An article in the Washington Post about Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski before last year’s NCAA basketball tournament caught my attention and led to a similar blog post before last years NCAA tournament.  I thought it was even more appropriate this year since Duke is the overall number one seed in this year’s NCAA mens basketball tournament.

The article was fascinating to me because it provided some relevant points for people considering retirement and continuing to work beyond retirement. Coaching in his 44th season, it appears that Coach K, as he is often referred to, isn’t slowing down even at age 72.

Here are the five lessons from the article that are applicable to retirement.

1) If you find something you love to do, keep doing it. Coach K is in his 44th year of coaching. He continues to coach because he still enjoys the game, the preparation, the competition, and the relationships with his players. One could also make a career change later in life that you can also attack with enthusiasm, intensity and passion. Keep doing what you are doing if you love doing it. If you want to do something different, find your passion and go after it!

2) Don’t let a few bumps in the road slow you down. While success is associated with Coach K and his Duke basketball team, it didn’t begin this way.  It took years for him to attain this level of success and the team wasn’t always a perennial power. After two hip and knee replacements, he is still determined to win another national championship. Don’t let the bumps in the road become excuses for why you need stop doing what you love.  Don’t let major or minor bumps in your road slow you down!

3) Keep the competitive fire burning. Find something that interests you. Something that makes you want to get out of bed each day- something that you are passionate about. The definition of success in retirement is different for each of us but should include what we can do each day to stay relevant, healthy, active and connected.  This could be your current career, like Coach K, it could be something new, or it could be something old that you did in the past that the fire still burns to do now that you have the time to focus on it. Continue to find challenging things to pursue.

4) Don’t let your past success or failure keep you from having future success. Sometimes people believe that their past success and that saving enough money to retire, will lead them to a fulfilling retirement. What happens too often, however, is that this financial preparation leads to an unfulfilling life after work. It is sometimes hard to transition from the prestige and impact you had in your career to something fulfilling and rewarding in retirement. Similarly, if your past career or job wasn’t something you enjoyed, retirement can be the time to pursue something new or different that excites you.  Find what excites you and bring you happiness.  Don’t let your past success or lack of reward keep you from a rewarding retirement.

5) To stay in the game, you must be willing to improvise. In his 44 years of coaching, the game has changed. This may sound familiar as each of us in our careers has had to keep up with changes in our industry.  Some of us have seen significant changes during our careers and have had to adapt.  One aspect that Coach K has had to learn to adapt to is coaching players who leave school for the NBA after one season. The article mentions that one of the things he enjoys about coaching is watching these young men grow and develop as players and adults- but now he doesn’t get to do this as much because players leave school early. Last season he used a zone defense because it fit his players strengths, but he much prefers a man-to-man defense. Adapt and improvise, whether it involves your work, activities, health, exercise or relationships to have a more rewarding retirement.  Be willing to adapt and to be resilient.

I often wonder if people like Coach K could ever retire and be happy. After winning five national championships and being one of the top teams each year, he continues to chase the next championship.  Some people who retire after having this type of career success find it is difficult to find something that they are as passionate about and that motivates them each day.  Others want to continue to be challenged in retirement, either in their current career, like Coach K, or in a different area that keeps their fire burning.

Some people want to slow down in retirement, but it is still important to find something that drives you each day.  Each of us is different in how we want our retirement to play out, but following these five lessons from Coach K provides some ideas on how to stay in the game during retirement.

If you want to have someone coach you to prepare for your retirement, please contact me at or call me to set up an introductory meeting at 952-994-8937.  Visit to learn more about how to achieve a retirement with clarity, confidence and control.