06/25/2013 06:05 pm ET Updated Aug 25, 2013

Redefining Our Personal Terms and Conditions

Many people reading this section of the Huffington Post have already retired or plan to do so in the near future. Those of us who are parents experienced empty nest syndrome when our children left home and went to college, got married or moved into their own apartment. Many of us who looked after parents and friends with terminal illnesses have since been relieved of our responsibilities as caretakers.

With so much exciting new technology at our fingertips (smart phones, apps, email, social media, blogs, etc.) we can enjoy a previously unimaginable power over how we live, work, plan for the future and incorporate others into our lives. We also have the power to redefine the boundaries and responsibilities by which we plan to enjoy our new freedom. To that end, it is important to acknowledge that some of the terms which previously defined us have taken on new meanings:


Now that I am retired, I am no longer anyone's employee. In simple terms, that means "You're not the boss of me." You do not have the right to volunteer me for anything without first asking me for my permission. Nor should you assume that everything that interests you automatically interests me .


Just as labor law has some very keen tax consequences for categorizing someone as an employee versus independent contractor, there is a big difference between a consultant and an advisor. A consultant charges a client for his professional time in billable hours and is reimbursed for any relevant outlay of expenses. Someone who offers free professional advice may be doing you a favor in order to help you solve a complex challenge. However, you should never assume that a person's intellectual generosity is meant to be interpreted as their desire to become a paid consultant, an employee, or be asked to join a board of directors.


A volunteer is someone who offers his/her time for the good of a larger cause. That person (and only that person) gets to choose which projects have sufficient appeal to merit their generosity and devotion.


You do not have the right to "volunteer" someone who you think would do a good job at something (or relieve you of *your* responsibility for doing that job).


When someone says "no" to you, that person is empowering you to take control of your situation and take pride of ownership in finding the appropriate solution to your problems. An advisor or volunteer should never have to ask "What part of the word NO did you fail to understand?"