Time to Hang up Your Boots

I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for the radio. No idea what to write about this week? No problem – there’s an hour’s drive to the first Board meeting. Stick Radio 4 on, listen to the Today programme and somewhere around Monk’s Cross, Malton or the motorway the problem will be solved.

So it was this week, when the sports news was dominated by talk of retirement – specifically, David Haye and Sachin Tendulkar. Haye’s retirement has been prompted by a shoulder injury and he described it as “a crushing blow.”

The little master on the other hand, simply decided that enough was enough. The years had taken their toll, he didn’t feel he was quite the batsman he once was and, he said, “it was time to put my feet up and watch some cricket.”

Radio 4 had a sports psychologist on the programme. He was taking about David Haye, but he might equally have been talking about Tendulkar or any of the thousands of sportsmen forced to retire – or who choose to retire – each year.

His self-esteem is going to suffer. Boxing defines him. It’s what he does. Nearly all his friendships will have come from boxing – and nothing is ever going to give him that same high ever again.

Ditto for Sachin Tendulkar. Never again will he walk out in front of 66,000 adoring fans at Eden Gardens. Never again will he face Jimmy Anderson in fading light with only the tail to come…

So retiring is hard – whatever the reason. It’s no wonder that sport is littered with recently retired players suffering from depression. But as I listened to the sports psychologist, it struck me that you could quite easily cross out the word ‘boxing,’ substitute ‘business’ and the sentence would still make perfect sense.

Virtually all of us are going to have a ‘Tendulkar moment:’ a time when something clicks and we realise we’re not enjoying it any more, we’re not quite as sharp as we once were and that maybe the time has come to hang up the iPad.

At that stage there are two considerations: financial and psychological. Hopefully the finances have been taken care of: hopefully your accountant and your IFA have been advising you along the way and – even if you didn’t get quite the price you wanted – there’s enough in savings to allow you to walk onto the golf course without worrying about losing a few balls.

But the psychology of it is a different matter. How many of us secretly love it when we’ve a last minute deadline and we’re really up against it? What’s better than finally winning the big order you’ve been working on for months? And what’s going to replace the simple fact that the buck absolutely stops at your desk? ‘If it is to be, it is up to me’ as the saying goes. Well, sorry, not any more…

So far, none of my Board members have reached that stage. None of them have sold up and headed for the sunshine. But it’s going to happen sooner or later (and between you and me there’s one particular Board where they seem to have aged dramatically…)

When it does, I hope TAB has done its work. Because as we stress repeatedly – and to paraphrase Bill Clinton – it’s not just the economy, stupid. If work has been your sole reason for existing – if you’ve lived to work – then David Haye is right: retirement will be ‘a crushing blow.’

That’s why I’m always at pains to stress work/life balance – that life is every bit as important as work. Work should not define you. Yes it’s a cliché, but no-one ever did lie on their death bed muttering ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’

Above all, if you get the work/life balance right now – and keep it right – then your eventual retirement is going to be successful, financially and psychologically. And if there’s anyone out there who still thinks a business meeting is more important than their child’s Nativity Play, give me a ring. I could do to let off steam…


  1. Jo Clarkson · November 22, 2013

    Spot on as usual Ed – no matter how much we love our work and our businesses (as I know we both do!)

  2. Dave Rawlings · November 22, 2013

    I have to admit to some conflict here. Part of me says, “I’m still better than the young upstarts and always will be!” (Rage against the dying of the light?)
    Another part knows very well that I passed my peak about 20 years ago!

  3. edreidyork · November 22, 2013

    Dave – that may possibly be true, but doesn’t detract from the fact that in the last 20 years you’ll have added huge amounts to what you bring to people, and long may that continue!

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