Retiring Without Realizing It

By 25, I think most people have retired. 

I previously wrote about the folly of retirement. How the modern notion of it is fraught with disillusion.

"Retirement", as I see it, is a state of mind rather than one of circumstance. 

What does this mean?

Circumstantial Retirement

Circumstance refers to the environment. It could be as literal as the proverbial beach you lie on. Circumstance is the world where you have achieved freedom. Not necessarily the financial freedom people commonly think about but the freedom to do what you want, where you want and how you want.

Circumstantial retirement is an environment you've constructed that has resulted in not having to do anything. The true philosophical argument would be that once born, we as humans do not ever truly have to do anything. Yet we do things. Ideally, we do them out of choice. I believe that when you choose to do these things, the greater the degree of freedom you have in terms of when, where and what (time, location and direction). This is when you may have circumstantial retirement.

It's the second level point of view on what people seek with retirement. I don't see this necessarily as retirement. Rather, it's the achievement of a life you own and control. 

Now. What about state of mind?

Retired in State of Mind

It's the one where people have chosen to dramatically slow down their growth. To be frank, they've chosen to retard their learning. 

Retirement of the mind happens immediately once one has stopped choosing to learn. It could be having a fixed mindset instead of growth-mindset. It could be the choice to stop reinventing themselves, to not grow mentally or physically, to not pursue the learning of something new etc... You get the picture. 

If you don't, then I shall paint the mental image: That friend you have who has chosen to stay at that easy job at that large company. That friend who knows her job adds no value to the world or the organization. That friend who may put weight on meaningless titles but doesn't care to improve his skill set or to do more than he need to. Where the job is merely a means to and end. An end that she longs for with some infatuation of something grand. All topped up with constant talk of the things he should be doing to improve himself but he never does. The exercise she should be doing but stops after 2 days in January. The healthy eating he should be doing but stops after four days of "juicing". The travel she puts off because she doesn't have enough "money" or the friends he should keep in contact with but he never makes the calls. That friend who has stopped being proactive with anything but has chosen to be reactive at best to life's decisions. 

Time 0 is Relative

It's not a permanent state, for every one of us had to continue to learn to exist and thrive in this social setting. I must admit though, regression is definitely a common phenomenon. See, the assumption is that you remain stagnant or "status quo" if you stop learning but that's a mere illusion. Just like the Earth spins (surprisingly to the flat-Earthers), the world as we know it (aka. civilization) continues to move too. 

In physics, we commonly speak about various objects moving at the starting point of "Time 0". Most people think that they get to control "Time 0". They think that if they stopped growing, stopped moving forward that they would be standing still and be at a new "Time 0" when they decide to start. Unfortunately, the world has moved on. Hence, their "Time 0" is actually something like "Time -20 or -100". 

reiring without realizing your time vs world time.png

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." - Henry Ford

It's Systematic and Non-Binary (kind of).

Well, then does that mean that people who choose to do a job at 25 with the hopes of retiring in that same role have already retired from life? Have they checked out from furthering their own potential? Possibly. Though it's not as simple as yes or no by some definitive metric.

A retirement as state of mind means much more than what you do at work. Work is definitely a material system but this is part of everything.

A decision to not invest in your health, a decision to not be cognizant of your relationships, a decision to retire from various facets that make up the environment of your life. 

Call me over-dramatic but a decision to not grow as a person will probably result in you never making flossing a habit. It's a domino effect to everything, 

To quote Justice Potter Stewart on a 1964 case against hard-core pornography:

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." - Justice Potter Stewart. 

So, as a choice to have retired in mind can cause systematic breakdowns in an individual's life I can't really pin point what that means. It's just, I know when I see it. 

We Decay. Machines Don't.

Nassim Taleb refers to "decay" in his book, Antifragile, when contrasting non-living vs. living objects. We are in the side of the "living", as a matter of technical definition. 

Non-living objects need not be used. For the most part, the more you use them the faster the lifespan of the object will decrease. There is the typical "wear and tear" effect. 

For living organisms, use helps us. That's what Taleb means when saying living organisms are antifragile. We benefit from stress. Scientifically, that's what hormesis is. Stressors are required to help us grow. 

Thus, individuals who have chosen to be intellectually curious, to constantly learn something new to constantly reinvent themselves are putting their mind and body through stress that will allow them to grow and thrive for the future. 

The mentally retired have unknowingly chosen a path of decay. A slow death by a million cuts. 

Being Cognizant Of The Decision

I want to be clear here that I'm not saying retirement is necessarily bad. Not at all. It's a decision one makes. It's just, I don't think many make an intentional decision for it. Or rather, they have made the decision unwillingly or unknowingly. 

The mistake is thinking that it's something you can't come back from. That's what a mid-life crisis sometimes is. People realizing they had chosen to retire at 22 and woke up 20 years later at 42 realizing they've been decaying slowly for 20 years until they feel like they've become so far removed from the changing world that they hit that "crisis" point. Some realize this and choose the path of growth, many choose not to and double down on the losing investment.     

The generation before us had less information. Many were too fucking busy just trying to stay alive. That is still the case in many other countries, but not for those who are fortunate enough to be living in a place that has internet access so that you can read this article. 

We had the great fortune of not needing to think about survival through a war or mass genocide in our generation over the last 30 - 50 years. So it's time to reinvent what a 60 year old looks like. It's time to redefine how the steps of aging look for the next generation. 

As always, keep in mind that I'm just a fellow human on a journey of living just like yourself. There are many caveats to my thoughts so always take it with a grain of Himalayan pink salt.