In this episode, my guest and fellow retirement coach, Gary Allen Foster and I discuss three things to do to make a successful retirement transition. These three things are not the common things you typically read about- yet they are vitally important. We also discuss why these are important and talk about some terms that you may or may not have heard before and are good to know.
RS: The topic for today’s episode is Three Things To Do To Transition Successfully Into Your Encore. And my guest today is fellow retirement coach Gary Allen Foster. Along with being a retirement coach, Gary is an executive recruiter and career transition coach. You can learn more about Gary at his website, which is MakeAgingWork.com. Gary writes weekly for his blog on his website and he recently just passed one- hundred blogs I believe, Gary a week or week or two ago. So, go to Gary’s site. He’s got a lot of great content and you can sign up for his newsletter to receive his weekly blog and also request a copy of his free eBook, which is Realize Your Full Life Potential, Five Easy Steps For Living Longer, Healthier, and With More Purpose.
Gary’s been a previous guest twice on Beyond the Numbers podcast and I’m excited to have him back because he’s not only written and read a lot about the topics that we’re going to talk about today. He’s also lived a lot of these topics and so welcome back, Gary!
GAF: Reid, It’s always a pleasure to come back. And you do a great commercial, by the way. Thank you very much for all that. It’s good to be back. because I really appreciate the work you’re doing and uh, yeah, it will be fun to dive into these topics. It will be interesting to see where we go with it. But let’s give it a shot.
RS: Absolutely. So, in this episode, Gary, and I want to share our perspectives on three things to do to transition successfully into our Encore. I use the term Encore a lot of times for retirement. Gary, I think you use the term Third Age a lot of times to talk about this time in our lives. So listeners, as we talk about this today, if you hear me say Encore, you hear Gary say Third Age, we’re talking about retirement. Gary and I don’t like the word retirement and the connotation that it has. So we’re trying to use other terms for this time of life. And, as much as there’s been…a lot of people have tried to come up with a different term, but I think Gary and I both have landed on the fact that retirement is going to continue to be the term that’s going to be used, because it’s so ingrained in our culture. Um, so I just wanted to point that out.
GAF: Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere anytime soon. It’s with us.
RS: I don’t think so, but retirement as you and I know, is definitely changing and I think the way that people are looking at retirement is changing. So, there’s a lot of things that we need to do to make this transition into retirement successfully and well into retirement. But there’s three things that I don’t think get talked about enough. And so I wanted to cover those today and talk to Gary about those because, again, Gary has not only written a lot about these topics. I know he’s read a lot about these topics and he’s lived a lot of these topics from all of his experience.
So, the three things that I want to talk about today to transition more successfully into retirement are Continue Learning, Build Your Strength, and Share Your Wisdom. And here’s why I believe these three things are important: number one, we’re living longer- so we have more time to fill, more time on our hands, more time to accomplish things. (Number two) we are working longer- more people want to work into retirement and should work into retirement. And there’s a variety of reasons why people are doing that. It could be out of necessity, it could be because they want the connections that they used to have at their work. They want to continue to have challenges. And then the third thing is we have the ability to be active longer. If we’re living longer, we can be active longer. So, those are the three things that I think are really drivers as to why continuing to learn as important. Building our strength is important and sharing our wisdom is important.
So let’s jump into the first one, Gary, and talk about continue learning. And I’ll kind of set this up a little bit and give you a little bit about my thoughts on why continuing learning, continuing to learn as important and then toss it over to you, Gary, to get your, your thoughts and experiences.
RS: I think the first thing that comes to mind when I think about continuing to learn is if we are going to work into retirement and we can continue to work for 10 or 15 more years after the traditional retirement age, we need to keep up with the changes. If we’re going to continue to work in our industry that we’ve been in during our career, we need to continue to learn because a lot of things change no matter what our career expertise was. Technology’s changing- rapidly changing in industries (like) technology, medicine, all of these different areas are changing. If we want to start something new in our Encore, that’s also a time where we need to learn. We might need to either take additional classes, learn more from people who’ve been there before us, but we still need to continue to learn to make that change.
