Think back to Bill Gates in his Harvard dorm room when he first conceived of the idea for Microsoft. Did Windows come out fully formed, with all the functionality that it has today? Of course not. He started with Version 1.0. I’m sure the features and functionality of that first version would look positively pedestrian to us today. And yet Microsoft continued to build on in it and improve it; continued to learn new things, make new discoveries and design new features. Version 1.0 lead to Version 2.0 and so on.
Call it what you want—versioning, iteration, incremental progress—this same process can be seen when we look at any significant discovery or undertaking. The airplane didn’t stop at Kitty Hawk. Apple didn’t stop innovating after the original iPod. The first person to take a stab at Everest didn’t make it to the top.
Retirement: Version 1.0
What if we applied this idea of iteration to retirement? What if, instead of waiting until 65 to have the retirement of our dreams, we started with a Version 1.0 at 45? A version that doesn’t quite have all the “freedom and control” functionality that we hope to have in future versions, but one that allows us rich experiences nonetheless.
Then we could take what we learned and apply it to creating a Version 2.0 in our 50s. With a little more money saved by that point and the knowledge and experience gained from testing and implementing Version 1.0, we could likely design a fairly robust “product” that included things like mini-retirements, travels and learning new things. Even though work would likely still be a part of the equation, it would be done in service to an existing lifestyle rather than as a pre-payment of dues for a club we hope to someday be invited to join.
Then when we actually reach that stage in life where our saving and circumstances allow us complete control over our time we would be infinitely better prepared to implement a feature packed, real-world tested Version 3.0. Rather than struggling with inertia and trying to figure out what we really want out of life (and wasting some of our best remaining years in the process), we would be ready to hit the ground running.
“Once in awhile it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” ~Alan Keightley
The purpose of this post isn’t to provide all the answers, but to get you thinking about the process. Your retirement doesn’t need to look like the “Retirement” that our culture has defined. It can and should be something that is uniquely you. Grab a piece of paper and spend five minutes writing out some of the key things that you want out of life. Jot down the plans and dreams that have up to this point been reserved for “someday.” Now ask yourself this question: “Do I want to wait until the final third of my life to do these things?” If the answer is no, then start thinking about what you can do today to design Version 1.0.
Thanks for reading. I’m on the road exploring Sweden (call it beta testing Version 1.0), so updates at the site may be a little more sporadic than usual. Have a great week and touch base if I can ever help out or answer questions.