3 Exit Lanes to Self-Help Retirement Guides

For Transitioning to a Happy, Healthy, and Meaningful Retirement, These Books Should Be REQUIRED Reading!

3arrowsI submit there are basically three ways to learn something new by reading about it. One is the tutorial format, a.k.a. an instrument of “programmed learning.” Another approach is the comprehensive reference manual or user guide. Finally, many people prefer a narrative story, perhaps a fictitious account that features characters exploring and revealing insights on the topic you are studying.

Do you recall the first time you had to learn a complicated new computer application? After installing it to your computer and some initial nail-biting, you trotted down to the bookstore to purchase “something” to teach you Corel WordPerfect for DOS or Adobe Pagemaker for Mac (two historic examples that are no longer available today). Usually, you were greeted with a choice… a comprehensive user manual or a tutorial workbook!

I am applying this concept to three mini book reviews of preparation for retirement. All you have to do is select your favorite “learning style.”

ZelinskiIf you were looking for the reference manual, I recommend Ernie Zelinski’s How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free (2016). The chapters are laid out by general concepts you need to understand. However, as in many user guides, you could turn to almost any page in the volume, jump around (in any order) to specific areas on which to focus, e.g. tips on travel (page 165)  to health/wellness (page 109), and not lose the overall meaning.

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free is one of the most easy-to-read and humorous publications on the market and best resources for a frank discussion of the emotional aspects of coping with retiree life-style changes/altered expectations, and finding creative new ways to self-reinvent and thrive. Quoted from the book’s Preface:

Retirement can be both exciting and demanding, bringing new challenges, new experiences, and new uncertainties. Regardless of how it turns out, retirement normally turns out far different from what people first envision. For some, it is a big disappointment. For others, it is merely a big annoyance. And still for others – much to their delight – retirement becomes an opportunity to live life like never before.

Here is Zelinski’s Table of Contents:

  • Chapter 1: Thank Heaven for Retirement!
  • Chapter 2: Retirement – A Time to Become Much More Than You Have Ever Been
  • Chapter 3: So Many Worlds, So Much to Do!
  • Chapter 4: Take Special Care of Yourself – Because No One Else Will
  • Chapter 5: Learning Is for Life
  • Chapter 6: Your Wealth Is Where Your Friends Are
  • Chapter 7: Travel for Fun, Adventure, and More
  • Chapter 8: Relocate to Where Retirement Living Is Best
  • Chapter 9: Happiness Doesn’t Care How You Get There

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The tutorial’s approach is a logical progression of chapters/how-to sections that must be read and completed in order. There are often worksheets, exercises, or activities to complete at the end of each chapter. The hierarchy of these “units” build a sequential set of competencies for which you must master one by one, a prerequisite before going on to the next section. Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (2016) is a perfect example of this method. Actually, it is based on her earlier work, The Artist’s Way (also a tutorial), plus 25 years of teaching artists to “unblock their creativity” using her tools “Morning Pages” (stream-of-consciousness writing) and “Artist Date” (reserved weekly block of time to nurture your creativity). Perhaps both editions should be consumed/and worked chapter by chapter.

In It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Cameron’s introduction sets the tone for her “lessons” on “defining and creating the life you want to have as you redefine and recreate yourself.”

In this book you will find the common problems facing the newly retired: too much time, lack of structure, a sense that our physical surroundings suddenly seem outdated, excitement about the future coupled with a palpable fear of the unknown. As a friend of mine worried recently, “All I do is work. When I stop working, will I do… nothing?”

The answer is no. You will not do “nothing.” You will do many things. You will be surprised and delighted by the well of inspiration that lies within you – a well that you alone can tap. You will discover you are not alone in your desires, and that there are creativity tools that can help you navigate the specific issues of retirement.

quiet-read-1496189The contents of It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again are divided into a weekly course of study:

  • Week One: Reigniting a Sense of Wonder
  • Week Two: Reigniting a Sense of Freedom
  • Week Three: Reigniting a Sense of Connection
  • Week Four: Reigniting a Sense of Purpose
  • Week Five: Reigniting a Sense of Honesty
  • Week Six: Reigniting a Sense of Humility
  • Week Seven: Reigniting a Sense of Resilience
  • Week Eight: Reigniting a Sense of Joy
  • Week Nine: Reigniting a Sense of Motion
  • Week Ten:: Reigniting a Sense of Vitality
  • Week Eleven: Reigniting a Sense of Adventure
  • Week Twelve: Reigniting a Sense of Faith

