So, What’s Next?

by Nick P. Miller

Knowing that I will be retiring on 15 January 2017, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I’m leaving behind after 43 years of consulting.  And what’s next?  How will I replace the challenge and excitement, (without the stress I hope) and what do I really want to do when there are no longer the time demands and obligations to get “work” done?

Somewhere during my occasional reflection on retirement, I remembered how I felt graduating from college.  After finals and before the ceremonies, the engineering faculty held a dinner in the faculty club for the members of Tau Beta Pi.  I remember the candle-lit dinner and a talk by one of my favorite professors.  His topic was a point he often made in lectures:  there’s a “pedestrian” method for solving a problem and an “equestrian” method.  I loved that concept (one that I realize Dick Bolt subscribed to as well).  The concept was emblematic of the education I got in college – go for the essence of the problem; avoid getting wrapped up in details that don’t contribute to the solution.  (I admit this approach is not always easy or obvious, and in fact, its challenge is partly why I like it.) At any rate, I was feeling pretty good about my college experience.  After the dinner, back alone at the apartment that I shared with two other guys, I thought:  “It’s over.  It was great. It was not without some set-backs, but I did my best. So, what’s next?”

That kind of sums up how I feel about retiring.  Though my career was not without missteps, I loved the basic work and the overall objective of trying to make people’s lives a little better, even if it was only in being an objective voice that recognized their problem.  Just as important were the wonderful, varied and unusual people I met, worked with, worked for, and those with whom I shared a dedication to the discipline of acoustics and noise control.  Starting HMMH with Andy, Bob and Carl was certainly just as important and as satisfying as was the work.  I learned so much about people, what motivates them, what upsets them and what helps them do their work.

I don’t want to give the impression that I fell easily into any of this.  Getting used to consulting and being comfortable initially took at least five years, and really cruising probably took ten to fifteen years.  Adding some humor and occasional light-heartedness another five.  That leaves another 23 years when everything was pretty cool.  I never thought of my career that way before now, but that’s about right.  Weird, huh – half the career getting into it?  I’d have to say that the need to support a family, dedication to the people I worked with and led, and perhaps a bit of grit helped me stick it out.

To answer my initial question.  I know two things – I have to have a routine, and I need variety.  Here’s the list I am building: take violin lessons again (I played for nine years as a kid), exercise at least five days a week, clean the excess stuff out of the house we’ve lived in for thirty-eight years, finish the wood trim on our Maine house, cook dinner for my wife and me (and maybe a couple of guests) at least once a week, spend more time than 20 minutes at breakfast reading, play Scrabble with my wife at least once a week and maybe I’ll beat her someday, check out volunteer possibilities in town, spend more time with family and friends, and learn a new craft, like how to make Windsor chairs.  Of course, I’ll do the usual puttering around the house to keep things in shape.

The reason I am revealing this list is to increase the chance that I’ll actually follow-through, so that if anyone asks me how it’s going, I won’t embarrass myself by having to make excuses.

So there you are.  My last blog on the HMMH website.  If I have more to say, I may put reflections on LinkedIn.  I don’t expect to disappear entirely however.  I’ve made too many life-long friends not to stay in touch.

Best of luck and good health to all.  Cheerio!

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