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Enjoy Your Retirement by Living The Tapas Life

How to enjoy retirement? That may be a looming question for you as you approach your retirement years. So much of our lives just happen because we have responsibilities to our job and to take care of our family.

But in retirement, you have a chance to reinvent yourself and create a brand new life that has the potential to be more fulfilling and exciting than any other time in your life. 

But...a fantastic retirement doesn't just happen. Many of us will find ourselves bored and stuck in a rut. To really ensure the retirement of your dreams, you need to adjust your mindset and spend a bit of time planning. 

Andrew Robin did just that. After he retired, he had an epiphany that changed the way he approached retirement. He realized, in order to make the most of his retirement years, he had to approach it in a very different way. Well, he did and he's living his best life.

One of the things he is passionate about is helping others who are facing many years in retirement find their path to nirvana. That's why he wrote, The Tapas Life. The book is a guide to help you discover the things that will help you enjoy retirement to the fullest. 

In this podcast, you'll discover:

  • What the Spanish appetizers called Tapas have to do with retirement
  • What natural human inclination prevents us from reinventing ourselves in retirement
  • Why Type-A personalities have the hardest time enjoying their retirement and how to remedy the situation
  •  What one thing is essential to your day-to-day retirement life in order to prevent feeling adrift
  • And much more!

Choose whether you want to listen to the podcast or read the transcript below. 

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The Tapas Life Podcast Transcript:

Evelyn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's episode of Retirement Rovers. I'm super excited because we're talking to author Andy Robin, who wrote the book The Tapas Life.

Jerry: Mmmm, tapas! Are we going to learn how to cook tapas today?

Evelyn: No. Stop thinking with your stomach. I know you're hungry, but this isn't the food type of tapas we're talking about. Andy wrote a book about the retirement type of tapas.

Jerry: I'm confused. I'm not sure what you mean by the retirement type of tapas.

Evelyn: Well, let me put it this way. We talk a lot about where we want to retire. I mean, that's kind of what our blog and our podcast is about, but we don't really think about what we want to do when we retire. And that's what The Tapas Life is all about is really guiding you to think about what you're going to be doing in the several decades that you may have in retirement.

Jerry: That's really interesting. I've never thought of that. I mean, our whole lives... it's all about getting good grades in school to get into college, getting good grades in college, to get a good job. And then it's all about saving and acquiring assets. But I've never really given much thought about once we do retire, what am I going to do? I'm a Type-A person. I always need to be go go going, and I've given it zero thought.

Evelyn: And for me, I'm thinking, oh, I'm just going to lay on a beach somewhere. But I know I would get bored. So, I haven't really given it a lot of thought either. Until I read The Tapas Life. It's really great. This actually may surprise you on how little you may have planned you. Everybody plans for financials with retirement, like that's the number one thing. Do we have enough money in the bank? But not everybody plans for your activities and what you're going to do to find meaning in your retirement.

Jerry: That's really interesting. Well, let's go ahead and jump into the conversation with Andy, then I'm really excited about this. Hi, Andy, how are you today?

Andy: Doing great.

Jerry: Wonderful. We're happy to be talking with you today. And we'd love to know a little bit more about your background and of course, how you created The Tapas Life philosophy.

Andy: Ok, well, I was born in Chicago, my dad was an entrepreneur, moved the family to Mexico City when I was seven. None of us speaking a word of Spanish. After Mexico, I eventually went to college in the U.S. and got an MBA, worked in the semiconductor industry for several decades, mostly as a marketing guy, sometimes general manager. My wife and I, before we got married, agreed we both wanted our careers and both wanted to be at home caregivers to children. She quit her job to have little babies because we decided I'd have a hard time breastfeeding. We were supposed to make the swap when the kids were something like seven and nine. But she discovered a whole new career and went back, got a master's and Ph.D., and so we made the swap when our kids were 13 and 15. And one day I went from being a VP at a big company to being a house dad of teenagers. When they went off to college, finally, I found I needed to reinvent my life.  I spent about four and a half years doing that and eventually ran into a friend on the street who said: "Wow, Andy, you look great. What are you up to?" And I guess it just dropped out of my brain like a gum ball. I said: "I'm living my tapas life, and that's how it came to be."

