Life Literacy In The New Normal. How Do You Rank Yourself?
My new book, How Do I Get There From Here? is due out in August from the American Management Association (AMACOM, publisher). In it I cite Financial Literacy and the importance of being able to work with a great financial advisor, as key competencies in the New Normal.
I recently attended a Financial Literacy Day conference arranged and sponsored by the excellent Cumberland Advisors. During this well-crafted, expertly delivered one day workshop, I found myself looking around the room wondering not only about the all-important issue of Financial Literacy, but also about Life Literacy in the New Normal.
Here are some examples of the need for New Normal Life Literacy in my own network:
Sally, 56, didn’t just lose her job. She lost her employer (the one she had spent years working for) because it failed to keep ahead of the market and industry. It went out of business.
Linda and Bill, both 60, have known for a long time that they weren’t saving enough for retirement. They avoided the topic regularly. Recently one of their friends filed for bankruptcy at 58, and they experienced this as a wakeup call for themselves. Suddenly they admitted they were in the New Normal and needed to get a realistic plan together but didn’t know where to start.
Tom, 72, didn’t just find himself alone. He found himself suddenly divorced; a statistic in a growing trend of later in life divorces.
Judi, 75 and long divorced, had a big communications job with a major New York company. When she finally retired in Florida, she thought she would never work again. Money was no problem. Three years after retiring she went to work as a hotel concierge 3 days a week. Why? She hadn’t known in advance that social diversity would be so important to her quality of later life. She also hadn’t known in advance that she wanted a job she could leave behind at the end of the day. She loved her community of residential peers, but as she said “I’ve got to get out of the house and into someplace with interesting people who work and talk about other things. I don’t want to work full time, but now I can also see through my new work what a trap retirement would have been for me.”
Max and Rose, 83 and retired, just received a letter from Max’s former employee letting them know that the company will no longer sponsor health care coverage for retirees. They were given 6 weeks to find their own coverage.
Lilly, 84 and a widow, is still healthy and vital. She is daily tennis player and theater devotee. Her financial advisor has begun to warn her that although she and her late husband did a great job of saving for retirement, they had expected to die at 86 and only saved to that age. She shows no signs of slowing down, doesn’t want to, and is wrestling with the reality that she’s going to run out of money. Suppose she lives to 95? Where is the other 9 years of money going to come from? What work-for-pay opportunities are available to a talented 84-year-old woman who hasn’t worked for pay in 20 years?
We lived in the Old Normal for many years. We were highly life literate. Characterized primarily by slow, continuous, predictable change, we became adept at the use of several Old Normal Tools. One we seem to like the most is: Treating every situation as a problem that can be solved and permanently moved beyond.
Welcome to the New Normal. It isn’t going away any time soon. It’s characterized primarily by game changing, seemingly sudden, discontinuous change. Life literacy is needed now more than ever, yet many of us are not life literate in the New Normal. In my opinion we are all going to have to become adept at the use of New Normal tools. One we seem resistant to (but is nonetheless of critical importance) is: Stopping dead in our tracks to examine and reflect. We need to ask and answer for ourselves the important questions: What’s really happening here? How does it affect me/us? What’s an intelligent way forward from here in this New Normal?
This, of course, places traditional planning (financial, legal, retirement, health, career, political, life, relational) in a whole different light. Making sure we will have enough money for retirement won’t be the place to start. Instead, we’ll have to create incremental plans first so we can work with our financial and other advisors more wisely.
Which leads us to self-ranking in a moment of quiet and pure self-honesty. Let’s be clear. I’m not asking you to rank how happy you are with the New Normal, nor how excited or afraid you might feel about it.
How literate are you about yourself, your life and your plans in the New Normal? I’m asking you to rank your own willingness to develop New Normal Tools and your current, demonstrated abilities to work with them (1/low to 10/high).
Please let me know how you ranked yourself, what your approach to the New Normal is, and what I should be writing about that would be additionally helpful. Thanks.
