1) What does “retirement” mean to you?
The word “retirement” is a historical phenomenon. The idea that you work for a certain number of years, then you stop working and then you retire – become that older person who plays golf or does the gardening – is outdated.
It’s been found that people who retire after doing work that they love die early because they don’t necessarily make the shift to another place where they can find meaning in life, contribute vigorously and continue to learn and grow.
The way I look at the word retirement: it means putting on a new set of tires! In my case, I just got a brand-new set of tyres and they are really high performance. Great working tires for an all-terrain vehicle fired up and ready to go. I can’t wait.
2) How do you keep yourself fit – be it physically, financially and socially?
Financially, I am very fortunate at this point in my life. After having worked for decades, I no longer run my business as before. Our projects today are more focused on passion than profit.
Physically, I stay fit by wearing a 10- or 20-pound weight vest daily when I go on my morning walks! I’ve got a very active mind, so I also listen to audiobooks during these walks. I consume a brand-new book at least once every week just from those hours of walking. And then that wasn’t quite enough, so I also carry with me little garbage-picker sticks and empty plastic bags. As I walk through East Coast Park with my weight vest, I listen to an audiobook and clean up the park. Each one of those activities fuels me with purpose, keeps me healthy and wanting to contribute to a bigger cause.
To stay socially fit during these times of Covid, I have adapted to (using) Zoom, where my wife and I would reach out to friends and connect over coffee or a glass of wine. Sometimes these conversations are even richer than how they used to be in person. When we’re outside, there can be distractions like the menu, the waiter, and the weather; but now we’re just right here focused on one other.
3) What’s your advice on living life to the fullest?
One is to cultivate a community of care amongst people whom you are really concerned about and whose wellbeing you’re committed to.
This means I check in with them, reach out to them and make time to be together. I engage with them by genuinely exploring shared or new interests. I (also) curate small groups and I’m very fortunate so far. For example, the Asia Professional Speakers (APS) association, which I founded here in Singapore years ago, has become a flourishing community of hundreds of people.
The second tip is intellectual stimulation. Get (your) brain cells firing. Part of that is to be an ongoing learner and the other part is to be an ongoing contributor. Decide what you want to do with the rest of your life, know who you’re going to care about and determine who you’re going to contribute to.
4) Speaking of wellbeing, what are your tips for effective stress management?
Stay physically healthy. This is the top priority because your existence is dependent upon your physical body. Get fresh air, exercise, and spend time with nature, but also watch your nutrition.
I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, and one of the finest books that I’ve found over all these years is called How Not to Die. What a title! It’s written by a hilarious medical doctor named Michael Greger. He has done mountains of research and has a whole team that analyses scientific papers published every year on nutrition.
Once, my doctor was worried that I had liver damage and wanted me to take Statins for my cholesterol. I checked Dr. Greger’s website, NutritionFacts.org, and learnt about gooseberries. The dried version – amla – is common in Indian food. I told my doctor to give me 6 months, started taking amla, drank my smoothies with a bit of gooseberries in there and went back 4 months later for another test. My doctor said, “Your cholesterol is better than normal! What did you do?!”
5) How has Covid-19 affected you?
I’ll be candid and say that it has settled me down. I used to take over 100 flights every year, which meant that I was always in an airport lounge, hotel room, or plane cabin. I was in permanent jetlag. And that really took a toll on my sleep. So, now that I’ve been able to just settle down, I can concentrate on the big projects that really matter to me.
But life is what life is and we are just incredibly grateful to be here, have each other and be in an era of technology where we can still connect across the ocean without travelling.
6) Where will you jet off to once the borders open?
Both my wife and I are scuba divers and our last dive trip was pre-COVID. We’re desperate to get back to the Maldives, where the water is warm and the manta rays are waiting for us!