And then the third area, the reason that we need to continue to learn is, a lot of times as we transition into retirement, the balance between labor and leisure kind of gets changed. During our working lives we spend a lot more time on labor. A lot more time in retirement is spent on leisure. So, if we want to pursue some of these leisure activities, which could be hobbies or other things, there might be things that we want to continue to learn. So, that’s kind of the first reason why I think continuing to learn is important.
I think the second reason that continuing to learn as important is just simply it’s good for our mind. And we can continue to learn even as we get older. So Gary, let me toss it to you kind of at that point and get your thoughts on either anything I’ve said or you know, dive into the…I know there’s a lot of studies and a lot of things that say that, you know, learning is, is continues to be good for us. And I, I guess one of the things that happens to in retirement is a lot of times when we get to retirement we think that work is done and now it’s going to be leisure time. So, I don’t think that a lot of times we continue to spend as much time learning as we need to.
GAF: Well I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. I mean I think that’s one of the potential risks. And to your point, I mean there’ve been volumes of studies done on, on what’s going on between our temples as we get older. And you know, one of the things that I wanted to…and you kind of tossed it out as a possibility… to talk about is that I my discovery, because I’ve really been kind of passionate about this whole mind, body, brain body sort of thing for some time. And I’ve done quite a bit of reading and believe me, I’m not, not putting myself up as any kind of neurologist or, or expert on the brain. But you know, I have studied it a lot because I have a personal interest in this. I mean I’m older than most of us, you know, and I’m learning (and) I like to learn, continuously learn.
GAF: But one of the things I found fascinating, and I think I probably came across this oh, golly, I don’t know, five, six, seven, eight years ago was that there’s the evolving awareness that we have about what this brain is capable of doing, especially as we get older. And one of the things that… because I think back, you know, golly in the fifties and sixties, our perspective on the brain was that yeah, you get to be 50 or 60 it’s done. It’s going to deteriorate, it’s going to go backwards. And that was kind of the accepted knowledge at that point. Well, you know, with the evolving technologies and radiology and testing and things like that, we know so much more about this brain now and it’s really kind of staggering, really what the brain is capable of doing throughout our entire lives.
And there are three things that come to my mind we think about this concept of neuroplasticity. We’re going to throw out quite a few 12 cylinder words here, maybe a lot of people haven’t heard before, but neuroplasticity is one of them. And that’s the capability of our brain to adjust and make changes. And we’ve documented this in so many different ways. I mean, you look at today, if a stroke victim…If we get to stroke victims early, it’s amazing what the brain can rebuild to allow stroke victims to come back. You know? And that’s something we’ve learned. So we know that the brain is plastic. I mean, it can regenerate new channels and that sort of thing. But the one I got really excited about is one called neurogenesis, which in essence is the fact that regardless of our age, we can build new neural connections.
GAF: And we can get real technical about this. You know, they say that the brain has 100 billion cells or neurons, excuse me, at birth. And we don’t really lose all of those as we get older unless we allow them to deteriorate. And I think that’s kind of a key. So if we’re of the mindset that, gosh, I’m 60, 65 right now, I’m just going to sit here and let my brain deteriorate. Yeah, it will. If we want to let it do it. But at the same time, that same brain, although it’s going to be slower and doing this, you can rebuild or build all new channels and new neural connections throughout our lives. And I think that’s a real revelation for us as we get into this Third Age or the Encore part of our life.
To understand that if we’re going to…if we choose to stop learning, you know, our brains are going to pay us back. It’s not going to build those new neural connections that is capable of doing. So we should be pushing ourselves. We should be outliers when it comes to this learning thing because it’s going to regenerate brain cells and new channels. And you know, the other thing too…and I’m going to throw out another 12 cylinder word here called epigenetics. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term or not, but this is fairly new. Epigenetics is saying that the old traditional concept was that the, how we age is driven by our genes, by our genetics, right? Well, since they’ve done the genome studies, and again, I’m going to wade into an area where I’m not qualified to talk a lot about it, but the whole genomic study has helped us understand that we’re not driven by our DNA. We’re not driven by our genes.
