Don’t Blow it in Phase Three!
You may think you have your future planned out perfectly, but life may have other plans …
With special guest, author Jaye Frances
Episode 20 - Don't Blow It in Phase Three
It’s a large part of the traditional American Dream—working hard, building financial security, and looking forward to retirement, a time when life can be lived to its fullest.
At least, that’s the premise. And there’s a lot of folks who continue to embrace the concept of delayed gratification it as a core belief, structuring their lives to conform to a sacrifice-now-reap-the-rewards-later-mentality.
But what happens when life presents you with a diversion, requiring you to change your plans. And instead of living the last third of your life your way, traveling, working on your hobbies, or pursuing a new career, writing a book, or just being able to spend some uninterrupted time with your spouse is no longer an option?
Hey, Welcome Back. This is Roger Reid with another episode of Success Point 360.
During my fourteen-year “internment” at Eaton corporation, I was always amazed at how many of my co-workers were looking forward to retirement. Working long hours and sacrificing time with family, they gave up many of the things that were personally important, so they could retire at the top of their salary scale.
And then—they promised themselves—they would start living their real life.
Their plan was usually divided into three phases.
Phase one was all about establishing a career, buying that first home, getting married, and starting a family.
Then came phase two, a time to invest and save, to get the kids off to a good start, and to make a major push to rise to the uppermost position available within their profession.
And then, finally—Phase Three!
For many, it was not only a time, but a place. Maybe it was a cabin in the mountains, with a fifty-mile view to the horizon. Or a beach house, with nothing between the deck and the ocean except a hundred feet of sand. For others, it was a top of the line RV, with a plan to see as much of the country in five years as possible.
Yet, regardless of where their phase three plan would be realized, the payoff was always cast sometime in the future—when all the obligations and responsibilities of their “regular” life were behind them. A time when they could do what they wanted, pursue their personal interests, and not worry about work schedules and company responsibilities.
Many folks looked forward to re-connecting with their spouse, spending time together as a couple, without the distracting demands of a career and the financial pressures of supporting a growing family.
It’s wasn’t a bad plan.
And for some, it worked.
They retired at sixty-five, downsized to a condo in Florida, and hit the road in a brand new Winnebago.
But what about the others—those who didn’t make it to the finish line? They worked their way through phase one and two, and could hear phase three calling to them in the distance . . .
And then, life threw them a curve.
It might have come in the form of a phone call—news from the doctor. Or maybe it arrived suddenly, without warning—in the form of a heart attack or stroke.
What happened to the hopes and dreams they’d looked forward to for the majority of their adult life?
They were exchanged for a semi-private hospital room, drug regiments, and a reduced quality of life that changed the scope and magnitude of the activities they’d planned. Instead of camping at Yosemite, or visiting Paris, they were forced to appease their wanderlust with the view from their living room window. And on a good day, they might journey outside, all the way to the mailbox and back.
The worse part? While laboring away in phases one and two, they had no assurance their dreams of retirement would actually come true. They assumed their life-map would unfold exactly as planned, but in reality, they had no idea how their lives would really turn out.
Neither do we.
The future, and our place in it, remains a mystery. Yes, we can make predictions, based on how well we take care of ourselves—hoping that diet, exercise, and regular doctor’s visits will raise our odds of arriving at phase three with excellent health and a full set of faculties.
But there are variables we can’t control . . . or predict. We can’t anticipate the drunk driver who runs the red light and hits our car broadside. Or the genetic defect that remains hidden until we hit sixty, and then, releases a catastrophic disease into our system.
Here’s the point: You can’t count on the traditional three-phase life-strategy to pay off, even when you do your part. Counting on the future to conform to a long-term life-plan is risky. At best, it’s an uncertain possibility, with contingencies beyond our control.
Even when we work hard, sacrifice family time for our career, postpone the vacations, and give up the weekend getaways with our partner, living an exciting, carefree adventure in the last third of our life is not guaranteed.
Even those who ultimately arrive in phase three financially secure and in good health can find themselves disappointed and dissatisfied.
Why? The reasons often come as an unexpected shock. Not only because they were unanticipated, but because they were so easily preventable . . .
