Just before my father Mel died 14 years ago, he told me in his weak, cancer stricken voice, "I could have done so much more with my life." I disagreed with him vehemently and together we reviewed his accomplishments. The most important was the great childhood he gave my brother and I and the loyal husband he was to our mother Millie, for almost fifty years.
He did plenty, from sports to business to coaching.
My father grew up with an older brother in the back of a candy store on the west side of Chicago. He was raised by his mother Rose, a young widow. He didn't go to college. I'm pretty sure he didn't even finish high school; however he was a voracious reader, artist, comedian, and a writer. In business, he was an imaginative and provocative promoter.
He was right, though. He could have done more.
He could have explored his other talents or stayed more active in business…or both.
Dad's statement had a profound effect on me. Soon after my father's death, I began writing one-liners that were published in the media. Later I penned columns that have been printed in newspapers and internet sites. I also ventured into the hotel business, while maintaining my other businesses.
Not everything worked, but because of Dad's regrets, I was determined to keep my mind open to opportunity.
THE SECRET TO A RICH LIFE IS TO HAVE MORE BEGINNINGS THAN ENDINGS.
As I have breached upper middle age, I've noticed some of my friends staying with the old grind, determined to do so until the day they die.
Last week I was a pall bearer to a dear friend and contemporary who, as they say, died with his boots on. He toiled until he was too sick to work and died one week after his last day on the job. That was his choice and I believe he was happy with it. He originally felt under par after his third expedition on a golf course in a week. As I always say, better stricken swinging a wedge than pruning a hedge.
What you do in the second half of life shouldn't necessarily be a financial decision. If you can't live on SS or other sources, you may have to continue earning. If you do work, however, do something you always wanted to do or stay with what you always loved. The clearest way to misery is to do something that you hate!
Also, include your spouse. Get into what she does and encourage her to involve herself in your passions.
BETTER LOSES THAN REGRETS
The classic example of a productive life is George Burns. He started performing at age seven as Nate Birnbaum and continued until very close to his death at 100.
Too bad, because he was booked at Caesar's in Vegas on his 100th.
After a busy and successful career and the death of his partner and the love of his life, Gracie, Burns kept plugging away. His biggest hits came AFTER he was 79.
He once said, "The happiest people I know are still performing. The saddest are the ones are retired."
For me, it's been staying in the business I love, while turning over more and more to my children. That has allowed me to explore whatever other talent G-d may have bestowed upon me. I still spend plenty of time with wife, kids and grandchildren, while golfing when time allows. But the key is I want them to see someone that looks at the possibilities of life and doesn't hide from them, just because the tooth has grown longer.
After all, the example you set in life is the most important inheritance you can leave your children.
So go ahead. What do you have to lose except regrets on your deathbed?
If you make it to 100, you might just get booked at Caesar's.