• Todd Olsen

At the age of 53, I left an automotive career that I love

I’ve always loved cars.  My first car was a 1960 MGA Roadster that I purchased at the age of 15 with the money I earned washing dishes at a local restaurant.  My Dad taught me early the value of hard work. I think I also inherited a love for cars from him as well.  When I graduated in 1986 with my MBA from the University of Minnesota and got my first job at Ford Motor Company, we were both very excited.

Soon after arriving in Michigan, I started my walk to follow Jesus, met my wife, we began a family, and I got to work building a rewarding career at Ford. 

My career provided me some fantastic assignments with increasing responsibility, including assignments in China and Sweden.  In due course, I developed my skills to became somewhat of an expert on negotiating deals.

Life as a corporate deal maker is very cool…

  • I played a key role in big transactions like the sale of Aston Martin, Jaguar/Land Rover and Volvo

  • Negotiating with people from China, India, Kuwait, Germany and many other places was a fascinating challenge

  • The camaraderie of working with brilliant and motivated professionals was exhilarating

However, the life of a deal-maker comes at some cost…

  • Deal negotiations can be incredibly demanding at times

  • Spending multiple 2 to 4 week stints in a hotel can became lonely

  • Listening to my wife on the phone as she carried the burden of managing our large family by herself left me guilt-ridden

  • My mind was so often filled with the challenges of work that I was rarely fully present in conversations with family and friends 

A dream changes everything...

Occasionally I remember my dreams, but the ones I tend to remember are the ones where I show up at school but forgot to wear my pants.  One night several years ago (and shortly after my Dad passed away) I had an unforgettable dream. 

Life-Changing Dream Act 1: I’m standing in the driveway of my very nice home and have come to realize that a thief has stolen my prize classic car!  I feel intensely aggravated… even violated.  But I purpose in my heart to work even harder to buy an even better car.  

Life-Changing Dream Act 2:  I’m now standing in the driveway of a large luxurious home with multiple garage doors!  The police are there and it’s become clear that my most precious collector car has been stolen.  I’m furious!  My anger is so intense that it wakes me from my dream.  After a few minutes of lying awake in bed, my anger cools as I realize this has all been a dream. 

As I quiet myself, I hear a quiet voice deep in my soul.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I knew this was from God because this quote was a saying from Jesus in the Bible.  But the next word I heard in my soul really took me by surprise.  I heard him say next, “This dream is a gift from your Dad”

This dream really shook me.  For me it initiated a turning point in my journey as I began to deeply consider this question, "What are my treasures?".

Over the last couple of years as my 30 year anniversary at Ford was approaching, I began to entertain the idea of retiring but struggled with what to do next.  I love my job, love the people I work with and have a great future career ahead of me.  I'm 53 and too young to retire? But then again... perhaps my career at Ford is one of those treasures on earth that God was speaking to me about?

I received my answer in August of 2015 on a late night walk along the shores of Lake Huron in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  As I looked up into the starry sky with all my worries and questions I heard these simple words deep in my heart, “Be diligent to enter My rest.”  In that moment I came to realize that I don't have to strive for achievement and wealth anymore.  God will take care of me as I rest in Him.  It was the confirmation I was looking for.  This is the year for me to retire from Ford, which is what I did in August of 2016.

After 6 months of retirement, what have I learned so far?

  • Entering God's rest means that I no longer have to prove I’m valuable through my accomplishments

  • My most valuable treasures are the people God puts in my life.  Investing my time, intellect and energy into people will pay incredible dividends that can’t be taken away or lost

  • I'm not "resting from work", but am actually learning to "work from rest".  

  • To truly rest requires me to be intentional.  Strategically, this season of rest will equip me for my next phase of work as a life coach

What are the treasures in your life?  Are you satisfied with the legacy that you're working to achieve?  Would a season of rest better equip you for the legacy that God has designed for you?  What could a season of rest look like for you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

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