Retirement Lessons We Can Learn From Will Ferrell And Mark Zuckerberg’s Commencement Speeches

Recently, comedian Will Ferrell and Internet entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg received honorary doctorate degrees from their respective alma maters. In addition to recognizing the two’s accomplishments, the bestowal of the degrees gave both men an opportunity to take to the podium and deliver commencement speeches to new graduates.

While Ferrell and Zuckerberg seem like two very different people, they focused their talks on a common theme – the pursuit of passion. It hit me as I was listening to recordings of the talks – their message is as poignant for new retirees as it is for new college graduates. Why? Because pursuing our passions is something we should continue to do throughout our entire lives.

Let’s talk about key points from each address. Putting comedy aside for a moment, Ferrell earnestly encouraged the 2017 graduating class members to prioritize their passions. According to Ferrell, even while studying to be a sports broadcaster at the University of Southern California, he knew that his passion was making people laugh. While he was scared of failing, he was terrified of never giving his passion his best shot.

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Ferrell’s advice? “Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out,” said Ferrell.

When Zuckerberg took the stage, his address to Harvard’s Class of 2017 had a similar tone. Speaking about the pursuit of passion, Zuckerberg said, “Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.” He went on to emphasize how important our individual passions and purposes are: “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.” For Zuckerberg, his vision is a world where “every single person has a sense of purpose.”

Both of these commencement speeches offer valuable insight to young graduates ready to embark on their working lives. And they hold the same value for folks ready to think about stepping into retirement.

Think about it like this. You may have graduated from college long ago, but when you retire from your career, you are, in essence, graduating from the workforce. Again, you find yourself beginning a new chapter in life.

While you probably found your work passion, or at least work purpose, during your career life, passion is still a key player in keeping you happy. It just looks different when you retire.

When you enter retirement, perhaps you work part-time to cultivate some of your core passions. I refer to this type of fulfillment of purpose as “hobbies on steroids.” Meaning, you have parlayed your non-work-related passions into paying gigs. But one day, you’ll want to step away and quit work altogether. So, your work probably has an end date. Your core passions, however, don’t.

My advice? Start working on tapping and broadening your passions long before you graduate from work. I’ve seen too many folks so focused on work that they never focus on themselves. This approach needs a shift. If you want to love retirement, you’ll need to find your individual sense of purpose. And to find your sense of purpose, you’ll have to tap your passions.

Start small or go big. No matter what, just follow what feels right for you. And take a broad view. According to my research, the happiest retirees have at least 3.5 core pursuits – the activities and interests they love. Those retirees who identified as less happy only have 1.9. In this context, more is always more.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what your passions are – it just matters that you’re engaging in them. So get moving. Try your hand at golf or tennis. Learn to build cabinets or furniture. Take up a new instrument. Write a book. Get involved in a charity or take on a leadership role at your church. Put your focus on becoming an active role model for your grand-kids. No matter how you choose to spend your time in retirement, if you let your passions lead the way, you’re bound to find your individual purpose and happiness along the way.


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