Knowing when it’s the right time to retire can be difficult, especially if you love your job. Even professional athletes have a hard time knowing when to walk away!
These athletes thought they were ready for retirement but “un-retired” and returned to seek new challenges or extend legendary careers. Let’s look at their non-traditional retirement stories.
After the 2022 NFL season (and after missing out on another Super Bowl), Tom Brady announced his retirement, only to roll it back about a month later. His “retirement” barely lasted 40 days! After reflecting on his decision, he stated that the time will come when he is ready to retire, but it’s “not now.” Instead, fans can expect to see him playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd season in the NFL.
Michael Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes and claimed 22 medals (18 gold) when he announced his retirement in 2012. But, he dove into the pool one more time for the 2016 Summer Olympic games and went on to win six more Olympic medals, including five gold medals. After 16 years of competing in the Olympics, Phelps announced his official retirement. He’s still close to Team USA and served as part of the NBC commentary team at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Keira D'Amato was a 4-time All-American distance runner for American University when she graduated in 2006. She had a promising career ahead of her, but after a series of injuries, she was forced to take hiatus from the sport in 2009 and instead, focused on building a family and began a successful career in real estate. After 7 years off, with two toddler children at home, Keira decided to start running recreationally again just get back in shape and take time for herself. Fast forward to January of 2022, Keira D'Amato, at age 37, ran 2:19:36 to set the new American Record in the Marathon. On her return to competitive running, D'Amato stated, "I feel like I have nothing to lose. I have another life outside of this, which is very important to me. And I feel that gives me a lot of freedom to take risks and not be afraid of failing. Everything that I wish I would have [done in round 1], I'm now doing it in the second phase. I'm taking it really seriously, but I also am having more fun than I’ve ever had in my whole life.”1
Earvin “Magic” Johnson led a superstar NBA career and retired in 1991 after announcing that he was HIV-positive. He then went on to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game (and earned the MVP award). He wanted to play in the 1992-1993 season, but the comeback got scrapped in the preseason. He then went on to play 32 games in the 1996 season and then retired for good. At least, from basketball. Today, Johnson is an entrepreneur, and you often read of his involvement in a number of high profile deals in a wide variety of industries.
The good news about retirement is that it’s far from the end. It’s merely a change in circumstances and might even be turned around if you miss the action or are offered the right deal. Retirement isn’t necessarily about leisure but about using your time to pursue what moves and motivates you. Next time we speak, let’s chat about what you want to get out of retirement and paths you might consider.