Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

Retirement Reading List

This post is a duplication of our newsletter, The Weekly Reset, where we review a key theme each week. In the spotlight this week: Retirement reading list, what books have helped you improve your retirement?

A note from Johann

Retirement is a great time for reading

And for the pleasure of learning from books

When the people of the present Boomer generation were in their school years, curiosity about most subjects needed an expedition to the library. Either that or you had to find someone in the community that had a knowledge of the subject. Think of it now, anything you could conceivably want to know about is available on the Internet. All it requires is a question to Google. Every book you could want to read or even just read about is almost immediately available on any device you have to hand.

The accessibility of so many impressive titles is a gift to people retiring. At a point in time, people predicted that the rise of television and the expansion of the media would cause the decline of reading. What has happened is the opposite. People are reading more, but the instrument of reading has changed. We now read on our electronic devices. For curious retirees, there is now a feast of opportunities for information. It is no longer just binary fiction or nonfiction. Now we can tap into vast libraries of education and training, current affairs, practical medicine, dating sites and much more.

Self development is a particularly appealing option for the retiree. By adopting a growth mindset we can always stay engaged in learning new things and broadening our horizons. Whether learning a new language or finally trying to understand quantum mechanics, you can pick up on all the subjects that have been ‘saved’ for the future while full-time work forced other priorities.

Reading, of course, stimulates the imagination and provides the ‘escape’ that retirees can tap into. Many retirees also have a covert wish to become a writer. Some manage it, and for those that do, the psychological reward of seeing something they have written being published is wonderful. Instead of withdrawing into idleness as many retirees do, committing yourself to a regular writing routine is an energising and very rewarding retirement occupation.


Our top pick this week:

The Body – A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

A user manual for the body peppered with the wit and superb observation we’ve come to expect from Bryson.

The Body by Bill Bryson

For The Body: A Guide for Occupants, the American – British author Bill Bryson gives another master class in simplifying the somewhat inexplicable as he did in A Short History of Nearly Everything. This non-fiction work is an owner’s manual of sorts for any person wanting to better understand and appreciate their body and the complex functions that interact to make us who we are.

Mr Bryson is well known for his witty and well-researched explorations of non-fiction topics. His works ranging from science to history are all entertaining while still informative, and this book is no exception. In it he gives numerous inspiring examples of our incredible functionality, which read more like a brilliant work of mysterious fiction than what would otherwise qualify as a manual.

“We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted.”

Quizzically, he explains an unusual task undertaken by the Royal Society of Chemistry to estimate the specific cost of ‘building’ the actor Benedict Cumberbatch. This oddity alone had me hooked, and I knew I’d be turning the pages till the very last. Why the curiosity with rebuilding a body? It’s a starting point to exploring the mysteries that exist beyond the building blocks.

“…the only thing special about the elements that make you is that they make you. That’s the miracle of life”

He ventures into an exploration of microbes and the important function they play in our daily lives and wellness. I found this particularly interesting given the recent focus on gut health and the link to mental health. Next he weaves an intricate thread from one organ and functionality to the next making room for science as well as wonder. He explores the majesty and mystery of the brain, the heart, the hormones, our bones and how our upright status has its downside for procreation. He then touches on one of my favourite topics, sleep, and the issues of disease and even death.

Why you should read it
This book will satisfy lovers of history, science, sociology, and spirituality alike. It is easy to take our health and abilities for granted when we are younger. As we age we tend to have a a greater appreciation for our bodies, and I think this book can help with some of that realisation. It serves as a reminder of the incredible combination of functions and complications that come together to make us work. Instead of aging with trepidation, we can do it with a sense of renewed awe and gratitude for how incredible our bodies are. I thoroughly recommend this head-to-toe tour of your bodies, which Bill Bryson so expertly guides using both anecdotes and facts in an entertaining mix. In the end, he leaves us with the distinct sense that our existence is simply astonishing.

Click here to preview the book on Amazon

Our Spotlight video:

A Retirement Reading List

In preparation for retirement there is a wealth of wisdom and information available to us in great works of literature. We explore a few titles we have found informative, entertaining and relevant to the challenges faced by retirees making the transition from full-time work. Read along with us, tell us your thoughts on these works and let us know if there are books you’d like us to review.

Weekly spotlight video

Other highlights for the week:

Reviewed: The Good Ancestor by Roman Krznaric

How to think long-term in a short-term world

The Good Ancestor by Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric is a public philosopher and in this book he urges us to adopt what he calls ‘cathedral thinking’ as a way to become good ancestors and ensure better lives for the universal strangers of the future.

He believes that good ideas and long-term thinking are the answer to securing the future and solving many of the problems that are a result of our short-termism.

Roman Krznaric’s theory is that our almost pathological adherence to a short-term frame of mind and a slavish adherence to ‘the now’ means that we have colonised the future. We consume, spend, and propagate with no regard for future consequences, as though no one will inhabit the future. And future generations have no voice with which to protest our actions.

By only thinking of our immediate needs and not considering the impact our actions have on future generations, we have taken our species to a near precipice of disaster. This includes the impact on our environment, our character, our health, our work ethic and overall productivity. Taking stock of the legacy we will leave for our children, and for future generations, should galvanise us to long-term vision and action.

He gives us 6 ways to think long as an antidote to this problem
Deep-Time Humility – humankind’s existence is barely a blink in the vast timescale of the cosmos.
Legacy Mindset – adopting a mindset that focuses on future generations is our hope of being seen as good ancestors.
Intergenerational Justice – shifting our mindset to morality responsibility rather than just legacy.
Cathedral thinking – planning project beyond our lifetime
Holistic Forecasting – considering multiple options for the future of civilization
Transcendent Goal – striving for one-planet thriving.
Though not everyone might agree with Krznaric’s arguments and theories, he does a great job creating memorable insights which are inspiring. His writing is accessible, and he leaves plenty of room for for us to come up with our own future visions and ways to address short-termism.

Why you should read it
When I started reading his book, I was reminded of a family visit to Barcelona a few years back. Two of my grandchildren were with us when we toured La Sagrada Familia. Both my son and I stood agog at the depth and breadth of Antoni Gaudi’s vision.

He designed a basilica that he knew would only be completed centuries later. Various generations would need to be involved in the project without ever seeing it finished. It’s hard for us ‘modern’ folks to imagine creating a plan that most certainly won’t be realised in our lifetime – never mind generations beyond.

At Reset, we encourage retirees to have a long-term view of their time in retirement because it helps us develop our purpose and mission, which in turn keeps us engaged and motivated. With this book, the call to action is even stronger and the possibilities even broader. Just imagine being part of an intergenerational plan like the Future Library Project or La Sagrada Familia. It changes a person’s perspective – and that’s why we think this book is so relevant to Reset.

Click here to preview the book on Amazon

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Wildcard Post of the Week

How to start making music
Click here to read the article on Psyche

Most Popular Quote of the Week

If you always read books, you’ll always be happy. – Bruce Feiler
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If you always read books, you’ll always be happy – Bruce Feiler

Weekly Poll

This week’s question:
Can we grow healthier in retirement?
Click here to answer the question in our Facebook group

Last week’s question:
What books have been most valuable to you in navigating life’s challenges?
Our favourite answers:
The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life by Edit Eger
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Retirement The Psychology Of Reinvention by Megan Kaye, Kenneth S. Schultz
It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron and Emma Lively
The Bhagawad Gita

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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.