The Big Push

In my youth I read a book about Vince Lombardi, the fabled coach of the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi was able to motivate a mediocre or average team to world championships in pro football. One of his favorite motivational methods was to urge his team towards “the big push” by exerting more effort.” Lombardi employed this motivation towards the end of the season when winning games were critical if they were to get into the playoffs.

When a class paper needed to be written in a few days or having to cram for upcoming exams I used to amuse my college classmates by solemnly announcing that it was time for “the big push.” I also used this as a rallying cry in a tightly contested sporting event to finish strong at the finish. This was useful at the end of a 5 or 10K race so I could summon the energy to sprint not jog at the finish line. Partly motivation, partly advisory, “the big push” was my mantra when there was little time, and significant effort needed to be extended as an assignment, a project, a finish line or objective was imminently due.

I remember blearily typing a college paper (this was before computers and word processors) the night before it was due. My fingers cramped up from all the typing and my brain froze from fatigue. The words blurred into the paper and I could barely keep my eyes open. I learned my lesson. (No, reader, it was not to wait until the last minute but to find a girlfriend who could type my papers a lot faster than I could.)

Photo by Vlad Chetan-Pixels

The mantra followed me into my career. How many times sensitive projects and assignments required me to expend a lot of effort and time at the end to successfully complete it? I confess that the mantra often was a result of procrastination on my part.

One of the benefits when retiring is that the corporate big push disappears. No work deadlines! No demands from bosses to be met! No late and hurried meetings! No changes at the eleventh hour or rushing to edit/revise a spreadsheet, presentation, flowchart or report.

So does “the big push” disappear at retirement??

The answer is “No.” In fact the mantra becomes more incessant, more personal and more time sensitive.

In our younger days, our efforts were largely to fulfill or meet the expectations of others (employer, client, manager). The target dates for completion could be arbitrarily changed. When we stop working, our focus is on fulfilling our personal dreams and goals. Maybe there were things we put off while working and did not have the time to do. Along with a Medicare card and social security check, retirement provides a mental bucket list of plans and dreams to get checked off. For many of us, this list includes travel, cruises, adventure,  relocation, endless golf and pickleball, philanthropy, and more quality time with family, children, grandchildren and friends.

Regrettably there is no guarantee particularly as one gets older that the vagaries of time, good health, capacity and circumstance won’t interfere with our plans. For example, my stepfather intended to fish and live down the shore when he retired. Unfortunately he had health issues with his heart and with cancer and he never fully realized his dreams dying only a few years after his retirement.

My closest friend’s parents died relatively early. He is obsessed with living as fully as he can daily. He doesn’t need to say the big push mantra, he lives it. Life and experience have taught him the uncertainty of guaranteed future time and opportunity.

Many of us want not only to pursue our pleasures and hobbies  but to leave a legacy, whether it is a result of our charity or community efforts or to serve as an example to our children or grandchildren. This is our big push, indeed it may be our final big push. Let’s not look back at this time with regret but with satisfaction that we used the time and opportunities we had to enjoy life and make life enjoyable and better for others.

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