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THE LIE OF WORK/LIFE BALANCE
We were waiting for the luncheon speaker begin. He sat to my right, a small, energetic man in a sports jacket and an open-collared light blue shirt. As strangers will, he asked me what I did. My answer was that I am writing and speaking about what it takes for a good 50 year old to become a fabulous 80 year old here in the New Normal when education, work, retirement, family, health, and financial condition are being simultaneously struck by the lightning of discontinuous change Somehow, I hit a chord because Tim’s response was very thoughtful. Here it is:
“I might have figured it out earlier if I had been self-employed, but I can’t know that for sure. All those years I had a job with a big engineering company I thought of myself as selling a part of my life in exchange for income and benefits. There was work. There was my life; my real life with my family. I thought about work/life balance all the time. Sometimes I was pretty resentful.
Now that I am 77 and have failed retirement twice, I can see that it wasn’t a competition between my work and my life. It was all my life. The competition was between my control of my time and anyone else’s control of my time, especially my employers. It’s often about control, isn’t it? Even when I’m clever enough to call it something else, there are the dark, beady eyes of control staring back at me.”
Tim blew himself out of his employer when he was 58. Senior Management wanted to go one way. He thought their decisions were ill informed and said so. The company paid him to go quietly away, a small separation package that would keep him afloat financially for 90 days.
“Was my wife, Judy, ever surprised when she found me standing in the kitchen at 2 pm. She was even more surprised, and concerned, when I said I wasn’t going back. Ever.
A small subcontractor of my previous employer immediately hired me to be a project manager. I stayed for 7 years and retired the first time at 65. What was different about my new employment situation? Low on rules, high on individual and team responsibility. The owner and I knew, respected, and trusted each other. I liked my work. I never thought about work/life balance through those years. Judy liked to see me happy and never complained about longer hours. She did warn me that I should begin to develop more interests and that she had no intention of becoming my retirement entertainment committee. Then I retired.
I lasted 7 retired months; 2 months of the joy of no responsibilities, 5 months of Judy and me coming to agreement that excessive leisure (which looked good in my dreamscape) was a terrible fit for me on a daily basis. Having socked away my 90-day salary settlement and adding to it over those 7 years, I was able to buy a retail food franchise upon retirement. Working my rear end off for 3 years I made a huge success of it and sold it for much more than I had expected. In the beginning, it was rough. I hadn’t realized how much important work and how many crucial decisions – retirement planning, health care coverage, vacation policies, professional development, financial stability, strong vendor relationships, financial institution support, human resources – I had unthinkingly outsourced to my employers. I never thought of work/life balance during those early entrepreneurial years. Why? It wasn’t about balance at all. It was about the fact that I had control over my time, long hours and all. And I loved the challenge.
After selling the retail food franchise business, Judy and I took 9 months to travel. We flew and sailed and drove and went by train all over the place. For the first 7 months, we were deliriously happy. Then I began to complain. My work/life balance was out of kilter. I had too much life and not enough self-employment. Balance was important. So were challenge and deep engagement. We returned home simultaneously triumphant and disturbed. After intense and happy research, we started an online camping equipment business. Judy loves to camp. I don’t, but I love equipment generally and her enthusiasm.
Here we are, 3 years later with a significant online camping equipment business. Judy is our face person and also our big generator of ideas. I am the back of the house, negotiating with vendors and making sure that we didn’t have to invest in inventory, warehousing, or shipping facilities. I learned a lot from watching Amazon. Instead, our business model involves paying suppliers well and they drop ship directly to our customers. Judy works closely with the vendors to develop new products. I work closely with customer feedback and finance to make sure we’re delivering real, consistent value. Neither of us thinks about work/life balance. We chose this way of life – knowing what to anticipate and not much about the many, many surprises in store for us.
At 77 and 76, we see ourselves as entering into a new phase with new conversations. We love what we are doing, especially doing so much of it together. Yet, there will be a time when – just to be realistic and pragmatic – we will have a tough decision to make. Do we want to keep going, knowing that when something happens to one of us the other will be left to do all the cleanup and liquidation/selling of the business OR do we want to do that together soon so that neither of us has to face that burden alone?
