A recent article (the title really)  in Inc. magazine piqued my curiosity- Bill Gates Says These Are the 2 Questions He Always Askes When Solving Big Problems.

That sounded like information I needed to know! After all, if Bill Gates can break down the multitude of difficult problems he has faced over his career, could I possibly answer these same questions for problems I am dealing with?

The two questions Mr. Gates asks when solving big problems:

  1. Who has dealt with this problem well?
  2. What can we learn from them?

Pretty straightforward, right?  Well- not really. Our typical approach to solving problems is to immediately try to come up with a solution- particularly if we are used to being in charge. Many of us fiercely independent types (like me) believe we can solve the problem. Probably, but how we go about solving the problem is the key. Mr. Gates solution is to first become a Learner in the process of solving a big problem.

So, incorporating these to lessons into creating our ideal lifestyle in retirement should involve learning how others made a successful transition into retirement.  One can assume that Mr. Gates also looks at who has not dealt with the problem well- to learn what not to do or what does not work particularly well.

Then applying this information- what can you learn from them as it relates to your retirement? What concerns did they have when they were deciding to retire? What did they have to overcome, work on, or change their thinking about?  What has worked and not worked for them?

Learning from others as it applies to retirement could include talking with friends or family who have already transitioned into retirement, reading a book, reading a blog, listening to a podcast, watching videos on YouTube or Vimeo, or following people who share common experiences on social media.

One of the best ways to do this is to work with a retirement coach- someone who will listen to you, someone you can bounce ideas off, and someone who will hold you accountable- at least to the extent you want to- to realize your dreams in retirement.

Any of these ways can work for you. Just identify which ways you would like to learn from others. Which ways of learning work for you?

While learning from others is an important lesson that can be applied to each person’s quest to identify their ideal retirement lifestyle, I believe Mr. Gates also offers some additional lessons for a successful retirement.

Is Mr. Gates really retired?  Yes, from his career at Microsoft- the company he founded and led until 2008. But then he started the Gates Foundation- tackling some of the world’s most difficult problems.  It could be argued that what he is doing at the foundation is work that makes a larger impact on the world than the work he did at Microsoft. He transitioned from one purpose to another- possibly greater or higher purpose.

So, the lesson from his “retirement” is that he found something new and different- something he could apply his experience and passion to.  He found a new purpose. He found his “Encore.”

This is important, and especially vital, for many people who have had highly visible and responsible positions-like corporate executives and first responders.  These people are often tightly connected to their position-one that is both visible in the company and often their profession (peer group) and responsible as a leader in the company (people look to them for direction).  They often struggle when they are not visible and no longer viewed the same way.

Another lesson I believe Mr. Gates provides is the importance of continuing to learn. As he has become involved in the issues that the Gates Foundation is tackling, he continues to learn about- really immerse himself in-each of these areas he is trying to make an impact.  Continuing to learn- whatever it is we aspire to become more knowledgeable about, is vitally important to aging successfully.

This could be something work related to continue in your field of expertise or maybe something in your field but a slightly different specialty. Or this could also be something in our leisure we want to learn more about- gardening, scuba diving, French cooking, learning a new language- the list is endless!  What do you want to learn more about?

In his Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, he was asked what his biggest fear is.  His response- his biggest fear is his brain will stop working.

Think about that for a moment…not being able to use his mind to solve problems is what scares him the most.  We all can take a lesson from that.  Keep your mind sharp by continuing to use it.  Like our muscles and many other parts of our bodies, if we do not continue using them, they will stop working anywhere near their potential.

His lessons from his time transitioning from funning Microsoft to starting the Foundation, to his passion for continuing to learn and wanting to solve large problems is something we can learn from.

Continue pushing your boundaries and limits!  You might be surprised by what this could lead to.