Unbelievable Opportunities

IMG_0801Let me begin by telling you a story about Bill Daigle. Bill was raised on a farm in Minnesota. He was born in 1954, one of 14 siblings. Bill got his training in mechanical drawing. Initially that is how he made his living. He shifted jobs to become a salesman for a nonprofit life insurance company, working his way up the line into management. The company moved Bill from Minnesota to Arkansas and eventually to North Carolina, where he “retired” in 1989. Bill built himself a home with a studio where he lives with his second wife, Paula.

Every day, at 65, Bill does just what he always wanted to do, namely, work in wood. Bill calls himself “The Chairman”. Have a look at some pictures of Bill’s work.

On Saturdays you will find my friend, Bill at the Carrboro Farmers Market, where he displays and sells his work and watches the young children playing on a footstool or with a wooden plane or truck, sometimes under a parent‘s watchful eye. That’s where we met.

Bill is doing what he loves doing and uses his unique skills and expertise to produce products others like. If he elects to sell the work, he gets some bucks on the side. That’s not too bad. He can use the extra money to help take care of himself and his family, and to do the additional things they like doing.

Can you imagine yourself as a “retiree” and being in Bill’s position? That is, spending your days doing what you love doing and selling the work — the products and/or the services — to others who are willing to pay your asking price. As an aside, they are willing to give up that amount of money just to get your work.

Now I’ll step in as an economist and remind you that by doing so they are giving up whatever else they could have purchased for that amount of money. That shows how important getting your work is to them.

A friend, Don Lineback is another member of the Club of “retirees.” He was born in Winston-Salem, NC in May 1944 at the very end of World War II. Incidentally, a month later I came to UNC Chapel Hill as a freshman. At 15, Don decided he wanted to make a rug. A cousin provided him with the necessary equipment and the supplies — the wool and the burlap backing.

The usual technique for hand making a rug is called hooking. She got him a “punching needle.” That method pushes the wool from the underside of the burlap, not from the top. Don taught himself the technique and created his first rug.

Don went to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA for his undergraduate work and then on to UNC Chapel Hill where he graduated with a doctorate in German literature. In 1972 he went to Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. In addition to his teaching responsibility, he joined the staff as a fundraiser. In 1978 Don moved to Rhodes College in Memphis, TN as their chief fundraiser. In 1993 he went on to Furman University in Greenville, SC in the same capacity. Don “retired” in 2008.

From the time Don made his first two rugs in 1959 until 1989 he did not do any rug making. When Anna prevailed on him to make her a rug, Don realized he missed working with his hands. He gladly resurrected his handicraft and made rugs for her and her two sisters. In Don’s words it was a “stroke of creativity.” He found the punching needle hidden away in a desk drawer where he’d stored it 30 years earlier and went to work, and he is still at it. He’s now on his 110th rug.

At Furman Don occasionally teaches courses on rug making using the punching technique. That satisfies his teaching urge and provides a way to help others learn something they like doing. And it passes the technique on. In 2009, just before the devastating earthquake, Don went to Haiti to teach the locals how to make rugs.

Since then they sold more than $20,000 whaiti-79641_1280orth of their rugs in 6 years. That provided significantly greater income then Haitian’s median income of $2/ day and contributed to their recovery from the earthquake.

As a”retiree” Don is into making rugs and passing the technique on. He has never sold any of his rugs. He uses some rugs at home and gives most of them away. Here are pictures of one he gave me and others he created. Instead, he chooses to use some of his disposable time, energy, resources and funds (TERF) to imagine and create his next work of art.

Bernie standing in his living room beside a rug made by Don Lineback.

Let me start by saying in retirement you should be doing just what you want to do. One’s primary responsibility is to take care of oneself and fulfill any obligations and commitments that one has taken on. The remaining discretionary TERF is our surplus.  More about the concept of surplus and its implications will be delivered to you shortly in a blog post series entitled “Surplus”.

Like my friends Bill and Don, as a “retiree,” while I’m here and still able, I want to take responsibility for and care of myself, reimburse others when they provide help and continue to make a contribution. Since you’re already on my website, you can check out the things I enjoy doing. If you’d like to see how I got here, you can look up my earlier blog post entitled Me —Then ’til Now.

We all have something to offer when we utilize our unique experiences, talents, expertise and special skills to make a contribution.

That opportunity exists for me and for others of a certain age because the men and women of our generation have a longer lifespan than previous generations did. Certainly we can take advantage of it and make our special contribution, all the while doing what we love doing.

Here I go as an economist again. There is something else I would like you to consider. The contribution — one that only we can make — provides us with an opportunity. Some of us consider it an obligation. While we are still here we are using up limited social resources. Those resources could help make someone else better off.

Taking that into consideration makes me realize that is important for me to continue to make a contribution while I can. Does that resonate with you? That not only will you doing what you love doing, but it has the potential to  benefit others. That is a real opportunity — perhaps one not previously considered.

If you have not already done so, consider making a commitment to yourself and your skills by devoting some of your surplus to it. Perhaps you also consider it as an obligation. You are welcome to join the Club.

Can you imagine finding and following your passion, creating something only you can make, loving what you are doing, and making someone better off along the way. What could be better than that? For some of you that may be “An Unbelievable Opportunity” or even an obligation. That is the path that the Club members have elected to take. Consider joining us and making that your legacy as well.



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