Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three Stages of Life

My friend and former boss Tally emailed me a link to Lee Iacocca's "9 C's of Leadership" (widely quoted). I agreed with Iacocca's 9 C's and went out and bought his 2007 book: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

It's a blistering attack on President George W. Bush's Administration, timed, of course, to help influence the 2008 election. Given President Bush's popularity ratings, many would probably agree with Iacocca's criticisms. Alas, given the political nature of the book, some non-political gems of his thinking have gone largely unnoticed.

In thinking about his own life, Iacocca acknowledges that it took years into his retirement before he discovered:

Getting back to the meaning of retirement, I like to look at life as having three stages. The first is learning. The second is earning. And the third is returning. A lot of the baby boomers are still yearning in the third stage, because they’re never satisfied. But if you think of retirement as a time for returning – of giving something back to society – it can transform your life.

Learning. Earning. Returning. It's similar to a maxim I learned years ago: Do well to do good.

While I find I agree with a lot of Iacocca's thinking, I disagree a bit with his his suggestion that retirement is the time for returning. Iacocca came late to the realization that one should give something back to society, recognizing this need to help him find fulfillment his retirement years.

My friends Wayne and Mike made the returning point to me when they asked me to consider leaving my newly-gained partnership in Andersen Consulting - and its income - to join the Cuomo Administration in 1983. Now, 26 years later, I still recall them observing: "This State has been so good to you - look at how successful you've become. Don't you think you should do something to repay that goodness?"

I'm grateful that because of my parents and society, I got to learn and I got to earn. I'm also grateful that because of my upbringing and friends, I've gained great personal satisfaction in having the opportunity to start and keep returning, long before my retirement years.


  1. Retirement=Returning? Ask this question to those whose retirement savings were wiped out by the recent stock market crash.

  2. If Returning means Giving, one does not have to wait till retired to give. And if learning stage is for the young --- no wonder I feel so young since I am thirst to learn more every day.