We haven’t decided which of these alternatives we’re going to choose but we’re definitely hot and heavy into discussing it. Either way, we left the lie of work/life balance far behind us as soon as we admitted the real struggle we were having wasn’t about work/life balance at all. It was about having control of our own lives and living like grownups with our own decisions.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think what we’ve done is necessarily for everyone. We do think, however, that it would be much less stressful for most people in long term jobs to accept the realities of their choices rather than carrying on about work life balance.
We have cell phones and texts and email and scanning that invade our time just like most other people have whether they are freelancing, self-employed entrepreneurs, or long term employees. The world of work is still about jobs but not just about jobs. The workplace revolution is well underway. We think the solution is to find or create the right match for ourselves, not to struggle for elusive control in any situation in which it’s unlikely at best.”
What are your own thoughts about work/life balance in our New Normal? How is it working for you and what have you chosen to do about it?
You’re A Failure If You Aren’t Doing What You Absolutely Love. Or Are You?
Author Brianna West recently wrote in Medium Daily Digest “We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate between what they really love and what they love “the idea of”.
In doing so, she reminded me of the diversity of purposes for work among my clients and the courage it takes to pursue the right fit whether it’s what they love or not.
Doing, of course, can be a huge, sort of collective verb. It can mean anything from professional activity to avocational experiences to caring for others to stealing time for yourself and doing absolutely nothing with it if that’s your intention. Having to love what you do as a condition of validation can be such a burden!
For purposes of this blog, I’m going to confine myself to Professional Activity as the designated form of doing. And I’m going to tell three short stories.
Bella is 59 and involuntarily retired 6 years ago when her job was eliminated. Her husband, Bob, died last year and when he did she lost the medical insurance benefits that went with his employment. She qualified for Cobra, but it was nearly beyond her means. Her solution: take a lower paying, ¾ time job that would be accompanied by health care benefits until she qualifies at 65 for Medicare. She had already had a high pressure retail career. She didn’t want that again. In the years since her involuntary retirement Bella had grown used to having discretionary time and was loathe to return to having none. She had interests but was leery of passions because every earlier time in her life she had pursued them they ended up owning her instead of the other way around. Instead, she wanted to sell what she wanted to offer: experience, maturity, reliability, good critical thinking skills, and the ability to get along with all kinds of people.
As Bella and I created her vocational search action plan together, we were both clear that she wanted “Right Fit Employment” that would meet her needs but NOT look or feel like her next, all consuming career. This meant her story would be different, her networking would be different, and her resume(s) would have to be tailored to the opportunities she discovered. In the end she discovered 3 job opportunities that met all of her needs and she knew she could have a fine time at any of them. She chose the best one, free of the burden of failing or having made a bad choice if she didn’t absolutely LOVE her work. She – and her new employer – had made a fine, best-fit-work job.
Kevin, 47, was the “survivor” of several different high tech jobs. His wife, Lisa, was too. Between them they had amassed a fair amount of savings. They were both hard working professionals with absolutely no expectation of permanent employment. And they thought they needed to take a year off regularly, maybe not the same year for both of them. In our work together to create a dual vocational plan, we discovered that they both wanted “shorter term” jobs of 2 years max followed by a year off followed by another couple of years of work. They weren’t worried about not being able to re-enter the workplace and they also weren’t worried about whether or not they totally loved their work. Their network was full of younger people not confined by the old employment rules. Instead they were, frankly, motivated by money and the opportunity to participate in something that could be built and sold. Their passion was focused on the end, transition state of the game, not the 2 years it would take to get there. In fact, they were incredulous about the notion that they should LOVE their work. Being good at it plus the financial end state were what motivated them. And they really liked the idea that they would have different years off so that whoever wasn’t working could be home with the kids, maintaining their home, and being supportive of the working one.
