I’m into my third read of Chip Conley’s latest book, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.
Yep, it’s that good – a game changer for folks in their fifties and sixties who are pondering “What’s Next?”
At age 60, I’m approaching a life stage commonly known as “Senior Citizen,” yet that weary label has plenty of baggage and it doesn’t come close to describing the rich opportunities that lie ahead. Some may think, they’re just words, but for me, it’s a moniker in serious need of a reboot.
At 60, I’ve never had more wisdom, more empathy, more moxie, or more resolve to make a difference than I have right now.
Thanks to Chip Conley, we now have a more purposeful mission (and title) to embrace – that of Modern Elder. He’s managed to uncouple Elder (wisdom by virtue of age and experience) from Elderly (old-fashioned, change resistant), to set the stage for a promising new life chapter.
Keep in mind, with longevity gains and more attention to wellness, many will be graced with three decades of modern elder moments to savor.
Everyone Gets Older – Some Get Elder
Simply adding years to the age scoreboard doesn’t guarantee you a seat on the modern elder bus.
As I engage in conversations with fellow Boomers, there’s an interesting Older/Elder fork in the road forming. Olders opt for the path that’s focused on what’s ending, while elders choose a different path, where they can explore (and prepare for) new possibilities waiting to be seized.
There’s a defining moment happening for my generation, where some dial down, while others dial up, not in the quantity of hours they invest, but in quality of these experiences.
Happiness, helpfulness, hopefulness, and healthy dose of catalytic curiosity run strongest in the “dial up” crowd. By the way, once again, Conley expanded my vernacular with a powerful adjective – catalytic curiosity.
Adopting a Beginner’s Mindset
Before I dig into this one, a bit more about Chip Conley…
In 1987, at age 27, Conley launched Joie de Vivre Hospitality. Over the next 24 years, he grew this firm to become the second-largest operator of boutique hotels in the United States. He had me at this crowning achievement – but wait, there’s more.
In 2013, Conley founded Fest300 (an online festival magazine acquired in 2016 by Everfest) plus he joined Airbnb as Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy. It was during his tenure at Airbnb when the concept of Modern Elder first emerged.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky reached out to Conley after reading his book, PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow (another great read, especially for Retirepreneurs engaged in HR and training).
Later, Chesky issued this invitation: “How would you like to democratize hospitality?” Conley was already pondering “What’s Next?” and this invitation to join Airbnb proved to be irresistible.
Yet this new gig pushed Conley into uncharted waters – namely, technology and digital. With high emotional intelligence (EQ), he needed to shore up his digital intelligence (DQ). This gave way to a mutually-beneficial mentorship model, where Millennials and Boomers help one another.
In his early days at Airbnb, an implicit trade agreement started to take shape, where younger colleagues helped Conley boost his DQ, while he helped these colleagues to become more fluent in human interactions (EQ).
Here’s where the adopting a beginner’s mindset comes in. Conley recommends that we need to be both mentor and intern – both sage and student, to foster stronger relationships with peers of every age. We need to listen intently and empathize, before we can weigh in with meaningful advice. With a beginner’s mindset, we need confidence, tempered with humility, as we ask questions that others might be afraid to ask. Questions that could reveal breakthrough solutions.
For modern elders, it’s about coming to this role on an even playing field. Neither elders nor youngers have all the answers, because the best outcomes happen through intergenerational wisdom sharing. With a record-breaking five generations now navigating today’s disruptive workplace, there’s lots more knowledge sharing to be done. Modern elders have tremendous capacity to be helpful harvesters, but we’ll need to dial down the bravado.
That means no more griping about Millennials. No more admonitions about heavy device use and light face-to-face interaction. Conversely, no more assumptions that elders have less capacity to learn and grow, personally, professionally AND digitally. Mutual respect is a must for fruitful collaboration.
Watch for More Takeaways from Wisdom@Work
I’ve only scratched the surface on the gems in this book. The best advice I can give you right now – go read Wisdom@Work. As you read this book, I’d love to get your thoughts on concepts that resonated for you (please email me at donna-at-retirepreneur.com).
In the meantime, watch for future posts, where we dig into more valuable insights from this book. Also watch for announcements about a future online book club, because “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
Modern Elder? Wow – This Is Us!