To find your purpose is the key to successful aging. In fact, it’s the key to a fulfilling, relevant, successful, and happy life.
Yet, when we get “older” it is the perfect time to discover your purpose. Forget the stereotype of BEING #old. With purpose, you can GROW older, take olderhood as the life opportunity to be, and have the life that is right for you. This isn’t just successful aging, this is successful living. How?
Here are answers from Richard Lieider who with David Shapiro wrote: “Who do you Want to be When You Grow Old?” Not be old but grow. In this interview Richard will radically change your assumptions and presumptions about aging, present a life gift opportunity for you, and how to fully take advantage of it.
Richard Leider is the founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company and is one of America’s preeminent executive-life coaches. He is ranked by Forbes as one of the “Top 5” most respected executive coaches, and by the Conference Board as a “legend in coaching.”
He is a thought leader who has worked with over 100,000 leaders from over 100 organizations and has written 10 books selling millions of copies in a multitude of languages including The Power of Purpose…Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life, and the eleventh which will be out soon, Who do you want to be when you grow old: The Art of Aging on Purpose.
Find Your Purpose for Successful Aging
Get out your pen and paper because Richard will be giving you not only the perspective but the real and the methods to help you pivot and live your life on purpose.
Reach Richard at www.RichardLeider.com
Get Richard & David’s book at: https://www.amazon.com/Who-You-Want-When-Grow/dp/1523092459
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Find Your Purpose for Successful Aging: Podcast transcript
[00:00:08] Perhaps most of us are grew up with a mental model of aging that was three stages learn, earn, retire and it was like an arc that to grow up and decline. Now we’ve added a whole new phase of life. We’ve added up to more than three decades to life for many of us, depending on whose numbers you pay attention to. And so now it’s it’s learn, earn, reinvent or re-imagine and over and over again. And so this new phase of life is the happiest time of life. In terms of the research or most people think it’s the decline part of life. So what makes it so as the happiest or one of the most fulfilling times of life is that you have continued to be curious on purpose and growing, not just living longer.
[00:01:13] Who do you want to be when you grow old? That’s the title of the book of one of the authors who’s in this interview, Richard Leider, also the author of The Power of Purpose and author of over a dozen other books, several bestsellers, some with the co-author David SHAPIRO. Some real operative words here that are counter to the assumptions and presumptions and stereotypes of what it is to be older. It’s the complete opposite of, Well, I’m older, so I’m going to be in declining health and declining cognition, and I’m not going to mean anything anymore. And oh, I’ll be able to play golf and stuff. But do you think that’s going to sustain you for decades of healthy, active life ahead? Now, the operative words, first of all, is who you know, when we’re growing up, it’s what do you want to be when you grow up? You’ve maybe most likely, if you’re like most of us, living the what I am this I am a engineer or I am or whatever, as opposed to the who and that older hood is a chance to find your who define the true you, the true purpose for you, which leads to passion, which leads to health, which leads to happiness and relevance and everything else. And the other one is not be old, which is like, well, I’m going to suffer the decline and all that kind of stuff. But it’s rather grow old and is pointed out in this book and in this interview. This is the opportunity in life to really identify who we are and to grow. And the growth in and of itself is a great and exciting and healthy thing to do. But it also leads to this incredibly wonderful life. This is the opportunity and the time to really have your best years for you. So get a pen and paper. You’re going to want to take notes. This is even one of those interviews you’re probably going to want to watch or listen to at least twice. So without further ado, let’s get.
[00:03:06] On with it. Let’s start with the title. What do you mean by. Who do you want to be when you grow old? The title of the book.
[00:03:17] Spoiler alert, everybody is getting older, but are you growing older? How do you grow? Well, everybody’s an experiment of one. That way we all have our choices. So in this book, we talk about what those choices are and stories of people who have made different choices from different angles. So does that get at the point?
[00:03:39] Yeah, yeah. Yes. And and in fact, that’s a brilliant insight that we really need to grab hold of, even if we’re younger, because that’s the way we’re looking at our life trajectory, our story arc differently. Also in, you know, really aligned with my my beliefs and especially about myself personally is is that do I want to? You know, do I want to be old? In other words, the stereotype of old? Or do I want to use redefine what it is? As you mentioned, you know, this phase of life, so ergo your point of, you know, the difference between being old and growing old. Right.
[00:04:23] Well, your brilliance in helping us create a narrative about this new mindset. It’s hard to change our mindset from what we grew up with or what we experienced in our own families. But mindset, we now know as more impact, perhaps, on aging than other factors. There is new science that’s just coming out. It started with Robert Butler way back when with the National Institute of Aging. Et cetera. I knew him way back then. He died in his eighties cancer. But he pointed out that your view of aging has a lot to do with how you’ll experience aging and how long you’ll live. And so everyone wants to live longer. But they don’t want to live. Coral reefs poorly, either economically or physically, etc.. And so mindset has a lot to do with longevity. The Becca Levy from Yale, the scientists there talks about 7.5 years are added with a positive mindset to life. And that’s more than. Smoking cessation or obesity, or if you do all those things, great. But if you’ve got a mind set that’s not wired positively and it’s not, this is where purpose comes in, because it’s not just having a positive mindset and oh, it’ll be great. And it’s that’s not it. It’s What’s the point? What are you doing every day? Why do you get up if you have a reason to get up? And that mindset is about serving or doing things with others, that’s where the science says that you’ll live longer. Better.
