What will help you retire happy? After a long career, are you looking for a retirement life that has more variety and flexibility? And a rich, diverse set of activities and interests that you can build gradually and adjust as you go? Our guest on this retirement podcast is Andy Robin, a retired technology executive who’s doing just that. He’s joining us to share insights from his book Tapas Life: A Rich and Rewarding Life After Your Long Career.
Andy joins us from California.
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Andrew Robin, known to most as Andy, was born in Chicago and raised in Mexico City. He holds a BA in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from Harvard University. He has been happily married to Carole for 35 years, and they have two fine kids, Nick, 33, and Molly, 31.
Andy was an entrepreneur with his dad in the computer industry in the early ‘70s in Mexico City (his dad moved the family there from Chicago to pursue an opportunity). He was in the semiconductor industry for 22 years (at Mostek, Monolithic Memories, AMD, and Lattice), mostly in marketing, but also as a general manager, and most recently as VP of New Business Ventures. He was a house dad from 2002 to 2007 until Carole and Andy’s youngest went off to college.
Today he retains the duties of shopping/cooking, household maintenance, travel planning, and finances. He also plays a lot of classical piano, some golf, enjoyed 6 years on the Board and Executive Committee of his large synagogue (Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills), where he was also co-chair of raising an endowment, was part-time CEO of a promising tech start-up for 6 years (and remains on the Board), is an Executive Coach and Life Coach, serves on the Board of a foundation in Palo Alto and a NYC hedge fund and enjoys day-trips, lectures, and concerts around the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley.
Andy wrote Tapas Life to do some good for others.
Andy’s wife, Carole Robin, wrote a terrific book for Penguin RandomHouse with her colleague David Bradford: Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships With Family, Friends, and Colleagues. It distills the combined 70 years she and David enjoyed teaching the Interpersonal Dynamics course at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She believes that when more people embrace the learnings in her book, the world will be a better place.
On a Tapas Life
“For those who don’t know is it’s one of the foods of Spain. It’s the concept that instead of having an American style, large porterhouse steak on your plate with some potatoes and a veggie, instead you have a bunch of little dishes, and often times the table orders six or eight little dishes as you go. You order a few more and so on. And so it’s almost like a little buffet that you make yourself at your own table. And that’s kind of how I think about the Tapas Life. During what I call my long career decades of working in an office, that was my big job. And I probably did that 45 to 60 hours a week for decades. My plate was very full for decades. And now that I’m done with my long career, instead, I like to assemble a number of smaller activities that comprise my life today. It’s rich and rewarding. It’s tasty and interesting. It’s varied and enjoyable. And also one of those Tapas is meaningful. So I’m also doing some good for others on the planet.”
Examples of a Tapas Life
“I’ve seen others who have done important things about social connection for Tapas. What I write about in the book that I just loved is one couple I interviewed who said that once a month they get together with another couple for a weekend. And they alternate each month. It’s one couple’s responsibility to figure out, within a three-hour drive, where to go to book someplace to stay, figure out where it will be good to eat and to figure out what adventures to do while in that area. And then on Saturday morning, they go pick up the other couple. The other couple doesn’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing. The couple in charge takes them there. They have a great weekend together. And after brunch on Sunday, they drive home. And I love that because it’s a nice way to keep in close touch with another couple. It’s a Tapa, and it’s not a very frequent one, but it fits in the category of social connection, which is critical to remaining in good health and avoiding depression. And I thought it was super creative. Another fellow I know has a Tapa of flying airplanes, flying small craft airplanes with another friend in a very used small airplane. And I had a boss, my boss’s boss when I was in the industry, who had been a Marine Drill Sergeant. This guy could be pretty refined or he could be pretty gruff, and he controlled the dial on that pretty well. And after he left his long career, to my astonishment, he took up painting – and he loved it. And of course, I’ve seen a lot of volunteerism amongst people, and that’s Meaningful Tapa. That’s doing something for others selflessly. And when you have a Meaningful Tapa then you’re no longer just a consumer of resources and a hedonist, you’re now a useful human doing something that benefits another. And without that, after a while, I learned life felt enjoyable, but a little bit hollow.”
On the Value of a New Structure
“If you think about building your life after your long career, as with building a house, the first thing you want to do is, is build a foundation and the framing for the house before you can put in the plumbing and the electric and the drywall and the appliances and so on. And so [structure] is the foundation and the framing for the house. And what it means is you need to put some regular things on your calendar. Some people like a lot of them, some people don’t like many, some people like them to be very prescribed in terms of their day and time, some like them to float. So there’s a variety of things you can put on your calendar. You can decide to get your butt up out of the house and have a lunch scheduled with friends a couple of times a week. That adds structure and it serves as a social connection. And if those people are interesting, then it may lead to activities together, and it may lead to inspiration for something you want to try yourself or do with a friend. And so getting some structure like that in place keeps you from feeling adrift. And the good thing is unlike during your long career, if there gets to be too much of it, you can take some things out. And if one day you decide, ‘well, it’s my regular exercise time, but yeah, I’ve got a great opportunity to go to lunch with Jane. So I’m going to do that instead and I’ll exercise tomorrow.’ So it doesn’t have to be super restrictive and rigorous, but it has to be enough, so you don’t feel adrift and untethered.”
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