Author: Kim Potgieter

When work meets wonderful

It’s a wonderful thing when someone loves what they do.

I’m grateful to say that I am one of those people. Each day, I wake up with a clear sense of purpose and passion, knowing that I get to go to work and do what I love. Supporting my clients in their retirement journeys means everything to me. My clients, many of whom I’ve built meaningful relationships with, are on their way to aligning money with meaning in their lives. And honestly, nothing makes me happier.

But feeling this way about my work – about who I am and what I do – didn’t happen overnight. It has literally taken me years, years of introspection and insight. I’ve had to spend a lot of time looking inside myself, accepting who I am and exploring who I can be. And then I’ve had to take time to look outside of myself and to consider the contribution I make in the lives of others.

Having travelled this road of self-reflection, I can say with conviction that it is worth every well-worn step – even if the destination isn’t always clear at the outset.

A retirement that works

Part of what I do in my work is to encourage conversation. Some of the conversations I have with my clients are about work in retirement. Many of them have found work that they are passionate about, which is incredibly exciting to see.

My husband is one of those people. At age 57, Gys found his next career. Well, that’s not entirely true. He re-found his career because it was when he was a young school boy that he started this particular kind of business – hand-making wooden pencil boxes and selling them to his school friends. This developed into making lamps and little side-tables and at the age of 16, he walked bravely into Tony Factor’s factory to show him some of what he’d made. Tony bought everything he had. And so began his career. His business grew to 350 people, with his company making furniture for the likes of Game, Dion and Pick n Pay. This type of business growth meant that he no longer got to use his hands. Instead, he was heading up a big business, managing people and managing money.

Work: it’s a pleasure

Ten years ago, he sold his business and selling woodworking machines has been something he’s been doing ever since. But all my talking about passion, purpose and finding pleasure in retirement got him thinking (Who knew he listened to me!). He decided build a workshop at home so he could work with his hands once again. Owning a woodworking machine business made it possible for him to set up his dream workshop – with machines that most men would kill for! Gys didn’t realise how much he had missed working with his hands – and with wood. This latest venture saw him making things like jewellery boxes and trays. But now, a year in, he’s back in business, making bespoke furniture with beautiful, indigenous wood for commissioning clients. Finding his way back to the work he loves has invigorated him. He knows what he loves. And doing what he loves will be focus for him in the decades ahead, as he starts to leave a legacy with his beautifully handcrafted pieces.

What stands out about people who create encore careers is the way in which they all light up when they talk about their work. Their enthusiasm and excitement are contagious. They live in a place where work meets wonderful. Where do you live?

Moving from loss to a place of healing

“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul. I find myself searching the crowds for your face. I know it’s an impossibility, but I cannot help myself.”

These are heartfelt words from Nicholas’s Sparks’ novel, which was made into the famous movie, Message in a Bottle. The character who writes them is Garrett Blake, a man who lost his wife.

Death. Grieving. Emotive subjects and ones not easy to talk about. And yet all of us have, or will have, the experience of losing someone we love. It’s one of the few things about life that we know to be true – that life itself will come to an end.

No one can ever prepare adequately for this type of loss. It’s exactly as Sparks describes it – an emptiness in the soul. I know because I’ve felt it.

My personal loss

I lost both my parents before either of them had a chance to reach the age of 64. And I lost them in very different ways. My father’s death was sudden and tragic. He was killed in a senseless way – not that death ever makes “sense” to us, right? The victim of a hijacking, my dad’s life came to an end in an instant, before I had the chance to say goodbye to him.

My mother’s death was different but it was no less traumatic. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and her passing took a lot longer than a moment. But even nine months, the length of her illness before she died, feels like a moment in time when you’ve spent a lifetime loving someone. That is how I felt about losing her.

Death isn’t easy to talk – and it’s not easy for me now. But I’m writing about this difficult subject because I’ve just watched a client go through something similar. It brought back the memory of my experiences – the trauma of everything. But also, those truths that death has taught me.

As painful as it was to watch her suffer, my mom’s illness allowed us a little bit of time together. And what I wanted to do most with that time was to make things better for her. And believe me, I tried. I tried to step in and fix.