Evelyn: So, what exactly is a tapas life?

Andy: For those who don't know about the foods of Spain...instead of, like here in the U.S., having a big steak and potatoes on the plate, they serve lots of little dishes. So, you know, if you're at a table with a few people, each of you orders a dish or two, they're very small and, you know, eat a little bit if you want some more. You get something else. And until you're finally full. If there's something you don't like, you stop eating it and order something else. If there's something you liked and want more of it, you order another one. And so that's what a tapas life is, it's instead of having a big career and raising a family which kind of crowds everything else off the plate. Now you've got an opportunity after your long career. To go ahead and enjoy a variety of different things, none of which is necessarily very big, and that makes for a pretty delicious life.

Evelyn: I love that name The Tapas Life because for me, it just really makes so much sense because I've been to Spain. I love Tapas. I do love that concept of trying what you like. Putting it aside if you don't like it...it's a nice, quick and easy way to think about retirement. But for me, I'm a data person and I use a lot of data at work to help me make things make sense. And when I read your book, one of the things that really got me was right at the beginning of the book I'd never seen before or considered was the average lifespan. The average lifespan for a man takes into account all the people who have passed away prior to 65 for other reasons like automobile accidents. So, if you look at only everyone who lives to 65, the lifespan is a lot longer than the average lifespan which you typically see on the internet.

Evelyn: And so, for me, it made me take a step back and say, holy cow, this really serious. I never really thought about it that way that once my husband and I retire, it's almost like another lifetime that you have to plan. And I will say one other thing because I was just listening to another podcast, Freakonomics, which is a great podcast by the way. They did an entire podcast about this concept that we as adults, we're programmed to once we hit a certain age, trying anything new is just not easy for us. We don't do it and you have to really mindfully decide to do new things. So just knowing that and then knowing about these expansive years that we really have, once we make it to 65, you really have to be mindful to enjoy that time of your life. So, this really resonated with me.

Andy: I'm glad that worked for you.

Jerry: So, Andy, you know, what advice do you have for people who are about to retire? And I guess more specifically, how do you start on this path to a Tapas Life?

Andy: All right, well, the important thing about my book is in the context of retirement books, there's a ton of retirement books written and for better or for worse, the vast majority of them are about your finances. Yeah, I cover that in like a quarter of a chapter because they're so darn many books already written about it. Instead, my book is a step-by-step process for building a life after your long career because people don't know what to do. So, like here, you've been working for decades, and that's what you know, how to do. And suddenly, like my chapter called White Rabbit in a snowstorm, that's what your calendar looks like. There's nothing on there, it's just white, it's blank. And so. You know, since it took me four and a half years to figure it out for myself as part of my meaningful tapas, I wrote this book not to make money because I've spent many thousands of dollars getting this put together and into the marketplace. I'll never make the money back. I did it strictly to be helpful to others. And so, you know, what do I recommend, it's the steps in the book. The first thing you got to do really is put a little structure in your life because your long career is gone? Or, as I say in the book, your J-O-B is G-O-N-E.

You really need some structure because I've seen in friends and peers at my age. That without some structure, you rapidly start to feel adrift and untethered, and it can get depressing. I was just reading an article in Science Daily, a couple of nights ago that said, if you've got less than two hours of free time in a day, then you feel stressed and life feels crowded. But if you got more than five hours of free time in a day, you feel equally stressed and lost. And so, you've got to put in some structure. Think of a house. Imagine trying to build a house without a foundation and framing. That's what it's like to try to build your life after your long career without some structure.

Evelyn: I totally agree, and it's interesting because I think so many of us dream of retirement and dream of doing nothing. And you know, I think of myself last year, I was between jobs for about a month and a half, and that's when I started Retirement Rovers because I needed something to do. I found myself bored and I thought, hey, I've always wanted to do this. I'm going to take this time and I'm going to build this website. And I got going. And it was great because it did give me a purpose and gave me something to have to do during the day so I can completely relate to that. And I think a lot of listeners might relate to that as well.

