By: Scott Kranz
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” Randy Komisar
“What will you do when you retire?” The question wasn’t surprising to hear in context. I was at my mother’s recent retirement party. She had just retired from a rewarding career of forty-plus years in the medical industry. She was across the room greeting a few friends, and I was standing in a circle with a few of my own. “So, what will you do,” the question was posed again. A few in the circle answered out loud, explaining that they would like to travel more or take up certain hobbies or activities more seriously. I started to think about it myself. And I was immediately surprised by my answer: “Well, when I retire … I’d like to do exactly what I’m doing right now.”
Until recently, I would have had an entirely different answer. In April 2015, I ended my full-time job as an attorney at a law firm, a bittersweet move after nearly five years in the law. Out of college, I had jumped right into law school and then right into a legal career as an attorney with a big law firm. It was a secure career path with a large salary and luxurious perks. From an outsider’s perspective, it probably looked like I was making all the right moves.
Things started to slowly change two years ago. My wife and I moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. Although I continued my legal career in Seattle, I quickly discovered Washington’s diverse natural beauty: the rugged mountain ranges, the pristine alpine lakes, the remote coastlines, and the old-growth forests. For me, a door had opened to an entirely new world. I fell in love with hiking, climbing, and mountaineering, and photographing the adventures and beauty along the way. Between weekends and weekday mornings and evenings, I couldn’t get enough.
As these passions grew, the satisfaction I felt at work dwindled. It became clear that I was spending my life not doing what I loved. The realization weighed heavy on me. I couldn’t just ignore it.
I look back and realized that I had tolerated unhappy circumstances because I become comfortable with where I was. It was a familiar, safe, and secure path I had been on. And plus, I didn’t want to face the risk of what might happen if I tried something new. That risk, it seemed, was too dangerous.
But then I compared the risk of making a change with the risk of waking up in five, ten, or fifteen years down the road and realizing that a life that I could have loved had slipped through my fingers. That risk—the risk of life passing you by—was almost unbearable. What I had to do became clear. I’d rather try and fail than never try at all.
For the first time in my life, I summoned the courage to whole-heartedly pursue a genuine passion. After much deliberation and planning, I decided to take the proverbial “leap.” I’m now pursuing freelance work as a photographer and writer, with a focus on adventure, landscape, travel, outdoor lifestyle, and astro (night).
My recent transition might seem crazy, given my original career choice. But, to me, the change couldn’t make more sense. My life is now filled with one new adventure after another. I’m constantly experiencing new places and new people. And I’m exercising more creativity than I ever thought was possible. I can now honestly say that I’m doing what I love and what fulfills me.
For the first time in my life, I’ve chosen a path that I don’t need to retire from. I chose not to accept the “greatest risk”—the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. As a result, I’ve felt more alive than I ever have.
So, let me ask you: “What will you do when you retire?” Got your answer in your head? How does it compare with what you’re currently doing? Is the life you plan to live after retirement strikingly different than the one you’re currently living? Why delay doing what you love for the chance to do it later? Today is guaranteed, tomorrow is not. Choose to live today or you might never have the chance.