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March 27, 2014 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-03-27

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Carl Seidman seized the day and changed his life.

Carl Seidman I Special to the Jewish News

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died tragically when a tree fell on
his tent during a violent storm in
Ontario's Algonquin Park. In the six
years following, I would lose four
more friends: Matt, Ben and Mike
from cancer and Elana from compli-
cations following a routine medical
procedure. Mike, age 42, was the
oldest; the others died before they
reached 30.
The invulnerability I felt as a
young adult washed away, and I ac-
knowledged the fact that I, too, have
an expiration date. We all do. That
date may be many decades away or
perhaps much sooner. Nothing we
can do will provide more insight into
how much time we have left.
For five years, Karl Pillemer, a
professor of human development
and gerontology at Cornell Univer-
sity, interviewed approximately 1,000
Americans age 65 and older from
around the country, and then docu-
mented his findings. His questions
focused on work, love, marriage and
parenting. He also inquired about
greatest regrets.
Looking back at their lives, these
individuals often reported regret-
ting not doing the things they always
believed they wanted to do most,
even if having done so would end in
disappointment or failure. Pillemer's
interviewees advised taking advan-
tage of opportunities and embracing
new challenges.
They recommended traveling more
at younger ages instead of waiting
until their children were grown or
after they had retired. In particular,
they claimed that because travel

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t's not every day you tell your
friends and family you're go-
ing to retire, especially when
you're only 32.
Setting aside a successful,
decade-long career to travel
the world and start a business
isn't what our culture encour-
ages young adults to do. Rather, our
society conditions us to believe there
is a most-worthy path in life, and,
if we follow it, we will be happy and
fulfilled. If we don't, we run the risk
of enduring hardship and uncertain-
ty, making our lives less meaningful
and likely more difficult.
At the beginning of my manage-
ment consulting career, I didn't
question this motive. I, like many
other Jewish Americans, believed I
needed to work 40- to 50-plus hours
per week, 50 weeks each year, and
be permitted two or three weeks of
vacation to decompress. Over the
course of the next 40-plus years,
I would use the income generated
from my work to lead a traditional,
comfortable life.
Then, after four decades of full-
time employment and more than
80,000 hours worked, I could grace-
fully retire on my savings and invest-
ments at the not-so-spry age of 65 or
so. At that age, the kids would be out
of the house and graduated from col-
lege; I could pursue lifelong interests,
enjoy new and existing hobbies, take
classes and travel the world.
Then, in 2006, everything
Jeff Grey, a friend, classmate, AZA
brother and fellow Tamarack camper,

34 April 2014 I




A.7Z- J 7, -11

was such a rewarding experience, it
should take precedence over other
things young people spend money
Finally, they warned not to spend
so much of life worrying; life is too
short to waste on pessimism, bore-
dom and disillusionment.
We sometimes think now is not
the right time. We think we'll have
more courage, more money and
more time later in life, but there is no
guarantee that a future date will be
any more ideal than the present.
Perhaps I somehow developed
the foresight to know what I might
regret after I got older. Perhaps I was
simply more honest with myself, ac-
knowledging what was most impor-
tant to me and what I really wanted
for my life.
For years, I believed what was
important to my friends, family and
culture should have been equally
important to me. But while there
was certainly much that overlapped,
there was also a lot that did not.
For me, few things were more
haunting than anticipating the regret
of not doing what I wanted to do
when I had the chance. In order to
proceed down a less traditional path,
I recognized I would need to make
some significant sacrifices.
At an early age, I knew poor
choices and bad habits would
negatively impact my future financial
well-being. I have always been very
strategic with and watchful of my ex-
penses. Throughout my early career,
I witnessed some of my peers habitu-
ally indulging in instant gratification,


thus creating financial hardship. In
order to craft an alternative lifestyle,
I needed to be mindful of how I lived
and spent and how my current deci-
sions would impact future opportu-
Would cash outlays in the pres-
ent undermine my future freedom,
or were they investments in my
future self? I recognized the lower
my financial obstacles, the easier it
would be to pursue my vision of an
ideal life.
In February 2013, I notified my
boss I would be leaving my job to
travel the world, pursue personal
interests and professional endeavors.
I named this leap "The First Retire-
Many of my peers and close friends
found my decisions difficult to
comprehend. Why would a highly
educated and successful professional
leave a seemingly certain career path
to venture into the unknown?
"I don't get it. You're just going to
travel the world?"
"How can you afford to do this?"
'What are you going to do when
you get back?"
What seemed like a natural deci-
sion to me came across to my peers
and friends as a very audacious
move. They didn't understand the
urgency I felt to take the time to
pursue my dreams now instead of
delaying them by perhaps decades.
I anticipated a surge of "expe-
rienced" people age 40 and older
telling me I was making a mistake,
ruining my career and my future,
and that if I stayed in my position


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