Why Everyone Has Midlife Wrong | Chip Conley on Impact Theory | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Why Everyone Has Midlife Wrong | Chip Conley on Impact Theory".

1970-01-02T19:47:31.000Z

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Introduction

Intro (00:00)

I think the more we're possessed by that little screen in front of our face, and the URL experience, we're looking for the IRL experience, the in real life experience. And to be in an in real life experience where you're connecting with other people with common purpose and mission, and you feel like your sense of separation, which is what an ego does for you, is actually evaporating, you create a sense of oneness with people that frankly social media doesn't offer. Hey everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. Our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. Alright, today's guest is a serial disruptor who the San Francisco business time called the most innovative CEO. Starting from a single, paid by the Alber Motel, he bought in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco when he was just 26. He disrupted the entire hospitality industry and built a real estate empire that would ultimately make him the second largest boutique hotelier in the US. During his 24 year reign as CEO of Jwadavi, he racked up a series of awards, including the industry's highest honor, the Pioneer award, and helped his company ascend to the number one spot in customer satisfaction. His diligent study of humans and relentless commitment to his staff and customers also saw him granted an honorary doctorate in psychology from Seybrooke University. After weathering two financial crises and spending nearly a quarter of a century at the helm, he realized that his company no longer served as deep as passions. Disrupting himself this time, he sold his company, but just when he thought he was out of the hospitality industry, the founders of Airbnb convinced him to come help transform their promising start-up into the world's leading hospitality brand. And somewhere in all of that, he also managed to write five incredible books to pass on what he's learned. So please, help me in welcoming the man who died nine times. I'm not kidding, and live to tell the tale. The New York Times' best-selling author of Wisdom at Work, Chip Connolly. Wow, yes, nine lives, huh?


Key Topics Discussed

Experiencing death nine times (02:34)

Yeah, I'm a cat. It's crazy. So start us there. What on earth happened? And how after nine times are you still here? So it was nine times within a 90 minute period. So I can't count. It was not multiple experiences. Long story short is Gavin Newsom, who's the governor of California, was my first mentee. I was 35, he was 28. And for a bunch of years, taking him up to becoming mayor of San Francisco, I mentored him. He had a bachelor party at AT&D Ballpark. And we were playing baseball, and I broke my ankle playing baseball. Then I got a bacterial infection on my leg. Then it went septic. And I should have stayed at home and just said, "Okay, enough." But I ended up going to St. Louis to give a speech. And I was on antibiotics and on crutches. And at the end of my speech, I slumped in my chair. And three minutes later, I came to on the floor, and the paramedics showed up, and that's when they put harp monitors on me. And I died the first of nine times. So on the way to the hospital, I just kept dying, and I kept going to the other side. I was 47 years old at the time, and that's when I realized after 22 years of being CEO of my own company that I founded, I didn't want to do it anymore. So when you say that you kept going to the other side, was there something experiential that you went through at that point? Yeah. So each time I went to the other side, meaning I was asystolic, I had no heartbeat at all. It felt like it lasted 20 minutes. It was more like maybe 10 to 20 seconds. Sometimes as long as a minute. So when I'd come out of it, I'd say to the people around me, here's what I saw. And it was the same thing each time. It was me. This is a weird way to start this whole conversation. Hello everybody. This is how I died. It was too fascinating not to do it. No. So what happened was everything would go blank, and then it's white, and then I'm in this like mountain chalet, and I'm just observing. There's a skylight with sun coming through it. There's the colors of the rainbow, just everywhere. And there's this really thick oil going down the stairs, the most beautiful set of stairs you've ever seen, and really finely grained. And the oil has this frangia pani tropical scent. And it's basically the most beautiful scene I've ever seen in the world, and it's going slow-mo. I don't know if it's going down stairs if I'm going to hell. I don't know. So I think the best thing I can say about all of that experience is it was a divine intervention. They still don't know what happened other than this was over 10 years ago. It was an allergic reaction probably to the antibiotic. But it woke me up. It was like the hotel years wake up call to say, you know, I've done this boutique hotel thing for a long time now. I'm ready for what's next.


