We’ve been down this road with CBS EVP of communications Gil Schwartz’s alter ego, Stanley Bing, before. So this round of book release, we thought we’d put our patented four questions to Schwartz himself on the subject of his latest book, Executricks, or How to Retire While You’re Still Working. His thoughts on real retirement, what the next round of up-and-coming media pros lack, and all the latent multiple personality disorder you can handle after the jump.
1) How do you find the time to keep writing books, given the demands of your post as an executive vice president at CBS?
I wake very early. After a period of Zen meditation and intense martial arts exercise, I write furiously until my alarm goes off and I head to the office, arriving with the rest of the early birds interested in the very best worms. I used to be able to unleash Bing for discrete periods of time during the day, but sadly, the demands of my job have escalated over the years. Often I must even do certain things myself because the people to whom I like to delegate things are overloaded to bursting with prior demands and requirements I have made of them. Fortunately, I sleep very little, I have very few friends and associates who wish to be with me after cocktail hour, and I travel a great deal, leaving me many venues in which there is nothing to do but play casual games on my laptop or get down to writing. The truth is, I have been writing since I started my business career a long, long, long, long time ago. I never report anything. I never interview anybody. There are no “facts” qua facts in my work. So I am well-practiced in simply spewing out words until the screen is filled. I write about 1,000 words an hour. Even if you set time aside for a little bit of thinking pertaining to what you write, that ends up producing quite a bit of stuff in a calendar year. Finally, I am adept in some of the techniques that I describe in my new book, Executricks, which gives me a real leg up in the time-management arena.
2) When do you expect your own retirement time to come, and how will you fill your days?
Well, if Executricks does very well, I suppose I could hang up my socks and take the rest of the century off. I would write more, then, I guess, although it’s hard to figure out how. There’s only so much that you can write and then you start extruding material that nobody wants to see. This has happened to several mass market writers recently. I’m not going to say who because I might need their blurbs at some point, but I think you know who they are. I would like to relax more, though. I wish I knew how. Sleep is not relaxation, nor is the kind of light doze you achieve in a meeting with PowerPoint. To really get to that zone, I need two weeks, ramping down to relaxation-level for the first five days and then ratcheting up to tension again in the last four days of the trip, which leaves about three days in the middle there where I’m okay. When I do retire, it’s possible that I will develop a hobby, like fly-fishing, that takes hours and hours and makes death welcome when it comes.
3) What’ll you miss most about the media business, when you’ve left it behind?
The white-hot anger I feel every day. I’m really going to miss that. I’m probably shallow enough to miss my table at Michael’s also. I have no illusions that once I lose my mojo I’m not going to end up in the alley out behind the garden room. Those are the rules. I’ve lived by them when Iâ€™ve had some chops. I’ll abide by them when I turn into a sad, boneless creature scuttling around on the bottom of the ecosphere.
4) What’s the skill you find most lacking in young professionals moving up the media industry chain? What talents do they have that media lifers lack?
I find the skill to have a full head of hair to be most enviable. But really, as far as I can see, young people don’t lack many talents. They are blessed by having the sensibility of what’s going on, what’s coming next, that older people just don’t. We Boomers can pretend to be hep, you know, by launching our own pages on MySpace, which to me seems just about as cool as those parents back in the 60s who wanted to smoke weed with their kids. But we’re a bunch of fuddy-duddies, really, even if we do talk to each other like surfers. Generation X, Y and zero define the culture. That’s good. We need that in our companies if weâ€™re not going to be all moldy and square with metaphorical toilet paper on the backs of our heels trailing along after us wherever we go. The one thing my generation is not going to do is get out of the way. Weâ€™re going to hang on and use as many Executricks until they haul us out of our offices and make us live in retirement communities in sun-belt states. Until then, we’re here, sucking all the air out of the upper realms of senior management.