Paul Butler | The ‘R’ word

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

I keep hearing the “R” word. I just don’t seem to be able to avoid hearing it now. The circles I tend to move within keep mentioning the “R” word. Just yesterday I heard it again. The “R” word is “Retirement.”  

Even though I still think I’m 26, I’ve come to accept the three decades that have crept up and jumped up on my shoulders. In the words of David Bryne, “How did we get here?” Turn those digits around and I’ll be at the most-commonly thought-of age for the “R” word. 

Lord willing, I’ve decided I don’t want to “retire” in the traditional sense. When that time comes, I’d rather “retire” to other meaningful projects. For me personally, I want to be all used-up when I leave this beautiful Earth. I’m filled with excitement about continued opportunities to be of service to others — maybe a new vocation altogether when our business is picked up by our partner who is 15 years younger. I know for sure I’d certainly like to continue writing. 

I’ve always enjoyed working. I come from a family of industriousness. I just don’t see myself on endless vacation, taking trips near and far. I’ve never enjoyed golf. I still see so many options to grow and countless opportunities to be of service rather than to self-serve.  

I used to work for Marriott International as a regional finance director and my boss was a gentleman named Nicholas — a man of impeccable character and very competent at what he did. He was a leader worth following. A real gentleman in the true meaning of those two words — a gentle man. I never saw him in a bad mood. He never snapped or snarled. Perfect poise. Calm, clear-thinking and caring are memories I have of working with Nicholas.  

I reconnected with him recently. He’s now retired and lives just outside of London in the United Kingdom. Nicholas looks better than ever. Debonair, well-groomed and with focused vitality. I asked him what he’s doing with his time and I’ll always remember his response: “I’m a hotelier at heart Paul as you know — it’s in my blood. I just love helping people and being of service.”  

Nicholas went on to explain that although he enjoys playing golf (albeit badly, by his own admission), once a week with old friends and that he relishes long brunches with his wife Vanessa, of 40 years, what most fires him up is to still be of utility to others.  

He went on to explain how he was approached by a Swiss hotel school of international repute and that he teaches hospitality strategy and one or two other hotel-based classes online from his home. Nicholas shined like pure gold when he spoke of his two lifelong workplace loves: teaching and hospitality. He truly has retired to other meaningful projects. To me, he is living the dream: He’s still working but it doesn’t feel like work to him. 

It seems to me that if we’re blessed with a good 20 or so years after the traditional retirement age of 65, why not use it to be of service rather than focusing on self? Just as Nicholas has found, there are so many organizations that can utilize your wisdom and experience. Although I know Nicholas is comfortable financially, I am also sure he appreciates the extra boost to his pension that his adjunct lecturing paycheck provides.  

To me, that would be the perfect retirement — have enough income to live comfortably; manage expenses to have enough cashflow to be able to bless the lives of others while most importantly still continuing to be of service. Best of all: Do something that blends your talents and your passion. For Nicholas it’s teaching and hospitality.  

What are the talents you’ve been blessed with that could be a blessing to others at work when you step down off the full-time treadmill? What are you passionate about? If you love what you do, it won’t feel like you’re working in retirement. What will you do within this one precious life after you retire in the traditional sense? 

On one hand I don’t like hearing the “R” word, but on the other, I am wooed by its gentle whisper and the calling offered within.  

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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