In this episode, Marc catches up with return guest John Tarnoff, author of the book, Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50. John lives in Los Angeles, California and is a recovering movie studio executive. John spent about 35 years in the entertainment business, starting out in the 1970s as a literary agent and then a producer and studio production executive for companies like MGM, Orion Pictures, De Laurentiis Entertainment, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures (now Sony), and a few others. He produced films for about 15 years before hearing the siren song of technology in the early 90s, when multimedia was springing up. John produced a handful of CD-ROM games, which were new and fun at the time. John went into business with a partner who had an idea for a new technology marrying artificial intelligence with behavioral animation to create interactive, conversational online animated characters. The conversations would occur by text through the keyboard. They had the system working over dial-up internet and got a huge deal with Sprint for a customer service character for their website. That was in 2001, as the tech startup bubble burst. John’s company fell into the hole, along with everybody else. Their Sprint deal went South and their investors pulled out. His partner told him, “I guess the future’s gone out of style.” At midlife, John was at a crossroads.
Listen in to this fascinating episode to hear how John aligned with his future by reinventing himself as an educator and trainer.
[1:17] Marc welcomes you to Episode 120 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings this podcast to you. CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:48] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc can reach, the more he can help.
[2:08] Next week, Marc will be discussing the Millers’ next steps in becoming expats in Mexico, regarding banking and their initiation to the resident visa process in Mexico.
[2:21] This week, Marc interviews John Tarnoff, author of Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50. Marc interviewed John in Episode 19 but wanted to do an update with him.
[2:33] John introduces himself to the listeners, at Marc’s invitation.
[6:11] After the tech bubble burst and John’s company failed, he was 49 years old, had no idea what he was going to do next, and was not interested in going back to the same Hollywood jobs where he had started.
[6:30] John didn’t think anyone was going to hire him into those same jobs. So, he “bet the farm” on a reinvention. He remortgaged his house for the last time to build himself enough runway to figure out his future.
[6:49] John went back to school to earn a counseling psychology degree because he wanted to learn more about himself, what made him tick, and how to interact better with others. He supposed that in the process he would figure out something to do.
[7:15] That was a dark time for John. In one of his classes, he learned of someone getting a dream job with ideal conditions and he thought, “Great. Miracles are for other people. They’re not for me.”
[8:00] John did not foresee that nine months later he would be working for Dreamworks Animation at two-and-a-half times his former executive salary, doing work that was really aligned with where he wanted to go.
[8:48] Dreamworks was transitioning from a traditional animation studio to a computer-generated animation studio. John knew the CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, from his Hollywood years. He was clearly a visionary. He had put the company together with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen after being fired from Disney in 1994.
[9:30] Dreamworks had become very successful with Shrek. People John knew there encouraged him to join them. There were no open jobs, so he started networking. That taught him that when you come into a group of people, bringing your most heartfelt, authentic, inquisitive, and service-oriented “game,” you start getting into conversations.
[10:15] If the alignment is there between yourself and their thoughts and needs, then there is the beginning of an opportunity. That’s what happened for John.
[10:33] This was a company that was very innovative, at the intersection of creativity and technology, and it was in line with the work John had been doing in his startup. They saw that and in June of 2003, John was in Jeffrey’s office making a deal to work there. It was his best Hollywood job. He stayed through 2009.
[11:14] That job completely set John up for the work he is doing today.
[11:18] When John had worked earlier in Hollywood, he had looked forward to a time when he could educate and help people. He is an “organization freak” and he likes to see how things get laid out, and how people’s minds work. Whenever he had an opportunity to tell a class of students about the work he was doing, he jumped to do it.
[12:05] That defined his role at Dreamworks. When he interviewed, he wanted to know what they were doing about future generations, for training and development. They hadn’t given that much thought. It was not a core driver for them.
[12:29] After John had been at Dreamworks for about a year, they began to realize that their human capital needed some “recharge” and that they had to expand their thinking about where they were getting their talent. Their talent was not coming from the traditional sources.
[12:48] Many of the specialists and department heads determined they needed to “grow their own.” They turned to John and, based on his interest in education, asked him to build a program. That’s what he did, with a school outreach program and an internal virtual university.
[13:16] This changed his role from a production troubleshooter to being totally embedded in the outreach program. They started with seven schools in 2004. By the end of 2009, they had over 40 schools in the network. It was quite a culture change.
[13:51] In the wake of the recession, Dreamworks was seeing the need to batten down the hatches, and they started focusing on monetizing their existing IP and pulling back from their school outreach. John parted ways with Dreamworks. It was amicable and they kept inviting him to their parties! To this day, he and Jeffrey are on good terms.
[14:58] The Dreamworks job was a phenomenally positive experience, and it helped John make this transition full-time into education and training. The following year, John started a position at Carnegie Mellon University. John says, timing is everything, but you have to set yourself up to be a target when the timing is right.
[15:28] In 2010, Carnegie Mellon had set up a very innovative program in Los Angeles with cross-disciplinary initiatives for kind of an MBA for how the entertainment business works. Entertainment is a very unique business. The program is for people on the business side of film, TV, video games, and music.
[16:33] They were looking for someone to round out their Los Angeles management team. They wanted someone with industry background who could balance the more academically-oriented full-time program director. John partnered with that person and they grew the program quite successfully over the last nine years.
[17:11] It has been a great anchor position for John while he has gone on to do “a bunch of other stuff” in a portfolio career.
[17:32] John considers a portfolio career to be very relevant to people in their late career stages, in their 50s and older, who are trying to figure out how they will keep working and what they are going to do. It’s not going to look like the first 20 or 30 years of their career.
