“I checked all the financial boxes, Tony. I’m living comfortably, I’m giving to causes I believe in, I’m even able to help my kids when they’ve needed a bit of assistance. But something’s still wrong. I just feel lost. I can’t quite describe it. I should be doing well. I’m fine financially. I met with my advisor before I retired. I don’t know what’s wrong. I just don’t know why I’m feeling so down, so lost…”
This is a glimpse of a conversation I had at the beginning of last Winter (2020). I was meeting with a business mentor of mine over coffee one morning, just checking in to reconnect and see how retirement was treating him. Having been retired for around 6 months at the time, I expected our conversation to be full of stories of his connections with his grandkids and how his non-profit passion points were filling his time. Instead, I saw a man who was lost. I’m no psychiatrist, but I’d say he was downright depressed.
He graciously pulled back the layers throughout our conversation of how he felt he had checked all the financial boxes. He felt he should be thriving. But the opposite was happening. As God would have it, last Winter, I was in the editing stage of my book. And, around that time, I had just got the first round of edits back. It was a sea of red. Anyone who has used the ‘track changes’ function in Microsoft Word may know what I’m talking about. My first round of edits was called a Developmental Edit. I was fortunate enough to have a Ph.D. of Literary Science from Harvard doing my review. Now, to be honest, when I received her edits back, I was heartbroken. I simply couldn’t comprehend the amount of edits she had done. I submitted my first manuscript thinking I was a decent writer and was proud of my work. It took her about 3 weeks, and when I got it back, and saw the vast amount of edits she made, it was beyond overwhelming. And, if I’m being honest with myself, I wanted to quit. I felt that my best just wasn’t good enough, and that these edits were too vast for me to comprehend, let alone to have time to make.
Throughout the writing process, people would ask me, “What’s the goal of your book?” My answer was easy. I had 2 goals: 1) Raise money for mom’s scholarship fund and 2) help my readers transition into retirement from a non-financial perspective by continuing a life of purpose beyond retirement.
So, something inside me knew I shouldn’t quit. I’ve raised my kids with the mantra “Hixon’s don’t quit.” And far be it from me to eat my own words. So, I rolled up my sleeves, and page by page by edit by edit, I sorted through her changes, and made it through. I submitted that first round of edits back to the publisher around the time I had coffee with my friend. To say that my book’s content was fresh on my mind is an understatement. I knew it through and through.
So, when my friend opened his heart to me, I knew I needed to steward this moment, this responsibility well. And, having spent an inordinate amount of time combing through my book edits, I was ready. I began, “Have I ever told you the story of my mom?” And for the next 20 or so minutes, I articulated not only her story, but also the stepping stones he could traverse that could lead to a life of purpose. “You’ve done a great job stewarding your wealth, and I understand that all the financial boxes were checked. So were my mom’s. What’s missing is purpose. You spent 40 years in executive leadership at the various company’s you’ve led. Now, you’re a bit lost on what’s next. It’s time to do the hard work of identifying your values, and aligning those values with your goals. It’s time to step back, and take inventory of the skill sets you’ve gained throughout your career, and start strategizing who else on this earth could be blessed by you’re involvement in their lives.”
Many tears were shed that morning. From him as he admitted losing his way. He felt embarrassed, he felt that he should be doing better. And from me, recounting what happened to mom. And realizing the impact this story, once published, would have on so many lives.
Later that day, Keri came into town so we could grab lunch together. I told her the story about what had happened that morning. And, as fate would have it, at that moment I received a text from this gentleman as we ate. I asked her if it would be ok if I checked it (I hate it when married couples stare at their phones at a restaurant). “Absolutely!” she exclaimed. I opened the text, and tears began to flow again.
The text read: “Tony, thank you for your time over coffee this morning. Today, whether you know it or not, you saved a life. Thank you for sharing your story.”
I’m often asked, what’s your sales goal for the book? How many copies have you sold? What’s your target number? I often give an obligatory number to satisfy the question. But, gentle reader, know this. I could’ve only sold 1 copy, and based on the text I received from that gentleman that day, it would’ve been worth it.
I’m glad I didn’t give up. I don’t know how literal the text I received from him that day was. But I knew God had put this person in my life for a reason. Every 2 weeks since that time, I’ve connected with him. I’ve checked in. I’m happy to say, he’s doing well. He’s found a ‘second-act’ career, and it’s suiting him quite well. He’s thriving. He’s doing well. He’s smiling. He’s found his path. He’s found meaning. He has purpose. His life stands for something. He’s continuing a life of meaning beyond retirement.
My book may not ever sell a significant number of copies. But, I’m learning to be ok with that. I’m confident, in my own way, that his story is one that I happen to know about. There are others, others that will read this book, but will never take the time to tell me how it’s impacted them. I may never know how many lives…that mom has saved.
I’ve shared her story. And in so doing, she’s saving lives.
The movement is beginning…won’t you join me?
AUTHOR’S NOTE: If the above story is resonating with you or someone you know, please seek professional help. And if you feel you’d find value in my book…in the same stepping stones that helped my friend above…please head over to www.tonyhixon.com/book and order a copy. All profits go to the Pamela M. Hixon Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund at the University of Findlay.