The beauty of Burning Man (05:43)

That's really, really interesting. So now I want to, which I didn't intend to, but when you were talking, it really made me... By the way, I like your shirt. Thank you. One especially for you. Free words of wisdom, yes. Talk to me about Burning Man. So what I didn't cover in your intro is you have another passion, which is festivals, and you've put together a list of the 300 most extraordinary festivals around the world, 98% of which I'd never heard of before, but I went on the site and was looking at them and thought it was really fascinating. And you've talked pretty eloquently about the sort of different faces of Burning Man, what it can be depending on what you want. But tie that in. So one, I don't know if you've ever had a psychedelic experience, but if you say you have that, how does that compare with what you went through with your heart stopping? Oh, interesting. I went on the board of Burning Man. Who knew there was a board of Burning Man for the anarchistic organization? But I've been on it since the start of the nonprofit, which is about eight years ago, and I've been going for about 20 years. What I've loved about Burning Man is as Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of Airbnb, said the first time he went out there when I was with him in 2013, he said, "This is like what the world would be if artists ruled the world." So that's sort of true. It's basically art is at the center of life there. In terms of what goes on at Burning Man, and let's talk about the psychedelic piece of it, which was, frankly, for everybody who's not gone there before, you don't have to do drugs, you don't have to get naked, you can go to bed at 10 o'clock at night if you want. There's a family camp with 5,000 people and families there. But psychedelics are there. My personal experience is I have not done it every time I've gone, but I have. I think the thing that's true about the psychedelic experience, as well as the experience of collective effervescence, which is a term that came from Emile Durkheim 110 years ago, studying festivals, mostly religious pilgrimages, is there's the sense of your sense of ego separation almost evaporating and what comes in its place is this communal joy. And that often happens with psychedelics, and in a place where your sense of being connected to something bigger than yourself is there, when I had my dying experience and I had that vision, I felt like I was at one with nature and everything around me. So I think that's part of the reason, you know, part of the things we thirst for, the more digital we get, the more ritual we need, and there's an element of ritual that speaks to the idea of feeling connected. I want to really put a finger on that person because that really hit me.


Why we need more ritual in our lives of connection. (08:16)

The more digital we get, the more ritual we need. Why? I think the more we're possessed by that little screen in front of our face, and the URL experience, we're looking for the IRL experience, the in real life experience. And to be in an in real life experience where you're connecting with other people with common purpose and mission, and you feel like your sense of separation, which is what an ego does for you, is actually evaporating, you create a sense of oneness with people that, frankly social media doesn't offer. So I guess I would just say, in summary, I think that what is beautiful about Burning Man is it's a bit of a utopian society. It allows people to imagine something different than their default world. So as you're diving into that world, and I'm assuming thinking about human connection and human experience, how do we tap into that? And is there a way to tap into that that doesn't involve going to a festival, or is there something about the grandeur of the ritual that is critical? You don't have to be at a big festival for that to happen. What you really need to do is figure out what's the process of helping yourself let go of your identity and your mindsets. Why do you think that's so important? The first half of our life is about accumulating, and the second half of our life I believe is about editing. And so in the first half of your life, it's almost like you have pasted on your chest all of these mindsets, all of these identities, all of these responsibilities. And I think anything that actually helps you to peel those off, to get back to something that is more essential, is good. I've created recently this thing called the Modern Elder Academy. It's a week-long program between 12 and 18 people in midlife coming down to a beach site in Baja.


The value of reshaping your identity in the second half of adulthood. (10:08)

