One day in the early '80s, I was fixing an ice machine in Seattle at the Horizon House, a very upscale, high-end senior community. The lunch bell rang and I saw 35 women chasing one guy, George. He was 88 years young and the most popular guy in the building. The thought occurred to me, "If you live long enough, the women chase you!" I was 25.
Over the next year a single question kept pecking at me like the raven in Edgar Allen Poe's story: What happened to all the dudes at Horizon House? How come there were 35 women, but just one George? I began reading everything I could find on longevity, which led me to one strange conclusion: if you do what you love, you will never work another day in your life! It turns out that people who follow their bliss, who love their work, who see it as play, whether they work for someone else or are self-employed, are not only happier and more fulfilled, they earn more money and live considerably longer than those who see their job as drudgery.
"If I am what I do, when I don't, I'm not!" What? Does that mean if you are your job, then when you retire, you are now less than what you were before? Evidently. For 68 percent of American men, that's true. Two out of three men who retire are dead within 18 months after retirement. This is shocking yet avoidable. So, why do they die? My theory consists of Four Simple Reasons:
a) They don't exercise in any way on a daily basis (obesity kills).
b) They don't eat properly or in smaller portions (you are what you eat).
c) They don't communicate about real stuff and keep it all inside (silence isn't golden, it's deadly).
d) They retire to nothing (no meaning or purpose in their life).
Women never retire. They find meaning, purpose, and balance from motherhood and grandmother-hood, AND they do a, b, and c! Is it any wonder women live longer?
I was 32 years old when the light came on while listening to Earl Nightingale's audio book, Lead the Field. It changed my direction and my life. I didn't know how I would become a writer and speaker, but I knew I would figure it out. Ten years later, I was doing both full-time.
"I would rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."
-George Burns, actor, singer, comedian, author, at age 99
"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want. If they can't find them, make them!"
-George Bernard Shaw, playwright, author, critic, at age 92
"I love my work. I can't wait to start a new day. I never wake up without being full of ideas. Everything is a glorious challenge."
-Armand Hammer, industrialist, at age 92
This is bliss as defined by Webster's dictionary: complete happiness, heaven, paradise, spiritual joy, ecstasy. Want to find your bliss? Ask yourself the following questions:
- What did you have a passion for at age seven?
- What activity, that when you are doing it, you lose all sense of time?
- If all jobs paid just one dollar, which one would you do?
- If you suddenly won 10 million dollars, how would you spend your time?
- If you found out you had just three years to live, how would you invest your time?
When you find the common thread to all five questions, THAT is your bliss. Follow your bliss and the money will follow, with one disclaimer: it follows after you invest 10 years or 10,000 hours, whichever comes first. I tell this to high school and college kids when I speak to them. Finding a career based on bliss is very different than a job.
Almost all my play is work and my work is play. Whenever I read the New York Times, watch a movie, read a biography, attend a concert, listen to music, or work out at the club, it's both work and play. I am always looking for the causes of success, the clues, and the habits of successful people. It's all connected, blurred in a wonderful kind of jambalaya of joy!
Much to my wife's consternation, I want to be George-alive at a 105! I want to be the last man standing. How about you?