One of the champions of the late bloomers is Colonel Harland David Sanders who reportedly founded Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 70! Actually, it was much earlier than that, in 1952. He was 62. But, probably the legend is more related to the fact that its meteoric rise was only noted several years after he first started and most significantly when he sold the business to a group of investors in 1964 at which time he was 74.
One of our biggest failings in modern history is the notion of retirement.
It is the shared opinion of many experts that early retirement is one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I will not waste space here relating the results of studies verifying its impact on longevity, but I need to look no further than to my own personal experiences to note the number of seemingly totally healthy associates who have died within months of retirement. The issues with alcoholism in retirement communities is legendary. Life is purposeless when it has lost its purpose. When it is no longer engaged in its work.
By the age of 70, most folks understand how unsatisfying accumulation, artificial stimulation, intoxication and even extensive travel can be. Having been through the crucible, they are better able to focus on the impact of decisions and events on others than being almost totally absorbed with fulfilling their own needs. This is when their leadership and perspective is most needed.
To install leaders in corporations with mandatory retirement dates and to incentivize them with stock options is only encouraging them to exercise short term and selfish thinking – to devise their own brand of golden parachutes which inevitably leave their constituents without work and short change investors.
The same might be said of politicians and their entry into public office which might seem to be more driven by the desire to sustain their jobs and gain their retirement benefits than to truly do what they are there to do. Public office has become an entry into a world of lucrative speaking engagements, under the table deals and cronyism. No one should allowed into public office who has not already provided well enough for his or her own needs without having to use the office for economic enhancement. Our leaders should not be incentivized to sell the governed short.
Graduating from college in 1938, my father was a product of the Great Depression. I am told that he wanted to work for J.C. Penney – the company and the man. The Synopsis in Bio says, “J.C. Penney was an American businessman born on September 16, 1875 in Caldwell County, Missouri. He worked at a dry goods store where he learned the business and eventually opened his own store in 1902. He expanded to 175 stores by the time he retired in 1917. He stayed active behind the scenes at the company to help plan the chain’s future. During the Great Depression, his stores survived by offering a good value to customers on a budget. He was a member of the company’s Board of Directors until his death on February 12, 1971.” The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted into the early ‘40’s and the 2nd World War. J.C. Penney was there when the company and the country needed him.
Our institutions have wandered far from their responsibility in protecting public good. Our elders must be unselfish enough to recognize the importance of their role in providing guidance into the future; and, as with cultures before us, we need to relearn to respect the counsel of these people.