze when you work as hard at simplifying it as you now do at complicating it.”
The last chapter is so good and upbeat, I wish I could copy the whole chapter and share it with you. It’s titled; The end has just begun. Though I think it should be titled a new beginning.
We in the Gov had a chart passed around years ago that showed for every year you work past your retirement date, you lost two years of your life.
After reading the book, it dawned on me that I had been preparing for retirement for many years. I remember recently telling a friend that I actually started to think about it in my early 20’s. First, finding a job that would let me retire as early as possible. Later, during my working years, I worked on balancing my life and having outside interests besides work. From there, my love of camping expanded into a new life of traveling the country and exploring and learning about history, culture and the discovery of new places, ideas and experiences. So a happy retirement (though I prefer to call it graduating from work) is possible and I have many retired friends to prove the point as well.
I’d say the bottom line is one needs to have a love of life and an interest in discovering what’s out there. And to accomplish that, one needs to stop doing passive activities and do more active activities. Not waiting until retirement, but incorporating it into a new lifestyle for the now. As the Zen masters say, you only have the now.
I hope this helps any of my readers along their own path to a new life of leisure.