And the first thing we do is help people to shift their mindset, primarily by actually getting clear about what are the mindsets and what are the identities that are affixed to them that they want to take off. And we do this purge on the beach where people basically let go of whatever it is that's not serving them anymore. But normal life is actually making the name tag stick a little bit harder. And so you have to sort of go to a place where you can have the comfort of letting go of those mindsets. Can you give me examples of things that people have wanted to do? I was just there. The kind of name tags people wore, everything from my best days are behind me. That's a mindset around aging. To I'm bad with money, to I'm never going to meet my potential soulmate, to people don't... The world is run by millennials. Someone who's 55 years old might have that point of view. And so the key is to sort of start to actually, as Carol Dweck teaches us, the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. The number one thing that people have to do to understand their mindset is to first identify it, then imagine a different point of view for it, then own that new point of view for it, and then actually start talking from that new point of view. That is literally what we do during the course of our week together with this collection of people at the academy. That's amazing. Talk to me about talking from that place. Well when you actually give voice, sometimes like a mindset's like water to a fish. You don't even know it exists, it's ever present so much so that you don't even see it. And so what we start with is a series of exercises that help people to get clearer on their mindset. By the end of the first day, have actually identified some of your mindsets. And you literally put a name tag on yourself. And then we go through a process where one at a time you start taking these things off, but you actually sort of say, what is it that you have to give up to actually move away from that mindset? Because sometimes the mindset served you at a different time in your life. Or it serves you as giving you an excuse. And so it's not easy. Let's just be clear. This is not something you do while driving in traffic. You do it in a safe crucible where other people are doing the same. Wow, a safe crucible. So what do you mean there's something really intense about that moment? So let me just take a step back on this. Is that okay? Yeah of course. So the modern elder, so let's think about life for a moment. Society has done a really good job historically of helping people through transitional times. You go through puberty, you have a bar mitzvah, bats mitzvah, a kinsenyera. You go from adolescence to adulthood. You have a commencement ceremony because you're graduating from something. You're going to get married, you have a wedding. You have a baby, you have a baby shower. You die and you have a funeral. But between baby shower and funeral, nada. Nothing there. And it's partly because longevity in the US, the average longevity in the year 1900 was 47. By the year 2000 it was 77. By the year 1965 we had coined a term called midlife crisis because midlife didn't used to exist.


The average age that modern day adults feel irrelevant. (13:29)

In 1900 it didn't exist. So now there's a midlife crisis but 53 years later after midlife crisis has been coined as a term, we haven't done much to change that other than to make it frankly a marathon now. It used to be 45 to 65. I would say people start feeling irrelevant around 35 in some places now, especially up where I live in Silicon Valley. And people are going to work until they're 75, a lot of people. So that's midlife now. So why not realize that midlife is full of transitions? You're going to get married or you're getting divorced maybe. You're going to maybe have a spouse pass away, have your parents pass away. You're going to change your job or career. All of that happens in midlife. These are transitions that are going on but we haven't created this safe crucible, this place where people can come together and actually talk about how to navigate these midlife transitions and how to repurpose yourself for your second half of your life. The longevity sites that I go to when I put in all my information say I'm going to live till age 98. But today I just turned 58. And if I start counting my life at age 18 because that's when I really became an adult and had more choices in my life, do the math from 18 to 98 is 80 years. I am exactly at halftime at age 58, which is part of the reason I started surfing last year. I'm not very good, but if I know I'm going to live to a mic 98, I can start surfing at age 57 and start learning Spanish and do a bunch of other things that someone after the age of 50 often wouldn't think of doing because quite frankly, a lot of people think their life's almost over at age 50 when they're not even halfway through their adult life. Yeah, thinking about life and I definitely fall into the sort of death and denier camp. I am actively pursuing living forever. I know this science hasn't caught up so as of right now I'm in a collision course with death and I fully, you're very sad. You're 85 years old, right?


Elder (15:29)

