Books to Live By

Mike Drak

I READ A LOT—and every now and then I come across an “aha” book that ends up changing the course of my life. Here are two of the most important:

In my mid-50s, I wasn’t happy in my banking job. The stress was starting to get to me. Don’t get me wrong: I was good at my job and it paid well. But it no longer gave me what I needed. The thrill was gone. I had no personal goals, no real purpose. Just hanging on ‘til the finish line isn’t a very good way to go through life.

I read somewhere that, to de-stress, it was helpful to go for a walk. At lunchtime, I’d go out for a stroll. I would usually walk to the local pharmacy to test my blood pressure. More often than not, it would be red-lining.

I knew I had to do something before something bad happened. But it’s hard to leave a good-paying job late in your career. I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted looking at pension projections to calculate how much I’d lose by leaving early.

I began visiting the library to read books on retirement. One day, I got my hands on Zelinski’s book. After reading it, I knew exactly what I had to do. His book helped me avoid spending another seven years at the bank, dying a little bit each day.

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When I was suffering from the shock of retirement, my son took me to a seminar. Godin was the keynote speaker, and he gave everyone a free copy of his book. The title—What to Do When It’s Your Turn—haunted me for a long time. Reading it resulted in one of my biggest “aha” moments, when everything started to make sense.

I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to do from that day forward. It felt like Godin was personally challenging me to take action, so I could achieve the lasting happiness I was after. He was telling me that it was now up to me to gain control of my future, and achieve the life that I’d always wanted.

I had paid my dues. I’d met my responsibilities to my family and achieved financial independence. Because of that, I’d earned the chance to do whatever I wanted with my newfound freedom. Reading that book helped me escape from retirement hell. It set me on a path to figure out who I really was—and what I wanted to become.

It made me realize that retirement wasn’t the end goal I’d been striving for, but rather a new beginning. I had a chance to live the rest of my life on my own terms. I’d learned there’s a big difference between being retired and having a great life.

I owe a big debt of gratitude to Zelinski and Godin. Reading their books saved me, and put me on track to change my life for the better.

What books have you read that had a similar impact on you?

Mike Drak is a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry. He’s the author of Retirement Heaven or Hell, which was published in 2021, as well as an earlier book, Victory Lap Retirement. Mike works with his wife, an investment advisor, to help clients design a fulfilling retirement. For more on Mike, head to Check out his earlier articles.

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Bob Wilmes
Bob Wilmes
1 year ago

I read a lot as well and I try to absorb a board spectrum of ideas, not to be blind sided by my ignorance. One book I just read which opened up a whole new world for me is The Tyranny of Merit by Harvard philosopher Micheal Sandel.

I was not familiar with Prof Sandel’s previous work, but his course on Justice is the most popular course at Harvard and is available at no cost by recorded video here:

His new book examines the role of meritocracy in the light common good and community support and mutual respect. It’s quite eye opening is respect to the use of SAT scores for college admissions and the lost of respect for the common good and the work of the sort that Mike Rowe promotes. I am not sure how long the USA continue with the current system of over-priced higher education and the accumulation of $2 trillion dollars in student debt in pursuit of a dream.

It’s something every student should consider in their pursuit of the best opportunities that come their way. It’s alarming to consider young people burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt that cannot be absolved by bankruptcy.

1 year ago

You know you have an impactful and personally rewarding book when you can remember exactly where you purchased it. The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. Thomas Stanley and Dr. William Danko was one of those books for me. Without giving specific advice it provided a blueprint for financial success, and a comfortable retirement.

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