In the end we developed a model of “right fit” employment that rotated, allowing each of them to work and then take time off from work. And they weren’t driven by the total love of their work. This was true for their friends and colleagues, too, one of the possible freedoms of high tech and entrepreneurial lives.
Rhia, 60, is a family law attorney. She thought making Partner in a big firm would be the epitome of success and she could coast from there. She would love her life. That was 18 years ago. What she knows now is that loving her work isn’t the primary metric. Instead the primary metrics are 1. Building/being in control of her own calendar and work load, 2. Having her clients write her performance review through referrals rather than the Managing Partner doing it, and 3. Finding some greater work/life balance than she was experiencing.
When we did the vocational work together, we were not particularly surprised to discover that she had lost her need to love or dislike her work, as if those were the only two categories. Instead she wanted “best fit” work that matched her primary metrics. She was tired of other attorneys asking her if she was burned out. She no longer needed to love or hate it. Instead she wanted it to be a match for her now.
In the end Rhia chose to leave the partnership and join a national online law firm. Kind of like a private practice with colleagues and referral systems. It has turned out to be a great solution for her.
If you LOVE your work that’s great. We are all happy for you. If you like it but don’t want to measure that part of your life by the LOVE Standard, you won’t be alone. You have lots of options.
What role does LOVE serve in your professional life and how is it a benefit or a burden? If it isn’t love, what are the best metrics for you now in your work life?
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH LIFE PLANNING? 8 QUESTIONS TO FIND OUT
Two Personal Consulting clients of mine – let’s call them Rene and Phil – are both in their late fifties. They are working with me to do their joint 18-month immediate life plan and their 18 to 48-month mid-range life plan. In their 30 years of marriage they have never had so many exciting aspirations or such concern for the uncertainties of our current era.
Rene is by nature a planner. Across the years she has planned and tightly scheduled and organized everything from having babies to getting the house painted to finishing her law degree to grocery shopping. Their now-grown kids jokingly say in her presence “Punctuality is next to godliness.” She hates surprises and has never wanted one for her birthday or any other occasion.
A very successful salesman, Phil is by nature a highly spontaneous individual. Across the years he has suddenly come home with a Corvette, a puppy, a signed contract for the installation of a swimming pool in their back yard, two kittens, and the opportunity for a promotion at his company that would require a cross country move. Their now-grown kids lovingly say in his presence “We never, ever know what Dad will do next!” Phil is a bit of a claustrophobe and resists all attempts to schedule and organize him to the point he has no options left. He thinks a great day is one that includes one or more happy surprises.
Through the years Rene and Phil have found ways to appreciate and balance each other’s strong preferences rather than turning them into subjects to fight about. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have stuck to it and with humor and affection, they usually know how to arrive at a joint decision. This recently broke down when it came to life planning, so they came to me for some professional assistance.
When they arrived at my office the first time, they were suffering from a very common life planning malady: they were trying to build one, immense, rather rigid 40-year life plan. They both thought that, if life didn’t evolve according to their plan, they would have failed. Talk about pressure!
I rapidly helped them move into a much more sound and phased planning approach for today’s discontinuous world:
1. A fairly controllable, specific 18-month planning horizon focused on targeting, simplifying and eliminating the fifty kinds of clutter they had accumulated over time
2. A mid-range 18 to 48-month planning horizon focused on exploring options/preferences and making the best decisions they could based on the then-available information
3. A 48 month planning horizon which was really a list of imagined intentions and preferences – and ways to make them happen – since they couldn’t sit in my office and reasonably make final decisions for 10 or 18 or 30 years out into the future.
They had some sacrifices to make in working with each other and with me. They had to give up the notion that there is a singular “right” way to do perfect life planning. Rene struggled with this. They had to let go of the idea that if the plan were “good enough” the outcomes would be guaranteed. This made Phil especially anxious because Mr. Spontaneous was suddenly so nervous about their (and the nation’s) future that he desperately wanted guaranties. The biggest sacrifice of all for them was letting go of the notion that there could be such a plan, ensuring the predicted outcome. The completion of this plan would signal that they could pretty much coast through their future years without regularly monitoring their environment for new information. And this would trigger an updating of the plan and the need for them to adapt yet again. The second biggest sacrifice was jettisoning their cherished illusion that a permanent arrival point, a “there” to get to, is a possibility in today’s world.