Exactly, doing well, looking good for my age. So that is really fascinating to me that play and that's one of the reasons I wanted to ask about death and one of the reasons I'm fascinated with the dissolution of the ego, which I want to go back to in a minute. Thinking of that, I think a lot of people have a hard time imagining a brighter future as they get older and certainly somebody who's quote unquote in midlife. So how do you help them, what's your whole notion of wisdom and being an elder and where the value is and all of that? Well, there's a few thoughts. First of all, it's been very well documented, the U curve of happiness. So for those who don't know it, the U curve of happiness is basically from about age 25 or 30, you start to see your happiness decline and it goes a slow gradual drop until your 40s when it drops a little faster. In fact, your 40s are your toughest decade. You're not there yet though. 42. Oh, there you go. So, you know, 40s are your toughest decade generally and around 45 to 50 it starts to get better again and people in their 50s are happier than their 40s, 60s happier than 50s, 70s happier than 60s and 80s for women are happier than 70s, not for men. So what does that suggest? It suggests that something happens in the second half of life that actually helps people to feel happier. So could aging literally be aspirational? It could. We haven't really looked at it that way as a society, but helping people to understand what are the sort of unexpected pleasures of the post-50 era is part of what I'm trying to do. I joined Airbnb at age 52 being asked by the three founders who were 21 to 23 years younger than me to join because I was a long time hospitality pioneer and they were doing this new little hospitality thing that six years ago most people didn't know about. They were seen as a tech company. They wanted to ultimately be a hospitality brand. But at age 52 I joined a company where I was twice the age of the average employee and I realized pretty quickly that the elder of the past was regarded with reverence. It's almost like there's an obligatory like, okay, you bow down to the person who's older than you. That doesn't really exist anymore. And I think the modern elder, not the traditional elder is about not reverence but relevance. And in order to be relevant as someone who's older you better be a combination of curious and wise. Now wisdom is not just for older people. You can cultivate wisdom at any age and there's a lot of ways to do that and I can tell you if you want me to talk about that. That's why we're able to book called wisdom at work the making of a modern elder. But the curiosity piece is the piece that a lot of older people have a harder time with. It's like really can I be the dumbest one in the room? Yes, if I've never been in a tech company before at age 52 I can be and I was. But what was fascinating is I was surrounded by young people who are extremely smart. Everybody's trying to be the smartest person in the room by answering the questions or the looking like they're smartest because they knew all the answers. So my role there was to start asking provocative, so kratic kind of questions and a lot of why and what if questions. I think the thing that's interesting about life is someone said to me recently I don't think I could ever give a job after age 50 if I had to go look for a job. But a woman who's the best known executive recruiter in the world said to me, when it comes to getting a job it's all about curiosity and passionate engagement. If you show curiosity and passionate engagement it's almost like your wrinkles disappear and what people feel is your energy. When you're energetic and you're sort of engaged in life and you're curious people forget about your age. But to me this time in my life what I love about it is to be young enough to go surfing and old enough to know what's important in my life. And I think the thing that helps you get better about what's important in your life is pattern recognition which is a component of wisdom. Being able to see the patterns in your life around people and things and experiences and circumstances to be able to be wise about knowing what's around that corner. So how did you deal with that phase when you were seasoned to successful battle harden CEO and to come in to be basically an intern at a tech company where you didn't know anything how did you deal with the ego at that point? I was the great sizing it. You know truly it was the element of wow I used to be the sage on the stage. I was no longer the person who got all the headlines. I was the person who was sort of helping support these three founders to do a hell of a job. And that transition required me to write size the ego. Required me to actually see that what made me feel proud and great was not so much my own activities. It was to see the progress of these other folks. Again, the first half of your life is about being interesting. The second half of your life is about being interested.


What the Mindset (20:46)

And what that means is really interested in other people. And I don't know I think the other thing was I had to get used to the idea that I was going to evolve. That my evolution I needed to first of all not be scared. Carol Dweck, fixed growth set you're trying to prove yourself. The definition of success for a fixed mindset is winning. The definition of success for a growth mindset is learning. I had to move from this place of trying to win. And my definition of success was chips wins. To being in a place of like I think I'm learning. And I was. And if you can be learning in your mid 50s. A bunch of things you didn't know before. You're living. And you're that curiosity. And you're that curiosity becomes sort of an elixir for life. It's like a life affirming spirit inside of you. How do you get people to do to foster their creativity to push it? I'm sure people come up to you and ask like, OK, if creativity is that core thing that's going to make my wrinkles disappear, how do I get that? What's curiosity? So curiosity is the elixir for creativity. So creativity and innovation is what we tend to focus on. But I think behind creativity and innovation is this idea of curiosity. And what's behind curiosity is a lack of fear to ask naive questions. You know, a four year old doesn't like edit themselves when they say, why is the sky blue? Four year olds ask a lot of questions. And they don't sort of think, am I going to sound dumb if I ask this question? Well, as we get older, we start thinking we're going to sound dumb. Then we create our lives so we don't have the efficiency to be able to ask big questions, big why and what if questions. But some of them I why and what if questions at Airbnb helped us to see blind spots that the company hadn't seen. So I think creativity and innovation are fueled by a curiosity and a willingness to be open to failing. Would you say that the sort of recipe for fueling your curiosity is lessening your ego, not being afraid to look stupid and asking a whole lot of questions? Yeah, let me also say that if you just ask questions that aren't very thoughtful and aren't opening things up, if you are in essence at the bat and basically striking out over and over again, that's probably not going to work either. So I'd say doing some research and thoughts, you know, study appreciative inquiry. It's a method created by an MDivit Cooper writer and if you get really good at that. Appreciative inquiry is a real thing. Appreciative inquiry is a real thing. There's books written about it and it's a way of asking questions. So here's an example. So let's say a company is struggling right now. There's two ways you could ask a question around that. You could say, we're losing market share. Who is to blame? That's one approach. The other approach could be we're losing market share. Our competitors are gaining on us. What are they doing that we can learn from and how can we brainstorm about this? Two very different approaches.