[00:06:13] Yeah. And that’s where in the book to I’m kind of jumping in my flow here, but I really, I really love this point because I know that in some of the things that I’ve been sharing, I’ve said get it down to the essence of those of us who get older. And when I say older or a new way forward says older, it’s 40 and above because so many. Right, so many people now are going, wait a minute, you know, what am I doing, you know, with my life and such? And I always say, how do you want to feel in the morning? I mean, the real fundamentals, you know, just just do you want to be excited? Do you want to be passionate about what you’re doing and such? And I love what you said. This really sums it up beautifully. You took all my stuff. It made it ten times better. Richard The point being, we don’t really have to think about our reasons for getting up in the morning. We do so because we have to no questions asked. I mean, that’s brilliant that it’s that simple. And so.
[00:07:14] Well, the human condition. I’ve been working with hunter gatherers in Africa, been around for 100,000 years. They too know without all of the education and the writing and the things that we’re talking about, that that you need to figure out your role in community. You need to figure out your reason to be in community in order for us to you and us to survive. So this is not something that this is part of the human condition. This is not something that’s a new age or a new phenomenon. But we have more choice as to how we play it out than they did.
[00:07:52] And that makes it infinitely more complicated for us and leads to the default life. And so I want to kind of get into this journey here that, you know, as I espoused it, aligns with the book that when you get older, when you reach that point where either something’s happened or you’ve reached a point that it’s it’s the opposite of what we think older decline or retire, you know, 30 year vacation, which doesn’t work. And but it’s it’s kind of understanding how to get there. And you touched on something a moment ago, and I think it seems like one of the big shifts to a transition is getting out of the default life. And also the fact that, you know, you raise this beautiful point that when we’re a kid, people ask us, what do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to want? But we reach this point and it becomes who? Correct?
[00:08:53] Correct. And the who wants to remain relevant. I hear this over and over and over in my. Dialogues with elders or people who are aging, and that is they want to remain relevant to the world. They don’t want to. Just retirement often was the end of relevancy. Because we’re going to live that much longer and maybe we didn’t have the money or the other the other things. But the great reimagining that happened with the pandemic opened up the lens on people saying, number one, I don’t feel relevant today in my job. That’s what we call the great resignation. There’s a lot we could unpack in the great resignation that it has to do with what we’re talking about here with purpose. But people are not feeling relevant, and so they’re quitting. But people are also, as they’re aging and going into new phases of life, wanting to feel relevant. Well, what does that mean to you? Well, it’s going to mean something different to you than it is to me, perhaps. But there are certain core elements to being relevant. And one of those core elements is your relationships. And one of the things that I think is absolutely essential is to have. I will call a purpose partner or a committed listener or somebody so you don’t go it alone.
[00:10:27] So you’re talking about your own. My relevance, let’s say, with somebody. And I think that’s really what you bring among many things to the new, new narrative. You know, the old narrative that we’ve talked about before was distilled in a book called Passages. Passages came out 48 years ago. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for many years. But it only brought you to midlife, but it gave you a new language, a new possibility, a new sense of of not having a midlife crisis, but really real possibilities in the next phase of life. And now we’re looking at this whole three decades longer from when Passages came out. And so I think what we’re doing here today and what you’re doing is helping to give the language. And the framework for the new narrative. And the new narrative is it’s not one narrative, as you know, but there are certain key elements to the narrative. So everybody’s an experimental one, but they get to choose how they’re going to play out these elements. And it has to do a lot with how we grow and or stop growing as we age.
[00:11:57] Yeah. And. What seems to be so challenging for people and it’s understandable I found those same challenges is is making that transition and even just getting in a semblance of an awareness or mindset in order to make those changes. So let’s take let’s take the example that, you know, you’re in your forties or fifties or older or whatever, whatever age when it’s right for you. And you’re like, Wait a minute, what am I doing? I have been living this default life, but there’s a good reason for the default life. You know, it is generally, as you put it, you’re in the first place. You’re not living your true self. But you’re and I will add, you’re being purposeful. What’s your purpose in working at that job? Well, to earn a living, you know, to raise my kids to, you know, do whatever. But how do we how do we shift and start? A understanding and then getting connected with something that is a higher purpose that is meaning for us. That, by the way, can be the determinant and the key driver into how I reimagine my own life. It could be foundational right now.