The planning conversation had begun with the rigid and fight-prone language of long term life plan, right, wrong and absolutes. Together we turned it into the more manageable and sane bites of short range, mid-term, and long range plans and intentions. We also moved the success metric from “perfect and almost guaranteed” plan to the exploration of “How much is enough?”.
In the end, we developed together some “how much is enough” type of questions that, if answered “Yes!”, would be the tipping point for them to move from planning to action. These included:
- Do we feel comfortable enough to suspend research for now on each of our three planning horizon plans?
- Are we prepared to do enough smart scanning of our environment regularly that we can see when and how to update the plan and adapt ourselves?
- Are we clear enough on what initial action would look like for each life plan segment?
- Have we surrounded ourselves with enough of the right professional consultants – life planning, financial, health care, legal, and career/vocational?
- Have we communicated clearly enough with our loved ones and friends that they know how to help us?
- Are we having enough regular, clear conversations together about our plans to know when we are on the same page, when we’re not, and how to work our way through any difficulties?
- Are we willing enough in these times of discontinuous change, to work with both change we have chosen and change that is imposed on us?
- Do we continue to have enough faith in ourselves and in each other to live a great life one planning phase at a time?
Rene, Phil, and I completed the 3 planning horizon life plans and built clear action plans for each, especially the Up To 18 Month segment. They will be back to see me when they run into a major problem and for periodic reality checks. They don’t need to see me all the time. They will need to see me enough, and they are the only ones who can determine what and when that is.
I’m looking forward to getting an update from them eventually.
How are you proceeding with your own life planning? How do you know what enough looks like for any life planning component?
TWO OF THE IMPORTANT AFTER 50 LESSONS MR. TRUMP CAN TEACH US
I don’t know Mr. Trump. I see an experienced showman on television, read his speeches, and listen to the pronouncements of his staff. Arguing crowd size isn’t what it’s about for me. I’m not a therapist. Analyses aren’t going to happen here. I’m not an Ethicist, so you won’t find words like “lie” and my reactions to it in this blog. I’m not a politician. You’ll need to go elsewhere for political analyses.
I am, however, a Developmental Psychologist and can speak my opinion with some authority here about life After 50. What’s the connection?
More often than not, when we say “Developmental Psychology” we’re studying and talking about children. How does a good 3-year-old get to be a great 6-year-old? What do we need to understand and do to support this happening?
What far too few of us understand about After 50 is that human development is lifelong. We need to learn new skills and ways of thinking across our entire life spans. If we don’t, our personal, decreased relevancy is guaranteed. Not only are we not fully “cooked” by the time we’re in our forties, some of our greatest opportunities and best work can happen in our 60s, 70s, and 80s. How does a good 50-year-old get to be a great 75-year-old? That’s the important question to me, the one to which I’ve dedicated years of research, writing, and observation.
Enter Mr. Trump. We all need to learn from each other through observation and conversation. Who is the most visible After 50 person in the world? You guessed it. With all due respect, he leaves Queen Elizabeth (90), George Clooney (56), Sarah Palin (52), Clint Eastwood (81), Sonia Sotomayor (62), and Bruce Springsteen (67) in the After 50 dust when it comes to constantly holding our attention. I think we’re only beginning to learn from him and, as we all know, After 50 isn’t a time to stop learning.
Lesson #1: In the process of our own After 50 development, at some point it’s crucial that we each move from 51% or more externally validated to 51% or more self-validated. Later in our lives opportunities for external validation will decrease and so will our quality of life if we fail to learn this lesson.
