“Good for you”! “You’re so lucky”! “It must be nice”! “You’re too young to retire”!
I hear these words a lot these days since I retired from law enforcement when I turned 50. At first I felt a little guilty and I thought that I needed to explain myself. Now, almost four months into this new journey, I find myself very comfortable telling people that it IS nice and that I honestly feel like this is a dream come true!
I was a Detroit Lakes, MN Police Officer for almost 25 years and a Correctional Officer in Clay County, MN for 3 years prior to that. In Minnesota, cops are blessed to have the opportunity to begin receiving their pension when they turn 50. I accepted a financial penalty for leaving at 50 (55 is considered the optimum time to retire) but I weighed the options in discussions with my wife and family. We took a lot of factors into consideration when making this huge decision: finances, health, opportunities, insurance, travel plans, etc.
I really feel like I left law enforcement on my own terms and at the top of my game. I had been the Chief of Police for 5 1/2 years and I was working with an incredible team of professionals. These men and women are dedicated, ethical, loyal and trustworthy! We had no major issues that we were battling and I enjoyed going to work. Do you know people who feel trapped in their current situation and they dread going to work – counting down the days to retirement like a prisoner counting his days of incarceration toward his eventual freedom? I never felt like I was trapped and I didn’t view age 50 as some sort of finish line that I had to hold my breath until I crossed it.
The reason I didn’t feel trapped is because I had (and continue to have) plans and goals for the future. I knew that I didn’t want to be a cop forever – it’s a young person’s game and there are physical and mental demands on our peace officers that take a toll on their bodies and minds. Several years ago I began making plans for a life after law enforcement and I began doing research and taking steps to make these dreams a reality. I knew that I didn’t want to be that person that I’d seen many times before – the person who hates their job, hates people, and is miserable to be around.
My dear mother taught me to look at the positives in life and focus on them, and I think I’ve become pretty darn good at being the optimist. I also recognized that if I stuck around this career, it had the potential of sucking the optimism right out of me. I wasn’t even 100% convinced that I would even physically survive until I was 55 if I stayed in the career!
My sideline gig of being an entertainer as a one-man-band has blossomed much more than I could have ever imagined. I get so much satisfaction out of playing for people! Just in the past 4 days, I played for a group of beautiful people at an assisted living facility, I sang a couple of gospel songs at a funeral for a 100 year old WWII Veteran and then played for a rowdy group of people for a friend’s 50th birthday party and got home at 4:15 in the morning! My heart is exploding with the joy that I get from doing something I absolutely love to do and making that positive connection with others!
Through the years I found myself talking with people about events and situations that are burning within me and I discovered that my stories were making a difference with the people I was sharing them with. I recently have had people ask me about “Stormin’ Norman” – a true story that I shared with them over 10 years ago! I am humbled and excited to the point of being giddy that stories and life examples that I have shared with people make them feel good and the stories help them look at the world in a positive light! As a result, a couple of years ago I began laying the groundwork for another post-cop-life career: Motivational Speaking.
I have been working with a coach/mentor and a team of amazing marketing geniuses to help me spread this message to others and to work with organizations. By sharing music, stories and experiences with their members, I hope to help them find their life “rhythm” and “beat”. I strongly believe that if the team members of an organization are focused and know what their purpose is, the results are incredible for the team members, the team, and the customers that this team is working with!
So… I’m now self-employed, playing music and sharing stories of life changing events in my life to groups of amazing individuals, loving this life I’ve been blessed with, and working my tail off so that I’m not wasting a second of it! You’re right! It IS “nice” to be “retired”. Here’s to our NEXT STEPS! My wish for you is that you find your passion and lay the groundwork to successfully get after it!!!