My husband, Ken, and I recently finished reading Chip Conley’s book, “Wisdom @ Work, The Making of a Modern Elder”. It was good timing as my husband was on a three-week break between consulting jobs and we had the time to read it together in what became our “story time.” In the book, Chip Conley takes us on a journey that will help the aging workforce (over 50) learn how to put their knowledge and life experiences to good use. This workforce has great insight to share due to the amount of time they have spent on earth. Their perceptiveness offers Gen Xers a view that they just have not been around long enough to understand or recognize. It is a keen ability to recognize patterns and then apply their experience and knowledge to offer great advice in an elder, mentor role.
“Facilitating individual growth can lead to a new level of self-sufficiency and satisfaction.”
We are both of the age that is discussed in Chip’s book. My husband, Ken, lost his job a year ago due to the sale of the company, where he was VP of Operations. He was now in the job market looking at what opportunities were available for a senior executive. He tapped into his network and soon came up with some consulting work. Although his previous roles in consulting were that of strategist or technical expert, he soon found that he was in the role of the “Modern Elder” that Chip discusses in the book. He brought with him his library of self-help books for the senior management team and, with the aid of his 36 years in the industry, was able to help transform less-experienced leaders and staff into higher levels of performance and team leadership.
He also learned quite a bit from these folks along the way, like he was the “intern” soaking up as much as possible in his first assignment with the company. By the time he had finished the project, the senior level staff had become independent, confident, and stronger in their roles. It reminded me of the quote, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.” Facilitating individual growth can lead to a new level of self-sufficiency and satisfaction.
Being an avid gardener I connected with the term “Perennials” that Chip discusses in his book. It was his friend Gina Pell who coined that term and used the phrase, “Perennials are ever-blooming, relevant people.” I think this is crucial in order to bring value to an employer. If you stop learning, you stop growing. Perennials do need to be tended to by removing weeds, maybe even splitting them up so they will thrive in a new environment, and of course a little plant food. It’s also important to be aware of the weeds around you and remove them so you can thrive.
Last fall, I noticed a tomato plant was growing in my front yard. I found that odd because I had not planted any seeds there. My guess is that a bird dropped it there after eating a tomato from my backyard garden. Despite the fact that I had not tended to this free tomato plant, it was healthy and producing tomatoes. Gives credence to the quote, “Bloom where you are planted.” The plant was among shrubs and bushes and around it were some weeds, too. I removed the weeds to allow it to get more nourishment, and to my surprise, I saw that the weeds were actually holding up the free random tomato plant. I then had to go in and put a plant stake beside it and tie up the plant. Coincidentally, I found similar advice in the book: Sometimes the removal of weeds can cause someone to fall, despite that fact they were amongst the weeds. But, with proper support in transition, you can help them flourish. I saved the seeds from that “little tomato plant that could” and will see if they can grow and prosper next season. Continue to plant seeds and tend to them. You never know when the harvest from those seeds will be harvested.
“The workforce has dismissed you and your abilities by offering ‘your’ position to a less salaried/seasoned person.”
Being a substitute teacher for 14 years allowed me to mentor and advise many students. Topics included everything from academics to life in general. At the time, some students may not have put my advice into action, but I believe they filed away the information in their brain somewhere and will pull it out when it is needed. When you are a substitute teacher versus a classroom teacher you have the freedom to have a little more time to spend with the students. It was rewarding to help them with time management and organizational skills. It was easy to spot who needed the most help, as they would have their papers falling out of those handy dandy Trapper Keepers. It helps to at least close the zipper on those tools…(smile)
“Remember, wisdom is most powerful when it is exchanged freely across the generations.” – Chip Conley
Chip offers a myriad of opinions from many experts and gurus from corporate America. That insight was very helpful to be able to drive home the points of the book. There was also a positive uplifting voice throughout the book. Being a certain age does not mean it is “all over” for you in the world of work and any future career options. In fact, Chip lays out many examples of how you can contribute well after the age of retirement when it is easy to feel like the workforce has dismissed you and your abilities by offering ‘your’ position to a less salaried/seasoned person. Wisdom @ Work also resonated with me due to the many references to the vacation rental industry which I have been a part of for 18 years. The appendix offers a plethora of resources that will be very helpful to those seeking to further their work lives.
Reading this book was well worth the investment in ourselves. We will spend some time to figure out how to reinvent our “Modern Elder” version so that we can wake up each day and feel like we have a sense of purpose and can contribute somewhere. The word wisdom appears in the title and many times throughout the book. Mr. Conley was kind enough to share his wisdom with us, and one quote sticks with me the most: “Remember, wisdom is most powerful when it is exchanged freely across the generations.” Thanks, Chip, for taking the time to share your experiences and insights in this book. It will be of great help to so many.
As Ken and I start a new transition period in our lives, we will take Chip’s advice that he offers in chapter four and that is to evolve.
Here’s wishing that a new, fantastic role is coming for Ken where he can serve as a “Modern Elder,” and a bonus job for me as H.O.P.E. (Head of Philanthropic Endeavors.)
Who will you inspire today?