And this whole epigenetics fundamentally says that if I’ve got bad genes for something, let’s say that I’ve got genes that would say I may get a certain kind of cancer. Well, that, that’s one thing to have the gene, but the gene means nothing unless it expresses itself. We all carry bad genes, right? What we’ve determined is how we think and feel and act can actually impact whether or not genes express themselves. And that’s a fascinating thing when you think about it. Uh, so where I think 50 years ago or 60 years ago, we were inclined to just say, okay, my life is going to be driven by my genes.
I remember my wife and I, probably 20 years ago, saw this thing on USA Today. No, it was Parade magazine. It said, if you want to figure out how long you’re going to live, well go average the ages of your grandparents and your parents. And that’s how long you’ll live. So we did this little study, right? Well, I’ve been dead for seven years and she’s been dead for six years.
So, you know, so we’ve learned a lot about the fact that we’re not driven by our DNA. We are not our DNA. We have some impact. And see that that all ties back, I think to the neuroplasticity and the neurogenesis, the fact that if we will tax our brain, if we’ll challenge ourselves and we’ll continue to learn. This brain will continue to function as it has 30 40, 50 years ago. Now, I have to admit one thing, we may be a little bit slower in pulling up stuff that we’ve learned. And that’s, you know, I have to admit that because I feel that myself, what am I going to be as quick to recall something?
RS: We’ve got more stuff in there to pull out:)
GAF: Well, yeah, all, it’s all kind of crammed in, right! My hard drive is pretty full. But you know, and I continue to, I intend to frankly, as I know you do, I continue to intend to fill my hard drive. I love learning. I’m going to continue to learn. And I think the more we push ourselves out to the edge in how we learn… it’s like I read this morning… kind of going back through my journal a little bit and I underlined something I said in this, (which) came from Martha Beck, who wrote a great book called Finding Your North Star. And she says, do something scary every day. Push yourself out to the edge. Do something scary every day. So I’m doing my scary thing for the day and that’s to try and look halfway intelligent on this podcast with you. But I think there’s a lot to be said for that. So I think that that’s kind of where I’m coming from on that.
RS: Yeah. And I think that’s one of the big misconceptions, Gary, and especially from the work standpoint, is that older people can’t learn as fast. So, back in the industrial (age) days, of course, what they did is they replaced the older people (workers) because younger people (workers) could do things physically quicker, and so older people (workers) were pushed out. But I think that stereotype, even though we’re not in the industrial age anymore, we’re in the technology age, that line of thinking continues to pervade throughout corporate America. So…
GAF: Well, I think it’s important to point out… you do make a good point. And that is, I know that I’m slower to learn, but I have the capacity to learn as much. I think that’s a key distinction. So, I’ve got to be able to explore it because you know, it is, it’s jumbled up there. I mean, I got 77 years of stuff that’s flowed into that two and a half pounds of fatty acid up there. So, I wish there were a way to defrag it! I don’t know how you’d do it, but yeah, it’s crowded.
RS: I think the other important thing to point out to people too is that we have to be willing to learn. I think sometimes we get a little bit stubborn and fixed in our ways. Um, this is probably a topic for another podcast, Gary, but I’ll just get your quick thoughts on this. The whole topic of ageism comes up a lot and that people, you know, don’t get jobs that they want, jobs are given to younger people for various reasons, things like that. And the word ageism gets thrown around a lot. But I think part of that too is we have to accept responsibility for continuing to keep up and continuing to learn so that we can still provide the value that we did when we were, you know, in our… in the earlier parts of our career. So… and again, that to me is all part of the continuing to learn process.