Jerry: I know and yeah, I think we talked about this as well, that it really resonated with me as well because I'm a Type-A go, go, go person. And in high school, I was going to get good grades to get into college. In college, I was going to get good grades to get that first job. And then as I got into the workforce, I was always looking for that next promotion, the next job for a higher salary. And I never really thought about what I would do once I hit retirement. I'm one of these people that I can't sit still. And so, you know, while we all dream of the idea of not having to work for the man, the idea actually when I sit down and think about it scares the heck out of me because I need something for some purpose.

So, how do you discover what tapas that you should try?

Andy: Well, I'll take a quick side trip here and note that in his book called Transitions and I never remember the author's name off the top of my head. Sorry, but it's a very famous book has sold many millions of copies. Author talks about how the first half of life is about proving competence. And that's what you just talked about. Jerry is getting ahead at school, getting ahead at work, making sure you got to build a family, get a house or whatever. And the second half of life....after you've proven your competence is finding some meaning. And so, when you talk about, you know, how do you figure out what tapas to do?

Probably the first ones that you want to do after you've decompressed at the end of your long career, which is when people travel and play golf or tennis or bridge or whatever they like to do for six months or a year or eight months until they finally feel bored. Then the first one to do is something you've always wanted to do; do something you love. And yeah, it's unfortunate, but you can talk to people who say, I don't know. It's been so long. I don't know what I love, but you know, you love doing something when you were a kid. You love doing something when you were a teen. You loved doing something when you were in college. Maybe go try that. Or maybe you've got a friend who has some hobby or some activity that they love. And you ask them to introduce you to it and see if you like it.

Andy: And if you do, you do more of it, and if you don't, you poke around for something else. So, you get started it with something you love. And then after that. You just look at the big wide world and say, well, there is something that might be interesting to try. Maybe you read about something in a book or a magazine article or an internet post. Or in a movie or in a TV series and you say, well, that's it's kind of interesting, I wonder what that would be like. And then you try it. And as I say in my chapter called Fail Freely...for the first time in your life, possibly because of all the success driven energy that you enumerated Jerry for the first time in your life, you can try it. And if you're terrible at it, there's no cost. You can fail miserably.

And in fact, it's not a failure, it's a big win. All you have to do is mine it for learning. You get to say, well, here's what seemed interesting to me. And here are the bits of it that indeed turned out to be pretty cool. But yeah, here were the things that made it unacceptable that I just didn't like it enough or that I really hated about it once I got into it. And now you're more informed, and when you pick your next thing to do, you now know those things about yourself that you liked and didn't like. And you can choose something else. The world is so complex and full of things you can be up to. There's much to pick from.

Evelyn: It sounds like really, it's a newfound freedom, you know, because when we are working to your point, it's hard to fail because there are serious consequences with that failure. You know, if you're going out for a new job or trying to switch careers and it doesn't work out, it can have financial consequences. But this this is one of those times where you're almost reinventing yourself to be the person you've always wanted to be, instead of the person you have to be to put food on the table. And, you know, do all the things that you have to do when you're responsible for children and you know, you're your spouse or you're your partner. What kinds of things have you done? I'm just curious what kinds of things you know you've tried and love and maybe tried and said..."Nope, not for me".

Andy: One of the first things I tried after I started in on something I loved, which was taking I started piano lessons when I was 52. And, you know, now it's 17 years later, and I'm pretty good. Back then...I was terrible and it was a ton of work. Now it's just a lot of pleasure. So, it was well worth the investment. After that, I decided to do what I suggest in as a possibility in my chapter called Keep Your Business Brain Alive. I decided maybe I'd find half time work because, you know, my dance card was pretty empty at the time. And I went out and did something in solar energy because I'm a bit of a guy who cares about the environment. And solar energy was based on silicon technology, and I knew that from the semiconductor industry, so at least I'd know something as opposed to nothing. And I poked around and got a half-time job doing that. And we did it as a try by, you know, we all agreed we'd do this for a few months and see if we both liked it. The employer and myself. And after a few months, I was kind of like, wow, a half-time job is pretty intrusive on my newfound freedom.

Evelyn: Gosh darn it.