Number one: They forgot how to enjoy themselves. Unable to appreciate the simple pleasures associated with a walk through the forest or a stroll along the beach, their mind is somewhere else. After thirty or forty years of cultivating the necessary mindset for solving problems, finding solutions, and getting ready for the next big something, they’ve lost the ability to “be in the moment.” Their brain is so programmed, so well-trained in deductive, results-oriented reasoning, they can’t appreciate a straightforward, uncomplicated experience merely for the pleasure it offers the senses.
Number two: Their spouse has become a stranger. Putting career and professional goals in first priority for so many years extracts a heavy toll on relationships. Trying to re-kindle a marriage after decades of neglect often reveals the disappointing truth: The fire is gone—because it wasn’t tended, fed, and supported. In essence, it was allowed to die, a collateral casualty of an aggressive campaign to conquer the C-Suite.
And now, each partner finds themselves living with a stranger of convenience.
Number three: The activities they were looking forward to, no longer interests them. Time changes focus. The hobbies, travel, and leisure pursuits that stirred their interest at forty no longer appeals to them at sixty.
The common regret? They should have done those things when they were foremost on their mind.
Admittedly it might have been on a smaller scale, but taking time to enjoy a personal interest when the idea is new and exciting is a far better option than pushing it into the distant future when time will have diminished the joy and reward of participation.
Number four: Their life-partner passed away before they could enjoy the payoff together.
There is no better real-life example of the perils of waiting to live a better life than the true story of Evan and Frankie, by author, Jaye Frances.
On track for a perfect phase-three payoff, Evan was a corporate executive, working his way up the organization and investing for the future. His wife, Frankie, was a year away from tenure as a college professor. And while they both appreciated the higher than average income they enjoyed, they were looking forward to their own phase three, a time when they no longer had to juggle their demanding work schedules and could spend an entire day together – just the two of them.
And then they discovered life had other plans.
Their story has been reprinted in several magazines and eventually became the centerpiece of a collection of short stories, entitled “Love Travels Forever.” The piece summarizes the risks of waiting for a phase three payoff, and does it so well, that I asked the author if she would share it with my readers.
I’m pleased to say she agreed. And I urge you to share this with your partner, spouse, or significant other. If you’d like to share the story, Jaye has set up a link to her website, where anyone can read it for free. You’ll find the link in the show notes for this episode.
And now, Here’s Jaye with Love Travels Forever …
There’s something special about planning a vacation. Whether it’s a cruise to the Caribbean or a hike into the Grand Canyon, the anticipation of exploring new destinations and discovering jaw-dropping scenery fires the imagination with the promise of new experiences and the possibility of making new friends.
Many times, pictures of idyllic white-sand beaches, cotton candy sunsets, and swaying palm trees become the recipe for a second honeymoon, when the obligations and responsibilities of everyday living can be left behind to enjoy some uninterrupted time with your spouse.
Typically, we begin the process by perusing resort websites and travel brochures. We read the schedules, check the itineraries and, if budget and timing allow, make the reservations, looking forward to the departure date like a child counts down the days to Christmas.
More often than not, however, we set our travel plans aside and return to the more practical side of life, telling ourselves that someday we’re going to try that new resort in Mexico, or spend a week relaxing on a cruise ship in the Caribbean or Mediterranean.
Bottom line, we seldom associate a sense of urgency with our travel plans. We consider the comfortable accommodations, the activities, and the new sights we’ll see as luxuries, while making the assumption that the future will always hold the same possibilities and opportunities.
But life has a beginning—and an end.
It’s one of those irrefutable facts that none of us like to think about. And for a forty-five-year-old man named Evan, it became a reality much too soon.
I met Evan on a Caribbean cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. We were both browsing in the onboard gift shop when he approached and asked for my opinion about a tie he was considering. He’d forgotten to pack one and the recommended dress for the dining room that evening was formal.
After he’d chosen the conservative dark blue, we chatted about the usual topics—where we were from, the ship’s itinerary, and what we thought of the food.
“Are you traveling with family?” I asked.
He hesitated, as if not sure how to answer. Finally, he offered a resigned smile and said, “Yes, I suppose in a way, I am.”