GAF: Well I think you bring up an interesting point and you know, I agree it could, it could be a discussion for another podcast. I mean ageism is alive and well. I mean you and I both know that, especially in my, my work as a career coach, I encounter it all the time because I work with a lot of folks over 50 with career transitions. So, yeah, I mean it’s for real, but we’re also, as people who are older, we’re also guilty of contributing to ageism just by the way we talk, by the way we think. You know, if I’m at a dinner party and I sit there and say, “well, growing old is for the birds.” Well that’s an ageism comment that I initiated myself. So I’m contributing to the issue by the things I say and the things that I think. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of work to do in this area and I don’t know, it’s a tough one because we are so youth oriented (in our society). But you know, and I think as we get further into our podcast today, we’ll talk about a couple of those things that I think that have the potential to have really great impact on the concept of ageism. So…
RS: Perfect. So the second… number two thing that I think we need to do to make this transition successfully, Gary, that isn’t talked about enough, is building our strength. So, what happens a lot of times I think is as people get older, we talk a lot about getting a cardiovascular workout and how that helps us. But a lot of times we don’t talk about keeping our strength. And what happens (when we don’t). And we’ve all seen this in people that we know, whether it’s parents or grandparents or friends- that they don’t continue to build their strength and all of a sudden they’re stuck in a chair.
And, if we’re going to live longer and if we are living healthier, but we’re not doing what we need to do to keep our bodies in shape, we can’t simply do things that we want to do in retirement. And I’ll just use (an example)… a lot of times that when, when I talk to clients, a lot of times it’s one of the things that they want to spend more time doing in retirement is traveling. Well, if you are going to travel and you’re going to climb mountains, you’re going to go on hikes, you’re going to experience some of the beauty of nature. It involves getting out and moving somehow. And so I think that’s where building our strength comes into comes into effect. Not only early on in retirement, but I think as we get older too. So again, we can continue to do things as we age.
GAF: But one thought came to mind as you were going through that, you know, just even if you’re doing travel and you’re climbing mountains or riding bikes or whatever. I’m thinking from our personal experience, just the negotiating airports with heavy luggage, right?
RS: With how far right with how far some of the gates are and the…
GAF: Oh my gosh. But, you know, I think about… and I’ll be real brief with this. My wife and I were treated to a weekend in Hawaii by my daughter and son in law. And, we’d never been to Hawaii and my wife has a tendency to overpack well, we had these two massive, you know, to go to spend time at the beach where all we’re wearing like two or three items. But nonetheless, we had to negotiate the Honolulu airport and we had no idea where we’re going, what we’re doing. And we must have been three quarters of a mile from where we needed to be. So you see these two 70 year olds struggling along with these huge suitcases and negotiating all these different lines. And had we not been in great shape, I don’t think we would’ve, we probably would’ve succumbed right there.
GAF: But I think this is a key point. I really do. I think, you know, I’m a, as you well know, I’m a, I’m a real health and wellness advocate. I work at virtually every day. And, you know, I think the… probably the one thing that is most overlooked…in fact I wrote a response to a question on Quora this morning on this very thing, should I worry about my strength now that I’m 60? And I’m thinking, wow, is that a naive question to start with? Right. Uh, because, and as you know, I’ve written a whole series on this on my blog about early frailty and what I call extended morbidity. And, what we do know now…let me just cut to the chase on this. And the whole point is that if we ignore our physical strength as we get older, there is a deep, deep price to be paid because, when you think about the prevalence of falling and we get people in their seventies and eighties, it’s a big issue.
Whether it’s in a hospital or at home, falls are a big deal. Well, falls are fundamentally a direct…there’s a direct connection between our physical strength and falling. So, it brings me around to the point I think I want to make on this whole thing is that there’s this, our bodies…there’s a condition called Sarcopenia ,and it really is a clinical term that describes a condition that we all experience. It begins in our late thirties, into our early forties, and it’s fundamentally a clinical description of loss of muscle mass. It happens to all of us. And there is no drug that you can take for it. The only antidote that you’ve got to sarcopenia is strength training. So, when you play…when you say, okay, strength training that means weightlifting and uh, you know, I’m not going to hang out at 24-hour fitness.