Andy: And so, I grabbed the towel and threw it right in. But boy, I learned something really important. So, no more big, huge tapas that crowd out half my life. I also decided, well, here's something else that would be neat to do from an environment standpoint. I thought I'd try to become a high school teacher. To teach one course advanced placement, environmental science to juniors and seniors in our local public school. And I wanted to do that so that there'd be more people who grew up to want to protect the environment and repair the environment. And, you know, the AP Environmental Sciences class was better known to our kids as APES, which I always enjoyed. And I did everything I needed to do to get a teaching certificate program at San Jose State and then brilliant folks that there they said, you got to go sit in a classroom for 10 hours. To make sure you know what you're getting into. So, I went to the local public high school and they said, yeah, we'd love to have you as a teacher, which I already had found out. And they said, you're welcome to come sit in a classroom, but you should know that AP Environmental Sciences is part of the biology curriculum. And we're unionized, so if you come teach here, you'll start start teaching ninth grade biology. We happen to have one of the two highest or three highest rated high schools in California in our public school district. Yeah, I went and sat in that class, and it was horrible. So, a bunch of students who didn't want to be there weren't paying any attention. Poor teacher was trying to get something done to no avail. I decided, wow. Can't stand this, so after one hour in the classroom, I washed out there.

Jerry: That is an amazing story. I love it.

Evelyn: I do love that story. It reminds me of many, many years ago. I thought I wanted to be a teacher and I took a course at the local college. I needed a couple of English courses to be able to do this, and I didn't sit in a class, but I would have been able to teach middle school students. One day, I sat with teachers who were finishing up the classes they needed, who were actually teaching already. And just from what they were saying. I thought, Yep, this is not for me, so I can relate. But that is a really interesting story.

It makes me remember a time that I took yoga from an instructor. He retired at 55, took his first yoga class and could barely get his hands to where his knees were. Then...five years later, he was an instructor. And, you know, he was able to touch the floor, you know, flat palm, you know, get into the most advanced yoga poses. And that was his thing. That was really what drove him. He didn't know that this was going to be the direction his life went into, but he retired and found that love for yoga. So really, the sky's the limit.

Andy: It, it absolutely is, you know, and eventually I found a lot of tapas that did work for me, and so when I was suddenly from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning, a house dad of teenagers. And my wife left on a three-week business trip to Australia. I was, you know, thrust into the care and feeding of the family. And they didn't much like my cooking. And after six months victory when one night at dinner, our son said: "well, dad, this is this is really good"...music to my ears. And you know, now I'm regarded by many as a gourmet cook. Along the way, I became a wine collector because I like drinking, well, aged wines, and so I got a wine cellar and read about and tasted and collected wines. And now I enjoy them and I've continued to add wines to our cellar for our kids. So, when we're dead, they'll have it.

And after adding many hedonic tapas, I decided that my life was still a little empty. I was just a consumer of resources here on the planet. And I found after four years of assembling my tapas life, that I needed a meaningful tapas. And I read a little bit about that and then pursued it, and I eventually found coaching. And I'd done a lot of mentoring in my business life and certainly a little bit of informal and uninformed coaching of our children. And I went and took 300 hours of training at the oddly named Coaches Training Institute and learned something, and now for 10 years, I've been a coach. And I love it. It's super meaningful to get in there close with another human with no agenda but to listen to them, help them hear themselves and help them move themselves to where they want to be. And it's a topper. So, I closed my practice at five clients. It's not meant to be a new full time career.

Jerry: And I love it. Andy, that really kind of leads into your Chapter 14, which you titled "Be Fully"...you start the chapter by talking about the decades of doing, followed by the opportunity to focus more on being and finding meaning. Could you share a little bit more with our listeners about what you're talking about there?

Andy: Yes, for sure. You know, during those decades when we're so darn busy and there's not much room for anything other than work and family. And so, we do like you described earlier, and we do and do and do and do, and that's what we're focused on. And then when our long career ends, we're still focused on doing...what am I going to do now? And we work at figuring out what to do and a little bit after we've assembled some sort of new life.

And, you know, I don't pretend that tapas life is the only one. Some people will, you know, do a whole second act and, you know, work a new 60 hour a week job and some are cut out to, you know, watch the grass grow. But you know, there is the opportunity for this new thing that never existed before the tapas life. Well, you may find is that you actually have time to focus on how you show up as in the world. What am I actually like as a person? What parts of how I show up. Maybe I don't like so much. Or what things do I see in others that I admire? And, you know, maybe that's part of their personality and not part of mine, and there's not a damn thing I can do about that.