I recently did some retirement work with a couple in their late 50s. The husband, a top national salesman, was terrified of retirement. His entire identity and self-esteem were built around his job performance each month. During the months he exceeded his sales target numbers, his self-esteem was through the roof. During the months he failed to meet his sales goals, his self-esteem was somewhere below the basement. If he were retired, who would he be? He and I took opposite views on what to do. He wanted in retirement to find the next thing at which he could be a champion. I thought he was going to have to find a way to give up his addiction to ongoing “proof” because as he aged that external proof would become less and less likely in the long run. He wanted to know what would be satisfying and a guarantee to go with it before he made the leap. His wife, after many years on the proof rollercoaster with him, sided with me. Did he have the courage to give up being so dependent upon repeated external validation that ranked high on the “never enough” scale? Was he willing to do the work to get really comfortable and happy in his own skin? On a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high), where do you rank Mr. Trump’s ongoing comfort in his own skin without dependence on validation hits? On the same scale where do you rank your own?
Lesson #2 In the process of our own After 50 development, at some point it’s crucial to allow disagreements without creating enemies and opponents. Living a life of constantly seeing only opposites (self and opponents) and being at war is unlikely to create an After 50 life of any reasonable quality for you and your loved ones.
A couple came to me to do some life planning work. Money wasn’t an issue. The husband had lots of interests and looked forward to exploring them. The wife, however, was so dependent on the adulation of her children and grandchildren that they had begun to avoid family holidays with her. Why? She demanded their attendance at each and every holiday, birthday, celebration, and anniversary. She was pugilistic. Anyone who wasn’t totally with her was considered to be against her. She could be verbally abusive and a bully. She was tenacious, a veritable bulldog. And this pattern – if you aren’t fully with me you must be against me – extended to friends, colleagues at work, staff, and, especially, her husband. Given time, she could recite long lists of opponents including her son in law, his family, and neighbors. Was she willing to go into a retirement that was less dependent upon war and opponents? What was reasonable to demand of retirement, and what was she willing to do to make it work? On a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high), where do you rank Mr. Trump’s ongoing preference for having opponents and conducting interpersonal wars? On the same scale where do you rank your own?
In my own case, I’ve assumed some of my best work and greatest opportunities will happen After 50. I’ve written a book about retirement and life planning in times of increasingly unplannable, discontinuous change. “How Do I Get There From Here?” will be released by AMACOM (publishing division of the American Management Association) in July. For me it’s a bold expression of what experience and expertise tell me will work for most of us in the coming years. Some days it also feels like a huge risk to put myself and my ideas so far out there in public. My own, personal developmental job is to rely more on my independent sense of myself than I am on the book’s success. Usually I’m OK with it. Some days are a bit of a push. How could I possibly write about After 50 ideas if I’m not willing to take them head on myself?
I don’t know Mr. Trump but I’d like to thank him for the lessons he makes available to me. We are all – or should be – mirrors for each other. We After 50 will do well to pay attention. I hope he is intensely successful as President for all our sakes. We certainly stand – if we’re available for it – to learn a lot about how to build or injure our collective future.
The Slippery Road To Isolation Well Before We Are Old
One of my longtime California friends recently sent me an email commenting on how many long-term friendships are affected by the recent presidential election. His observation is that a significant number of people – from both of the major voting spectrum positions – are unable to comprehend how their friends could possibly have voted the way they did. Even worse, they are currently unable to forgive. On the surface they can still socialize but it’s awkward because conversation topics are now limited and everyone knows things just aren’t the same between them. Trust has been broken and, once broken, repair is not in sight. “How could you?” is the question hanging, unspoken in the air between them.
Provoked by his email, I checked with other friends around the nation. Sure enough, it’s not just a California phenomenon. I had previously thought of divisive as an adjective. Somehow, while I wasn’t looking it turned into a transitive verb with long term friends as the objects. And this is a potential, durable problem for all of us After 50.
In social network theory Strong Relationships/Strong Networks of Relationships is used to describe interpersonal connections characterized by high levels of trust, significant shared history, similarity of values, intentions in common, mutual support, and well established assumptions about one another. How many of these relationships are enough depends upon the individual. Strong Relationships/Networks are very important because they are efficient, reliable, and trustworthy. You don’t have to explain. You can make direct requests without preamble. Working on something at home or on the job can feel choreographed because you know how to move together. And sometimes you can even finish each other’s sentences. We all need Strong Relationships/Networks.