[18:01] John is 67. He will keep working as long as he wants to and as long as he needs to. Most Boomers are skating a very interesting line between longevity and bank account. When the retirement pension system was first set up in the 1860s it was set at 65 as an age by which most factory workers were either dead or not many years from it.
[19:11] As longevity has grown over the last 100 years, pensions have grown increasingly difficult for corporations. All guaranteed defined benefit programs are affected by extended lifespans of the participants. We are in a real retirement crisis.
[19:44] If you are 65 today, you have at least a 25% chance of living to 90. Every year you live longer than 65 increases your chances of living to 90 or beyond. The average retirement age is 62. If you live until 90, one-third of your life will be spent “in retirement.” Must of us don’t want to spend 30 years queuing up for sundown specials.
[20:33] The Boomer Generation wants to stay more engaged. That doesn’t mean working nine to five. We are going to continue to stay engaged in the work that we love to do. What we want to do might be different from what we did in our 30s and 40s.
[20:56] We are going to need to keep earning money because the average retirement account if you have one, is about $100K. That’s not going to last you 20 or 30 years. A lot of people are downsizing intelligently and looking at ways to stretch their dollars.
[21:43] We need to think about ways to supplement the income we already have from Social Security and our savings because there are going to be unpredictable things that happen. Healthcare is a big item, as well as family issues and logistical questions. We have to be better prepared, financially, for this extended period of life and engagement.
[22:14] John’s portfolio after Dreamworks includes his consulting work at the intersection of education, technology, and entertainment. For the first few years, he was consulting with industry companies, trade associations, and schools around the future of talent search, curriculum, and skills.
[22:59] In 2012, John was asked to present a TEDx talk and the topic was Transformation. As he had been reading up on all the issues the Boomer Generation had had, coming out of the recession, around retirement, savings, and getting jobs, he asked, if we’re living longer and nobody wants to hire us, what are we going to do?
[23:53] John realized, we’re going to have to take responsibility, somehow, for this. If we do, then what does that look like? That’s when he came up with the idea of five career reinvention steps. That became his TEDx talk. After that, people kept asking John what he was going to do with that — does he coach? John said, sure, of course, he coaches!
[24:24] So John started working with people around some of these questions and to implement the five steps to reinvention.
[24:37] The five steps are: 1) Reframe your idea about who you are and what you can do, 2) Listen and understand how the world has changed, 3) Reconcile the past; don’t bring your sad baggage into meetings, 4) Express these new ideas about what you could do, and 5) Network. Understand who can do what, and what you can do for them.
[26:16] Most importantly, you’ve got to always be giving in your networking activities. Build the relationships necessary to put you in front of the people who can benefit from what you have to offer. You don’t build a network by sending out resumes, because no one is going to read them.
[26:37] Marc says one of the key pieces is that you are never going to do this alone. Marc’s own business coach taught him to understand the things that he needs to leave behind. A lot of things you’ve done in your career, you don’t want to do anymore, regardless of how good you were at it.
[27:21] John sees a lot of clients that have difficulty giving up the social cohort they’ve gathered after working 20 years with the same people and then being let go from the job. People find it hard to let go of that job. Even if they were downsized, they want to go back. It’s very important to be able to reconcile the past to envision your future.
[28:30] Marc had encouraged John to finish his book. So John has a book, he’s coaching, and he works at Carnegie Mellon. What else does John want to be doing in five years?
[28:50] John wants to continue on his current path. His coaching has evolved from one-on-one to small groups, to larger groups, and now, with UCLA Anderson School of Management, coaching groups of 20 alumni online, on Zoom, who are going through career transitions. John is coaching them as a group with his five-step process.
[29:33] Some of them are returning to work after an absence. Some have been let go. Some are contemplating making a move. There are all sorts of interesting permutations along the idea of transitions.
[29:49] John seems to be following an arc of reaching more and more people with this methodology. This year, he is working on putting this all into an online course, which will go through five steps, 23 strategies, and six key skills, and give people the opportunity to pursue a self-guided course with some group mastermind interaction with John.
[30:41] Marc talks about his group membership site and makes some observations about the cost of one-on-one coaching. The people he really wanted to work with couldn’t afford it. The group model allows for greater flexibility. Marc can do it from Mexico.
[31:19] One of the common themes of folks in Marc’s online community is that everybody wants freedom. They want to work when they want to work, how hard they want to work and choose what they want to work on. Their ideas about that have changed over their careers.
[31:51] John says Boomers are becoming more like the Millennials. Marc says to listen to your feelings and see what you are telling yourself about what you want to do. Most of us acted in roles and got paid to play those roles. If we did them long enough, we started believing we were those roles.
[32:29] When Marc hit his 50s, it became exhausting for him to stay in character.
[32:42] John will probably still be in California in five years. He has an urban homestead with his love. They have a coop with 20 chickens, vegetables, and a great spot of land under the mountains. It’s a gorgeous day, there. He doesn’t see moving before his early 70s.
[33:43] John hopes to continue working with Carnegie Mellon. It’s a great time for kids to be entering the entertainment industry. He likes to work with Boomers, too. He says it’s a great opportunity to be working on both ends of the career spectrum, young people starting their career and older people taking what may be their final career steps.
[34:42] Marc talks about a panel he sat on in October 2017, including a man from New Zealand — where college graduates usually move away from the island — whose job was to help companies retain their older workers. The man commented to Marc, “If you want to work into your 70s, you need to plan that in your 50s.”
