It was a little after 5 PM on a Friday afternoon and THE WIFE and I were sitting on the front porch with THE NEIGHBOR and FLOYD SOLO when my phone rang. My phone almost never rings, so I flipped it over to see who it was and then gave THE WIFE a raised eyebrow look.
“Hi boss. What’s up?”
It was THE CTO. The man I worked for at THE BLUE COMPANY, and then followed to THE METER PLACE. The one who I work better with than anyone I’ve ever met, and the man who I have a fierce sense of loyalty to. The one who left THE METER PLACE a week before I did. The one who can make me see past my doubts and concerns about the things I’m not sure I want in my job anymore because it’s different when we work together.
One of our last conversations at work was similar to one we had the day I resigned. That’s when he told me he was leaving, too, and was taking a new job in Austin. “Austin, you say? That just happens to be one of the few cities I’m willing to travel to. If you need my help, I’ll answer your call. I may not do the same for others, but I’ll answer your call.”
And my phone just rang.
Was this just a check-in? Doubtful. We’ve known one another for years and it’s great to talk, but that would be out of character. We exchange friendly texts, but a call to just check in on me? That seemed unlikely. So we chatted and I wondered if this was THE CALL. THE CTO was frustrated by being information starved. He was venting his frustration to his wife, saying “I need THE RETIREE.” She told him to call me. At worst, we would get a chance to catch up, which we did.
As he continued to talk I walked back out to the front porch, looked at THE WIFE and mouthed “It’s THE CALL.” He needs my help, and I’m willing to overlook at lot of my rules about work for this one individual. All told, we talked for about an hour. I told him we had a number of details to figure out, but I thought we could work something out. He told me he’d be back in touch.
While I waited for his next call, I made some notes. All told it was about a two page bulleted list of questions, some of them very pointed. But these are things that were important to me. If I’m considering going back to work, I need to know how the operations in India work and how the teams work together and how politicized the environment is and and and…..
I sent him the notes and he called me back a couple of days later. We had a great discussion, but then we hit a sticking point – he wanted me to move to Austin. I told him that was a no go. THE WIFE has a great job that she has no intention of leaving, and I don’t see us living in separate towns. That’s just not who we are. So he challenged me. “How would a work remote situation work?” We talked it through for a bit and he told me he’d think about it. I made a couple of points for him to consider. 1) My main contact in the Finance organization at THE METER PLACE was in Minnesota. In three years I only saw her face to face twice. 2) THE CTO and I often met via conference call with me sitting in his office and him in his home office three miles away. Being in the same room definitely helps, but we met remotely almost as much as we did face to face in our last 12-18 months of working together.
I started researching housing in Austin, both in terms of apartments and condos. If I might be traveling there two weeks out of the month or more, a home base made sense. THE WIFE and I discussed how to get a car to town and how to arrange all of the other details. It was all quite a bit to take in for a guy who was spending his days making sourdough, but it felt good to engage.
A few days later I spoke with a Senior Director at the company and we began working through the nuts and bolts of what the job might entail. Eventually I was asked what I saw the role being, so I wrote that up. At first I wasn’t sure why, but I eventually realized that they were asking me to tell them what I wanted to do so that they could see if that matched their needs. I wrote up a list that roughly was “here are the things that I’m good at and that I think I can do to help you”. After some more discussion they asked me to come up with a proposal, so I sent them a couple of options, both as a full time employee and as a contractor. I asked for a lot of things, some of them a little crazy, and I cut the travel back even more, suggesting up to 50% in the short term, but eventually settling down to about a week a month, and mostly to Austin. After a couple of negotiation calls and emails, we came to an agreement.
So MY FIRST RETIREMENT is about to end.
I had to give this a lot of thought. I’ve spent the last eight months learning a good bit about myself. I see what motivates me and I see what will make me work against myself. I have a new perspective on what I do and do not need to control, and what I’m willing to do in my interactions with others, whether that be in a job or in some other capacity. Truth be told, I’m stepping back up to probably a higher level of stress and work than I was doing before, but I’m doing it on my own terms. Those terms just happened to line up with the needs of THE CTO. He’s probably the only person who could get me to consider work like this again, much less traveling for work, but he asked. I was prepared to do something less. Hell, I was seriously considering the bakery idea that all of you have floated my way. But, more likely, I was thinking about other technical or financial work, just in a diminished capacity from what I was doing in the past. Instead, I think I’ll be doing more.
So have I lost my mind? I don’t think so. I was in the incredibly fortunate position of not needing a job, so I was able to be totally in honest in what I asked for. I didn’t get everything by any means, but I was able to make the things that are important to me a key piece of the negotiations. Ultimately, I asked for the following: I want to do things that I’m good at that will help you. I want to be successful. I don’t want to do things where I am going to struggle. I’m not interested in stretch goals or career development or any of that. I want to do things I’m good at that you will appreciate.
It’s simple, but it sounds crazy to say out loud.
If you’re wondering if I have doubts about all of this, I do. I’ve been telling people that this is either the smartest or the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. The thing is, I think it’s probably leaning towards the smart side. It’s going to be a lot of work; possibly more than I’ve ever done. But I see the chance for it to be very fulfilling, too. And isn’t that what I’ve been after all along?
The next question is what does this mean for My First Retirement? I don’t see the blog going away. I’m actually rather interested in how the transition back to work, the remote office arrangement, and the travel will all play out. I think it could be worthwhile to see how all of the things I’ve thought about for the past few months will apply in the working world. Plus, I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not going back to work for ten or fifteen years. This is a focused, shorter term assignment to set things up for THE WIFE and me so that My Second Retirement is the final one.
So I guess it’s time to start the next phase of the adventure.