[00:13:11] Yeah, well, the know I talk about purpose with the big P and purpose of the little piece and purpose with a big P is the higher purpose you’re talking about. For me, it’s helping others unlock the power of purpose. My little P purpose is to help this to make a difference in one person’s life on solicited or unpaid every single day. So I get up to make a difference on a daily basis. Ultimately, it’s it’s to serve the bigger P, but that’s a lot for people to think about the bigger people. Let’s just say you’re in your forties trying to earn a living. And so what’s so what if you earn a living? What’s the point? Oh, because I want my kids to be happy or I want my family to be healthier. I mean, that’s higher purpose. And then, okay, they’re gone now. What? And so, I mean, it can shift, but it’s always the key is it’s. It’s not a goal. It’s outside, and it’s always outside of yourself. Self-absorption is not purpose. Purpose is something that is always outside of yourself. And it’s age agnostic. In other words, it can change with ages. But it also if you look at if you Google today, what’s my purpose? You’ll get over a billion hits. If you. You’ll get more hits. Then how can I be happy? Why? What’s going on out there? Well, all ages, but particularly younger people are trying to figure out. And it wasn’t just the pandemic. It had to do with the economy shifting kind of the end of work as we know it. Having to look at 47% of the American workforce are contract workers now. And I mean, you look at these shifts, there are new life skills that we need in the 21st century. And I think, Paul, what you’re doing is helping us to not only with the narrative, but looking at what are the new life skills that will help me live my narrative.
[00:15:23] When you and I did an interview, which is also on No Way Forward and it was in the throes of the pandemic, you’ve made a very accurate prediction that I’ve repeated over and over again that in times of crisis, which we’re still in, all these different existential crises and just the way society is, I can’t tell you how many people in business and in corporations are. I had two inadvertent conversations about it today, where everybody’s just overwhelmed, overstressed, reaching a point, and that in times of crisis, people go higher and deeper. How can how can we foster that and actually turn that into a. A tool, a method, a catalyst to find a purpose that can help us drive ourselves to a better place, whatever that means.
[00:16:20] Well, there’s a lot of layers to that. There’s not just a silver bullet just to this. But one of the things that we’ve talked about is that burnout is so common now at all levels for a whole variety of reasons. That and what do we do with burnout? It’s not just health care workers, it’s CEOs, it’s restaurant workers. It’s you name it, and they’re stressed and hopeless that it’s going to change. So how do you bottle Hope? Well, you have to have practices. Purpose is a path. It’s a choice that I want to live differently or I want my life to matter. So it’s a it’s a path and it’s also a practice. And one of the big breakthroughs for me was that action precedes clarity. Action precedes clarity. This is seems so simple, but oftentimes it’s like, well, if I just figure out my purpose, then everything will be fine. Well, how do you figure out your purpose? You do it by acting purposely. So there’s a big distinction here between having a purpose and a name for it. And acting or living purposefully. And when you act and live purposefully, action precedes clarity. You don’t need a manual to ride a bike. You ride a bike and you figure out how and along the way. Manual may help, but it’s basically action proceeds. Now I can ride. And the same is true with with purpose. So there are different actions we can take to generate a clarity about what we’re doing here. What’s the point of the exercise and why do I get up in the morning? And one of those simple practices as an example, is one that you and I have shared before, and that is I just give people a universal purpose.
[00:18:27] The universal purpose that I’ve researched and interviewed people on for decades is only two words grow and give. So if you write, grow and give on a post-it. And you put it on your mirror and you ask yourself tomorrow morning, how am I going to grow and give today? And you make an intention to look for ways to grow and give that day. And at the end of the day, you look at the post before you go to bed at night and hold yourself responsible or accountable. How did I grow and give today and grow? Does it mean you have to read a book or go to a class or do something? But it means that you’re somehow whetted your curiosity. Curiosity really drives maturity. It drives growth. It drives purpose. If you’re not curious about yourself or about others or about the world, you’re probably not going to be acting purposefully because you’re going to be all about you all the time, as opposed to about what’s out there. And so one practice to try is to grow and give and put it on a Post-it at the end of the week of growing and giving. If you actually do it, you will have a felt sense of purpose. It won’t be just a concept like a menu. It’ll be actually eating the meal. It’ll be a felt sense that you actually did grow and give, and I guarantee you you will feel better, healthier, more alive if you’re growing and giving than if you’re not.
[00:20:10] And to your point, it doesn’t. Whatever you’re doing in that day doesn’t have to be some mega thing. I mean, giving can be just a compliment or a moment of tension and support. It can be the little stuff and it builds and builds. It’s baby steps that up and give you a better trajectory.
