Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Refusing help can upset acquaintances

This is something that I learned from experience.

Once people learned that I wasn’t working, I got a number of emails from friends, colleagues and even from minor acquaintances offering to help me find another job. A full time job is such an integral part of who we are that for many it is unthinkable that someone may not want one.

They would often ask for a copy of my resume to pass along, and also suggest job openings that they felt I would be suitable for. (This reminded me of matchmakers who are pressuring their single friends to pair up.)

However, my plan was to try out a lot of other things that I had been unable to pursue when working full time. So I thanked these friends, but I didn’t send them my resume.
Because I didn't respond in the way they expected me to, the phone calls and the emails stopped. I quickly realized that I had unintentionally offended many of these people who had only wanted to help me.

Lesson: So here’s something to keep in mind when you drop out of work. Prepare a well formulated response (just 2 or 3 lines) to send back to those who offer to send your resume around. In your response be extremely tactful, acknowledge and express your appreciation of their desire to help and ask for time rather than refusing the help outright. This is how I would do it, knowing what I know now.

There is also something very positive that I noticed as this unfolded: I was very heartened by the fact that people have such an innate desire to help others.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Bill Gates is trying to change the world -- TED Talks 2009

We live in wonderful times. This year's TED conference just ended. It would have cost $6000 to attend, if our application was even accepted. But thanks to the Web, we get to listen and watch fantastic presentations by the best and the brightest for free.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. They hold an annual conference (invitation-only) where the absolute best in these three fields get to present, mingle and discuss ideas. Al Gore presented in 2006. The recent conferences have focused on collectively solving some of the world's toughest problems.

I started to pay more attention to TED ever since our local PBS channel started broadcasting some of the TED presentations and slide shows. They are unfailingly thought-provoking. A friend, Kalyan, swears by their podcasts.

I recently learned that many people start their workday by watching one TED video as a way to stay inspired.

I have included below Bill Gates' presentation this year. Don't miss the bit he does with the mosquitoes. Plus, it is gratifying to see data about the impact that great teachers can have on a whole class. (Makes me wonder if I ever took the time to thank my teachers.)

Check this out.

You can find many more TED videos here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Early Retirement – So are you bored?

“Do you get bored?” In various gatherings, I hear people ask Rupal some variation of that question. They are asking her because it’s been close to one year of not working for her.

The simple answer is no. I watch her verbal gyrations as she gives diplomatic answers. Not bored, she tells them because there is lots to do, things to take care of, new things to research.

In the seven months that I haven’t gone to work there has not been a single day that I’ve had problems spending time. No matter how much free time one has there are books, movies, podcasts, blogs and new and interesting websites competing for that time.

In a recent issue of Kiplinger’s finance magazine, I read the last editorial by Fred Frailey just prior to his retirement. He writes of his predecessor telling him that “there will come a morning when you'll wake up and realize that every day is a Saturday."

Yes, there are many reasons to go back to work after dabbling with retirement. Financial reasons, or maybe one’s career ambitions resurfaces, or one’s feeling of self-worth is tied to how productive one is in society. These are all good reasons but boredom shouldn’t be one of them.

New Yorkers, never ones to hold back are fond of saying about their beloved city. "If you are in New York City and you are bored, it's your own fault."

That exact sentiment, I suspect, applies to early retirement.