Wife asks “When is it going to be time? Our time? My time?” and Google CFO chooses to retire

To supplement yesterday’s article, “When Can Your Loved One Become an Important Client?” on making time for ourselves and our loved ones, here’s a memo published yesterday by Google CFO Patrick Pichette announcing his retirement after a 30-year career that he deemed left him with too little time to pursue anything else.

Google CEO Larry Page called the memo “a most unconventional leaving notice … Well worth reading — it will warm your heart.”

Google CFO Patrick Pichette and wife atop Mt. Kilimanjaro

A trip to Africa in September 2014 was the genesis of Pichette’s choice to retire at age 52. One morning, Pichette and wife Tamar were watching the sunrise from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and appreciating the expanse of the Serengeti Park beneath. Then,

And Tamar out of the blue said “Hey, why don’t we just keep on going”. Let’s explore Africa, and then turn east to make our way to India, it’s just next door, and we’re here already. Then, we keep going; the Himalayas, Everest, go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef… Antarctica, let’s go see Antarctica!?” Little did she know, she was tempting fate.

… then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air.

A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going? And so began a reflection on my/our life.

… I am completing this summer 25-30 years of nearly non-stop work (depending on how you wish to cut the data). And being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on – even when I was not supposed to be. Especially when I was not supposed to be. And am guilty as charged – I love my job (still do), my colleagues, my friends, the opportunities to lead and change the world.

Third, this summer, Tamar and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that “it’s really too early to tell” if our marriage will in fact succeed.

If they could only know how many great memories we already have together. How many will you say? How long do you have? But one thing is for sure, I want more. And she deserves more. Lots more.

Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths. But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road – celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.

… In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community. And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful. Carpe Diem.

Pichette has sounded affable when I’ve heard him lead recent Google corporate earnings calls. CEO Larry Page hasn’t been talking at events since 2013 because of vocal cord troubles; Pichette has been the one to answer for Google’s large spending and disappointing earnings numbers. He has persistently defended Google’s moonshot projects and speculative investments in many new products and acquisitions that haven’t made money for stockholders.

Pichette’s memo is perhaps the finest “spend more time with family” message ever written in announcing a retirement (or resignation.) Although it’s “carpe diem” for the immediate future, he’s left the door open for more opportunities “once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.”

Idea for Impact: Get Your Priorities Right

Undeniably, Pichette’s decision to retire and my own ‘retirement’ for identical reasons (my decision came about on a trip to Alaska in March 2009) are outside the realm of possibility for 99% of people. Yet, this inspiring memo serves as a reminder to us to invest more time on our loved ones and on ourselves. We don’t need to constantly succumb to the demands of the world at the expense of the needs of our loved ones and our own deep-held aspirations.

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