At one appointment with her specialist, during which the she was talking us through some last treatment options for Mom, I interrupted to ask questions, ready to plot an immediate plan of action. Of course what I was doing was coming from a good place – a place of love and wanting to make everything better. But my directness, my decisiveness – well, they made my mom feel as if she wasn’t even in the room.

Freedom to choose … and surrender

My mother was someone who hardly ever scolded me. But in that moment, she spoke up. She said calmly but very powerfully to me that she was the person who was dying. And so she should be the one to choose the journey of her passing.

Wow. What a milestone moment that was for me.

Her speaking up made me stand back and begin to support her in the way that was meaningful to her, not me. She didn’t need me to control the situation. At the end of the day, the universe was in control. All she needed from me was for me to hold her hand as she chose the journey of her own passing.

And so when my client phoned me in tears the other day about something similar that she was facing, I was able to share that story with her and talk through the importance of acceptance as her new starting point for love.

Yes, it’s hard to hold back when you want to fight. There is very little dignity in death and yes, let’s rage against it for as long as we can. But when raging is not what is needed of you, when it’s time to take a breath and surrender to what is – then oh, what an honour to be allowed into the inner circle of your loved one’s last wishes.

The two faces of grief

This is just one of the lessons that death and grieving have taught me. The author Sarah Dessen writes: “Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”

If you are in pain – the pain of watching someone you love suffer – let yourself be anchored by the weight of grief. Be open to what your tears want to teach you about the people you love. And about yourself.
Grief is such a raw emotion to deal with that I am deeply grateful to clients, Ronelle Baker and Kathy Lithgow, sharing their stories. The April Inflight newsletter was compiled with the hope that something will help those who are grieving towards some healing. Access the full newsletter by clicking here.

#MakeThisTheYearForHealing

Warm regard

Live and Learn

I met Dori Mintzer in Boston in 2014, when I went over to the USA. I had read the book that she and Roberta Taylor had written. The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle is a guide for couples as they navigate retirement together and after reading it, I wanted to meet its author.

I love the impact Dori has made in both the retirement and relationship spaces and I include her principles in the work I do in life-planning meetings with my clients. Underpinning so much of what defines Dori’s contribution is the importance of couples having courageous conversations with each other. In fact, her book’s subtitle is exactly that: “Ten must-have conversations for transitioning to the second half of life”.

In the work that I do, a life-planning meeting is often one of the first times couples tackle some of the serious issues they’ve been too afraid to talk about. A life-planning session can often be the very first time that they have a “must-have” talk.

Those crucial conversations – sometimes decades in the waiting – require courage. And they are hardly ever easy. But what I’ve seen over the years is that those conversations, which sometimes even involve confrontation, generally result in connection.

Right: Dori and i sharing our passion for all things Retirement.

One plus one equals three

I’ve been thinking about what happens behind the scenes of this invisible equation. How does a conversation end up equalling closeness and connection? I think it’s because somewhere, somehow, something profound happens. Between the discomfort and the connection, there is learning.

Learning is the multiplier effect, the fabulous formula that takes a couple from talking to feeling a sense of togetherness. Learning has everything to do with coming across something – or even someone – we didn’t know before.

Have you ever discovered something about your partner at a dinner party, something that you didn’t know before? Someone else asked your wife a question and her answer teaches you something new? When we see something through new eyes, even if it’s a situation or scenario that isn’t of our choosing, we open ourselves to learning. And learning can happen without us even realising it.

Have you ever been retrenched from a job, worked through the humiliation, the having to make ends meet, the needing to change tack mid-career because your situation demanded that of you – and then then ended up thinking that it was the best thing that ever happened to you? Or had a health scare that forced you and your partner to rethink your lifestyle, so much so that you live a better life now than the one you lived before and wouldn’t have it any other way? We have to be open to change, to learning how to do different things – or at the very least, to doing the same thing differently – because not only is that how we survive. It’s how we live.

My challenge to you is simple: don’t be closed to conversation. Discomfort sounds, well, uncomfortable. That’s because it is. But there’s a lot of truth in the adage: “No pain, no gain.” What if you chose to welcome such a conversation? What if it’s just one courageous conversation that stands between you and something magical?

