Chasing the Linear Life Plan, Gary Denver, USA Part 1 - WirSindDu


I haven’t hit 80 yet, but I’m sneaking up on it-

I’ll be 78 in a couple of months. I think that’s close enough to be qualified to provide some insight.

For starters, my first 78 years are exactly like yours in one respect – it has been an ongoing series of choices and continues to be. I am where and what I am as the result of the accumulated choices I have made over the course of my life. And it will end up based on the choices I make going forward.

I’ve been fortunate to have started life without any “blueprint errors,

so I wasn’t encumbered with any physical or mental limitations. Nor did I have a “silver spoon” growing up.

I guess you could say my life has been a low-drama adventure – probably like most lives. Lot’s of twists and turns mixing tranquility with chaos and considerable unpredictability with more than my share of attempts to control the uncontrollable.

I’m an escapee from rural Wyoming

and a town of 800 with a high-school graduating class of 12. I’ve spent more time steering a Farmall tractor in circles, snuck into more drive-in theaters, raided more gardens, killed more rabbits for spending money, and driven more cars that didn’t have turn-signals and seat belts than most.

My college experience was stretched over nine years and three different majors,

all paid for on my own by working 2–3 jobs. My wife of 49 years liked the way I served her food as a hasher at her sorority house and that I was an entertainer/guitar player on the weekends, that I wore sport coats to class and didn’t buy the phony frat boy bit. So I fooled her into a marriage fully aware that I was marrying way over my head.

Our early married life experienced a hiccup – our first son was born severely brain-damaged from an undetermined pre-natal event and succumbed 16 months later, 11 days before our daughter was born. It was a major factor in helping us both build resilience that sustains us today.

I forged ahead doing the “getta” thing:

getta degree, getta job, getta wife, getta mortgage, getta fenced- yard, getta family (2.5 kids), getta golden retriever, getta mini-van, getta title, getta 401K.

I was a poster-boy for chasing the “linear life plan”

i.e. the 20–40–20 life-cycle model that most still succumb to – 20 years of education, 40 years of work building someone else’s dream followed by 20 years (hopefully) of “nirvana” called retirement.




I had begun to question the concept of retirement in my 40’s, as I immersed myself more in the self-development world where I discovered that retirement was never a consideration for most high-achievers. It appeared to me that most of the longest-living humans remained in the creative process rather than retire – a word derived from the French verb “retirer” which means “withdraw.”

So, I’ve chosen not to retire but to remain in the “creative process” ,

as long as I can. I’ve set the goal of living to 112 1/2 (yes, it’s possible and happening every day) knowing that my chances of getting there are pretty slim because of early marginal health habits. But I know that by setting the goal I have a much better chance of getting there than if I just settle for living out the average lifespan of the American male which is 78.9.

Yikes – I’m there!

I left the 20–40–20 track at age 60

and started my own business as an executive recruiter after 32 years of wandering through the desert of corporate employment. I learned, by starting a business that I knew nothing about and was under-prepared to start, that I’m not the entrepreneur I thought I would be and that it’s not the glamorous world people think it is.

The last 18 years have been the most challenging,

enlightening, and gratifying part of the 78-year journey and the part of the journey from which I can draw advice worthy of consideration for a 40-year old.

Here are the cliff notes from the last 18 years:

  • I moved from near millionaire status on paper to an embarrassing fraction of that following three market crashes and draw-down to support my business.
  • Son and daughter launched, rewarded with three wonderful grandkids.
  • Late-life discovery of my core strengths and realization that my 32 years invested in corporate life was a mismatch with my true talents.
  • Acknowledged a talent and drive to help people struggling with major life decisions, especially those at or beyond mid-life.
  • Became a dedicated student of understanding how our minds and bodies work; read over 600 books on self-development, health-and-wellness, brain development, positive psychology.
  • Resurrected a latent talent as a writer and chose to finish out by putting that skill to work along with my ability to help guide others to better mid-life decisions.

So life today is a mash-up of recovery from mistakes,

acknowledgment of innate ability, some victories, and a modicum of acquired wisdom from all of the above. I can honestly say that I experience “eudaimonic happiness” (see this article) and am at the happiest and healthiest point in my life having been able to apply some of the voluminous knowledge and experiences that I have accumulated through my life.

To be continued..

Gary Foster

Executive recruiter, retirement and career transition coach,
writer, and speaker at
Denver, Colorado, USA

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