[35:17] Your work between your 50s and your 70s will probably not be a full-time job, and it will probably be a collection of things or a portfolio. That’s the key piece. Marc has several members of the online community who have their heads wrapped around the fact that they’re not doing just one thing.
[35:45] They may work harder than they used to, doing stuff they enjoy. They are not necessarily working for a single employer on a set schedule.
[36:08] John suggests for listeners first to read his book, Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50. That will give them a clear idea of whether they are aligned with John’s thinking.
[36:40] You can reach John through his website, JohnTarnoff.com, follow him on Twitter @JohnTarnoff, or on Facebook, @JohnTarnoffCoach. He loves interacting with people and helping them get in the right direction.
[37:30] Marc thanks John for being on the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[37:40] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. As it turned out, they never were able to meet in Austin when Marc and John were both there. Austin was hectic and congested with 50K visitors to SXSW Interactive Week.
[38:09] The CareerPivot.com/Community website has become a valuable resource for more than 50 members in the Beta phase of this project. They have crossed the 50-member threshold! Marc will be recruiting new members for the next cohort in a few weeks.
[38:24] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[38:37] Those in the initial cohorts will get to set the direction for this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[39:01] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[39:20] Please come back next week, when Marc will discuss the Millers’ next steps in becoming expats.
[39:47] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[39:50] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-120.
[39:57] Please hop over to CareerPivot.com and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app.
In this episode, Marc interviews Queen Michele, author of the book, Considerations: A Guide For Moving Abroad. Queen was raised in Detroit, Michigan. In the first half of life, Queen became a schoolteacher, teaching second grade in a Catholic school. She then taught into the Detroit Public School System and was in administration for a while. She married and had two children. In 2002, she was an administrator for a startup charter school. She had started with the school but they did not renew her contract. She had been divorced for a couple of years. She moved to Las Vegas when it was booming. She went to teach there and also have some sunshine in her life. She lived in Vegas raising her children for 11 years. When her daughter was a freshman at the University of Reno and Queen was 50, she had a paradigm shift. Listen to this remarkable episode.
[1:03] Marc welcomes you to Episode 119 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings you this podcast. CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:34] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc can reach, the more he can help.
[1:54] Next week, Marc will be interviewing John Tarnoff, author of Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50. Marc interviewed John in Episode 19 but wanted to do an update with him.
[2:08] This week Marc has a very special interview with Queen Michele. Queen is a former schoolteacher and administrator who chucked it all in her mid-fifties to move to the North Shore of Lake Chapala and has now written a book called Considerations: A Guide For Moving Abroad.
[2:30] Marc introduces Queen and welcomes her to the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Queen shares her biography, from Detroit to Las Vegas and more. At age 50, when Queen’s children were in college, her cousin in Atlanta asked her to come down.
[5:17] Queen moved to Atlanta and taught there for a couple of years. After 27 years in education, she was burnt out. She retired with a reduced pension at age 52. She started fun jobs to supplement her pension. She drove for Uber, she rented her home for Airbnb. She was a secret shopper and a merchandiser.
[6:50] Queen took a remote job with a software company critiquing curriculum lessons and uploading them to the cloud. Her favorite gig was as a shuttle driver for a transportation company that serviced the railroad, taking engineers and conductors to and from their train in the railyard.
[7:19] It got to the point when she realized she would always have to work to supplement her pension, and it might not always be fun.
[7:58] That’s when Queen ran across an article in International Living on the 10 best places to retire. Queen read the article and started researching those 10 best places. One resonated very strongly with her: the Lake Chapala area in Jalisco, Mexico.
[8:28] The area had three attractions for Queen: the Spring-like climate, considered the “third-most perfect weather in the world”, the cost of living compared to her pension, and the vibrant expat community. In her research, Queen came across The Lake Chapala Society that appeared to be laying out the red carpet for expats.
[10:00] Queen began her research. She first joined Facebook groups affiliated with the area. She was attracted to the Ajijic Hiking group and Everything Lake Chapala. Then there was a foodies group and a group on where you can find dependable drivers, a Moving to Mexico group and a Moving to Mexico By Yourself group.
[10:38] There were so many different Facebook groups. She started joining the groups and following the questions, which were the same kinds of questions Queen was asking. Questions about visas, healthcare, and transportation. When questions were answered, Queen would take those leads and research the questions, herself.
[11:09] She asked Google “How do I get a visa to move to Mexico?”. She asked what are the types of visas. From that research, she developed a binder separated in categories of transportation, visa, healthcare, rentals. The research became all-consuming for Queen.
[11:35] Through that, the decision was made, “I’m moving to Mexico.” Queen had never been to Mexico, except for a four-day cruise to a tourist area in Ensenada. So the research was really important to her.
[12:08] She planned to do a Focus on Mexico visit for a few days to learn more about the area and answer her questions. She considered teaching English as a second language with a TESOL license. A program would allow her to live with a host family and take a four-week course to begin teaching.
[13:40] As Queen continued to research different aspects of the Focus on Mexico and TESOL programs, she was finding enough information on her own that she wouldn’t need a paid program to get set up. She found that didn’t want to teach, anymore.
[14:09] That decision led Queen to come to Mexico, trusting that what she had researched and planned for would fall in place for her. She researched, prepared, and planned for a year. Besides the research, Queen had to plan for the downsizing of her current life. She learned it would be too much trouble for her to bring a car to Mexico.
[15:23] Queen took the year to downsize, sell her car, and close her accounts with other preparations for moving. The car would be too expensive to nationalize in Mexico, so she sold it before she moved.
