Introducing the inaugural winner of the Victory Lap Retirement [VLR] Award

Author Ernie Zelinski

Picking the first winner of the VLR [Victory Lap Retirement] Award was easy for me. Some might consider me a little biased, but how could I not give the award to my friend and mentor Ernie Zelinski?

After all it was Ernie’s books How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free and The Joy of Not Working that basically salvaged my life and gave me the courage to leave a 36-year banking career that was slowly killing me.

If I had read Ernie’s book earlier, I would have probably exited my corporate job even sooner than I did.

Ernie is an interesting guy, who learned early in life that he wasn’t cut out for the corporate world.

He’s a true free spirit, always has been, always will be and I just love his personal story. At the age of 29 he bailed (some might say was fired) from his job as a professional engineer. I say bailed because subconsciously we sometimes do things that will end up giving ourselves the result that we really want, as in “I know if I do this they will probably fire me” and in Ernie’s case they actually did.

In Ernie’s own words: “I Truly believe that had I not left corporate life, I would either be dead today, or suffering from some serious stress-induced illness.” Yours truly was also on this path. Thanks for showing me the way Ernie!

Not a quitter

Ernie doesn’t know the word quit once he has decided on a direction to go in. Failing a first-year university English class three times in a row didn’t dissuade him from becoming a writer. He made a deal with himself to write for a minimum of three hours a day. He knew that it’s all about taking small regular steps in the right direction, the compounding of daily effort.

When he finished his first book, he couldn’t find a publisher and again in his own words: “Most publishers thought that the manuscript was written by a ditch digger whose last three years of education was spent trying to get through grade nine.” Not being able to find a publisher, he was forced to self publish and like they, say the rest is history.

Ernie recently celebrated the 25th year since self-publishing The Joy of Not Working, which has sold just over 296,000 copies and has been published in 17 languages. How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free has now sold over 301,00 copies. [See also the Hub blog How Ernie Zelinski retired Happy, Wild and Free.] Just goes to show that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and are willing to take some risks and put in the hard work.

Everyone at some point needs to face their fears in order to succeed.Thinking about what Ernie was able to accomplish gave me the courage to start work on my own book. There were many times when I wanted to give up. Writing, I learned, is really hard, but remembering what Ernie went through gave me the strength to carry on.

We get together whenever Ernie comes to Toronto and have a steak at the Keg along with a bottle of his favorite wine Mollydooker Shiraz, described by one wine connoisseur as “a wine that will kiss you on the lips, smack you on the ass, and leave you feeling completely satisfied.”

A reason to get out of bed in the morning

Ernie’s main purpose in life, the thing that gets him out of bed in the morning, is finding ways to help people develop to their potential and attain some of their own dreams. [For example, see the Hub review of his latest book: Look Ma, Life is Easy.] I was lucky he was willing to take me on and teach me the ropes, though I still have lots to learn.

Now the responsibility is on me to take what he has taught me, use well and help a lot of people in the process. You just can’t take from your mentor without giving back in return. The expectation is that at some point I will bump into someone that needs a helping hand, just like I did, and show them the way. If everyone thought and acted like this the world would be in a much better place.

PS. Please send me your stories about people who are enjoying their Victory Laps. I will pick a winning story each month and the winner will receive a signed copy of our book. (email below:)

Mike Drak is an author, blogger and speaker based in Toronto. He can be reached at Victory Lap Retirement, co-authored with Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau, is now available for orders online and on Kindle and Kobo ebooks, where it is a bestseller. The paperback edition is available in Chapters Indigo and many independent bookstores, as well as Costco. This blog originally ran on Mike’s blog on December 7th and is reprinted here with permission.



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