GAF: I don’t like those tattooed tank top people in (there) and the women run around in their Lululemon’s. That’s not my environment. Well, bottom line is, unless you come up with some way to put resistance training into your life, your muscle mass, your loss of muscle mass is going to catch up with you. So, you know, I’ve been an advocate of weight training, weight lifting for a good 30, 35 years. I think it’s not a natural environment, but you know, whether you do it at home, whether you do it at a club, I mean there are ways that you can find ways to do that. And it’s extremely important to do that as early as possible. You really ought to, especially when you get into your 50s and 60s. I mean, that’s what we do know about sarcopenia, it’ll start as early as your 30s and it really accelerates when you get into your 50s. So you need to put that antidote in place.
RS: Yeah. Just a couple of follow up points I want to make to that too, Gary, is when we’re talking about building our strength, it could be lifting weights, it could be using resistance bands, it could be some forms of yoga, it could be pushups and sit ups. It doesn’t necessarily have to be…I think when we…sometimes when we talk about building our strength, people think, well, I’ve got a hoist, all these heavy weights. And they’ve never lifted weights before, so that’s kind of frightening. But it doesn’t have to be that (way). There’s other ways to use just your body’s weight to do squats, to lift lighter weights overhead. Again, use resistance bands or, or things like that. So that’s, that’s my first point. The second point I’d like to make too is I think there’s some research, Gary, that I read here a while back that said, even if people are in their eighties and they start lifting weights at that point, that they can get their muscle mass to be more like that of a 50 year old. Even after, I think it was (only) like four or six weeks of, of lifting weights.
So my point is, is even if you’re somebody who hasn’t done this earlier in your life, you still can start doing it when you get older. And so I think that’s, that’s important to consider. And then my third point that I want to make on that too is we often hear about the benefits of aerobic exercise. And there’s been studies how the benefits of aerobic exercise reduce the risk of death from, I think all causes. There’s, studies that show that. But there’s also studies that show that strength training can have those same benefits of reducing, again, reducing the risk of death from all causes. So the benefits I think are there, it’s, it’s just simply, again, one of those things that we, we have to build into our lifestyle to continue to do if we’re going to reap the benefits from it.
GAF: Well, again, I kind of have to come back to how our culture influences the way we think. And we’ve got this pervasive thought that weightlifting is just for younger people. I remember Dr. Walter Bortz saying, in his book Dare To Be 100, he said, “weightlifting or strength training for a 30-year-old is an option, for a 50 and 60 year old it’s imperative.” It’s not an option it’s imperative. Well, and I think, you know, another quote that has always stuck with me, and this came out of the book Younger Next Year, which is a tremendous book. Anybody outta be reading this and in it Dr. Henry Lodge had a statement, he said, “aerobic exercise will give you life, strength training will make it worth living.” You know? And.
RS: That’s a good quote.
GAF: Yeah, it’s a great quote.
GAF: And I use it a lot in my blog because it, I mean, it really just kind of sums it up. You know…and then there’s this issue…we still in this country experience way too much extended morbidity. A lot of this is a throwback to our naivety about how our minds and our bodies work. I mean, I think about my dad’s experience. Uh, he at age 59, he had a heart attack, he stopped smoking. He started eating better, then in his early seventies, he was diagnosed with COPD. So that kind of led him to a life of hoses and oxygen tanks and that sort of thing. And then at age, 77 fell and broke his hip had a hip replacement, then he had sepsis, had surgery. Then he had an extended hospital recovery and he lost his voice. And then he went into a rehab facility and a short stint at a small retirement home and then to a larger nursing home, then had a heart attack and died at 81. So when you think about that, that’s a 22 year extended morbidity.