[16:10] Marc emphasizes that when you move to Mexico, get rid of all your stuff. Queen found it very freeing to downsize her possessions. She sold her car to her neighbors two weeks before she moved.
[16:42] Queen learned through the Facebook groups what it was that she would need in Mexico that she couldn’t purchase there. Queen traveled to Mexico with just two pieces of luggage, three medium boxes, and three storage bins in different sizes. Whatever wasn’t packed, Queen let go.
[17:25] Queen stepped foot on Mexican soil at the Guadalajara Airport on December 1, 2017. She had already housing arranged online — a cozy one bed, one bath condo in a small town right off Lake Chapala, San Antonio Tlayacapan, between Ajijic and Chapala. It is on the paved road that runs around the lake. Short bus rides are 7 pesos ($.35).
[19:57] A lot of people come without cars so they walk or use the bus or taxi.
[20:21] Queen started visualizing her new life in Mexico months before she arrived. She had activities she wanted to do, including hiking, volunteering at the dog rescue and at the theater. She wanted to spend time writing. She had her first day planned out from the time she landed to her dinner, at Adelita’s. She had seen the menu on Facebook.
[22:18] Things aligned for Queen as she set her intentions and had visualizations, down to every event unfolding almost perfectly. She did have some hiccups, but they worked out. At the airport, Manuel, a man she had contacted on Facebook months earlier about transportation, was waiting to give Queen a ride instead of letting her take a cab.
[24:05] Manuel drove Queen into San Antonio where her landlord met her with a key, showed her to the apartment, accepted the rent, gave her a hug, and left. Queen unpacked a few things and headed off to dinner. Queen knew exactly where Adelita’s was. She had spent hours on Google Street View going up and down the streets.
[24:53] Queen knew from Google Street View how to walk to Adelita’s, and so she did. She cannot describe the feeling she had, having arrived and walked to dinner as she had planned out. She did fall once on the cobblestones on the way!
[25:37] Queen bounced back up, dusted herself off and continued to Adelita’s, sat at the bar and ordered what she had intended on ordering, and met her first expat friend. They were both from Atlanta!
[26:11] The area is almost like a college town. Nobody knows anybody, but everybody is so helpful. Queen says she has met more friends in San Antonio than she did in her Atlanta neighborhood. She arrived December 1st; February 5th was her 55th birthday. She had a birthday party on the rooftop of a bar with 30 of her closest friends.
[27:25] Queen had connected with the Ajijic Hiking Club, which is very well organized on a shoestring budget. She started hiking two weeks after arriving. She knew where and when to show up. Queen describes the trouble she had keeping up with people 15 years older than she was. This was her first hike but she was inspired by it.
[28:40] On the hikes, Queen met fascinating people from all over the world. It’s a great organizations. Half of her birthday party friends were from the hiking group. Others were people she had met at restaurants and bus stops. One of her hiking friends had suggested she take Yoga, so she did.
[29:23] Queen feels like part of the community. She says you will find the most friendly, helpful people with smiles on their faces. Queen began waking up from the first day with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. Besides hiking and Yoga, she started writing.
[29:49] Queen says her book was birthed during the very first year of arriving. After getting so much help from websites, she became a person answering questions on those sites for others. Through those questions and answers, Considerations was born.
[30:38] The book has 10 chapters, each chapter being a consideration, based on Queen’s experience. She doesn’t tell anyone how to do it. She tells what she did and what worked for her as a single, middle-aged, African-American female. The number of African-Americans Marc has met in the area, he can count on one or two hands.
[31:13] The book was easy for Queen to write. It explains the things she did, on her own, to move. She suggests considering visas, downsizing, healthcare, finances.
[31:55] Queen receives $1,100 each month and that is her only income. Her rent is $500. With good budgeting, she lives a very comfortable life on the remaining $600 a month. She buys from the open market and lives like a local.
[33:15] Marc says, if you want to live like an American, you can. You will pay for it. He is helping a couple with Tangerine Travel. One had food allergies and Celiac problems. When she got to Mexico, it all disappeared. Marc saw an article that blamed Roundup for autoimmune food problems. Mexican local farmers do not use Roundup.
[34:11] Queen mentions that she lost 40 pounds and has kept it off since her lifestyle changed. Living like a local has made a difference. Queen buys vegetables, fruits, shrimp, chicken, salad vegetables. She makes shrimp salads, grilled chicken salads, shrimp pasta, chicken pasta. She makes small meals that last quite a bit.
[35:31] Queen shops at the Market in Ajijic. Marc goes to the Market in Chapala. Marc shares a story about buying a pineapple from a walkup abarrotes (grocer’s shop) just down the street, for his morning smoothie. What cost him $1.50 might have cost $8.00 at Whole Foods.
[37:17] Queen didn’t expect all the self-discovery that came from moving to Mexico. It took her to higher states of consciousness than she ever thought she would have. She is blissful and happy. The spiritual aspect of personal growth is available in various platforms. Queen is involved in some amazing communities that help her grow.
[38:40] Queen has learned a lot of Spanish words. She is working on stringing them into a conversation. She knows she needs practice.
[39:11] Marc is using Rocket Spanish and will become an affiliate. He is picking up conversational phrases. He talks about chatting with a haircutter in Spanish. Marc talks about the Ajijic Art Walk. Three quarters of the artists were gringos, who picked up their art after arriving. Half of them learned from YouTube lessons. Others took classes.
