Changing the retirement narrative in law enforcement, focusing on reinvention

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My siblings Sarah, Jack, and I had a hardscrabble upbringing in the 1970s, a time of Wildcat strikes and radical labor movements. Our ex-Air-Force dad wanted no part of it.

He taught us the values of authority and serving the country. It was no surprise, then, that my brother and sister joined Law Enforcement, and I joined the Navy.

We all had successful careers until one day while on duty, Jack was called to a bar brawl. He and his partner soon realized they needed back-up, but before it could arrive, Jack was struck over the head with a pool cue ball.

He quickly recovered, but some weeks later, suffered the first of many seizures. Diagnosed with epilepsy, he lost his ability to drive, and with it, the career he loved.

Despite the disability retirement benefits provided, the hardest part for Jack was simply mentally adjusting to civilian lifestyle. He described the mental rehabilitation as harder than that of leaving home for the first time to go to the academy. He struggled to figure out a way to reinvent himself.

Later, I voluntarily left the Navy. It still took me years of mental work to adjust to civilian life, and I bounced from one career to the next.

By chance, I met a retired L.A. cop, Jerry, who told me a story of being called to a shooting incident at a fast food store. No one was hurt, but it was a case of one near miss too many.

When everything was under control, the franchise owner gave him a free sample of the new Mexican-style street-food, and explained how the franchise worked. The owner was retired L.A. policeman Kermit Becky, and the store was the first Taco Bell franchise.

The day Jerry retired he applied for a franchise. It was a huge success, and so he purchased more stores.  A few years ago, Jerry sold his few stores to a corporation for $250 million dollars.

Not a bad return on his investment, and certainly something that supplemented his retirement in more ways than his yearly earnings could pay-out for the rest of his life! A cop who’d made it as a millionaire!

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

He made it sound so easy, but I wanted to know how he managed to adjust to civilian life so seamlessly. He said that he had watched so many buddies struggle to adjust, with many hitting the bottle.

For him, it was all about eliminating the word “retirement” from his vocabulary and replacing it with “reinvention.”

That way, as retirement approached, it always felt like a new beginning and a new adventure. When the day came, any potential remorse was replaced with excitement.

Since my inspiring conversation with Jerry I have built and sold three companies for >$300 million, and I am constantly finding ways to reinvent myself.

I believe we live in unprecedented times in which old systems and structures are being replaced by simpler, adaptable ones. It has never been easier to start over and achieve rapid success. Every day, I thank Jerry for pointing out that we have a choice, and it is simply one of mentality.

I take every opportunity to pass that message along.

No more retirement. It is reinvention time.

Written by Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake ( www.trevorgblake.com ) is a serial entrepreneur and NY Times bestselling author of Three Simple Steps, a Map to Success in Business and Life and Secrets to a Successful Startup: A Recession-proof Guide to Starting, Surviving and Thriving in your own Venture. All author proceeds go to cancer Research and Development.

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