The following is a guest post from my father, Professor Floyd Brandt.
At the time I decided to retire, I experienced two thoughts: First, I had been in a footrace for several years between retirement and obsolescence. The second thought was the closing line from Stephen Sondheim’s song Send in the Clowns — “Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer, losing my timing so late my career.” Given the issue of obsolescence, I declared that my retirement was a trip from doing to being and then discovered that being is as challenging as doing, and often more so—learning to pause, meditate, and seek the joys of solitude requires new thoughts and habits.
Many, if not most, professors are inclined to think about what they would say in their Last Lecture and some even write it for the millions who will never read it and for students who will never remember it. My final lecture to my graduate classes could be divided into the pragmatic and the personal—I have included the pragmatic here:
After graduation, be your own professor. Keep asking questions. The quality of your life and the organizations you inhabit are dependent upon the quality of questions posed and answered.
During the interview with a potential employer, ask as carefully as possible, “What stories can you tell me about the company or organization”. If they have no stories, you may want to consider another company or organization.
As soon as possible, assemble a “Go to hell” fund equal to six months of salary available in case you need to refuse to engage in an unethical, illegal or extremely distasteful activity.
Attempt to locate the leaders in the organization who has real concern about defining the next decade.
Find out and then think about the years your boss was a teenager.
Begin to develop a flexible plan for the future. It is a truism that individuals and organizations that plan, seldom follow their plans, but they tend to perform better than those who do not plan.
Recognize the value of patience and silence. It usually takes a few years to achieve a top position in an organization.