[41:14] Queen talks about the many musicians, artists, poets, and writers who have come to Lake Chapala in this next phase of their lives and are rediscovering the arts. Queen attributes it to the energy and the vibration that resonates with the spirit. You catch that frequency and you ride it.
[41:53] Queen looks forward to writing articles and short stories about her journey as it relates to higher states of consciousness that she is experiencing in San Antonio. That’s what she is learning and that’s what she would like to write about.
[42:32] Marc thanks Ashton for being on the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[42:38] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. Marc suspects Queen will find something in the next year that will fulfill her and bring in some money!
[42:52] The CareerPivot.com/Community website has become a valuable resource for almost 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is currently recruiting new members for the next cohort.
[43:06] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[43:20] Those in the initial cohorts will get to set the direction for this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[43:43] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[44:04] Please come back next week, when Marc will have a great discussion with John Tarnoff.
[44:10] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[44:15] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-119.
[44:24] Please hop over to CareerPivot.com and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app.
In this episode, Marc interviews Ashton Applewhite. Author and activist Ashton Applewhite has been recognized by The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism. She blogs at This Chair Rocks and speaks widely at venues that range from the United Nations to the TED main stage. Ashton has written for Harper’s, The Guardian, and The New York Times, and is the voice of Yo! Is This Ageist? The author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, Ashton is a leading spokesperson for the movement to mobilize against discrimination on the basis of age. Marc hopes you enjoy this episode.
[1:11] Marc welcomes you to Episode 118 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings this podcast to you. CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:43] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc can reach, the more he can help.
[2:05] Next week, Marc will have a special interview with Queen Michele. Queen is a former schoolteacher and administrator who chucked it all in her mid-fifties to move to the North Shore of Lake Chapala and has now written a book called Considerations: A Guide For Moving Abroad, by Queen D. Michele.
[2:19] This week, Marc is interviewing Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
[2:30] Marc introduces Ashton and welcomes her to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[3:29] Ashton believes short bios are always best. Marc loves her book, This Chair Rocks. Marc is writing a series on ageism and a lot of it comes from Ashton’s book.
[3:45] Ashton self-published her book three years ago, and sold it last year to a new division of MacMillan, which is bringing it out on their inaugural list on March 5. Ashton started thinking and writing on aging about 12 years ago because she was afraid of getting old, although she didn’t recognize it at the time.
[4:17] Ashton started interviewing older people who work and researching longevity. She learned “in about 30 seconds” that most of her ideas about what it would be like to be old were wrong.
[4:35] Ashton shares some facts about aging. When she started her research, 4% of Americans over 65 were in nursing homes. In the last decade, that has dropped to 2.5%.
[5:13] Older people, in general, have better rates of mental health than the young or the middle-aged and are better at dealing with negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and fear. The awareness that time is short does not fill older people with dread. They are less afraid of dying.
[5:45] Ashton was surprised by the U-curve of happiness. People are happiest at the beginnings and ends of their life. The psychological underpinnings are that children live in the moment because that’s what they know, and the oldest do it because they are aware that time is running out, so they cherish the moment and appreciate things more.
[6:13] There are exceptions. Ashton was very skeptical of these findings at first, thinking they interviewed only happy people. It turns out that the U-curve of happiness is independent of culture, health, wealth, or marital status. It is a function of how aging itself affects the healthy brain.
[6:50] Ashton started to feel a lot better about getting older and she became obsessed with why so few people know these things.
[7:00] Marc reminds listeners that Jonathan Rauch, the author of The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, was a guest on Episode 78 of this podcast.
[7:11] Ashton expands the dictionary definition of ageism. We are being ageist any time we come to an assumption about a person or a group of people on the basis of how old we think they are. That they are “too old” or “too young” for whatever the assumption involves. Ageism cuts both ways and younger people experience a lot of it.
[7:58] People think ageism is “an old-person problem.” Older people bear the brunt of ageism in the U.S. Not so much in Mexico, where Marc lives. The U.S. is a deeply youth-obsessed society fueled by our popular culture.
[8:19] Ageism affects young and old. If you bridle at your boss being much younger than you, that’s ageism.
[8:35] When you are ageist, you are discriminating against your future self. All prejudice is based on what sociologists call “othering” — seeing a group of people as other than ourselves. It could be another sports team. It could be other religion. It could be other nationality. The weird thing about ageism is that the other is your own future, aging self.
[9:11] Ageism is rooted in denial. We pretend that we will not age — as if that would be a good thing.
[9:46] Marc listened to Ashton’s TED talk and admits that he is an ageist! Ashton says we are all ageist because our culture has trained us to be ageist. Ashton says the first step in confronting bias is knowing that you have it. Everyone has prejudice. What we can do, if we want to, is become aware of our bias and not use it to guide our actions.
[10:29] You can’t challenge bias, unless you are aware of it. Once you start to see ageism in yourself, that opens your eyes to seeing it in the culture around us — in magazines, on TV, and in conversations. You will see this is a widely shared issue that requires collective action and that we can do something about it if we come together.
[11:07] Marc has noted that he uses the phrase CRS (can’t remember stuff). The moment can be funny but the discrimination it engenders is not funny, nor is the way it affects our own perception of ourselves in society when we never think to challenge those values but internalize them.
[12:22] When you start seeing “the first sign of dementia” as you turn a certain age, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, all too easily. As these negative stereotypes become more potentially relevant, we tend to act as though they were true. That is really bad for us in every aspect of our lives.
[12:58] Marc belongs to a hiking club with seventy-year-olds; Marc finds them to be positive role models. Ashton says it is important to remember that most of us will not be outliers. Most of us will end up in the middle — still able to do the things we really love doing, even if we do them differently than we did at age 20. Sex is a perfect example.