Dori and her husband visited South Africa for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they came to dinner at my home. We didn’t just share dinner though. We shared wine; we shared stories. Dori was travelling with her husband, David – now in his eighties. Together, they opened themselves to exploring Africa. They talk, they travel – and they laugh and learn together. Their learning is their living. Let’s aim for the same.

Click here to access this months Inflight Newsletter in which Kathy Lithgow for sharing her journey of learning with us, thank you Kathy. We love to share stories from our clients.

Best wishes

Alzheimer’s: what not to forget

In her fifties, my gran developed Alzheimer’s. I remember visiting her as a child. One of my first experiences of her illness was when she began to lose her ability to filter what she said to those around her. On one occasion, I took a friend along with me to see her. It turns out my gran didn’t like my friend. So what did she do? She told my friend to leave! This is not something she would normally have done – not the gran that I knew.

Health changes people – for better or worse

And we had no idea at the time how my gran’s health, or lack of it, was changing her. We even thought that she had been drinking secretly, so unpredictable was her behaviour. But of course, this wasn’t the case at all and it was just a few months later that she was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. I had always understood that this disease is genetic and somewhere at the back of my mind, I’ve worried that I might fall prey to it too. Watching her deteriorating was devastating.

But a recent Carte Blanche episode shed some light on the subject. It’s estimated that 9.9 million new cases of Alzheimer’s are reported annually – and while nothing can cure this disease, some simple lifestyle choices can help prevent it.

The three pillars of health

What we eat, how we move and how we sleep – research and the experts tell us that, done well, they can help push back this disease. That’s because the cell loss process begins 20 years before the disease presents. Plus, the role of genetics is less than researchers first thought. It’s actually environmental factors that determine if it develops. That’s encouraging for me – because it means there is less left to fate and more that I can manage.

Take action as early as you can
Physical fitness is all-important. Did you know that all it takes is brisk walking to reverse brain-size decreasing, something that happens in old age? And eating well is essential; when it comes to keeping Alzheimer’s at bay, a Mediterranean diet is encouraged. Did you know that olive-growing regions rich in fish, vegetables (especially leafy, green ones), fruit and seeds benefit us cognitively and reduce our risks? Sleep, that third – and one of my favourite things – pillar (or is it pillow?) is important for brain function. The slow wave sleep phase is when your brain development increases.

Will these three pillars eliminate your risk of Alzheimer’s? No. But apparently, they can more than halve it! That’s a statistic I’m happy to work with.

So, to the three pillars then! And to a cruise on the Med – purely for health purposes, of course!

Warm regards

It’s time to #MakeThisTheYear

Our Retire Successfully theme for 2017 is #MakeThisTheYear.

Yes, why not make 2017 the year? And don’t allow the usual objections to hold you back … I am not sure if it is the right time. What will others say? What if I fail? Doesn’t that seem a bit selfish?

So often, regret happens because we put many of our dreams on hold, waiting for the perfect time. Ask yourself: when is the perfect time? Will it ever come? Let’s not miss doing the things we have always wished we had. The time I share with clients in life planning meetings is always extremely special, as clients express verbally, often for the first time, those dreams they have cherished, but buried deep. They may never have even acknowledged the desire clearly to themselves, but quietly waited for the perfect time for this nascent desire to come to light.

Often, just verbalising and sharing the idea, knowing that someone else recognises that desire, makes it more possible to realise.

The NOW is what is important. Today, look at January 2017 and say: I am going to #MakeThisTheYear.

Whether it is having a difficult conversation, going on that trip, joining a dance group, or just having some fun, what is important is having the courage and the willingness to make it a reality.

So, today is the perfect day to start.

A Chartered couple in a recent life planning meeting shared with me that when they give friends who need encouragement a copy of Dr Seusss book: Oh The Places You’ll Go. The book opens with these inspirational words:

Congratulations

Today is your day

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!

And ends

So … Be your name Buxhaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O ‘Shea,

You’re off to great places!

Today is your Day!

Your Mountain is waiting

So…..get on your way!

So whatever your mountain, #NoMoreExcuses #JustGoForIt #Make this the year.

I look forward to hearing from you what you are going to do in 2017.

Best Wishes

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