Beyond Your Years with Luis Martinez

Pursuing Your Dream

What’s an appropriate time to pursue your lifelong dream?  How about right now!  Maybe you have always wanted to run a restaurant?  Or be a percussionist in an orchestra?  Or race a sports car?  Or open a Bed & Breakfast? One of the great gifts of retirement is – time.  Time abundant and better control of your time is what makes retirement such a blessing.

One chapter is closed – full time employment – while another opens, copious time.  Actually, some of what you can accomplish now would not have worked before. Think about this: it’s quite possible that your dreams could not have been achieved at an earlier age.  As my previous blog, “How to Win with Wisdom” suggests, having lived a long life enables you to learn from failures and successes, establish a clear focus, and develop a unique perspective to pursue your dream. Now, what can you do with all this?  Let’s look at some examples.

Ray Kroc was 59 when he paid a princely sum, $2.7 million to the brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in 1961 for a McDonald’s restaurant and the brand.   Kroc then used his genius for a systematic approach to fast food merchandising and created a worldwide conglomerate of thousands of restaurants in dozens of nations with a market capitalization today of $108 billion.

Ten years ago I met Dr. Fred Gorstein.  He was my driving student at Pocono Raceway.  Dr. Fred, as we call him, was a Faculty member in Pathology at the Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  Dr. Fred had just purchased a gently used Porsche 911 and he wanted to learn how to drive it – fast! But wait, Dr. Fred was 76 years old at the time.

A decade later, here’s what Fred has to say: “I am officially retired as a full time faculty, but I continue to work part time as an emeritus.  I run an honors program for medical students that focuses on selfdirected learning.  I am also chairman of the Board of an organization in Washington managing a governmental medical examiners facility and a DNA laboratory that analyzes all the data for the armed forces and other governmental employees. I am a Porsche Club of America Track Instructor. I now share a 911 with a friend. At age 85 yrs+ 10 months I have to cut myself a little slack.” Indeed, Dr. Fred.

Most know Paul Newman as a phenomenal actor. But I like sports car racing even more than films, and that’s how I know about Paul.  Born in 1925, Newman’s first professional event as a sports car racer was at age 47. Henceforth, he went by the name “P.L. Newman” in the racing community. I saw him race a Porsche 911 in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 1999 (car number 74, his age) and then again in 2007. His last racing car, which I photographed recently at Watkins Glen Raceway, is a 700hp Corvette Trans Am racer with the number 83 on the door.

Peter Swift owned a commercial crane and lift business for many years. He sold it and one day he decided to engage his long held dream – to compete in sports car racing. He fulfilled all the requirements and at age 73 he earned his Rookie Racing License from the Porsche Club of America. Peter continued to drive competitively until he was 80.  You may know Peter, resident at Brickstone by St. John’s, and his wife Jackie who lives at St. John’s Home. 

Our long-time friend, Gwenn Voelckers, age 62, recently retired from a long career in health care. On evenings and weekends during the last decade of her employment, Gwenn created and cultivated two businesses – one, empowerment workshops for widowed, divorced or unmarried women living alone; and the other, a small B&B called House Content in a bucolic rural setting in Honeoye Falls, NY. These activities keep Gwenn looking forward to making new friends and having a positive impact on their lives. But wait, there’s more. This year Gwenn learned how to play percussion and debuted with a 30-piece community band at Kilbourn Hall in the Eastman School of Music.

What can we learn from Paul, Dr. Fred, Peter and Gwenn?  I think we can learn a few things:

  1. Reach out for an ambitious goal, whether in music, triathlon, literature, racing, jewelry making – whatever. Raise the bar, learn how to get over that bar; hire an instructor if necessary.
  2. Stay relevant by reading, writing, researching – or leading a community of like-minded practitioners.
  3. Don’t use age as a reason to quit. You can shift from physical activities to more mental challenges, but use your age, and your sage, to help yourself – and others.

These individuals noted above are an inspiration to me. In fact, there are many inspiring individuals throughout all of our communities, even within our own families.  Take a hard look at them. Learn from them. And – tell them how much they inspire you. As Bette Davis famously said: Old age is no place for sissies.”

Luis Martinez is a guest blogger for St. John’s. He is an active senior that likes to observe and write about how people work at their careers, guide their businesses, strengthen their families, stay physically fit and mentally sharp, and race their sports cars. Luis habla español. Follow Luis on Twitter @BeyondYourYears, or email

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