And we’re seeing way too much of that. Now, I love, my dad was a great guy, but he also was a victim of poor habits. I mean he smoked for 45 years. He didn’t exercise. We, we know all that stuff is bad, but still we don’t do much about it, you know. And it’s just really this mindset that says let’s treat this body right because it knows what to do. If we just give it a break and let it work and let it do its stuff. And then ,because we force ourselves into early frailty, there’s no reason…I mean, we we’re dying on an average of 80 years is our lifespan now. And so, you know, we’ve already got a blueprint out there. We’ve had people who have lived to 116 and 122, so we know the body will last that long. But yet on average we only live 65 or 66% of that whole life potential. But why the gap? Well, a lot of it just simply has to do with lifestyle and choices. So, I’m sorry, I just got on my soapbox Reid, I better…
RS: No, that’s all…yeah, that’s all good, Gary. Here’s another topic that we probably could dive in for a complete episode, but my belief is, is the whole thing about being in the best physical condition we can (be in) later in life and certainly building our strength falls into this. But if we do that, we’re going to reduce our healthcare costs as we age because we’re in better health. And I don’t think that’s talked about enough either. A lot of times there’s studies that come out that say people are in retirement are going to spend like $250,000, one (another) study’s like $420,000- that’s the amount you’re going to spend in health costs in retirement.
And my take on that is, well, let’s try to reduce that by being healthy before we get to that point. And so that, that’s the other reason that I think building strength and aerobic exercise,…and I’ll add flexibility into this because that’s another thing that’s not talked about much is our flexibility. But if you combine all of those three things and you’re healthier and more active into retirement, hopefully that reduces, our healthcare costs. We don’t have to go to the doctor as much because we’re healthier. So…
GAF: Well, that’s the plan that my wife and I are on. I mean, we know we’ve got to have a doctor, but you know, I’m not going to put my life in my doctor’s hands because, no reflection on him or on doctors in general, but the simple fact is our healthcare system is not a healthcare system, it’s a disease care system. It’s reactive. It’s not proactive. So the choice really is on me to be proactive with my health. And that starts with understanding how this mind and this body works, I think all the way down to the cellular level. You know, if we understand that and just give it what it needs, there’s no reason that we should be in that extended morbidity. You know, I want my morbidity to be highly compressed as I know you do. Ideally for me it would be go face down in a trout stream. And I mean that, that’s the way I’d like to go. But you know, it’s probably not going to happen that way.
But the fact is I have a lot of choice in that. I could accept the old myth, the old message that I’m driven by my genetics. So, I’ve already eliminated that from my thinking. A hundred years ago we looked at life and the length of our life as fate, God’s will, right? Well now we know that it’s… we have a lot of control and a lot of choice in them. So it’s not low. It’s no longer faith. It’s, it’s choice. And you know, I can take control of that and do as much as I can. I just have to be knowledgeable about it and I don’t think that’s where we do well. We’re, I think we’re kind of a healthcare naive, if you will. So at any rate before… Good topic. Good topic.
RS: All right, let’s jump into the third thing that we can do to make this transition successful and that is share your wisdom. And the reason I selected share your wisdom is kind of a couple of things that I’ve read recently. And again, this isn’t a topic that I think is talked about enough, but if we are going to continue to work into what we typically consider our retirement years. And so if we’re working and we’re 62 or 65 and we’re working with younger people who are 18 or 20, we’re really working with potentially three generations in the workforce for probably the first time. And so there’s a lot of things because of our experience that we can share with younger people. I think. There are things that we can learn from younger people and I think we have to be…we have to be open to that also.
So that’s part of what I mean by sharing our wisdom. And I think the other way that I kind of approached this, Gary, and I want to get your thoughts on this too, is…I need to read my notes, it’s a little dark in my office here, so bear with me. But as we continue to… as we continue learning and as we get older, we’ve accumulated more experience. I think our views change. And I think also what we find as being truly important in our lives changes.