[00:20:30] And you start to look for roles. You look for a chance to step in and say, give somebody a kind word. You know, I learned this from Viktor Frankl when I spent a week with him in 1968. Man searched for meaning in the concentration camp. Getting up. Giving others a sense of hope. A kind word. A crust of bread. A hug. Made all the difference in the world. Didn’t mean. Didn’t guarantee you would survive. But without it. Chances are, you might not. And so he wrote me in search for meaning one of the mega. Old time books on purpose and meaning. And it’s changed millions and millions of people’s lives. 30 died about 13 years ago, but 30 honorary doctorates. And I mean, people know that even with adversity, aging, with aging, there are certain things that. We didn’t expect and we don’t want, but we saw it to deal with them. And so how that mindset and those practices, how we deal with them, that’s the that’s the power of purpose. And as I said, and having a purpose partner, somebody to say how to go this week or this day relative, did you do that makes a big difference as well.
[00:21:51] And I love that. I mean, first place it’s masterminding, which is very successful technique. Sometimes that partner, it’s best if there’s someone you aren’t close to or in business with because that way you can both talk frankly and you right person they help you and I love I call it to steal from South Park an accountability buddy but man if you’re being held accountable from somebody and you don’t want to have to face them next week saying you did that, it makes a difference.
[00:22:20] Yeah, true.
[00:22:21] So in the book to you, you talked about the three steps to inward inward purpose. I mean, I’m sure this encompasses these things, you know, also about purpose being a verb and such. But yeah, in that transition, I mean, that’s an incredible first step what you just mentioned, because we’re teaching goes energy flows, but some people seem to be confused and it’s understandable because they we’ve been living purposefully, as I phrase it, but might almost kind of not be sure what is it, what is what is purpose to even taste or feel like, which you’ve kind of defined. But I’m sure you’ve run across people like that. How do you help them through that?
[00:23:03] Oh, well, I mean, first of all, as Carl Jung Jung said, the greatest damage you can do is your own unlived life. So the starting point is to live your life purposefully, not so that you’re modeling it as being an icon, or you’re walking your talk, so to speak. And and people see that story or feel that story. You don’t have to explain it. You can just feel it. I feel it when I talk to you about what you’re doing and creating this new narrative, this new website. I mean, you can’t help yourself. You are in it. And it draws me as one of my teachers way back is an Indian man. Meditation teacher said, As the flower unfolds, the bees come uninvited. It’s the flower unfolds, the bees. Come on. As you open up with your own sense of energy that gives you energy, doesn’t drain you, that draws people in, they want that themselves or they feel that positivity without you having to lecture or ask them. They just are drawn, drawn into that in a certain way. So, you know, that you feel that presence with certain people and others do feel like they’re self absorbed. And so the key though is if you want to take it further and really dig into this, there is a formula and the formula is works and it’s so to reframe the purpose question from why do you get up in the morning? How do you figure that out to this formula? G plus p plus v equals C gifts plus passions plus values equals calling and calling is another word for purpose.
[00:24:59] And so if you were all born with gifts and we, we develop and we’re here to you to share those gifts. And and so I’ve developed tools. And written entire books about how to discern your gifts. And so gifts are those things that your hand turns to naturally you love to do. Others observe you doing and effortlessly and superbly. You can’t recall learning. You’ve been doing it so long and you but you love learning more about it. And so when I do what I call calling cards or gifts, exercise with people, some of the most sophisticated, smart, well-educated people actually weep. Because they say, you know, I always knew I had this gift, but I didn’t have a name for it. And by the way. My parents wouldn’t pay for me to do that. So I went to school because I had to make a living and I did think I could make a living with that. And so that’s the default life. All of a sudden, I’m living a life that’s okay.
[00:26:14] It’s paying the bills. There’s nothing wrong with it. But there’s something not there. There’s something that’s not feeding my soul. And so and Richard Bolles, who wrote the book, What Color Is Your Parachute, the mega career best seller. I taught with him for many years and he endorsed my books. He wrote the foreword for one of my books called Something to Live For. And he was an Episcopal priest. He died about six or seven years ago in his nineties. But the foreword that he wrote was was The Gifts We Love. And he said, I had this dream. This is the foreword to the book. I had this dream that I had a conversation with God that I wanted to be born and go to Earth and being a loving God. God said, Well, what are you going to do? And he said, I don’t know. And he said, Well, I’m going to give you gifts to share on Earth. And that’s your reason for going to share these gifts. Which he thought was fantastic. Then he woke up and he had amnesia. You remember that he had the dream, Paul, but he couldn’t remember the gifts. And he said, as human beings, we’re all born with gifts. But no one gave us the manual. We have to figure out along the way, how do we do that? Well, sometimes it’s through trial and error.
[00:27:33] Sometimes it’s through experience, sometimes it’s through wise elders or teachers that help us discern those gifts. But so many people reach midlife and they’re starving to know and share those those gifts in certain ways. It makes them feel whole and alive. But it’s then gifts in the service of what? What’s your passion? Passions. Too strong a word. What do you. What do you want to use your gifts in the service of? To do what? For whom? So that’s the passion part of that, that you figure out what kinds of things interest you and then values are. Where do you want to use those gifts? What kind of environments are best for you? So many people in midlife are making a decent living and have a decent life. But but the environment that they’re in, particularly it could be their marriage. It could be. But mostly it’s their work environment. Doesn’t suit them. They don’t feel like they have a voice. They don’t feel like they can be authentic. It’s no longer how they want to be in the world. So I hope your viewers will say gifts, passions and values. Paul, tell us more. Let’s do another session just on gifts.
