Gary Tjader came on my radar when I broke a toilet tank lid. Yes. That pesky piece which one doesn’t appreciate until it slips from your hand, breaks and you are forced to look at replacing. I went to Google. And I found Gary. Gary’s website www.toilettanklids.com is an entire website devoted to, yes, you guessed it: toilet tank lids! What fascinated me about his website was not only the volume, style, and array of lids Tjader carries from his Los Altos, California shop but his ENTHUSIASM for toilet tank lids. I mean, this man is EXCITED about his product! Gary’s early career as a salesman for a plumbing parts supplier caused him to stumble across a need: Tjader narrowed his expertise to toilet tank lids and the hunt was on! Even a heap of trash bearing a couple of tank lids became a gold mine during one Lake Tahoe ski vacation, says Tjader, who collects 20 to 40 lids per month. He knows the history of lids, has identified the rare (and rare-er!) ones, and provides more education about lids than you ever thought you wanted to know. What are they made of? (Vitreous China) How much do they weigh? (An average of 10 lbs.) What colors do they come in? ( Dozens. More than you ever imagined.) Gary is so deep in toilet tank knowledge that he even has a toilet trivia page to enjoy well, while you’re on the toilet. (Myth debunked: Sir Thomas Crapper did NOT invent the toilet.) Tjader says he does make a living at selling lids but he also loves the “touchdown” feeling of finding that elusive lid.

Why is this important? Because most of us live a lifetime doing SOMETHING but rarely get to devote time to doing THE THING that spurs our passion. There is an emptiness which follows when that predictable something winds down. It is often replaced with a subtle fear that the best of your life is behind you; that your very significance was attached to that thing and is lost in the retiring. Take a moment to remember that passion that may have lain dormant for years. It may even be difficult to remember what it was. Maybe now is the time. Rethink Retirement. Perhaps retirement can mean the retiring of the ‘have-to’s ‘ and the commencing of the want to’s. The time not spent with your hand to the grindstone could be spent with your hand to the paint brush or the classroom or the telescope.

What is your passion? What breadth of knowledge have you collected over a lifetime? What is the subject that gets you excited enough that you could devote a web page of multiple links or moderate a discussion group? Rather than mourn the loss of child-centered life or job-centered routine, celebrate the gift of time. Time to pursue and research; time do meet and do; time to go and explore. Then share. Share your knowledge, share your discoveries, share your talent. Gary Tjader is arguably the most knowledgeable man on the planet in toilet tank lids – which leads to his offering this piece of advice for retirees looking for that “next thing”: build on your base of knowledge for the greatest chance at success. Gary’s success comes from decades in the field, but his passion is fueled by a genuine interest in the product.

In the words of Billy Joel: “You can be what you want. Or you can just be old.” None of us want to ‘just be old’ – we want to maintain the vitality and spark that come with maturity, experience, and excitement in our unique brand of knowledge, skill, and abilities. And, as Gary showed me, it is not the item of specific interest that matters; it is the enthusiasm for SOMETHING that draws others to you.