Leadership Questions (24:05)

The first one sort of gets to like, it's efficient, but it's also blame driven and it sort of shuts people down. The second is more like, okay, how are we going to think more creatively about this? And so, you know, I can go sit in a meeting, a board meeting or any kind of meeting with senior leadership in a company and sit there for 15 minutes, listening to questions and the kind of questions that are asked in a leadership meeting, tell me everything about the culture. Yeah, that's really interesting. In terms of like, what kinds of questions they're asking, are they blame driven? Are they shutting people down? Are they trying to open people up? Is it more so crowded? That kind of differentiation? Yeah, that kind of questions. And you know, the other thing, there's a great old phrase, knowledge speaks in wisdom listens. And what I like to look at in meetings is, are people truly listening to each other? Or are people speaking over each other with their knowledge? There's a reason that the owl is the most perceived wise animal of the forest or bird of the forest. It's because it has the most attuned listening skills. And so, people who listen well to each other, learn from each other and usually have a little more empathy toward each other and are better at collaborating toward a common solution. And so, most companies are not well coached for listening. If you were going to coach somebody to be able to do that, do you focus on making that a value, getting them to understand why it's so powerful? Or is it, do you come at it more from a behavioral standpoint? You have to start with that. I mean, I think you have to start with the point of view of why is it important. And then you move to the place of like, okay, what are the ways you can do that? And not just to the story, but for the story. And that really means like, you're hearing somebody, but you're actually looking for what's the common thread or theme that the person might not see themselves. When people feel truly listened to and you have presence. So, the difference between presence and absence is an iPhone. And what I mean by that is like, you know, when someone's distracted and not truly listening to you, you know it. Whether it's they're in their head or they're on their phone, when you're there and you feel like the person sitting with you is truly listening and not distracted and has that sense of presence, it's a scarcer commodity today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. And therefore, it's more more valuable. I want to go back to what you were talking about with rituals. So this is something that I think it's time to take you to Burning Man. Have you been to Burning Man? I haven't, you're the second person to ask me that in like three days. The other one being my wife. Wow, there you do. I mean, like, does she want to go? Oh, she made it abundantly clear that either she was going with me or without me. Well, you know, for years, so every five years I do a big birthday party somewhere in the world. My 50th birthday party was eight years ago. Tim Ferriss was there with me. I know he's coming on your show. So maybe we'll have a, you know, maybe we'll go and have you hang out in first camp, which is where the board hang, you know. Wow. I'm very interested. The notion of rituals, and it's interesting because in my mind, I don't yet see what you see around Burning Man as a ritual.


Weakening Rituals of Society (27:13)