[00:28:50] Because yes, it is it is trying to even identify what those are. And and and I know through my journey and I’m going to choke on the word even coming close to saying that it’s a gift. But, you know, for me, it was kind of organic, sorry for that cliche term now, but for me, it was almost kind of organic because, you know, it started out with, well, what can I do? You know? And then it’s like, wait a minute, what’s going to interest me and give me a buzz and do something, get back? And it was really when I reached that point when I identified, you know, my my three keys, you know, I don’t want to have I don’t need a Ferrari, but I don’t want to have to worry about money. I want to be doing something that I find fulfilling and enjoyable and meeting great people and so on and so forth. But also I want to make an impact and the moment I got to that point with the impact thing, all of a sudden it’s like, Well, what the hell do you have to offer?
[00:29:54] That helped.
[00:29:54] Me. Yeah. When I ask people in workshops or speech speeches, how many of you have brothers and sisters? About three quarters raise their hand. Are your brothers and sisters gifts the same as yours? And there’s palpable laughter. No, no, of course they’re different. I said, Well, when did you start to notice that they had different gifts? And they said, Oh, when we were little kids. And so when I developed the tool calling cards to help people discern or find their name for their gifts, I went back and interviewed parents, siblings, teachers, and they said, Oh, Paul was always, always the storyteller, always the. The writer of the narrative.
[00:30:44] The class disrupter, too. Yeah.
[00:30:46] Yeah, well, that too. But they. They know that we’re different. So did you work with those differences or did you get into the mediocre middle to survive? We call that the default life, the inauthentic life. And people said, Well, I didn’t have a choice. I had to make a living. I got married and had kids. What about now? And do you have to live the rest of your life the next 30 years looking in the rearview mirror, the default life? Or are you willing. That’s what this book is about, to look through the windshield at what’s possible in the next phase of life. What do you need to unpack and let go of? What do you need to repack and hang on to or add? And so, yeah, tell me how. And so that’s what we’re talking about is how do I. Because the windshields way bigger than the rearview mirror. Which makes it more complex because simple just to do what you’ve always done. But oh God, I’ve got all these choices to make. How do I go about doing that? Well. That’s what being human. You have choices. So unlocking. Big breakthrough for me was not only what I said earlier, that action precedes clarity. But unlocking. Is really the operative word, not discovering. Discovering your purpose is like it’s out there. You were lucky you found it. Know it’s in here. Wanting to be named and acted upon. And once you name it and act upon, it’s this huge relief. It’s this huge sense of energy and joy that comes from being yourself. So that’s what it means to grow whole. It’s to grow authentically as you. And to be curious. To really learn and continue to learn throughout life. And that’s through exploration and discovery and other things. And that helps unlock the power of purpose.
[00:32:54] That’s a that’s so brilliant. I want you to repeat that again, that it’s not about discovery. It’s about unlocking.
[00:33:02] Yeah. So unlocking means it’s in here. Giving it oxygen, giving it energy, giving it a name. The one thing about purpose is this. And calling. Calling is is the vocational word for purpose. Is that. There’s only one expert. No matter how many tests you take. Out there, there’s only one expert, and that’s you. And so that’s difficult to trust yourself, to trust the fact that, you know, after 40 years. 50 years, 60 years. You know what you love and don’t love what you do well and don’t love and all that. But oftentimes it’s hard to give it a name and put an action to it. And that’s what I do, is help people unlock that. Give it a name and give them the courage and the support to act on it, to see if it’s real and relevant to for them in certain ways. And it can come with. I give the story. I just talked to him two days ago. Ed Rap in my book. In that book, Ed Rap was about to be named the CEO of Caterpillar Worldwide. He, at age 57, is diagnosed with ALS. He has to immediately resign, go back home and figure out what’s next. And he decides that he is. Because I worked with him and taught with him and coached him. And he’s very public about our relationship over time. And Caterpillar. Et cetera. And and he decides that the big P for him is going to be to to somehow impact ALS.
[00:35:00] So he creates a foundation called Livestrong versus ALS. Right now, they’ve raised almost 16 or $17 million for ALS research. He’s become a spokesperson for. He walks with arm crutches. Now he works daily with his breathing. With ALS, you’ve got all these different factors. You’ve got a 5 to 7 year window before you’re really going to be. Probably not not functioning well. He’s functioning well. Is little P, so he’s done that. That’s a big thing. What gives him joy is the little Pete. Every single morning he gets up and he. Coaches, somebody who is just diagnosed with ALS, who he will never meet personally that got his name through the foundation or through a reference. And he just listens and then he shares his practices, what he does on a day to day basis to deal with his ALS. And he said, this gives me so much reason to get up in the morning, every day, so much joy. Not that I am joyful to have ALS. I’m not. But this is kind of like being in a concentration camp. You’ve got a choice here of whether you’re going to just stop living or you’re going to try to do something about it. So he just did. The back part of the book is called The Ultimate Conversation of the Book. The book we’re talking about here.
