Editorial-Opinion March 2018

Steve Burch begins his victory lap toward next year's retirement.

Steve Burch | March 1, 2018

Some of you will recognize the actor Will Geer. You will remember him as either the fur-clad mountain man who asked Jeremiah Johnson  (Robert Redford), “Can you skin griz, pilgrim?” Or you might recognize him as Grandpa on the 1970s TV series “The Waltons.”

Will Geer was born in 1901 in Indiana, about nine months after my grandfather was born in 1900 on Armuchee Creek, in Texas Valley, in northern Floyd County, above Rome.

While they never knew one another, they both shared a burden; their fathers abandoned the family when they were eleven. That created hardships, economically and socially. Both grew to be large men physically. Both overcame the licks life brings, and each, in his own way, became successful in their careers and in their families.

They also had this in common. Both were working until they died. Neither had to work at that age, but they did. Will Geer had completed the sixth season of The Waltons when he passed away before filming began on season seven. He was 76 years old.

My grandfather’s woodworking shop is now here at the GON offices, awaiting my attention. I love the smell of a cabinet shop. He had grown from only having a third-grade education, through day work and night school, to an engineer who could run a slide rule and pour concrete caissons below the surface of the Tennessee River to hold bridges and bring electricity and light to an oil-lamp south.

As his professional career waned, he tinkered with projects that kept him busy in the community because he would take on challenges other builders would pass on, or they price the job so high, it amounted to the same thing.

He was an artist with wood and form and function. Out of this cabinet shop, he built jewelry boxes and complete houses, a complete library and a backboard that was 70 feet long and 17 feet high for a carpet magnate’s tennis court so the guy could practice tennis by himself. The list did not end, until he passed away in 1991.

My point here is that, for these men, retirement was not something they set as a goal. I have always admired that and thought, as I ascended to those “golden years,” that I would remain active and engaged in something, or things.

Well, as it happens, I have made some plans. And I have an announcement. (Drum roll please.)

This month begins my victory lap, as it were. I have been churning out magazines and editorials since 1987. My last one is scheduled for February of next year. That is when I will begin getting back some of the money I have been sending Uncle Sam all these years, assuming he doesn’t go broke.

While I am laying the ground work to step back from the day-to-day grind, I am not going away.

Dale Jr. is not driving, but he is still a part of racing. Same with Jeff Gordon. When Vince Dooley quit coaching, he still worked at UGA. But these guys did all change their jobs and their titles and the intensity of their work load. In business jargon, I think I am “kicking myself upstairs.”

I have heard it said that the goal of as good manager is to work himself out of a job. In my experience, achieving that goal is impossible, unless you can hire the right people. Well, it just so happens that the last 30-odd years has proven two things about me. The first thing is that hiring good people is one of the few things I seem to be good at. GON has a great crew.

The second thing is having the discipline to stay out of their way, mostly. When they understand what needs to be done, the right people get it done better if they are free to do it their way.

Over the next 11 months, I am going to take you along as I lay the groundwork for the next stages of my productive life. As I do, many of you will find an interest in some of the things I am planning. I  look forward to your active participation with me.

There are four priorities I will be focusing on this time next year. I hope to spend about half my time in Key West taking folks fishing and diving. I hope to spend time here and online teaching people the skill sets necessary to fish. I plan on setting up an excellent woodworking shop (I am looking for a 7-12 hp cyclone dust collector and a 15 hp 1-3 phase inverter.) Finally, my wife wants to travel. We are negotiating the percentage of time that can be spent “touring” antique malls.

Gonna to be a good year.

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