I resisted my natural curiosity. My questions would extend beyond the boundaries of polite conversation. He must have seen the confusion on my face because he immediately offered an explanation and in doing so, shared one of the most moving and powerful memories a surviving spouse can have—the last time they traveled with their soul mate.
He called it their “goodbye cruise,” and even though his wife—Frankie—had been gone for four years, he described their last journey together with such detail and emotion, it was easy to imagine it could have happened last week.
They had received the news from the doctor without warning. It didn’t seem possible—the prognosis, the short time that remained. And when the oncologist began talking about a treatment schedule, Frankie had wanted to wait. There was something else she wanted to do—something more important.
A cruise. Together.
It was a trip they had often promised each other they would take. But for reasons that are all too familiar, they had put it off, postponing what was now the most important thing in her life—a life now measured in days instead of years.
“During the first half of the cruise, Frankie was so excited. She reveled in the quick kisses on the dance floor, the secret scoot of the proper piece of silverware as the next dinner course was served, and the short strolls we took down secluded stretches of beach. But by midweek, I noticed she was walking the decks a bit more slowly, and in the evenings, she wanted to turn in early, right after dinner.
“The last three days of the trip, she was too tired to sit through a meal in the dining room, so we had our food served in our cabin. But we were never lonely—the friends we made on board would always drop by and check on us. A soft knock on the door and Frankie’s eyes would brighten, and then she would flood them with questions: ‘What color were the flowers in the table centerpiece? Which tour excursions did you take? Did you swim in the ocean or just walk along the shore?’
“Occasionally, someone would make a comment about a particular restaurant or activity being so enjoyable that it would definitely be on the list to do again, on their next cruise. And then there was a sudden silence as everyone remembered that re-visiting the same destination was not an option for my precious Frankie.”
Evan paused as he saw the tears gathering in my eyes. He reached out and took my hand. “So now,” he continued, “I take the same cruise every two years, reliving the moments and memories—the times when we walked hand-in-hand along the beach or when we asked for a breakfast table just for two, and especially when we watched the islands pass from our balcony, talking about what it would be like to live there . . . for the rest of our lives.
“The first time I traveled alone—that first trip after Frankie was gone—was very hard. But now I can almost feel her sitting next to me, or standing close by on the deck. And even though I miss her like hell, I really believe she wants me to be here.”
We hugged. We cried. And as we parted, he left me with a special wish: “Don’t wait for tomorrow,” he said. “Live now. Travel now. Fill your lives with the joy of new people and places while you are together. Even if you can’t take that big trip, just spending three to four weekends a year with the love of your life is better than a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that never happens because, for one of you, a lifetime just wasn’t long enough.”
It was a difficult story to hear, and an even more difficult one to write. But it was a story full of love and compassion and it echoed the wisdom of the old adage, ‘You never know how much someone means to you until you lose them.’
My chance meeting with Evan was an incredible gift, reminding me of how fortunate I am to have my soul mate by my side. Yet I also know that life changes with the seasons. And if one day I find myself navigating this world alone, I will remember my visit with Evan and be grateful for his unwavering spirit, and especially for his story about two hearts and a love that travels forever.
* * * * *
I’ll leave you with this:
Assuming we’re going to live to a healthy, enjoyable and productive old age is the traditional norm. But like most assumptions, there are no guarantees. And delaying gratification—the kind that comes from enjoying the journey—is taking a huge risk with the quality of your life, regardless of how long you live.
That’s it for this episode. I want to thank Jaye Frances for providing a recording of her short story, love travels forever. If you’d like more information about Jaye’s writing, I encourage you to visit her website at www.JayeFrances.com. There are lots of free reads and sample chapters from her seven books as well as links to her articles on personal improvement and living a healthy lifestyle. Her website link is also included in the show notes. And certainly, if you have a question or comment about a past episode or any topic related to business or personal development, you can send me a voicemail by using the link in the main header of the successpoint360 website, or you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
Link to the story, Love Travels Forever: https://jayefrances.com/excerpt-from-love-travels-forever/
All other content, © 2020, Roger A. Reid, All Rights Reserved
© 2020, Roger A. Reid, All Rights Reserved