Retirement: And Stepping Down from the Front Line

–First Impressions and Beacon of Positivity

First impressions are a key aspect of meeting anyone whether business-focused; client meeting, interview, or a visit to a doctor.  An instant human reaction, often subliminal, resulting in a judgement, negative or positive regarding the person or persons we are to meet……….or being faced across a table with the iconic actress, Dame Judi Dench.

‎Dame Judi Dench of James Bond movie fame, where she played ‘M’ in three of the Bond movies until she was ‘killed off’ in ‘Skyfall’. I remember viewing that terribly sad moment. Although over 84 years’ young, she is still at the forefront of her acting profession, regarding the word ‘retirement’ as a profanity, bordering on a dirty word! She is brilliant transforming her personal self into the  ‘character’ she is playing.‎ One particular movie, ‘Mrs. Brown’, where she played Queen Victoria, epitomized her amazing and natural talent, and for which she won an Oscar.

A couple of years ago I attended an event where Dame Judi Dench was ‘in conversation’, being asked questions by John Miller, interlocutor; her answers lighting up her face and in doing so further enhancing the enjoyment of the audience. No script; totally spontaneous. The audience was spellbound.

I had the honor of meeting her face to face where she was signing her latest book: ‘Behind the Scenes’. Many were taking photos (selfies) but I just wanted a photo of one of my all-time favorite actors…..and of course the signed book! Conveying to her that I was standing in front of an all-time favorite acting icon she must have noticed I was actually a little nervous and had a quizzical look on her face.  A photo reflects her gentle amusement!

‎‎The excitement and buzz of meeting with prospective clients and subsequent candidates all over Europe, plus business trips to the USA, developed an inspiration and enthusiasm for creative writing.

How are the above experiences connected? ‎ Scenery, various cultures, architecture, eating out (no surprise) are translated into a strong desire to replicate the memories on ‘paper’ before they are forgotten.

Writing is akin to painting with watercolors (not that I can paint). It requires inspiration that we all yearn for but not always realize; it being reluctant to manifest itself. Then suddenly one has to grab a paintbrush or in this case a metaphorical pen and let the heart lead the creativity.‎

Engaging with people face to face from around the world is still a privilege which I still make the most of through community activities, including welcoming visitors from around the world as they enter the 1000-year-old Winchester Cathedral. Also the ‘Kings and Scribes’ exhibition; literally walking through history.

LinkedIn and BizCatalyst 360° share many mutual connections.  And BizCatalyst 360° has certainly opened up a new and enterprising perspective.

Remote interaction either via texts, emails, or face to face talks via for example WhatsApp is special. Especially the face to face time;  one of the tangible benefits of technology. Actually seeing and talking with some individuals from for example, across ‘The Pond’ is awesome.


So why not just vegetate; put my feet up and watch the sun go down?  Very easy to do! However, I  gained a new lease of energy.

Naturally not every day commences with a ‘high-five’ but there is more to life than wondering what to do next!  I just believe in doing what is next. Spontaneous action.  And what is next? Another article or post on LinkedIn? An essay on BizCatalyst 360°. Well, I have to admit I just enjoy writing; from the heart, but hopefully receiving genuine advisory comments and constructive opinions. I never stop learning.

I write for the local community magazine, where I describe in graphic detail the Natural Environment; rivers, hills, Water Meadows. Also for other local organizations.

Being involved in voluntary activities for the community lit a torch.  With no targets or pressure from the commercial world, I can be myself.

Being myself? Now, what on earth does that mean?  First impressions. We have all done it. Ensuring we have the correct posture out outfit.

In Paris, it seems the brand of tie was important!   A country manager of the company where I was an internal recruiter actually checked to see if my tie was of a particular brand, delivered with genuine humor. Nothing else but that brand was acceptable! I passed the test!

A look of cool business correctness. Was this me? Was it an act. Was I putting on a ‘face’ to ensure the client or candidate received an impression of supreme professionalism, a total can-do posture, and manner?

To be honest, sometimes, depending on my mood,   an ‘act’ was portrayed. Perhaps standing on a stage waiting for the curtain to go up and when ‘confronted’ with the audience, a split second to either put on the face, or become calm and be comfortable in one’s own skin.

I now realize that being ‘myself” whether it be chatting with exceedingly elderly folk at a community gathering especially for extremely elderly and lonely folk or engaging with university students as part of their specific vocation, exchanging ideas and comments, in a totally unscripted manner except for a list of topics is a delight. Also enthusing visitors and their children as they enter Winchester Cathedral with its amazing history.

Such amazing, enlightening sessions, with invitations to continue such events. And talking with and laughing WITH elderly folk is a joy! The over nineties are truly amazing. They have not lost their sense of humour or irony even though they may have lost their partner. They light up the gathering. The university students also bring with them an air of inspiration and the discussion with a bright, articulate, enthusiastic manner. A rapport and synergy that I will never take for granted.

But am I putting on a ‘face’ or a ‘personality mask’? Actually no. I am just myself. And in a quiet moment, I realize I am happiest when making people smile. My own personality, perhaps to an extent dormant in the past, has found its way out to hopefully brighten the day for someone. To give something back. I can ‘talk for England’, but also listen. And not preparing an answer while listing to others! And I do like writing; typically paragraphs when a sentence will suffice! To limit this natural instinct would deprive me of being myself.

So, returning to the article’s title! First Impressions and Beacon of Positivity. First impressions are a vital part of engaging with people, be it a business situation or meeting folk for the first time at an event.