And so one of the things that I think because of all of that happening, because of the way that people viewing retirement and viewing aging is changing- is that baby boomers, and I’ll just use that kind of as the generic term, but I think baby boomers are, are going to figure out ways to change things. And it (these) could be worldwide issues, it could be issues at the local level, whatever. But I think that boomers, because they continue to want to be challenged, they continue to want to find something… Here’s the comment that I hear quite often, and you probably do too from working with people (retirement coaching), but they basically tell me that they want to find something that uses their expertise and passion. They want to continue do this (those things).
So I think that sharing our wisdom not only is just passing down our wisdom to either younger people in the workforce or our kids or things like that, but I think it’s also sharing our expertise with other people who want to learn what we may already know. It could be somebody transitioning into our field in the industry. It could be groups of people who are interested in the same societal issue or whatever that they’re going to group together to solve some of these issues.
I think sharing our wisdom is, kind of, to me… Is there’s two different ways that it can happen and sharing it with younger people and sharing it with other people, kind of in our same age group that have similar interests or similar passions and solving certain issues. So I know you’ve written some blogs on parts of this topic area. I know you’ve read some books that dive into this topic- and I have not had a chance to read the book that you’re probably going to reference, but give us your thoughts on sharing our wisdom as we age.
GAF: It’s a big topic. Yeah, I mean…one thought that comes to mind as I’ve listened to you and that is that this is kind of a two way street. I think we as boomers are, I’m a pre boomer, but, uh, I think that we have to be cautious about our mindset of saying we can’t learn from people who are younger than us. And there’s this thing out there right now, this ‘OK Boomer.’ The OK Boomer rage, right. Well, I think it’s kind of comical. Uh, and a lot of ways we brought it on ourselves, you know. (RS: In many ways, yes.) So, the fact is we can learn so much from these younger people. You know, I think about the other day, my nine year old granddaughter had to show me how to open up a couple of things on my iPhone or on my Android phone. Then I’m thinking, you know, how did I get so far behind.
Well, the fact is that…I think probably the book that you’re referencing too, and the articles that I wrote had to do with this gentlemen, uh, is kind of hot on the scene right now. His name is chip Conley. Chip is, uh, uh, was, I don’t think he is right now. He was an executive with Airbnb. He had been a very successful boutique hotelier, who had a chain of I think 24 boutique hotels that he had built up and become quite well known for that, for his expertise in that area. And he sold those off and was invited to become kind of an advisor to the CEO or founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, (RS: who was much younger than Chip) …by 20, 25 years. Somewhere in that vicinity, yeah. So anyhow, to shorten the story, it was quite an experience for Chip Conley. He found himself totally intimidated when he got in and mixed it up with these 20 somethings and 30 somethings that were driving all the technology of Airbnb.
GAF: He was just blown out. I mean, he was so out of touch with what they thought, how they lived their lives with what they were capable of doing and where he kind of thought he was going to come in as a mentor, he found himself in an intern role and he coined a term. This whole thing turned out to be very successful for Airbnb and for him personally. And I was fascinated by this story because it took some humility for him to back up and say, wow, if I’m going to make this work, I’ve got to be an intern. I’ve got to learn from these people. These are high energy, high powered, high creative type people. And this isn’t going anywhere if I just position myself as an authority or mentor or whatever, I’ve got to earn my ability to be a mentor. I thought that was kind of revelatory. He said, you know, I have to earn that. So he said, I became a “mentern.” M. E. N. T. E. R. N. I became a mentor slash intern.
So, over the long haul, just by learning to listen and wanting to learn and being aggressive and going back to these people to have them teach him. Then he earned the right to where people began to come to him and wanted to know his wisdom. It wouldn’t have worked if he had gone in there and dumped all that wisdom out to start with, he’d have probably been blown out the door. Right. So, to me it was just a great read and to understand how much he learned. And he actually kind of coined a new term called “middle essence”, which is really what I, that’s kind of, that’s another way to put the third age. We’re kind of in that middle essence period where we still have a great opportunity to learn as well, is share our wisdom. So, I thought it was just a great picture of what it could be for us in this third age where- let’s get off our high horse, let’s stop condemning these millennials.
