To great acclaim, Ricky Ponting retired from Test cricket and his role as captain of the Australian team earlier this month.
How did he decide? He said he just knew. Perhaps it was the pressure from selectors due to his lack of performance. Perhaps it was his own frustration at not being able to score runs at the level to which he expected. Pressure from his young family to spend more time with them also was a contributing factor, I suspect. Still, these reasons were around last month, and Ponting did not “know” then.
What’s clear is that Pointing didn’t want to wait for the tap on the shoulder; he wanted to make the choice.
Assume for a moment that you are financially set up so you can retire. And, like Ricky, you want to jump, rather than be pushed.
How do you know when to go?
In my case, I noticed some persuasive clues. I taught at a business school for 10 years (part-time) and one day towards the end of term I realised that I did not want to do this anymore. I found that students started to annoy me (not a good look for a lecturer). I was unwilling to make myself available for extra questions after class. I was not updating my notes.
It was time for me to go.
I suspect that a number of factors will come in to play in your retirement decision:
- You become tired of the travel.
- The drama and excitement of meeting deadlines or forecasts will have turned into stress and pressure.
- Some sort of health scare of your own – or that of a friend – forces you to reconsider the amount of time that you are spending at work.
- You are struggling with the pace of change and its relentless nature and you spend most of your time talking about what it used to be like.
- You no longer wish to play the political game. I have a few corporate buddies who have moved on because they could not or would not play politics anymore.
In the end, it might be that you have simply lost your passion for what you do and you are searching for greater meaning in your life. This partly explains why many experienced leaders end up working in the non-profit sector or with charities.
Our jobs have pros and cons: we retire when the cons outweigh the pros.
Leaders are confronted more than most with the question: is it still worth it?
The wisest of leaders will start to build up a world of positives away from work as the big day draws closer, a palette of activities to occupy their newly-free schedule.
Still, it’s better to retire without a plan than to hang on past the use-by date out of fear and uncertainty (as too many people do).
So if the time has come to jump, just jump.