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"I am making progress in every aspect of my life."
John North, 71
Retired General Motors factory worker
John North is the most successful "retired" person I know.
As Walter M. Bortz II, M.D., says in his insightful book Dare To Be 100 (Fireside, 1996), to determine how old you really are answer the question, "Are you a go-go, slow-go, or no-go?" At the age of 59 facing retirement from General Motors, John North's answer was a resounding "GO."
Dr. Bortz, one of America's most respected and acclaimed authorities on longevity and aging, prescribes a four-pronged plan for living a long, healthy and fulfilling life: Diet, Attitude, Renewal and Exercise (DARE). John North has probably never heard of Bortz, but he is a sterling example of the DARE formula in action.
John has always been active both on and off the job, but in his mid-50's he began to experience a sense of physical decline. He began to have pain in his joints and felt tired a lot. At a height of 5'11" his weight was a stable 170, but he found himself complaining to his wife, "my pants must've shrunk in the wash."
The turning point came in 1982, "when I got super-irritated with myself for being tired during some very heavy digging and cement work when I was doubling the size of my [work] shop." (I told you John has always been active.) Never one to ignore a call to action he began a program of push-ups that very day. The push-ups worked. They made him stronger and, more importantly, they sent him off in search of a more systematic and complete fitness program.
Saved by Arnold
He found what he was looking for in 1985 while on vacation with his wife. Browsing in a shopping mall bookstore he came upon Arnold Schwarzenegger's book The Education of a Bodybuilder. Inspired by what he saw and read in Arnold's book - "I discovered that I didn't have to accept the usual relentless physical decline" - he began to explore the bodybuilding lifestyle. He sent for Arnold's Basic Guide to Muscle Building and Physical Fitness and subscribed to Muscle & Fitness magazine, where he immediately became interested in my "Ripped Department" and later my books. "For me, being ripped, especially having a lean and hard abdomen, is the very hallmark of physical fitness," John says. "My midsection was soft and jiggled a little; I hated that!"
Before long, John had altered his diet. "With my wife's cooperation, I stopped eating the fatty, greasy, oily foods I loved and began eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and grains." After getting clearance from his physician he also began a regular, but conservative - "I was cautious about overdoing anything" - program of weight training and fast walking.
It worked beautifully. John's weight soon stabilized at 150, where it has remained for almost ten years. (Check out John's waistline in the photo at the bottom of this article.) What's more, the pain in his right shoulder and left knee disappeared, and the world-famous Cleveland Clinic, after a thorough examination, pronounced his heart and circulatory capacity that of a 27-year-old and his blood pressure as youthful as a teenager.
That's the D (Diet) and E (Exercise) in Dr. Bortz's DARE prescription. But if that was the whole story, I probably wouldn't be writing about John North. No, where John really shines, what makes him such a standout, is his remarkably positive attitude and his undeniable spirit of renewal, the other two legs of the DARE formula.
Dr. Bortz explains 99 steps that can make the difference between living the usual 75 years or an ideal and successful 100. The most important step, says Bortz, is to believe. "To make 100 means taking up the ultimate challenge to make the most of your life. As Bortz observers, William James wrote in Will To Believe, "Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact." John North believes.
He just laughs when asked if he isn't too old for bodybuilding. "I accept my age as a natural part of the cycle of life," he says, "but I believe I can maintain my health far above the average for my age." North says "the greatest gift" of bodybuilding is the attitude: "I can do, I can be, I am a winner. Not against others, but for myself." He continues: "The future to me is not a winding-down, but the best of that to be - the fulfillment of my life's goals, the rewards of a lifetime of effort. The joy of a grandson. ... There are mountain peaks I want to climb, and I do want to learn to scuba-dive." You get the idea. John North loves living.
And as if this isn't enough to make Dr. Bortz proud, North also has an unmistakable thirst for renewal. After five years of retirement - he pursued his lifelong hobbies of painting, photography, collecting (stamps, arrowheads, rocks, Civil War items and more) and wrote his autobiography - he went back to work.
Joy in Work
John's first post-retirement job was at a greenhouse, where he reveled in keeping up with young workers for eight hours, five days a week. When the greenhouse closed and he was laid off from that job, he became a star employee for a temporary help agency. Most recently, John has been permanently hired by the Superior Roll Forming Company, where he has been working since July 1996, as a temporary employee.
To give you an idea how pleased John was to achieve permanent full-time status - and how seriously he takes his job - here is a part of the written statement he presented to the personnel manager:
"My ultimate goal is to personally
demonstrate that an 'old' man can also
be a high-performance worker - I intend
to vigorously expand the parameters of what
is considered 'able-bodied' among the 'aged.'
...I would be profoundly honored if someday
someone in Washington recognized what I've
tried to do in the workplace after my 'retirement'
from General Motors, and thus discover for
others the joy I found in being active in my later
years. I admit, I don't even think of myself as
being old, unless I look in the mirror - but then,
a lot depends upon the attitude you have at any
age. Again, thank you for letting me be a member
of the Superior Family."
In a letter telling me of his promotion to permanent status, John concluded with a statement I believe Dr. Bortz would applaud: "Anyone at any age can be ordinary or average; for myself, I want to work like Michael Jordan plays basketball - I want to be a superstar!"
You are John, you are.
(Dare To Be 100, the wonderful book by Dr. Bortz is available from our mail order business, Ripped Enterprises, $12.00 + $4.00 shipping fourth class or $6.00priority mail. This book is listed in our recommended book section, under "Products" - see navigation line below)
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