And to your point, we’re at a point where we’ve got five generations in our lives now. We had…and so in some situation, we actually got four generations in the workplace. Think about that, not just three but four. So, you know, we’re, we’re pretty silly to be arrogant and to think that we’ve got all the answers for these millennials when in fact they’ve probably got a number of things they’re going to teach us. So let’s get together and let’s exercise this concept of generativity.
That resonates so well for me because I think if we’re honest…if we’re honest with ourselves as we move into this sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth decade of our lives, I think that certainly there are some exceptions…I mean, some people just are going to be narcissists, let’s face it. But I think ultimately deep down inside of us, we’re wired up to give back. We’re wired up to share our wisdom, to pay back, if you want to call it that, and we’re wired up to serve. So let’s put on that sort of hat and say, look, I got something that I can teach these folks, but I’m not going to do that at the expense of, at the same time learning from them. So this is…we’ll talk about a Finley go off track here it seems, but that’s one of the issues that I have was senior living and community. I’m never going to go to one unless I’m, unless my kids dropped me in when they say “see you dad.” I don’t think that’ll happen.
But fact is I, I think it’s healthier for us to get into an environment where we’re mixing it up with people that are 10, 20, 30 years younger than we are because we’re both going to benefit from it. And that’s going to help us move this goofy culture forward that we’ve got right now is by working together rather than throwing rocks at each other. That’s why I have to just laugh at this OK Boomer thing because it’s a fad and we’re throwing rocks at each other and it’ll pass. But I think we can grow from it. I think we can learn from it and understand that uh, they’re not out to get us and we shouldn’t be out to get them. Let’s work together.
RS: Yeah, it’s interesting when you point out, you know, working across and sharing experiences across generations. There was a story on a local news channel here in the twin cities and there’s a college in Minnesota that has a dormitory and I can’t remember, it’s in this old historical building… or actually, they don’t have a dorm. There’s an assisted living that this old historical building was turned into an assisted living home and they had some extra rooms. And what they started to do was rent out the rooms to college students because there’s a college in town and there was a shortage of housing.
And so the story was about the shared experiences between the people in assisted living and the college students and how they both benefited from that experience. And I thought that was, that was really interesting. And you know, we have to, again, like you said, is come together across generations to share experiences. In the old days (previous generations) and in another countries, families lived together, generations of families stayed (lived) under the same roof a lot of times- we don’t do that now.
GAF: Well, the elderly were venerated. I mean, look, they were kept in the family because of the wisdom that they brought to it as opposed to being in what we do in our culture. I mean, let’s face it, we tend to want to warehouse people. That’s why I think the senior living community, I mean, I ain’t going to go away. Uh, and it’s getting better, but…
RS: It’s going to have to evolve though.
GAF: I think so. That’s a great story. I had not heard that, where you put college students in a senior living environment and they kind of forced it to happen and they’re seeing the benefits of it. That’s, that’s a great story.
RS: Yep. Well I think that’s a good spot to end our conversation today, Gary. There’s a lot more I know we could dive into. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on this topic.
GAF: Well, Hey, look, I really, really appreciate what you’re doing. I mean it’s fun to be with you. I like…you stimulate my thinking and I’m sorry I have a tendency to run on, but this is life altering stuff that uh, that you’re diving into. And I’m just happy to maybe make a small contribution to your work. So keep it up, my friend.
RS: I will. Retirement is changing, Gary, as you know, and I think we’re both trying to dive into that area and help people make that transition. So more to come on various topics. Thank you listeners and viewers. Join me next time when I’ll take on another topic to help you plan for your retired life beyond the money.
If you have any topics that you would like me to cover in future episodes, you can send an email to Reid@MyLife’sEncore.com or go to my website, which is MyLifesEncore.com. You can find my email there (too). And again, go to Gary’s website, which is MakeAgingWork.com. Follow his blog, subscribe to his newsletter, and you can also receive his free eBook. So thanks again everybody for listening and watching and thanks again, Gary.
GAF: Thanks Reid.