Finally, in the usual Ken Blanchard inspirational style of creating characters that act out a story, the book Refire! Don’t Retire (2015) sets the stage for an easy-to-understand narrative, specifically how to “make the rest of your life the best of your life.”

the-story-1243694The fictitious “Larry and Janice Sparks” share anecdotes of their experiences, modeling potential opportunities of retirees enhancing their relationships, stimulating their minds, revitalizing their bodies, growing spiritually… basically rekindling passion in every area of their lives.

Co-authors Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz relate their chance first meeting on a business trip:

“So what are you into and what’s new in your life,” was the beginning of our plane conversation. For the next fifteen minutes, we spoke with growing enthusiasm and animation. We talked about the things we were doing, and especially what we were excited about. When Morton mention he was working in the area of older adults and looking at aging from a new and different perspective, Ken piped up and said he’d been thinking about similar issues. The term he was using was “refire” – an attitude of embracing the years ahead with enthusiasm rather than apathy. At that moment, this book was born.

Their story, a “parable” on coming to grips with retirement, is organized in five sections:

  • The First Key: Refiring Emotionally
  • The Second Key: Refiring Intellectually
  • The Third Key: Refiring Physically
  • The Fourth Key: Refiring Spirtually
  • Putting It All Together

book-eyes-1251357You will notice that all three texts cover many of the same subjects, but are vastly different in methodology, style/design, and overall structure.

If you need additional ideas, I can also recommend these three fairly recent releases on retirement preparation:

  • Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP (2016)
  • Happy Retirement – The Psychology of Reinvention: A Practical Guide to Planning and Enjoying the Retirement You’ve Earned by Kenneth S. Shultz (2015)
  • How to Survive Retirement: Reinventing Yourself for the Life You’ve Always Wanted by Steven Price (2015)

With a focus on music educator retirees, all of my past articles are archived on this blog-post: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/retirement-resources/.

Finally, feel free to peruse the ultimate retiree resource guide rev 071416,  a handout for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Summer Conference session entitled “Surviving and Reveling in Retirement,” which was held pages-1426262at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania on July 11-13, 2016.

More critical than any instruction manual for using a computer program that will likely “come and go” over a short period of time, making sense of the “awesome” passage to retirement and finding satisfaction and meaning in your “golden years” are essential. These 5-star rated books provide excellent insight in facing this issue squarely, and taking steps to plan for your retirement. I recommend getting your hands on and browsing all of these resources.

To sum it up, I will echo Ernie Zelinski’s final thoughts:

The way I see it, you will have attained true freedom in this world when you can get up in the morning when you want to get up; go to sleep when you want to go to sleep; and in the interval, work and play at the things you want to work and play at – all at your own pace. The great news is that retirement allows you the opportunity to attain this freedom.

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© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Those Tricky Interview Questions

Much has already been written and posted here for prospective music educators to market their professionalism, learn personal branding, networking, and prepare to “ace” those interviews. If you have not read them previously, take a few moments to acquaint yourself with my past articles that explore these subjects in greater detail. Click on the above link, “Becoming a Music Educator.” – Paul K. Fox

On your way to your first music teacher employment screening? “Break a leg,” as they say, but watch out for several possibly stressful moments during the interrogations.

Whether you are dealing with an inexperienced interviewer or a pro who’s deliberately trying to catch you off guard to see how you handle yourself, awkward questions are sometimes asked of you that seem to come out of left field.

And, sorry, in this competitive market, it’s your job to deal with them!

ball-605592_1920Be prepared for anything, and don’t slip up on “interview potholes” – any of these “terrifying, treacherous, tricky, and troubling” inquiries or potentially hot topics like…

  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment in front of the class?
  • What was your greatest professional failure.
  • Why did you leave your last employer?

The U.S. News & World Report MONEY online site offered “How to Answer the 5 Toughest Job Interview Questions” by Robin Madell (http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/03/18/how-to-answer-the-5-toughest-job-interview-questions), including the biggie, “Tell me about a time you failed,” often asked of applicants to any field.