[00:36:35] And the ultimate conversation is about dying. And there are three questions that I answer and my co-author answer in that. And so I said, Ed, have you answered the questions yet? Because your story is so fantastic in the book, he said. And so he did it. He answered the questions. He stayed up for an entire afternoon writing his answers to the questions. And then I said to him, Have you shared? Your response to these questions with your wife and next day he shares those so we can continue to grow. Make those choices and give with ALS. I don’t want that. He didn’t want that. But this is what he’s got. And so the choice he made. And when you talk to him, Paul, he is so like. Loving and alive and grateful and all the things you’d want to hear in your own family or your own best friend. So the point is this mindset you bring. To aging and adversity and why are you here and all that? You can look at it from a variety of ways. In this book, we tried to help people to really reframe aging, to be pro aging, as opposed to anti aging, trying to be younger, trying to look younger, trying to to hang on to the rearview mirror, so to speak, and to really look at what are the possibilities to grow and become more. Beautiful as you as you age.
[00:38:11] Or purposeful or trying to get a new things or reinventing yourself or I for me, I view it as my turn. This is this is my moment, you know. You are you are what you are in terms of whether you’re creative, whether you’re a speaker, whether you’re a philosopher, whether you’re a of whatever you’re that way. Your whole life and throughout human history, the greatest inventions and breakthroughs in every field imaginable typically came when people were older relatives and everything. And yet and yet now we’ve we’ve there was a night when we went to bed when age and experience were venerated, and we woke up the next morning and it’s like, why don’t you just shut up and go away? Because it’s all youth. And somehow we were based on our ages. We were screwed because.
[00:39:06] Were we were shuffled aside when we were young and now we’re full size when we’re older. But and you made the brilliant point in the book. I love this quote that. Everyone wants to live a long time, but no one wants to be old. And that’s all in this weird framing that we have about what, older hood. Later face. Yes.
[00:39:33] Well, and part of it is the fear and the denial of death. And I just wrote a piece on the ultimate conversation, and you can put it on your website and download it if you choose. But once we face that, you know, it’s a complete package. Birth and death are one thing. You can’t separate the two. It’s going to happen. And so if you’re constantly pushing it off, but if you face it and start to face how you want life to be relative, given the choices that you have. Things change.
[00:40:10] Yeah. And and kind of along these lines, too, you just said. You know, it’s all about looking at it entirely differently. And again, throughout human history. Right. When you’re older, you were venerated, you had you had purpose and things of that sort. But in your book, a couple of quotes, one from comes from a geriatrician. Louise Aronson Yeah, we treat old age as a disease rather than one of the three major life stages. And number two, that, you know, a big part of the problem is that we are this is this is what you and SHAPIRO, your co-author, wrote. A big part of the problem is that we are complicit in our own fractionalization. We pass judgment on ourselves for the signs of aging and reject ourselves accordingly.
[00:41:08] Yeah, aging is not a disease. Aging is normal. It’s going to happen. How we deal with it is different for all of us. And going back to Ed rap for a minute, the chapter in the book, Will I Earn a Passing Grade? He said, You know, I grew up in a small farming community in Missouri. I was the first to go to school or university. I got worked all the way up to the top of Caterpillar cetera and ultimately, said, Richard, all I wanted to do was to earn a passing grade in life. And I still want to earn a passing grade with my ALS. Et cetera. What does that mean to people? Passing grade, does that mean being successful financially? That might be part of it. Does it mean. But ultimately, what people want is their life to matter, mattering matters. I’ve interviewed thousands of people. Over the years, I’ve written about it endlessly. Ask them if they could live their life over what they would do differently. And they said the same three things over and over. Ultimately, I wish I would have been more reflective and made choices that were more authentic. Secondly, I wish I would have taken more risks, particularly in careers and relationships where I spent so much of my time and get so much pain or fulfilment. And third, I want my life to matter. Somehow, I want to leave my dance, my Steve Jobs said. I want to leave a dent in the universe type of thing. And it doesn’t have to be a big dent. You didn’t have to find fun, create Caterpillar or be a CEO of Caterpillar, nor the founder of Apple. The key is we all want our lives to matter. That’s part of the human condition. Choosing that along the way is. Where we need practices.
