I guess it's time to confess to something very un-macho: I
sometimes wear knee pads when I work in the garden.
My children gave them to me for Christmas and I initially
resisted the notion of wearing them. Unmanly and not cool, I thought.
But my children also gave me two large bunches of red onion
plants, and by the time I had a fourth of them planted, my knees were
rebelling against my male vanity. Out came the new knee pads and voila!
Sudden comfort! Rebellion over! With my new protection in place, I had the
rest of the onions in the ground in no time.
Un-macho? Without a doubt.
One of the nice things about being almost 65 is that I no
longer worry what other people think of me. People who love me will keep on
loving me even with those goofy-looking things strapped around my legs, and
those who don't, don't matter after all.
As my hero Dirty Harry said, a man's got to know his
limitations. One of mine is that I don't have 5-year-old knees any more,
and if I don't take care of the ones I've got, some orthopedic surgeon is
going to cut them out and install some artificial ones in their place.
thanks. I think I'll go with the unmanly, goofy-looking knee pads for as
long as possible. Thanks, children, for looking out for your old man.
The first time I raised broccoli I harvested some large lovely
heads, plump and full and rich dark green. Then, being the efficient
gardener that I was, I started pulling up all the old plants and planting
something else in the space.
A more experienced gardener saw what I was doing and rushed
over to try to head off my mistake. "If you leave them alone for a few
weeks, they'll grow more heads," she told me. "The plants may
look a little ragged at this stage but they've still got lots more
production left in them."
The next season when I harvested broccoli, I took her advice
and let the plants grow after the first harvest. Just as she had told me,
those older plants started producing more broccoli. The heads weren't quite
as large during the second round as the first crop, but they were still
excellent broccoli. And they kept going for several more weeks. I ended up
picking about three extra months' worth.
Now that I understand how broccoli grows, I am able to harvest
three or four times more broccoli per planting than I used to, simply by
not being so hasty to get rid of the old plants.
call these extra months of production
"bonus broccoli." It's a nice return on my garden
investment, because all it costs me is a little patience. My experienced
gardener friend's instruction was correct: there is still a lot of
production left in those mature plants and it's foolish to pull them up too
* * * * *
In my work as a retirement planning expert, I help lots of
folks in their early 60s. Some come to me after receiving the devastating
news that they have just been laid off from their long-term job.
Losing your job at that stage of life is a bitter pill to
swallow. Your paycheck and your benefits are gone, as well as your sense of
identity. But more significantly, it also means you're very unlikely to
find a new position similar to your previous one. It's sad but undeniable -
even if it's illegal, age discrimination is alive and well in 21st century
America. You may get an interview but if you have gray hair, you probably
won't get hired.
I'd like to tell employers who are thinking of firing
long-time faithful employees the same thing that experienced gardener once
told me about broccoli:
Mister, you're making a big mistake. You're being too hasty.
There's still plenty of production left in that seasoned employee.
Don't pull up the bonus broccoli!
Besides their actual production, mature workers bring a number
of intangibles to the table. They may not be as flashy as a new batch of
replacement millennials, but the wisdom and common sense they bring to the
job will serve you and your company well. They introduce a work ethic to
your organization that the youngsters just don't have. They're more stable.
They're less likely to wilt under pressure, or drag their
"life-traumas" to the workplace.
Don't pull up the bonus broccoli!
Today's retirees need more flexibility. Some can't wait to
retire, while others enjoy their job and want to work - perhaps part-time -
into their 70s. And obviously there comes a time when every worker needs to
retire gracefully, but usually they're sent away far too early. Don't waste
all that talent. Your patience will be well rewarded with a significant
return on investment.
run high over who gets Grandma's pearl necklace or Dad's fishing pole.
Disagreements over who gets what can lead to bawling and brawling between
siblings that can scar relationships forever."
(Dividing the assets of a recently-deceased loved one can
challenge the good will of even the best of families. This series of
articles provides guidance for those facing this tricky task.)
In the fall of 1986, my wife's father, Henry Ware Hobbs, Jr.
sent each of his six children a large legal file entitled "Choose It or Lose It."
The file contained a photograph of every heirloom object he owned and a
paragraph about each item. In the cover letter to the file, he invited his
children to come to his house "at high noon" (he often had a
flair for the dramatic) on the Friday after Thanksgiving, without spouses,
prepared to "choose it or lose it."
At the meeting, each of the children drew numbers and then
proceeded to voice their top choice, one child at a time until all six had
selected. Then the order was reversed for round two, with the child who had
drawn number six going first this time, followed by number five,
etc. Back and forth they went, round by round, until everything
had been earmarked and their choices recorded. It was elegantly simple and
are the key elements of Henry's wisdom:
He took personal
responsibility, not leaving this difficult issue for his children to
muddle through without his guidance and oversight.
He developed a simple and
fair process for making the division, and made sure everyone
He did not presume as the
parent to know what each child valued; instead his process allowed
them to express with their choices what was important to them.
He found ways to reduce the
emotions and stress in a setting naturally fraught with tender
feelings, hidden agendas, and deeply-embedded rivalries, such as by
starting early, using humor, and disinviting spouses.
When Henry passed away seven years later, everything from the
original "Choose It or Lose It" meeting was distributed according
to the earlier lists without confusion, rancor, or drama.
But as it turned out, Henry had not included his own
possessions in the original "Choose It or Lose It" session, only
those things he considered family heirlooms. No problem. The family
inventoried Henry's personal items, selected a private meeting place, and
repeated the same process, again with harmonious results.
When my father died about ten years ago, my brothers and
sisters and I employed this simple process to allocate his meager personal
effects. It was a sweet and satisfying experience for all. We felt our
father would have been pleased to see our cooperation and our concern for
each other's happiness in distributing these cherished items.
Most recently, over the New Year's holiday, my wife and her
siblings used their father's "Choose It or Lose It" approach to
smoothly divide and distribute the contents of their mother's large
Mississippi home, which had been sold after their mother moved to a nursing
From observing the process three times in my wife's family and
once in my own, and from using it with great success in my own legal
practice, I can heartily recommend the principles that undergird Henry's
methodology: 1) Take
personal responsibility; 2) Develop a fair and simple process; 3) Let the
heirs express their values with their choices; and 4) Avoid
encourage families to implement these four principles as they face the
daunting task of dividing the artwork, heirlooms, and tangible effects of a
loved one. Each family's methodology may vary somewhat from Henry's, but as
long as the principles are honored, the results should be positive. I am
not suggesting that this approach can eliminate every pitfall, but I do
believe it is more likely to engender lasting family harmony than the
free-for-all most parents and grandparents leave their heirs.