Those who are relaxed and comfortable with themselves tend to gain empathy without effort. I am not suggesting it is for everyone. We are all unique. But if feasible, realistic, appropriate allow the natural, unrehearsed Positivity to shine upon the recipients and don’t fight it. Free your true personality and allow others to be quietly comfortable and sense that you are indeed projecting your self and not an act.

A Beacon of Positivity. I cannot claim to be the originator of this powerful, meaningful phrase. Kimberly Davis, American author of Brave Leadership bestowed this on me. I was shocked, taken aback honoured, amazed, and ultimately grateful for recognizing part of my true spirit.

Now I write about other folks where I say THEY are a Beacons of Positivity.

‎To conclude this essay, I would say that negativity gets us nowhere. We should endeavor to see a solution; a way forward, leaving the negative issues behind and set about delivering a solution based on Positivity.

The essay was written from my heart. No preparation, no bullet points to adhere to. Just me, being myself.


Simon Lever
Simon Lever
Prior to his retirement, Simon engaged in software and services sector search and recruitment for American companies around Europe. He has retained the enjoyment of engaging with people from other countries and cultures. His energies are now directed towards voluntary community activities, journaling, and exhibition stewardship. He is a Featured Contributor for BizCatalyst 360°. As an Exhibition Steward, at the 1000-year-old Winchester Cathedral, he is responsible for guiding visitors from the world over, around the award-winning 'Kings and Scribes Exhibition', which includes the 900-year-old Winchester Bible. The exhibition introduces visitors to Winchester's historical significance as a former capital of England. Simon's journaling activities are published on BizCatalyst 360° and accompanying posts on LinkedIn, He acknowledges the inspiration afforded him by Carol Campos of Massachusetts: Life Strategist, Writer, and Intuitive Business Leader who introduced him to writing with feeling; from the heart. Simon's forté is creative writing; the accent on the natural environment, transforming feelings, emotions, sights, sounds, and scents of Mother Nature's landscape; hills and rivers and woodland into words, transporting the reader to the locations. Essays include accounts of his life in former days. Instinctively writing in such a spontaneous manner, descriptions become life-like. His often emotionally charged writing, whether describing a surreal 'Son et Lumière' at the Grand Place in Brussels to experiences acquired during European business travel. Journaling and Exhibition Steward activities are his key sources of inspiration and creativity. Kindness is ever more important, where he is a promoter of Shelly Elsliger PPCC's 'Decide to be Kind' Campaign. Simon champions Positivity, Empathy, and Kindness and has been described as a 'Beacon of Positivity'.

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  1. Like all experiences in life, even the arrival of retirement can be experienced in a different way. There are those who consider it a rebirth because they finally have the time to devote themselves to what is really interesting and there are those who, on the contrary, get depressed because they suddenly feel deprived of their role. It happens above all when work has represented the fulcrum of one’s existence. The arrival of retirement never goes unscathed, but there are many ways to experience this phase of life in a positive way.
    For example writing is good for the soul, relaxes the mind, helps memory. Tidies up thoughts and cleanses.
    Writing emotions or thoughts is simply a good way to take time, be with ourselves, lock the world, keep it out there for a few hours and, above all, turn off the automatic pilot of thought for a while, that inner refrain that it always reminds us of who we should be, who forced us to be, how things should go, the details of tomorrow that frighten us and those of the past that we regret.
    In summary, it is not writing per sè that is good for us: it is we who use it consciously and turn our minds off for a while.

    • Aldo, To say the least I appreciate your comments. There are elements I had not previously thought of (automatic pilot, for example). I do miss my flying around Europe meeting people, but flying is not what is used to be even before the pandemic. But I have filled the potential vacuum with voluntary activities and indeed writing! Writing is similar to water colour painting. Both require that invisible, gentle call from a different dimension leading one to either a blank canvass, brushes and paint or a smart ‘phone or laptop. I am sure many artists re-visit their completed work the next day and wonder who had painted it. That is why it is desirable to receive a ‘calling’ which tends to take over the normal consciousness.
      Again Aldo, thank you so much. Your words are a true inspiration and I shall certainly learn from the generosity of your comments.

  2. Simon, Although I am retired now I totally enjoyed your story. When I interview with Barnes and Noble 20 years the District Manager that interviewed me was wear the exact outfit that I was wearing, down to the shoes and socks. Needless to say I got the job.

    • Larry,
      Thank you very much for your comment. That really is interesting. I think that when someone is hiring they may feel confident in hiring a person who is. Essentially a mirror image. On a similar but actually quite different situation, I was interviewing candidates in Paris. One candidate turned in a smart outfit, but………..was wearing white socks. Anathema to most hiring managers! Now how to address this situation without appearing haughty? I explained that it could prompt a question whether you were on the way or returning from playing tennis. It was taken in in good humor. After his interview at the client, I mentioned the fact that he did not wear white socks. I found the Dutch most particular about dress code. The initial reaction on entering a meeting or greeting someone at a meeting was to check the shoes! As blazers were in many situations considered appropriate, dark brown, Oxford suede brogues were the norm. It seems funny now; although I do have a few pairs of such shoes!
      Thank you again, Larry
      Kindest regards,

  3. Simon! It is so WONDERFUL to see you on BizCatalyst. This made my day. Your joy and positivity just leap off the page! What a perfect way to start the day! You remind us all of why writing matters. Of the joy there is to be gained in capturing and sharing our life experiences. Of the power of community. I am so grateful you are in my life.

    • Kimberly, You are a joy to behold. For once I am speechless! The equivalent of writer’s block!
      You have awarded me with such warm comments and each and every letter means more to me than a volume.

      It is great to be on this awesome Bizcatalyst 360 platform. It inspires and promotes togetherness, kindness and genuine friendship. Thank you everso, my friend.