Have you ever ridden a dinosaur? Yeah, me either.
But I did recently attend my brother’s retirement party. I know on the surface that the prospect of attending a retirement party doesn’t sound that exhilarating. But it was. In fact, it was so unique and enjoyable that I suggested it was like riding a dinosaur.
Let me explain. This was no typical retirement party. No lame roasting, no “you’re older than dirt” Hallmark cards or helium filled “you made it” balloons. My brother was retiring after serving proudly in the US Navy for thirty years. Thirty years!
Reflecting on the ceremony, the reason I said it felt like riding a dinosaur is because it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and something I’m unlikely to ever experience again. How many 30+ year retirement parties have you been to? And how many more do you think you’ll be invited to attend?
Yep, like riding a dinosaur.
And why was an event celebrating the career of one self-proclaimed “ordinary sailor” so freaking awesome?
- Pride – It was awesome seeing how proud the retiring sailor, the emcee (a US Navy Captain) and all the participants and attendees are in the institution that most are/were a part of. Pride filled everyone’s chest for what the institution stands for, and what they stand for as members of that institution. I won’t go chapter and verse on what the US Navy’s mission is, but suffice it to say it’s a little bigger than achieving a huge stock price or becoming the most iconic brand in an industry.
- Honoring Tradition – The ceremony honored the loyalty and commitment of the retiring sailor, but equally honored the long and rich tradition of the 245-year history of the US Navy. Traditions of being piped aboard ship, being piped off the ship one last time, the presentation of the flag, and a revered poem about a dedicated sailor standing watch. I loved watching these time-honored traditions being carried out essentially the same as they have for two and a half centuries. And like everyone else in attendance, hoping that they stand the test of time for at least another two and a half centuries.
- Thanks – There was sincere thanks from the institution for the committed service from the retiring sailor. There was sincere thanks from the retiring sailor for the opportunity to be a part of such a great institution. Special thanks for what the institution invested in him, and those who helped him find his way. The lessons he learned, the experiences he had. Both the retiree and the institution offered heartfelt thanks and gratitude, as if it was always a match made in heaven.
With 30+ years of work experience scattered over a dozen or so companies, I’m not too unlike most people of my generation working today. I likely won’t have a retirement party. And if I do, it will be over drinks at the local watering hole with a few colleagues and friends with some good intentioned ribbing. Thanks for the three years you spent here, and for what you contributed.
That will be nice, but not nearly as nice as the ceremony, awards and recognition bestowed upon my brother. He was a great sailor and was of great service to our country, and to the US Navy. But that doesn’t set him apart, he’s one among many.
What is great, what does stand apart, and what will stick in my mind as I finish my career is the tradition and honor that filled my brother’s retirement ceremony, and how such celebratory events are quickly becoming extinct.
And that makes me feel like the dinosaur.
Ed’s a career HR front man who’s advised business owners and the C-suite on developing great cultures and inspiring work environments since the profession was called “personnel.” Yeah, that makes him seasoned but also quick to call out the fluffy HR theoretical crap from HR strategies that actually work.
His versatility has taken him all over the world, continually acquiring knowledge of how to build a great company through innovative HR practices, learning mostly from real world experience and his own mistakes.
He’s the founder of HRO Partners, a HR consulting firm that specializes in guiding leaders on what they need and don’t need from HR for their business.