[00:43:05] And that gets back to it. And I want to go on that roll because you just hit it because that was one of the things that helped transform me when I when I I’m sorry. The Australian woman who, who did the book about, you know, the regrets of people when they were dying, what were the bigger regrets. And the top two were that I didn’t go for it, I played it safe. And the other one was that I worked too much. But I’ll argue that was work, work rather than purposeful work. So I’m already lying outlined in this interview many different techniques and approaches in everything. But but but let’s go ahead and encapsulate it right there, because that’s the other thing that that being older does bring to you. You got that? I can hear it. I can hear the ticking clock. I’m not 29 years old anymore. I mean, although I may have died, you know, at 32 from an accident, that clock ticking. So I’m under the gun here. How do I turn it around and get that kind of focus that I need? I mean, certainly during your processes. But do you have another insight for me?
[00:44:14] Well. No. I think that, first of all, you need to step back. And look at what do you want? And that can often come with a crisis. Often times, crisis is what triggers us to make these choices because we get complicit is, as you said earlier, and things are easy and comfortable until they’re not, and then we’re forced to change. And then all of a sudden it’s like, God, here I am, 65. What have I been doing? I’ve been living default life. It’s been okay. But if I live 20, 30 more years, I want to keep doing this. And if not, what do I want? And so it’s hard. And that’s why having people like a sounding board or we talked earlier about a purpose partner, purpose buddy, but having people that you can talk about it with and share your thoughts with and this book, it’s hard to have that conversation. That’s why this book is called The First Chapter is the long conversation. It ends up with the ultimate conversation and then as staying on the path. Here are some ways to have this conversation with other people, which is at the back of the book. It’s not an easy conversation to have, therefore we don’t have it until we have have to have it. So who who do you have that you can have this conversation with? And oftentimes. It’s scary. It’s new, new territory. Welcome to the world of growth. You know, getting out of your comfort zone. And so that’s why we have a whole chapter called Am I Having a Late Life Crisis? Am I having a late life crisis? There’s a whole quiz.
[00:46:07] You should put that quiz up on your website. Just pull it out of the book and put up the quiz and find out what people are saying about this. Am I having a late life crisis? I used to be considered a master teacher about midlife crisis. The late life crisis is different. It’s really not about achievement and what have I done? It’s about relevance. And who do I want to be in the next phase of life, not what do I want to achieve? And so and so the questions are like. You often find yourself looking in the mirror and thinking, Who is this person? Well, yeah, it happens to all of us at certain point. That’s normal. Do you feel reluctant to tell people your age? Why? I mean, I’m 77. I’ll be 78 shortly. I, I don’t brag about it. It’s just the reality is, I don’t want to be 50. I want to be the most full out 77, 78 year old. Authentically I can be. Well, that’s easy for me to say in certain ways. But on the other hand, it just begs the question, do you obsess about your appearance? Anti-aging is a multibillion dollar industry, people trying to hang on to the rearview mirror, so to speak. It’s not possible. And so what are the new realities? And so I would love to hear what your viewers have to say about after doing the late life crisis quiz. How did that land? But before they give you the feedback, I would say have a conversation with somebody. How did that conversation go?
[00:47:55] I will do that. We’ll do it on all the social channels, too, so that we can really get it out there. So one more thing. And this this goes back to this touch just back on one of your your best sellers repacking your bags. Yeah, context being what I found very interesting and what I’ve kind of latched on with myself and I’m still working on. For some people it’s more obvious, but. A belief that we are who we are and we are where we are because of our beliefs. The beliefs drive emotions and decisions and that drives actions. And actions drive consequences and habits and that so many of the beliefs that we have are either outdated or were never true in the first place. And it ranges from the obvious know. My father always told me I’d never amount to anything. My mother said I’d never be able to hold down a religion, whatever, more subtle things. And those are hard things to to overcome, especially when, I mean, what you’re talking about is reimagining and reinventing yourself in your life and your place in it. Your purpose.
[00:49:07] For me.
[00:49:09] Well, reframing the narrative. What do you want to hang on to? What do you want to let go of? And so repacking your bags, lighten your load for the good life has sold over a million copies in 21 languages. So what is the good life? Well, we studied the good life from my co-author. We’ve written six books together, three bestsellers. David SHAPIRO is a philosopher and a philosophy professor. So we’re going all the way back to Plato and Aristotle and others and the good life we came up with and developed a good life inventory. And we kind of said that money and health are table stakes. We’re going to talk about the four things that that are bookended by money and health. And so the good life is living in the place you love with the people you love, doing the work you love with purpose. So, Paul. Are you living in the place you love? With the people you love doing the work you love. It’s not just yes or no, by the way. Obviously, you need to layer into what that means. Unpack that with a sense of purpose. If you are your living purposefully, if not, what part? What piece of that is needs to end because some people will retire and move to a place and assume everything will be hunky dory when they move there. And about 80% of the people that do that move back because the place was just they thought about weather and geography and certain things, but they didn’t think about their relationships, their religion, their work life.
