A New Treasure for Workplace Guidance

Folded hands with watch

Along with many others, I’ve bemoaned the creeping tide of ageism and the seeming irrelevance of those of us who are over age 50. How can I help it when I hear from so many of my clients about their sudden panic after a layoff, their frustrations in finding a new pathway for themselves as their experience climbs and their interests shift, and their irritation at the emphasis on youth in their organizations?

I’ve found an antidote to my rising pessimism in the form of Chip Conley‘s wonderful new book Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder. In it, there’s inspiration, learning, truth, examples, and hope.

Some of the treasures for me include:

  • New terminology: I’d never heard the term DQ (digital intelligence), so I now have language to use to articulate what I value in my kids and their generation. One of the words that Chip coins is “mentern,” which is a combination of mentor and intern. He talks about publicly interning and privately mentoring and the value he gives and receives using this frame. His outline of the qualities of a modern elder shifts me from dread to aspiration.
  • A pathway amid the disruption: This isn’t a book that dictates easy answers. It’s one that asks us to dig deep, to act from our core, and to forge ahead using a blend of our internal drive and market forces. Retirement isn’t an option for everyone, and it frankly doesn’t have the appeal that it once did. Conley urges us to “rewire, don’t retire,” and his timing couldn’t be better.
  • A process for coming back to ourselves: By describing his own path to claiming his elderhood and including his bumbling and imperfect ways of getting his bearings, there’s so much permission and modeling here about being vulnerable and competent at the same time, about recognizing our own value and releasing the need to prove it using antiquated mechanisms, and about aligning our behavior and our values. One example of a tool that he used himself was to shift from offering answers to asking questions.

In a constantly changing world, great questions may be more important than answers. Traditional elders had the clever answers. Modern Elders have the catalytic questions.

I’m delighted that there’s a chapter for organizations to embrace the current demographics and to make room for the shifting tides of our extended longevity, our own urge to contribute and participate, and our new economic reality that requires work from many people well past the age of traditional retirement.

But the heart of the book is a call to action on the part of the individual. Conley models embracing and shaping this new era. He asks us to define and share our wisdom, to be both humble and assertive, and to live fully in these years that used to be spent on the golf course and in the yarn shop. Golfing and knitting may still be fulfilling and fun – they’re just not the only avenue available to us.Walking green, carrying golf clubs

One final note: don’t skip the appendix. It’s almost a complete book itself, filled with quotes, resources, and a succinct distillation of the book.

Okay, yet another post-script: consider listening to the book on audio. Conley narrates the book himself, and it’s a delight to hear his inflections and emphases. Just like sitting down to an extended meal with him for an enriching conversation.

What I did on my summer vacation

Have you ever heard of a Now page? It’s something that writer Derek Sivers developed and caught hold among solopreneurs. It’s an initiative where entrepreneurs add a short page on their websites capturing recent projects and activities – basically, a succinct way for entrepreneurs to catch others up with their happenings.

It’s not about events, but about curiosities and what’s going on behind the scenes. More important than the efficient transfer of information is the deepening connection that emerges from building and sharing a Now page. I haven’t created this specific feature on my site, but I like to loop people in my community (that’s you!) into what I’ve been doing lately, so here’s some of what’s been on my radar these past few months:

      • DYL Obsession: I continue to crush on this book, Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, so don’t get me started on discussing it, or there may be no stopping me. Let me just say that there’s a TEDx talk by one of the authors that you must watch. I’ve subjected my entire family to the audiobook, and we made it our theme for our week at the beach. My 19-year-old son’s eyes glazed over when we talked about it, but then he surprised me one day by telling me he had listened to it the previous evening. “It’s a 6-hour audiobook!” I said in astonishment. “Yes, but it’s only 3 hours if you listen to it on double speed,” he told me. Fair enough. I was just shocked that he opted in, and even more stunned when he started applying some of the ideas. I’m using the book with almost all of my individual clients and scheming to include it in my work even more this fall.

      • Requisite Failures: There’s so much glorification of failing right now. Sure, I’m learning from my failures, but they still sting. I really wanted to launch some workshops and groups this past spring, and despite my advertising efforts, I fizzled in those arenas. I also dipped my toe back into counseling, and that experience reminded me why I’m solidly in the coaching world. I’m not one for offering diagnoses, writing treatment plans, and pathologizing what people are experiencing. I still believe wholeheartedly in the value of therapy – it’s just not what I want to do as a practitioner.
      • Writing: I created a series of articles about LinkedIn for Workforce50, started to write about career sabbaticals on that site and others, and also published some content on the Career Directors International site.
      • Podcast Consumption: I might have a slight podcast addiction. A few that I listen to regularly:
        • Hidden Brain – NPR at its best! Recent career-related episodes include You 2.0: Dream Jobs and Episode 56: Getting Unstuck.
        • Good Life Project – Deep dive interviews with big thinkers. I loved the episode with Susan David called On Resilience and Emotional Agility, and the episode with Elizabeth Gilbert may be my favorite podcast of all time. Seriously, I mean ever.
        • Dear Sugar Radio – Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond dispensing great wisdom. I often cry when I listen to this one. Sometimes, it’s career-related, like the Career Vs. Love episode.
        • Conversations with People Who Hate Me – Totally unrelated to careers, but it made me cheer because finally, there’s a political show about healing. It’s a new podcast, so there are just a few episodes, but there’s some bridge building going on in those conversations.
        • Tara Brach – Also unrelated to career, but still a fave. Buddhism and psychology interspersed with some guided meditations. I think that if I just listen to Tara Brach enough and integrate what she says, I would be at peace.
        • Terrible, Thanks for Asking – About tough emotions – so touching. It’s just nice to know that I’m not alone when I’m struggling.
      • Teen drivingOutside of My Work World: I pinched a nerve in my neck just after Mother’s day, so I haven’t been at my computer as much as I was in the spring. Pilates is my new sport, and my physical therapist is my new best friend. I’m teaching my youngest to drive, something I consider heroic because driving terrifies me. I’m in a SoulCollage women’s group, a delightful connection with amazing people where I can dabble in art.

So, there’s my summer. I’m diving into some new topics this fall, including dealing with workplace toxicity and building community for career exploration while continuing to deepen my knowledge of introversion, ageism in a job search, and career sabbaticals.

Now, I’m off to the beach for summer’s last hurrah. Sand and surf await.