[14:52] It’s important not to have a vision of “aging well” that consists only of the extremely active and the extremely healthy. Some part of our body is going to fall apart; not all of it. Some parts of our brain are likely to work less well. 20% of the population escapes cognitive decline, entirely.
[15:17] We set ourselves an impossible standard by telling ourselves, “I have to keep hiking that mountain as fast as so-and-so.” A lot of people don’t have access to the gyms and the healthy habits. Acknowledge that we all age in different ways, at different rates and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
[15:52] The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College published a blog article “Careers Become Dicey After Age 50”. Marc says the audience for this podcast is seeing ageism in the workplace. How do you eliminate ageism in the workplace?
[16:25] Looking at the culture as a whole, diverse workplaces are here to stay. Diversity makes companies more profitable and better to work at. Let’s put age on the list as a criterion for diversity. It is blindingly obvious that it belongs there, but nobody thinks of it.
[17:05] If everyone is the same age in your workplace, question it. What is the reason used to justify it? It is not true that older workers are expensive, less creative, or less reliable. Older workers are slower at physical tasks but they hurt themselves less often. Older workers make fewer mistakes, so it’s a wash.
[17:49] Research shows that, especially in creative industries, mixed-age groups are the most effective. There are intergenerational initiatives springing up in workplaces all over. Chip Conley wrote Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, which is all about mentoring.
[18:11] Chip went to work at Airbnb in his fifties and realized he had digital intelligence to learn from younger people while they had emotional intelligence to learn from the older people.
[18:24] Marc Freedman wrote How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations, by Marc Freedman. The title means we live forever if we contribute to the younger generations and those contributions live on after we are gone.
[18:41] Marc Freedman’s book talks of intergenerational housing, programming, educational issues, where people of all ages support each other, learn from each other, and tap into what each age group has to offer.
[18:59] Marc notes that the multi-generational family is incredibly common in Mexico and it’s refreshing to see. Marc sees women carrying their grandchildren as they walk.
[19:28] In much of the developed world it used to be the same and then industrialization and urbanization promoted institutions that made age important in a way it hadn’t been. We also started living a lot longer and “old folks” homes cropped up. Schools began to be divided into ages. Nursery schools were created.
[19:53] When you divide groups of people, segregation makes room for discrimination and prejudice.
[20:07] Marc talks about the young white male culture of the tech industry. The Austin Business Journal called it a real problem. Technology Review ran an article shining a light on it a couple of years ago. It has received more attention because it became a problem for people at the top of the food chain -- educated, white men in their 30s.
[20:50] Ashton says the quote that burned into her brain was a guy who went to a dermatologist for Botox, hair plugs, or both because he had a key interview and he said “I can’t look like I have a wife, and a mortgage, and two little kids.”
[21:08] What does it say about our society that being a husband and father with financial obligations disqualifies you for employment? Think about the personal consequences of being told that the thing you spent decades getting really good at disqualifies you to continue to apply what you know.
[21:39] Marc says we live in very strange times. Ashton refers back to the women’s movement that started as a grassroots movement, decades ago, that forced women to recognize that they were not at fault for the biases against them. It was a widely shared problem that required collective action.
[22:23] We will not change things for older people for the better, unless we challenge the prevailing narrative that to age is to fail. Each one of us who is interested in it needs to become an ambassador for that message.
[22:53] Marc says that the happiness U-curve is true in his life, comparing his 60s to his 40s. Ashton doesn’t know anyone in their later years that wants to actually be any younger than they are. Jonathan Rauch’s book is coming out in paperback and he interviewed Ashton for the foreword about the social and political context of ageism.
[23:46] Ashton makes some final points. She knows not everyone is an activist. One of the best arguments for an anti-ageism campaign is its benefits as a public health initiative. Attitudes toward aging affect how our minds and bodies function. People who equate aging with decline, dismay, and despair, live an average of 7.5 years less long.
[24:53] They don’t walk as fast. They are more likely to develop dementia than people with more realistic attitudes toward aging. Look around you at the evidence of the kind of lives old people are living, despite being surrounded by these messages.
[25:21] You will be less likely to develop dementia, even if you have the gene that predisposes you to the disease. Rates of Alzheimer's are declining fast. No one knows that because only the alarmists’ side of the picture gets covered in the media.
[25:44] There are more cases of Alzheimer’s because there are more aging people in the population and age remains the leading risk factor but the odds of anyone listening to this podcast getting dementia have gotten lower in the last few decades and people are getting diagnosed at later ages. Let’s tell both sides of the story.
[26:14] Ashton has been “thinking out loud” about all this in blog form at ThisChairRocks.com/blog. The blogs are searchable by topic, including sources for the facts. It’s all there, available for free.
[26:40] Consciousness raising was the tool that catalyzed the women’s movement. Look for the downloadable pamphlet “Who Me, Ageist: How to Start a Consciousness-raising Group” in the blog resources. Ashton urges listeners to download the pamphlet and think about convening a group, ideally of mixed ages, backgrounds, and colors.
[27:26] Everyone ages. Everyone faces compound layers of discrimination. If we want the movement against ageism to lift all boats, we also need to address all the other “-isms” that make it hard to grow old the way we would like.
[27:47] Marc thanks Ashton for being on the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[27:58] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. Ashton has been an inspiration to many (including Marc) who are involved in the battle against ageism.
[28:07] The CareerPivot.com/Community website has become a valuable resource for almost 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is currently recruiting new members for the next cohort.