Andy: But maybe it is part of their behavior and I can do something about that in my behavior. So for example, one of my important values in life is gratitude. I get a huge boost  out of being grateful to others. I've always been that way a little bit, but after my long career, I had time and energy to be grateful to others a lot more. And now oftentimes, you know, I'll say thank you to somebody and then I'll say "and thanks for your smile, too". That was it's really a nice thing. And so, I'm always thanking people.

My wife is not so great at that. But she reported to me just yesterday that when she was in the restroom, in the hotel, we happened to be at there's a wedding going on here. And, you know, a young woman walked in dressed to the nines. And to top it off, she was wearing a COVID mask that was all covered in rhinestones that work perfectly with her black mini dress. And my wife said to her, wow, what a great outfit, and then you topped it off with that cool mask. And my wife said, wow, the young lady just lit up. And then, you know, when Carol finished the anecdote, she said, "I felt like I was taken a little page out of your behavior book."

Jerry: That's a great story.

Andy: And so, you can do that, you can find ways. To be a better human and. You know, in our very contentious and polarized world, you can get more curious, which is at the core of my wife's competency. When somebody says something infuriating instead of getting angry and barking at them, you can do things like trying to ask..."can you tell me more about that? How did you come to that belief?" You don't want to ask why questions, because why questions puts the other person on the defensive, but you can say: "Well, that's so interesting. What got you to conclude that or how did you get there?" If you ask it as a what question, now you're being inquisitive and you don't put the other person on the defensive, you get them to talk about themselves, which everybody loves. And so, these are things that you can learn at this age if you decide to dedicate a little bit of your found time to making yourself a better human in the world.

Evelyn: I love that, and I think I think that goes for any time of your life in particular, to your point, you know, when you have the freer time to be more mindful and thoughtful about those things. But it just it resonates with me as a manager of people, as a mother of a son, you know, a wife and just a member of the community that I do think, especially in these times, the contentious times were in...that's a really lovely thought. I think there's a lot of power in just the little interactions every day as you go about your life.

Andy: There is and then applying that same, how can I be a better person? Maybe you have some relationships that used to be good and got broken. And now if you wish to if you miss one or more of those relationships. You can be the big person who takes the first step and reaches out. Expressing intent to the other saying, you know. I really liked the relationship we used to have. And somehow it fell off the rails, and I know it took two of us to do that or even if it was just my fault. And it was just my bad. I'm sorry. I apologize. I miss our relationship. Could we try to restart a little bit? And that that's just solid gold, there isn't a soul on the planet that won't walk toward the attempt with open arms.

Jerry: Yeah, that's again, a wonderful, wonderful idea. Andy, one thing. Every time I've ever taken a personality test, it always comes back that I am a checklist achiever, a doer. And that's why your book again just resonated with me so much that towards the end of the book, you summarize everything with your Tapas Life checklist and you have this wonderful checklist. And I think it would be a great way to kind of pull all this together, but maybe highlighting some of the most important items that you believe are in that checklist.

Andy: The two most important are: 1) Looking after your health which entails some exercise and paying attention to what you eat. And if you have a spouse or partner doing that with your spouse or partner or doing that with some other close loved one. And the reason that's important is if you imagine your life from now to when you're dead. Because for better or for worse, we're all headed there. Life is a journey and death is a destination. If you imagine from here to there being point to point. We can draw that as a straight line right across the horizon. That then drops off sharply to death. Or we can draw that as a declining exponential curve that just goes steeper and steeper. And in the first case, you have a great life and then you're dead. And in the second case, your quality-of-life declines, life diminishes, what you can do becomes less and less, life becomes less and less enjoyable and less and less worth living. And then you die a miserable death. That is entirely a choice. Ok. Not entirely, you may be cursed with bad genes if you are. My condolences. Other than that, though, it is a choice entirely. So, you know, pick well and the reason is. You want to delay; you want to delay the day that your most loved ones have to become your caregiver.
Wow. Is that really what you want to do to your closest loved ones, your spouse or children? Probably not. So maybe pick the straight line across the horizon. Instead of the exponential decay curve. Also, a nice benefit to you and your loved ones, so that's one.