So I would love to understand that because I think this is super powerful. So I read, I'm in my early 20s, I read a book called The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. He talks about how one of the reasons he thinks that there's such rampant divorce in the modern era is that the, not that there isn't a ritual around marriage, but that it's lost all of it. There's nothing anymore that really resonates with people. Religion is weakening. And so he's like, yeah, that's going to be a problem until somebody solves that. So for my own wedding, I ended up going through a ritualistic scarification. I wanted to be a different person the day before than the day after. And like that was a big thing for me. And while I won't say that's the only reason that I've had a, you know, an 18 year relationship now with my wife, it didn't hurt that like, at least that's the mentality that I have and that I wanted to go through some sort of ritual like that. Maybe the easiest way to talk about this is how is Burning Man a ritual? It is a pilgrimage. Let me just say the word pilgrimage speaks to the idea of a group of people with common purpose going to a certain place at a certain time with a certain common intent. Burning Man has 10 principles that define the experience. And it's a very participative experience. So you're not a, you're not a spectator. And as such, it creates the environment where people are energized and engaged in creating their experience as opposed to being, having someone create their experience for them. So the ritual part of that is, I think part of the fact that there's certain things that happen every year. And the fact that it is hard, you know, the hero's journey and the rights of passage has three components to it. There's the severance from the past. There's the threshold period where you're in a liminal space in between two things. And then there's the re-entrance into society in a new way. And that's what your, that's what your wedding was. But that's what Burning Man is as well. And for many people, that's the idea that they actually take off their default world life, go away for a week. In that period of week, it's not easy. I mean, there's sandstorms, windstorms, dust storms. You know, not a lot of sleep, too much noise. Hanging out with people you don't know. There's a vulnerability that is created. And then you come out of it, you know, in a place where the default world looks very different to you. That to me is a ritual. And to me, that's, you know, what's interesting about life is, is yes, we have responsibilities and yes, we have habits. But the fact is, if you choose to make some major changes in your life, you can do that starting now. And it's not easy to do it. And the question is, how do we create the space and the, I don't know, the support to help you do that? But so many people, this is frankly to me that the biggest challenge with midlife is people get into a rut doing the same thing for many, many years. Marriages are like that, too, doing it for the same thing for many, many years without the opportunity to sort of observe how you could do it differently. Yeah, I love your whole concept of phase one accumulation, phase two edit.


On editing. (30:24)

I think it's really interesting that the Elder Academy and Burning Man both have what seem like it fits into your notion of editing where you strip something off or you put something on the man and it ultimately gets burned. Talk to us what exactly is editing and why is it so powerful? So to use examples of it, there are many people in their fifties or sixties if they've had kids and they've moved out that they say, let's downsize. Let's move from the suburbs back into the city and get a condo, sell the four bedroom house, get a two bedroom condo. That's an example of editing. Another example of editing would be getting clear on who you like spending your time with or what organizations you want to support in terms of maybe being on the board of a non-profit. So I think editing is really sort of being able to be thoughtful and insightful about what's important to you and then re-engineering how you spend your time and your money, how you invest yourself accordingly. Steve Jobs was quite famous for saying the most important thing to do in his role as a CEO of Apple was to say no to things. That's one of the things I worked with Brian on at Airbnb. I joined Airbnb and there were 30 strategic initiatives in 2013 when I joined. Nobody in the company including Brian can name all of them. And so Brian talked with him about it and he says, Chip, I was in charge of all of our offsite retreats for a while for a few years. And I said, let's do an offsite retreat in New York. And we did it in September of 2013. I joined back in April. And we had 23 different potential initiatives for next year that were going to be our strategic initiatives. And I said to the top 12 people in the company, we're only going to pick four of these. And then we looked at how do we edit what's important to us down to these four. And it was I think one of the best periods of time in Airbnb's history because 2014, 15, and 16 I would say it was a really great period because we got really focused. One of the things that is challenging for young entrepreneurs, especially if they're successful, is and we were a sharing economy darling and everybody wanted to get in the sharing economy. So you name it, everybody who had a sharing economy company was coming to us and saying, can we partner with you on this or that? And I was like, no, no, let's get clear about what are we going to grow up. There's a beautiful exercise that Peter Drucker popularized that came from a guy named Ted Levitt. So 1960, HBR article, Harvard Business Review article, about what business are you in? So I would offer this to the audience. So do this exercise. You have one of two choices. Either what business are you in or what mastery can or do you offer? So first one is what business are you in? I would say to you, Tom, so what business are you in? You would answer in the most maybe generic way of I'm in so and so and then I would say, Tom, thank you. What business are you in? And you'd have a second opportunity to answer it. But the way this works is you can't answer the same way twice. By the time we get to the fifth answer, we will understand the distillation of what differentiates what you're doing. For Airbnb, that process got us to realize we were in the belong anywhere business, which Marriott is not in. Or for Jwadudiv is a boutique hotel company, we realized we're not a boutique hotel. You're in the identity refreshment business. The other alternative a person could use is what mastery can you or do you offer? And you start from that first point and you go to the fifth. And that's the key. I think is getting clear on what it is, who you are, what's the differentiator. And then that allows you to create the editor, which is an essential piece of being able to be focused. You said that you can learn a lot by the questions that people ask certainly about the culture of a company.