[28:19] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[28:34] Those in the initial cohorts will get to set the direction for this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[28:58] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[29:25] Please come back next week, when Marc will interview Queen Michele.
[29:29] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[29:33] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-118.
[29:41] Please hop over to CareerPivot.com and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app.
In this episode, Marc interviews Chris Farrell, a senior economics contributor for Marketplace, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio programs. Chris is economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio and an award-winning journalist. Chris is a regular contributor to PBS’s Next Avenue, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has written for Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times, Kiplinger’s, and other publications. Marc hopes you enjoy this episode.
[1:13] Marc welcomes you to Episode 117 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings you this podcast. CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Please take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:43] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc can reach, the more he can help.
[2:05] Next week, Marc will be interviewing Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
[2:15] This week, Marc is interviewing Chris Farrell, author of Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money, and Happiness in the Second Half of Life.
[2:28] Marc introduces Chris and welcomes him to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[3:10] Marc loves Chris’s previous book, Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life and is very much looking forward to the new book. Chris explains the motivation behind his new book. He wants to reshape society’s view of the aging population.
[4:54] Marc agrees that we are aging very differently than our parents did. A lot of folks are now dealing with their parents and their kids. It’s a different world.
[5:20] We have very powerful stereotypes about the stages of life. What strikes Chris is that people lose their jobs or quit their jobs all the time. You may have kids and parents in your care. Even if your kids are launched, you’re always a parent.
[6:01] So we have this simple idea of how life evolves. Chris says, life is just a lot of ups, downs, twists, and turns and part of this rethinking of aging is just being much more realistic. If you are caregiving in your twenties for a baby, you’ll also be caregiving in your fifties for your aging parents.
[6:29] In Marc’s online community, there are a bunch of people in their late 60s, primarily guys, who still have kids in college, mainly because the Vietnam War era draft made people delay getting married and having kids. This means they have obligations to worry about that younger Boomers don’t have.
[7:18] Chris shares stories from the chapter, “The Myth of Creative Decline.” He had seen Matisse at MoMA. He says Matisse was at the height of his creativity between the ages of 74 and 84. Bruce Springsteen is still performing and writing new songs in his 60s.
[8:35] We’re beginning to realize that aging artists and performers are not just reliving their glory days, but creating new works of merit. The closer you look into the artistic community, you see so many people building on their experience and connecting their dots. Research shows we retain creativity in our own fields through our senior years.
[9:34] It’s fundamentally wrong to think creative abilities go away in the 60s and 70s.
[9:59] Marc tells of a recent experience in Ajijic. They recently had an art walk with 90 artists. Three-quarters of them were expats from Canada and the U.S. Almost all of them took up art in their 60s. Marc was blown away. There were paintings and other media. Many of the artists had learned their art from YouTube videos.
[10:48] Some took classes. Some went and studied with masters. They were able to do this in their 60s and 70s.
[11:01] There is a stereotype that people, as they age, do not adjust to new technology. The Boomer generation has worked with the IBM Selectric, word processors, PCs, mobile phones, iPads, Facebook, YouTube. Boomers are not resistant to technology if it is worth learning for them.
[12:22] Marc also notes that expats are by nature risk-takers, which extends to all areas of life including technology.
[12:48] Why are Boomers ideally suited to be entrepreneurs? His definition of entrepreneur includes self-employed. Chris notes that people in their 60s and 70s are better-educated than previous generations. Technology has really lowered the cost of starting a business. The office is your home or an inexpensive co-sharing workspace.
[14:20] Now, to start a business, you don’t drain your 401(k) or risk your retirement savings. (Don’t do that.) People are starting bootstrap businesses and marketing online.
[14:53] Chris mentions a story from Keith Richards’s autobiography, Life. When the Rolling Stones taped in London in the 1960s, studio time was so expensive that they recorded for half-an-hour. That was what they could afford. Today, for $2,000, somebody can have a beautiful studio in their garage.
[15:24] Entrepreneurship/self-employment, with the artisan/lifestyle economy, finding yourself an artisan/craft niche, is really exciting. It doesn’t take a lot of risk and it tends to allow for meaning, having fun, enjoyment, and a paycheck.
[15:49] Marc explains his recording setup in his closet in Mexico, padded with a sheet, a $60 microphone plugged into his MacBook Air, recording on Piezo for Mac for $19, and editing using Audacity, which is free. Ten years ago, this would not have been possible at this price.
[16:47] Young people are entering the tech industry on a shoestring. They want to build their first product, sell it, and go on to the next thing. Chris also notes that Boomer parents are going into business with their Millennial and Gen-X children. The parents have the experience and capital, and the children have savvy and hustle.
[18:27] Eventually the younger generation will inherit the business. Marc has had clients who have talked about this. The relationships Boomers have with their children is different than the relationships Boomers had with their parents. Marc tells an anecdote on his co-author Susan Lahey and her children.
[19:55] Chris says the multi-generational workplace is really underestimated. There is a consulting industry now, discrediting the benefits of four generations in one workspace. Chris objects to that.
[20:23] IBM did some good research surveying four generations. They found the generations shared a lot of values. All people want autonomy to exercise creativity. They want to be a valued member of a team and be treated with respect. They would like opportunities for advancement. Life experiences are different but not work values.
[21:22] The experienced worker brings an ability to connect the dots and tends to be calmer in a crisis and more deliberate when things are tense. There are crises in every organization. The younger ones bring energy, knowledge, and skill to the team but they don’t have that well of experience to draw on.