Again in social network theory Weak Relationships/Weak Networks of Relationships is used to describe interpersonal connections characterized by little knowledge of each other, few if any shared friendships, potentially different background or approaches to life, and values which are not identical to our own. How many of these relationships are enough depends upon the individual. Weak Relationships/Networks are very important because they are the source of new possibilities, contacts, and approaches. They are also the source of a significant number of AHAs! and fresh ideas. If you are looking for an insightful answer or piece of information, weak relationships are more often than not a superior source because the individual is not burdened with assumptions about you and is likely to come from a totally different place than your own. We all need Weak Relationships/Networks.
The severing of a longtime friendship at this time is more than the termination of one strong relationship. It’s also the eradication of a significant number of weak connections your former strong connection could have arranged for you. How many strong relationships do you currently have and how does this total compare to what you really need in your life right now?
How many weak relationships – including connections through your strong relationships – do you currently have and how does this total compare to what you really need in your life right now?
Impoverishment in relationships later in life often comes because:
- The individual has not maintained his/her strong relationships AND has failed to replenish the network as people dropped out through moving, illness, no longer working together, or any of a number of other causes.
- The individual has failed to maintain and adequate weak network of relationships and, therefore, has few candidates in line to occupy strong connection positions.
- 1 and 2 lead directly to isolation.
I am asking you to consider how much energy, time, and effort it takes to build and maintain enough strong relationships. No one knows where our country is really going. It’s like hanging on to a surf board bouncing across the waves at the moment.
Do you have such an excess that you can easily afford to jettison previously important and strong relationships?
How are you resolving the relationship divide and the loss of trust with your strong friends who didn’t vote the way you did?
How strong is your Weak Network?
I propose a checklist of isolatioin conditions:
- Impoverishment of Strong Networks
- Failure to nurture Weak Networks
- Diminishment of curiosity
- Failure to remain and interesting person
- Capitulation and victimization
How many of these conditions exist in your networks? What can you do about them?
Please let me know.
What Do We Owe To Our Grandchildren?
There I was in a long line with my grocery cart. The lady at the front – the OCD woman with 30 clipped magazine coupons to scan, each of which will save her 1.5 cents – was proudly waving her fanned collection at the checker as if she were about to be a big winner in Reno. This was going to take a while.
So, I did what I always do to distract myself. I looked for something to read. To my immediate left at eye level were THE TABLOIDS, the early, spawning originators of fake news and voyeur headlines.
How often has your first reaction to something been “I’m so glad my grandchildren aren’t here to see/experience this.”? It happens to me with surprising frequency. It isn’t that I want to insulate them from the world. I don’t have primary responsibility for them nor should I be setting priorities. They have parents for that. Still, these times always trigger in me concern about what I am doing on a regular basis to help my grandchildren.
Grandparents come in a dazzling variety of configurations. Some can’t wait to buy teddy bears and books to read together. Some don’t want much to do with them until they are old enough to get into the car on their own for a ride. Other grandparents delight in baby sitting or taking a teenager out for her first cup of coffee or helping them become diehard team fans or setting aside money for college or attending piano recitals and T-ball games.
My personal configuration is built around the intention that I can give each of them confidence and adaptability. Provided we have the foundation of high quality one on one time together, I can add experiences which will serve them well for the rest of their lives. For example, finding their way (safely) through a new experience in a place they don’t know well with other kids they don’t know at all – Circus or Marine Biology or Theater day camp, for instance. Or lunch with me at a white table cloth restaurant followed by a movie or a play. Or walking down Grant Avenue together hand in hand and going into a tea shop for a cup where the rest of the customers are all Chinese and over 70. Or going down ALL the waterslides together several times at a sunny resort.
How does what I want to give to them differ from what I owe them? THE TABLOIDS pushed me into exploring the difference.
