Active Retirement: Donald Lewis
by Donald E. Lewis
This is my interview with Donald who shares his retirement success story on being physically active. When I asked Donald his age, I got the following reply (which I love!):
"Color me pretty 'seasoned' :-) I wear my age on my sleeve (age 67). I am always trying to prove to others that age all by itself is less of a limitation than most realize. As you know, we all are going to have to do a lot more as life expectancy increases and the typical age of retirement is pushed out. I love redefining what's possible for others."
Read on, that first paragraph is worth a million bucks... but I bet you're curious now about Don's retirement success!
Interview with Donald E. Lewis, a World-class Competitor
What was your previous occupation? Describe your daily routine briefly. Any Stress? How/why did you retire?
I started out my business career as a white-shirted, fairly naive Mechanical Engineer which I got after a 30-minute on-campus interview (the last job interview of my life). Over time I proved my worth at the corporate level and decided to move into business for myself. For the last 18 years, I was the President of a company that I grew over time from five employees to about 100.
There is always stress in running a company where decisions that I made on a daily basis affected the employment of tens of individuals that placed their faith in me and my company. And I never missed a payroll for anyone except for myself. Imagine, if you will, working for nearly a year without a paycheck which I did to fund our expansion. Fortunately we had increasing revenues in each and every year of our 18 years of corporate life, including a nearly +18% gain this last recession. Increasing revenue covers a lot of sins.
I actually retired because I got a great financial offer for my company. There was a long long initial discussion with a price offer of significance. After taking some time off to think about it on a three-week trek around Annapurna in Nepal with my new 'wife to be' (and now my wife) I thought it over and told them 'no.' They then thought it over and offered me enough money for me to decide to actually move on. Now that I am eight months into retirement I am totally psyched that it worked out and love every minute of it.
Describe your daily routine in your new retired life. How much do you train? How do you physically do this?
Unlike most retirees I make physical conditioning a priority and devote about two hours a day (that is all that I will admit to) on average. While some physical conditioning experts recommend getting 10,000 steps a day I get a daily average of over 33,000 steps per day on my pedometer. I have worn a pedometer daily, and log my daily totals in a spreadsheet for the past 6 1/2 years.
Because I am training for world-class competition, I make a daily and weekly written daily training program. I am actually 'writing' a book for physical conditioning, permanent weight loss, and personal productivity tools. I say 'wirting' loosely since I put the project on hold while I went through the grueling process of selling my company. But even though I am over 100,000 words and counting, I still haven't restarted it since I am 'too busy.' I will though. Trust me.
My daily routine is not fixed in that I find some time for leisure travel, compete in racing in SCORE-International's desert racing series which takes about four weeks of race preparation per year in Mexico, managing and contributing to some personal residential construction projects, helping my wife with her startup business, and am doing a real-estate rehabilitation for fun and profit. But, physical conditioning takes a priority.
My physical conditioning involves floor exercises, weights, walking, hiking, snow shoeing when I can, stationary and outdoor cycling, stepper work, and Stair Master work.
What makes your retirement successful?
First of all I believe that intellectual stimulation is key. I have always read non-fiction, mostly periodicals, religiously. I have read every issue of the Wall Street Journal and the Hartford Courant since 1970. Aerobic conditions has been shown to significantly improve cognitive function and I am certain that it is magic. While I hope to live intensively for a few more decades with perhaps a few bad weeks at the end I would rather lose my physical abilities than my cognitive function.
How did you transition from what you were to who you are today?
The transition was easy since I have merely changed the proportions of what I focus on. My work proportion is down and my project proportion is up.
Were you always a biker? Just curious how you decided to do this?
There is a commercial video on my project which started in 2006. I had just summited Vinson Massif, the high point of Antarctica, and became 1/2 of the oldest married couple in combined years to have ever summited that mountain. I was looking for another project of significance and saw a clip of a motorcycle racer in the Baja 1000 which advertised a special TV program, on a treadmill at 6:00 one morning.
I saw it again and again over a week period of time. I then decided to do it. I was an expert motorcycle racer that quit racing in 1978 after a motorcycle racing injury. At the time I knew that I would attempt to field a team of racers aged 60+ for the effort which had never been done before. I just liked the sound of it.
Interestingly, the odds were stacked against me. In the entire four decades of that race there has never been a Baja 1000 Class winner east of the Mississippi in any motorcycle or car class, much less a class championship. I now have eight first-place results in individual races as the 'rider of record' for my Class 60 team (team members must be 60 or older) and three season's class championships with a lock on this year's championship for the 4th as well after 1st in the San Felipe 250 and 1st in the Baja 500.
There is a professional 50-minute video on this project which can be found on Amazon.com. Search forMotoGeezers and it will come up.
What do you think about the concept of retirement? How do YOU define retirement?
I view 'retirement' as leaving full-time employment with a focus on personal and leisure activities. It may even include a new forms of employment for fun. In fact, I am helping my new wife with a business startup which distributes clothing made out of 100% bamboo. It is a FABULOUS cloth and I just love the feeling of it. I have even talked her into introducing a new underwear line since the fabric feels so good against one's skin. Her website is MyGoodGear.com.
I also like exploring the concept of "It has never been done before."
Tell me about your Dakar Rally race
Good question Wendy. As you know I am working on a challenge of a lifetime. I am attempting to be the oldest motorcycle racer to finish the world's most difficult motorsport event, the 15-day Dakar Rally (previously known as the Paris to Dakar Rally) which is now held in South America. If fact, if my entry is accepted, and many think it will based on by Baja racing success, I will be the oldest motorcycle racer to even start it. And it will be an awesome challenge in that we will be motorcycle racing 14 out of those 15 days covering 6,000 miles of cross country conditions.
It will be an awesome challenge to prove the world that we that happen to be older are not phycially limited as many think we are due to our age. Many don't give me a snowball's chance in hades but I see it differently. Just because it has never been done before doesn't mean that it can't be done. While increasing age does have increasing limits, it is far less restrictive than most think. I want to prove to the world that we can really do far far more than most think.
There are many challenges to overcome and financial challenges are one. The total cost of this race is shocking to some in that it will come in around $100,000. I am hoping to find sponsors to help make it happen.
Finally, If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for today?
World peace which will only come from world population control, acceptance of a more-simple but sustainable life style, governmental fiscal responsibility without a continuously increasing share of GDP, more tolerance of personal differences, and limits on health care.