Engaged with the World

The reason she didn’t like it here (Grand Cayman), he finally understood, was that she needed to remain engaged with the world.  — The Silent Oligarch, by Chris Morgan Jones, page 200.

engageI’m starting to agree. It’s now been just over 6 months since I worked, and my mind is getting antsy. I’ve been doing some good hiking and cycling, but I haven’t really been using my mind. But it’s more than just not using my mind. It’s that I don’t feel engaged with the world. Perhaps you might call it not having a purpose, although I think the two are slightly different.

Working gave me intellectual stimulation, some social interaction, an income, and engagement with the outside world. There’s always the engagement with one’s co-workers, but I’m thinking of a larger context.

The best working years of my life were with a small company called Silver Creek Systems. We were dynamic, fast-paced, and on the verge of going out of business much of the time. But we very much engaged with the world. Prospective customers would tell us that they would buy our software if it just did X and Y in addition to everything it already did. A week later the software would do X and Y. I felt engaged with our customers; we listened, modified our software, and they bought.



Then Silver Creek was bought by Oracle and we no longer had that direct relationship with customers. Instead of responding to customer needs, work became dominated by having to change our software to do things the Oracle Way. There was no longer engagement with the world, and the exhilaration and joy disappeared from work.

That’s one of the stories I created to explain why I quit work. How much truth it contains, who knows? I also have other stories, because our pre-frontal cortex minds make up stories to explain things that our old brains decide without our rational involvement. (As has been said by Jon Haidt and Rory Sutherland, the rider on the elephant thinks it’s the Oval Office when it’s mostly the press office.)

But that was all six months ago. Today, after mainly playing for six moths, I’m starting to feel the need for more engagement. I was talking with a friend on a bike ride the other day and he told me he was an airline pilot, then he retired, then two years later he got bored, and now he’s engaged with the world again, selling real estate.

Universe provides

I don’t know where this desire for engagement will lead. I suspect nowhere in the short term because we have plans for the summer, but I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities for engagement. Something will turn up. The Universe always provides what one needs.

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6 Responses to Engaged with the World

  1. Alec, I am really enjoying the blog. Today’s post is speaks to me because, while I have not disengaged – yet, I do tell myself that I would be engaged enough even if I did not work. Your piece makes me question that assumption. The reason it does is because I don’t know of anyone that I think would have an easier time staying both occupied and engaged than you. Keep us posted on the progress.



  2. Cat Pumford says:

    Hello to you Alec all the way from the Midwest! I too am enjoying your blog. You say many things that the rest of us think, but just swirl it around and try to move on. I feel like I engage fully with the natural world, but am missing the balance with the human/intellectual parts of the world (for lack of better words). I too believe with my whole heart that the universe provides. I find examples of this almost daily at the oddest times. Have a great summer and I look forward to hearing more and what whisperings from the universe you detect.


  3. Yvette says:

    Hi Alec,
    I too really enjoy your blog
    I totally can relate to your feelings.
    I quite often have the same thoughts. I only can play so much and still enjoy it.
    I am still searching for the right mix, after I retired I have worked for some friends doing odd jobs, really enjoyed them for 1 or 2 months then it was time to move on. After that I started to volunteer at a school and committed for 1year; that was a very long year. So what I am trying to say I am still looking for something I really can sink my teeth into. I find it really hard to stay committed when you don’t have to, what ever I decide on,it has to be fun and fulfilling and also very flexible – in case I feel like playing.
    It definitely is a journey . Good luck and keep us posted.


  4. Bruce T says:

    So Alec, I feel your pain, and think that the best solution might be to trade places for a while. I have a wonderfully successfull construction company that you could take over immediatly, and, in turn, I would like to experience the feeling of being dis-engaged for a while. Shall we set a date?


  5. Alec – I certainly can relate to where you are coming from, especially having been ‘engaged’ in the workings of the university for over 30 years. I think that one thing that you should keep in mind is that your ‘freedom’ will allow you to pursue some opportunities that otherwise might not have been possible whilst you were fully employed. I have been able to be a ‘pinch hitter’ when unforeseen circumstances have arisen – interim positions, international faculty replacement, etc. So, keep your contacts apprised that you are open to possibly assisting wherever and whenever a need might arise. Enjoy.


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