On Maslow, Frankl, & Lao Tzu. (34:15)

I think you can also learn a lot by who people quote, who they look up to. There's three people that you, two that you really lean on and then the third one that made a surprising entrance twice in your book. And that's Maslow, Victor Frankel and Lao Tzu. So how did those three find their way into your world? What do they mean to you? What do you think people should take away from them? So Maslow, Abraham Maslow created the hierarchy of needs theory, which is one of the best-known psychology theories out there. What I love about Maslow is it's another organizing principle for actually imagining how, you know, what's important, what's the sort of the fundamental priorities, but then at the end of the day, what's most valuable. Frankel, when I going back to my dying experience, I had Victor Frankel's book, Man's Search for Meaning, in my backpack when I had my flatline experience because I had had a friend of mine commit suicide, a guy named Chip, same name as mine, same age as me, one of my closest friends. And the person that I relied upon quite often for advice committed suicide. So I was really struggling myself a little bit. And so when I had my flatline experience, weirdly enough, when I finally started being a little bit more okay, I was in the hospital room that night and I went in my bag and there was Frankel's book. And Frankel's book, for those who don't know it, is about a psychologist in a concentration camp who believed that meaning was sort of the fuel of life and then he got to see whether his theory was correct based upon what happened in a concentration camp. And his whole family died, but he lived. And I wrote an equation which led to a book I wrote called Emotional Equations. And the equation was despair equals suffering minus meaning. And so the way that equation works is that if suffering is sort of constant in life, if you're a Buddhist, it's the first noble truth of Buddhism which is suffering is ever present. So if suffering is sort of a constant, you can always find it. Despair and meaning are inversely proportional. So long story short is I was able to use Frankel as a means of understanding how to create meaning in my life. And that led me to during a very difficult time, at the end of every week, every Friday afternoon, I would create my meaning list for the week. What did I learn this week? My company may go down in flames. We survived and actually tripled in sizes during a five year period then which was amazing. But the truth was I said if nothing else, I want to actually see what I'm learning. So every Friday afternoon, I'd spend an hour by myself and make my list of what I'd learned that week, which was what helped me give me some sense of meaning. And the more I was giving myself meaning, the more the despair was coming down. And in terms of a lot, many of the things that he writes about really speak to wisdom and the editing function and the idea of what's most important in life. Anybody who's going to help me to understand how my mind and my heart and my soul work a little bit better is going to be fascinating to me. And then giving the space, I think it's so essential to have the space to let it all sink in as well. So Bill Gates is famous for going off for a week and just with a bunch of books by himself and just sort of having that time. I don't know if he's still doing it, but he did it for a few decades. And I've done the same as a way to just sort of reflect and take stock.


Suicides of individuals that have taken the same turns as Chip (38:03)

So you mentioned the suicide of your friend. If I'm not mistaken, I read that like six people you knew committed suicide. What was that about? Do you think there was any tie to meaning? Was it in response to an identity crisis from the recession? Like what was that? They were all guys, all of them were guys who were at the bottom of their U-curve of happiness. They were almost all in their forties. And many of them were entrepreneurs or business people in which the recession just completely took them on a roller coaster down. And their sense of who they were as a person was so tied to their career or their entrepreneurship that when their company was actually going to go out of business, it was like they were ready to die. So I think that a lot of it had to do with people who just didn't realize that the U-curve of happiness was happening. And in some cases, it's a good evidence of just how attached we are to our work identities. But so much of it was like, just realizing I don't care as much as I used to about what other people think. My definition of success is more clearly my own as opposed to my parents, my friends, whatever. I'm much better about editing the things I don't want to do in my life and having them out of my life. And I think I'm more and more clear on my legacy of what I want for the future. And I'm probably a little bit less ego invested. And so I think at some point in your life, you have to realize there's a couple different modes you can be in, you can be in the attain mode or the attune mode. And I think they're both good. I've spent most of my life in the attain mode. I'm achieving. I'm achieving. I'm attaining. There's certain things in life like surfing. Surfing is not an attain sport. It's an attune sport. You attune yourself to that wave. Yoga is not an attune sport. It's an attune sport or exercise. Other things may be an attune sport. But I understand that when do you live your life in the attune mode? And then when do you live your life in the attune mode? Is to me one of the fascinating sort of tai chi of life experiences that helps you to understand when do you retreat versus when do you come forward? I make all the sense in the world. I can literally talk to you all day. This is so fascinating to me. Hopefully we will get a chance to do something a burning man that would be incredible. Yeah.