[00:50:51] They’re all the other families. And so places important. But then what about relationships? So for many people, what they are doing in midlife and beyond is unpacking their relationships. For example, for me. It’s kind of a standing joke in our family that nothing disturbs Richard more me than sitting next to a former anything on a plane or at a dinner party or a dinner for me. And they’re still looking in the rearview mirror. So what? So I never used the question. What do you do? That’s. That’s a that’s a. Bad question, because at any age or stage, you are not what you do. You know, there’s the old adage if you are what you do when you don’t, you aren’t. So many people, when they don’t, when they retire or they lose their job, they aren’t. And so relationships oftentimes I’m unpacking, saying, do we need to keep getting together with these formers? We don’t have to diss them or end it forever. But do we have to every week? I mean, every month. Go to dinner. Let’s let’s find some new people who are looking in the windshield, who are passionate, who are doing things that are interesting. And it’s not a big ego thing. It’s just like the clock’s ticking, as you said. There’s only so much time. I don’t want to spend it continually looking in the rearview mirror.
[00:52:28] And we want to be be around people that pull you know, we are the average of the people we hang out with. And you’re right about that. My best. You know, all this crap about your best days are behind you is one of the most stupid, ludicrous thoughts, because I consider not to diminish the best days I’ve had raising children, you know, all that. But again, I’m making my best days ahead.
[00:52:55] Aw, great. So in the good life, there’s place, there’s people, then there’s right work. And by the way, the highest divorce rate in the country is at is just beyond midlife, because people did all those things, raise their kids did this and that looked at each other and said, I don’t even know you. In fact, I don’t even like you. And I mean, you hear you see it all the time that they need to reframe what it means to grow old together. That’s a whole nother category to talk with. But the third element of the good life is right work, which could be avocation work, could be paid work, it could be a new business, could be volunteer work or other kinds of things. But it’s something that utilizes your gifts in something you feel passion or care about and healthy environments. And so people say, Well, I’ll just go get on a few boards or I’ll just do some volunteer work. But they haven’t really thought it through. And as a result of that, they fail. And it doesn’t work for them because they haven’t figured out this gifts, passions and values to to, to make their choices through and then ultimately purpose. What gives life to life is having a reason to get up in the morning. Full stop.
[00:54:14] It is a path to guide you through that transition to something that’s right for you to make this the best life possible. Because, you know, people lose their job or they’re like, I need to do something else. And I’m not saying it’s bad, but they’ll make a list. Well, here’s my skill set. Here’s what’s on my resume. Here’s what I am and what I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking a breath, doing some of the very things that you talked about in this man. If there’s one interview I’ve been I’ve ever done where it’s like you should watch it two or three times, it’s this one because it’s going to give you that foundation for which it’s like, Oh, oh, you know what I should do? And it’s probably something entirely new or new manifest.
[00:54:54] Yeah. And we can dig and I’m willing to do it with you to dig into some of these things and a little bit like you got my attention. Can you tell me more about this? As we said, late life crisis or gifts? I get it. But I don’t know mine. How do I do that? Or any of the elements that we talked about along the way? Chip Connelly One of the stories in the book, who is the founder of the Modern Elder Academy? It’s a great, great story, great place he talks about in the book and in what the work he does, the great midlife edit, great midlife edit, which is just like I’m talking about with the inventory or the good life inventory, it’s looking at what do you need to unpack and let go of and what do you need to repack for the journey ahead? And that story comes from backpacking in Africa, where I was asked by a masai tribal elder why he was carrying all this stuff. Does all this make you happy? And I realized I was carrying a bigger load than I needed. And that was a metaphor for life that many of us are carrying a bigger load than we need or want. We and maybe we don’t have choice in certain matters, but we need to put down our pack our bag and look inside and say what’s essential for the next phase of my journey. And that’s really what we’re talking about here. What’s essential to the shift from adulthood to Elder Hood?
[00:56:30] Those are really points. And, you know, when I said this, this is an interview to probably watch a couple of times. And but here’s another idea. I mean, this book I don’t I don’t do this. I don’t I don’t mark up books like this. I didn’t do that in college. Of course, some of that was me, just kind of not taking something seriously. And you also owe me a yellow highlighter, too, Richard, because I did it like 127 pages, not counting index and things of that sort that, you know, you don’t have to be old or even approaching old age to read this because so many of these things that’s in here are you know, you could also say, who do you want to be when you grow older, when you reach that point in your life where you learned as a kid, you’ve been an apprentice as an adult, and now it’s time for you to go pro by being. Yeah. And redefining what it means for age. Richard, as always, thank you. And by the way, everybody heard it. So we’re going to sometime in the future do the the the late life crisis and gifts and dive into those sometime soon.
[00:57:41] Got it. I’m on.
[00:57:43] Great. Richard, thank you so much.
[00:57:45] Thank you, Paul, for having me.
[00:57:47] You’ve been listening to a new Way Forward podcast with your host, Paul Long.