[22:06] When you bring the older and younger worker together it’s a very productive unit. The experienced worker also transfers intangible knowledge about process and procedure, that would never be written down in the organizational book.
[22:39] Marc recalls teaching at IBM 20 years ago about problem determination. He knew that if you have seen a problem in the same area before, you will solve it faster the next time. You can’t fake experience. You can’t speed it up. You just have to get it.
[23:04] Experience doesn’t mean you’re stuck in your ways. Or clinging to how it was down before. It’s about being able to connect the dots between what you’ve seen before and what is the situation now. The younger people are bringing new twists to the table — something to try a little differently.
[23:33] Multi-generational teams should be encouraged. Chris would like to see more organizations doing that.
[23:42] Marc is running a multi-generational workplace workshop in March, and you can listen to it in these three episodes: 111, 112, and 113. The generations echo back and forth in their behaviors. We either do as our parents told us or the exact opposite of it.
[24:20] Chris gives great examples in his book but there are barriers. Marc puts health insurance before age 65 at the top of the list, which was why he moved to Mexico. Social Security is next. What has to change in the U.S.?
[24:43] The Affordable Care Act was trying to address the needs of the most vulnerable population from 50 to 65. Medicare at 65 solves the problem for older people. Medicaid helps lower-income people.
[24:59] If you lose your job after 50, you may find a new job, but it may be at a small business that doesn’t offer health insurance.
[25:44] Chris is frustrated that instead of trying to correct the flaws in the ACA, it is tied up in Congressional battles. Chris would like to see it repaired.
[26:55] Marc and his wife spent $25,000 in 2017 on health insurance and healthcare and didn’t reach their deductible. Marc could afford it but wasn’t pleased. Now they are in Mexico. Mrs. Miller is a retired RN and she has been thrilled with the healthcare she has received from multiple care providers. All told, she spent $150 without insurance.
[27:35] Chris asserts that we do not have the best healthcare system in the world.
[27:50] What will it take to fix Social Security? Chris says it is more manageable than healthcare. Healthcare has so many problems that somebody is going to have to pay to fix.
[28:59] Chris says Social Security is “America’s retirement plan.” What we’re going to do is raise taxes to pay for it. Too many people are dependent on it. Congress should shore up the finances of Social Security and eventually, they will. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, 80% of Americans want Social Security to be strong; we need to fix it.
[30:06] Existing 401(k)s are not effective for most Americans.
[30:41] We underestimate the importance of time. Today, a two-income couple is working about 25% more than our peers did in 1968. There is also pressure to keep up with technology, eat healthy, exercise, floss, and have a social life, and manage your money smartly over the next 30 years, and manage your healthcare until age 65.
[31:40] The average person can’t do it all and manage their retirement savings. Chris says, for most people, it makes no sense to do it themselves.
[31:55] Marc tells about doing his income taxes for 2017, digging through the insurance portal for information, and he was super confused — and he’s a really smart guy! What does the average person do?
[32:36] What about folks who can’t be entrepreneurs? Chris calls entrepreneurs the leading edge of social change. Not everybody is an entrepreneur. The bulk of Boomers are going for part-time work, flexible jobs, encore careers, not-for-profit jobs, education, social services, and other services.
[33:48] The question is, “What do I want to do next?” It will take experimentation to figure it out. Don’t think of yourself as a job title or an occupation. What are your skills and what can you really do? Chris tells a case study of a teacher skilled at dealing with different constituencies. She became involved in an economic development committee.
[35:08] Marc asks about a woman from Chris’s podcast who got certified by a quilting company as a teacher to teach quilting around the country. The ROI numbers worked out to do it. She can travel the country at her will for an income.
[37:11] Marc sees from his online community that everyone need their horizon broadened. There are incredible new possibilities.
[37:22] Chris has two final points. Have the attitude that this moment of life — whether in your 50s, 60s, or 70s — is a moment of opportunity. Be engaged. Find something that gives you meaning and money; purpose and a paycheck. That is an exciting venture. Write your own narrative, not the way the dominant society would write it for you.
[38:11] On the practical level, what’s really important to exploit these opportunities is to know your most valuable asset — it’s the network of people that you’ve met over the years. Tap into it to broaden your horizons. They know you. What do they think you should be doing?
[38:56] When you figure out what it is you want to do next, you’ll find that someone in your network is going to make the introduction that gets you that job or that opportunity that you’d like to explore.
[39:58] Marc thanks Chris for being on the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[40:05] Marc hopes you enjoyed this episode. Marc always enjoys talking with Chris as he is an evangelist for those of us in the second half of life.
[40:14] Susan Lahey and Marc are working on the next edition of Repurpose Your Career, and Marc is looking for your help. Marc is forming a release team of readers who will get access to pre-release chapters of the book to provide feedback.
[40:26] You can be part of this team by going to CareerPivot.com/RYCTeam where you can sign up.
[40:34] When you sign up, you’ll receive the pre-release version of the chapters when they become available. What Marc asks in return is for you to provide feedback and be prepared to write a review on Amazon.com when the book is released.
[40:47] The CareerPivot.com/Community website has become a valuable resource for almost 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is currently recruiting new members for the next cohort.
[40:59] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[41:13] Those in the initial cohorts will get to set the direction for this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more.
[41:37] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[42:00] Please come back next week, when Marc will interview Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
[42:09] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[42:14] You will find the show notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-117.
[42:23] Please hop over to CareerPivot.com and subscribe to get updates on this podcast and all the other happenings at Career Pivot. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, the Google Podcasts app, Podbean, the Overcast app, or the Spotify app.