Chip'S Work And Brian'S Impact

Where to find Chip`s work? (40:48)

Before I ask my last question though, where can these guys find you online? www.clipconley.com, C-O-N-L-E-Y. If you go there, you'll see a little bit of information on the book, Wisdom at Work, The Making of a Modern Elder, as well as the Modern Elder Academy, which is a social enterprise. 50% of the people aged 35 to 75 who come to the program are on scholarship. For me, it's my way to give back to people in midlife who sometimes don't feel like midlife has much hope attached to it. I write a lot of articles on LinkedIn on my profile there too. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Nice. All right.


What is the impact that Brian wants to have on the world? (41:24)

Final question. Yeah. What is the impact that you want to have on the world? I guess I'd love to make aging aspirational again. Good luck in the LA doing that, right? I mean, like, come on. Wouldn't it be interesting if people looked forward to elderhood? We look forward from childhood to adulthood, but we don't necessarily look forward to elderhood. Apparently, because it sounds like elderly and it sounds like the decrepit period of life. And yet, wouldn't it be fascinating if we started to value wisdom like we do genius? Young geniuses, especially technologically savvy geniuses, get a lot of attention in this society.


Wisdom and geniuses across generations. (42:07)

Wise sages don't get as much. And my whole premise in terms of how I'd like to change the world is to realize these do not have to be either or. I mean, why not? Brian and I, from two generations of parties, a millennial, I'm a boomer, could create a relationship that proved that across generations, we have a whole lot to teach each other and to bring to the table. So yeah, I think that's what I'd like to put in. And I'd like to help people to realize maybe the next decade ahead of them is going to actually be better than the last one. Love that. Yeah.


John'S Wisdom And Close

Wrapping up with John's wisdom from the last 20 years. (42:48)

Awesome. Thank you so much. Yeah. That was really incredible. Yeah. All right. Guys, what I hope that you got out of the interview is exactly how much wisdom somebody can accumulate over time from having a near death experience to having spent years pursuing rituals and festivals and how much he learns from that. There was one year where like, I don't know, two thirds of the way through we'd already done 30 festivals in that year and travel to God only knows how many countries. It's pretty extraordinary when you feed that curiosity, when you put yourself in those situations, when you find those crucibles, when you're looking for the things that you can edit out of your life, when you're actively trying to shape yourself and not allowing yourself to look at the years that should be perceived as wisdom as the years of decrepititude. When you're making that your default position, truly extraordinary things happen and seeing what's happened at Airbnb and seeing his ability to contribute there to bring wisdom to see himself as an intern, to say that the fifties are going to be my year of the most learning, whereas people think of that traditionally as their teens and twenties, but to completely flip that and to see what he's been able to build with his life is utterly extraordinary. And so looking at that book from that lens of what you can do, not only when you're an elder, but how you can take that wisdom now and apply it to your life now to see that transformation is something that is ongoing and continual. And I think that the book delivers that in spades. I highly recommend that you guys check it out. I highly recommend that you follow him on social. I think literally he is dripping with wisdom and there's so much that he has to offer every generation and for us to all aspire to be that as we grow older, to use the wisdom that only comes with time on this earth in a way that is positive and uplifting, not only to ourselves but to others is really a benchmark to behold for all of us. Alright, so I highly encourage you guys to dive in. Alright, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe and until next time my friends, be legendary. Take care. Thank you. Thank you so much for watching and being a part of this community. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. You're going to get weekly videos on building a growth mindset, cultivating grit and unlocking your full potential.


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