2) The other one is social connection and it has two parts. One is if you have a spouse or partner. I recommend restarting your relationship because your relationship has probably been built on building career and family. And making life work during that phase of life and now life is completely different. And you actually have to rediscover what do we like about each other? What do we like doing together? How do we like being together? What do we want out of life in these coming decades, two or three decades? It's a long time. Shall we do the work to rebuild a life? Or shall we go our separate ways? And the other part of social connection is just making sure that you're in fact getting out of your house and having a life with others, because lots of research shows that if you don't have plenty of social connection, you wind up going down that exponential curve in a hurry. It eventually affects your immune system for the worst. And that that helps you go down the wrong curve, so. Those two things keep your health up and have some social connection, I think are the most important.

Evelyn: Those are really important messages for people to hear, and I think, you know, those are two things that people can pay attention to as they ramp up towards retirement. I know, you know, we can start doing those things today, and those are great things for us all to keep in mind, for sure. I think your message is an important message. The totality of this Tapas Life. Gen Xers and Boomers that are heading into retirement or in retirement should know that we don't need to let life just happen to us. We can take some control.

Andy: You know, I always told my kids as they were growing up, you know, kids, there are a lot of lives to be lived on this planet. And all you have to do is ideate the one you want and then go pursue living it. That's true. True at all ages. And now with perhaps a lot more time and freedom, it's extremely true at this stage of life. So, give it some good thought and consideration and have the conversations with your spouse and loved ones and with your friends because you won't probably discover a whole new life and build it in two weeks. It'll be a lot of conversation. It'll be a lot of trial and error. And it'll take time to assemble. I'm hoping that since you've got the benefit of my Tapas Life book that won't take you four and a half years like it took me.

Evelyn: That's the idea, that is the hope. That's why we started retirement rovers as well as we started thinking about how we have no idea what we want to do, and we don't want to have to decide. Once we retire, we want to be able to hit the ground running and, you know, have some type of plan ahead of time. So, this this was absolutely perfect.

Jerry: Andy, if our listeners want to know a little bit more about you, your journey and in particular the Tapas Life philosophy, where can they learn more?

Andy: If you go to my website tapaslife.com, there they can see a little bit more about the book. They can read some comments made by people who have read it. They can see some of the articles that I've written or interviews I've done for publications when I get off my lazy behind. They'll eventually be able to see links to some podcasts I've done, and they'll also find a link to Amazon, where they can buy the book for super cheap. Or they can go directly to Amazon and buy the book super cheap as a really pretty paperback. I was astonished by the quality of Amazon's paperbacks or as a Kindle book for even cheaper.

[Andy exits the podcast]

Evelyn: Andy gave us so much to think about, and I really highly recommend anyone out there getting Andy's book The Tapas Life. It really is a guide to having an amazing retirement.

Jerry: I agree there are so many things that resonated with me during that conversation. One thing in particular is around failing freely. I mean, what a cool concept about how we're all in many ways preprogrammed to succeed in everything, and that's how we go into retirement thinking. But instead, I think his points were, hey, go try lots of different things because previously we never had much time, and now we do, and you can try things. And if it works out great and if it doesn't work out. Go try something different.

Evelyn: Right? I think it's really the one time in your life that it's okay to quit. It's OK to try something and say, Yeah, this isn't for me, I'm going to try something different. I love that.

Jerry: Exactly. And look again, there's so many different things we can all try once you retire because we finally have the time. Another thing that really resonated with me in his book was Chapter eight "Keeping Your Business Brain Alive". Now that, I think, is really a cool concept because ultimately, he does some consulting during his retirement. You can do some consulting in what you previously did, or you can start a website or a podcast. Much like we're doing pre-retirement, right?

Evelyn: You could build your own little business. You could do travel blogging. There are so many things out there available, and I think it just keeps us sharp as we age. So, I think that's all we have for today, and I did want to quickly mention the book that Andy talked about. It's called Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes by William Bridges. It's an excellent book, and it really helps you put things into perspective as we go through our lives.

Jerry: We hope you found today's episode as enjoyable as we did, and we certainly hope that as you find your paradise, you can put a little bit of Tapas Life into it.

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