I discovered I’m clear about what I want to give to them: any kind of new experience that will 1. allow them expanded forms of curiosity and knowledge they hadn’t thought of before, 2. provide them with enjoyable social and cultural surprises and insight, and 3. add to their confidence that they are smart, adaptable, and highly competent people.
As for what I owe to them, I have to remember that their lives won’t necessarily be an extension of mine. In fact, their lives may differ as significantly as the world they are inheriting differs from the one handed to me.
Here, after much reflection, is my list of what I owe to my grandchildren:
- My own authenticity (and non-pedantic exposure through me) to the norms of my generation
- Explanation more than total protection. I could blind them to THE TABLOIDS or I could have a serious conversation about the implications of rampant voyeurism and fake news.
- Trust and respect that in the long run they will make good decisions about their lives as they move into a future which I can only imagine.
- Unadulterated, non-demanding affection.
- Continual remembering – and the behaviors that go with it – that I am their grandfather and not their parent.
- Sincere interest in them and their interests.
- Enough high-quality availability without being like hot water, always available at the turn of the tap.
- Respect and support for their individuality. I remember, when I was 17, my own maternal grandmother gently taking my hands in hers and saying “Do what you want to do, dear. You will anyway.” I have never forgotten it.
In a nice way, I owe the OCD coupon-waving customer and THE TABLOIDS in the rack a moment of gratitude. Without them I wouldn’t have been pressed to distinguish between give and owe.
As for what my grandchildren want from me, I’m saving that for a future blog.
The new year is now upon us. What is it you want to give to your grandchildren in the coming year?
What is it you think you owe to your grandchildren in the coming year?
What is it you think your grandchildren want from you?
Let me know, please.
Quality of Life? Start the New Year with this easy survey!
There she stood just inside our front door with her hands on her hips. “You keep writing about other people’s After 50 stories.”, she said, “Mine is different and it deserves telling, too”. Pushing past me she settled into a chair in our living room, said, “OK. Help me.”
“OK. I’ll play.”, I said sitting down opposite Coleen. “Who are you?” Her answer: “I’m Coleen White. I recently met you and your wife, Linda, at one of our fundraising parties for childrens’ charities. I’m 67, recently divorced, a retired nurse, not very connected to my grandchildren, far from wealthy but ok, not religious, still like men and romance, smart, funny, and a bit bored. I like where I’m living. I’m finding it difficult to get my thoughts organized enough around my Quality of Life.”
“What does Quality of Life mean to you?” I asked. Her answer: “Your writing provoked my interest in Becoming After 50. Most people don’t seem to get that After 50 is a prime time for personal becoming. I get it. I was married to a physician for years. When he left he liberated both of us – I can see now – from a terrible inertia. I’m a new kind of free. I like it. Quality of Life is suddenly the key for me. I don’t want just more of the same. I don’t need to solve problems from my past. I don’t need therapy. I want Quality of Life to be an everyday thing, not some place I visit on special trips and vacations. I need a way to evaluate and prioritize. I want to create myself and my future. So here I am.”
I sat back in my chair. “Quality of Life”, I said, “is a very personal thing. It changes periodically, being made up of moving components. If it were easily measured it would be called Quantity of Life but that’s not what you’re talking about is it?” “No”, she said, “I’m talking about Quality of Life that I can create and adjust as my life progresses. I want clarity. I’ll need to be adaptable, too.”
“Would it help if I gave you a Quality of Life Survey as a starting place?”, I asked. “Are you kidding? Of course!”, she replied.
So I gave her the following survey.
As she left I reminded Coleen that not every component can or should be a 10 all the time. “Don’t worry. I’ll remember”, she said, “and I’ll be back soon. Finally, a framework I can work with for my Quality of Life. World, get out of my way!”
Coleen went on to do the work of exploring her answers to the questionnaire and building a very successful action plan as a result.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give the questionnaire to you as a New Years gift. So I am doing just that.
What are you most interested in exploring about yourself and your life today?