Books, organ recitals and retirement

I am challenging myself to read more, a failed challenge for several years. I recently found the magic bullet to making it happen. I read in bed for an hour before I fall asleep. It’s relaxing and a perfect way to end my day. I am working my way through my Kindle library and stack of unread books.

I recently finished “Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride across America and how to realize a more Enjoyable old age”, an account of self-discovery while riding a bike ride across the USA and “Purposeful Retirement: The baby boomers’ guide to a new Level of happiness”, a textbook-like manual for a happy retirement.

These two distinctly different books spoke about two subjects dear to me, cycling and having a happy retirement. Both authors spoke about retirement in different ways but centered on a shared theme of living a better life in retirement. Here are five words that are my top takeaways.


Your job, home, and family define you for most of your life. Work life disappears or is greatly reduced. Homes are downsized and decluttered. Children have flown the coop. What are you left with? Many people struggle with these dilemmas early in retirement.

Finding a purpose in life is key to a happy retirement. You have more time on your hands. Your can build on the purpose you had in your pre-retired days or discover a new purpose. Volunteer, spoil your grandchildren, or pursue a new career. Or you can just do nothing and die.

“Whatever chose to do, whatever purpose you direct your retirement toward, choose to be happy. Choose to have a great, happy, purposeful retirement.” Hyrum Smith in Purposeful Retirement


My grandparents seemed old when I was young. Times have changed. Today’s baby boomers in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are much more active. I see seniors venturing out on bikes, hikes, and active vacations. Many of today’s leaders are well into their senior years. All are things uncommon in the 1960s.

A common theme I see in these people is that they challenge themselves. The challenges may be physical, mental, or just stepping outside of the norm. Challenge yields growth. You can challenge yourself and live or just die.

“That was hard, and, doggone it, I did it.” Don Petterson in Old Man on a Bike

Organ recitals

Did these words bring a vision of Bach echoing from an immense pipe organ in a gothic cathedral? Gotcha! I am talking about sitting around the table at a diner comparing aches and pains. I am talking about posting your intimate details and photos of your hip surgery on Facebook.

If the above is way too familiar, you need to put a stop to it now. Change the subject. Post something that tells people more about that makes you happy. Talk about your vacation or you’re the world’s biggest big zucchini in your garden. Focusing on positive topics shuts down the organ recital. You can stop talking about organ recitals and live or just die.

“Talk about anything else. We need to have something meaningful to do and talk about beyond what is on television and the calamities of our last bowel movement.” Hyrum Smith in Purposeful Retirement


You have beliefs Unfortunately; you may overshare them. I am not talking about spiritual beliefs but everyday beliefs. Examples include innocent things such as “fat people are lazy” or “it always rains on weekends” and unsavory beliefs such as “democrats are baby killers” or “republicans are racists”.

Hyrum Smith frames this as our belief window. Our beliefs define how we see the world, our window to the world. The challenge is to eliminate the toxic beliefs that are not true and live by the healthy beliefs that are true. You can Windex the dirt from your belief window and live or just die.

“As you see the world through your belief window, it affects every thought of every day. And if you change your principles on your belief widow, you can change your life” – Hyrum Smith in Purposeful Retiremen


Life is better when with a purpose, a challenge, a positive outlook, and free of unproductive beliefs. Life is about having time for yourself to relax. The world is fast placed. That also applies to seniors. The urgency of your younger years is replaced by nonurgency in senior years.

Time management is important. Hyrum Smith’s Franklin Planner may be a relic from the past, but its principles apply to every facet of life today. Allocate time and prioritize things that are important to you. That includes time for relaxing in retirement. You can spend more time relaxing and live or you can just die.

“I have had a greater appreciation of what I feel are the good things in life, such as family, friendships, and a beautiful sky, the pristine white coating of the land just after a snowfall, a brilliant sunrise or sunset, music, works of art, books, films, and other natural and man-made wonder.” Don Petterson in Old Man on a Bike

Now back to my reading. I am currently reading “Everyday Ambassador: Make a difference by connecting in a disconnected world” by Kate Otto.

The important thing is to choose what makes you feel joy and satisfaction, what makes you feel like you are making a difference, and what will help you be happy in your retirement. Or you can do nothing and just die.” – Hyrum Smith in Purposeful Retirement

No more organ recitals!
Tom Bilcze

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