Quoting career coach Christie Mims, Madell recommends to respond honestly. “Highlight a failure and then follow up with what you learned and how you changed,” she says. “Interviewers are less concerned with the failure than how you handled it. (You are human, after all.) They want to know that you are capable of thoughtful growth and can handle stress under pressure.” And, as for “What are your greatest shortcomings?” – again, be honest. Madell cites Medallia Vice President David Reese: “Many interviewers are not really looking to find out whether a candidate’s organizational skills could use improvement, or that they struggle with presenting to large groups or even leading large teams,” he says. “They’re trying to find out whether they have self-awareness, whether they are able to be critical, and most importantly, whether they’re able to tell the truth – when it’s difficult.”

looking-for-a-job-1257233_1920According to Lee E. Miller at http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-answer-tell-me-about-yourself-interview-question, one common “open-ended” question begins with, “Tell me something about yourself.” It demonstrates how the candidates will handle themselves in an unstructured situation, show how articulate and confident they were, and “what type of impression they would make on the people with whom they came into contact on the job.” Your response should be positive and focus the interview on your strengths and accomplishments. You should not answer with a snappy, “What do you want to know?” Miller says this implies that you are unprepared for the interview and likely to be equally unprepared of the job.

Another good perusal is “5 Great Answers to Awkward Interview Questions,” by Dominique Rogers, Monster Contributing Writer (http://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/great-answers-to-awkward-interview-questions), which revisits “Tell me about yourself!” and also includes a discussion on several other “thorny” questions:
  • What’s your passion?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current job? and How do we know you’ll stay?
  • If you were a fruit or a pizza topping, what would you be?
  • How do you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What would you do if you were given multiple tasks to accomplish in a day—and you knew it was flat-out impossible to do them all?
  • Have you ever had to confront the situation where someone on a team wasn’t pulling their weight? If so, what did you do?

human-1211467_1280Instead of a traditional interview (like most of the above) stating opinions about yourself, you may be faced with a behavioral interview. This type of employment screening requires job candidates to relate stories about how they handled challenges related to the skills and qualifications the company requires for the position. For this, you are encouraged to read “Acing the Behavioral Interview” by Jeanne Knight at http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/acing-behavioral-interview. She goes into great detail about how to define appropriate skill sets and develop specific anecdotes to support your experiences and growth in these areas. Knight concludes, “Familiarizing yourself with the behavioral interview style, crafting and practicing your stories and doing some homework on the position you seek will ensure that you won’t be caught off guard should you encounter a behavioral interview.”

The Ladders website also offers excellent insight on how to respond diplomatically to inappropriate interview questions based on age, nationality, religion, marital/family status, etc. (see article by Lisa Vaas at http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/dont-answer-interview-question).

It is likely you will be asked about your philosophy of student discipline at least once during the screening process. Develop a proactive classroom management perspective. Do not fall into settling for “sending the bad kids to the principal’s office” as a solution to poor behavior. Preventive discipline, confidence, and control in handling your own class are absolutely critical. Again, this would be an excellent time for storytelling, giving an example about a specific disciplinary incident, something you had to solve in student teaching, subbing, or at a previous job.

questions-1151886In the unlikely event it gets asked, how would you respond to, “You say you are a musician? Are you temperamental?” Administrators want assurances and evidence that you are levelheaded, responsible, organized, reliable, and indeed NOT temperamental. Freelance singers and instrumentalists often have active performance calendars. Your principal may come out and ask if you will be available to “make the music” with your students after-school or evenings, and that your “gigs” and other non-district related activities will not interfere with school concerts, open houses, field trips, festivals, parent meetings, and other educational events for the growth and development of the total music program.

Here are a few final tips, in summary:

  • Be true to yourself. Say what you mean. (If you get the job, you may have to “eat your words!”)
  • Do not try to predict what the members on the interview panel want to hear from you.
  • Do not get carried away and volunteer too much information.
  • Avoid badmouthing previous bosses, school districts, or job assignments.
  • Be inquisitive, interested, motivated, and actively engaged in the “give and take” of the interview.
  • Never ask at the first interview what you would receive in pay and benefits.

What’s that saying? “Never let them see you sweat? At a job interview, always remain cool, calm, and collected. In advance, prepare answers and supportive anecdotes in response to all interview questions, and “go for the gold!” Good luck!

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© 2016 Paul K. Fox