Monthly Archives: February 2014

Three Things We Can Learn from Bruce Dern’s Endless Career


2014-01-29 15.15.10I’ve had several moments in life when an unknown person exuded an invisible energy to say, “Hello there. You know me. I’m famous.”

It’s happened to you too.

An individual’s simple air of distinction – no pomp or pretentiousness, no ego involved, always unassuming – lights a fire under our intuition. We’re not obsessed with finding out who they are, but the circumstance gets a grip on us.

Here’s me over thirty years ago remembering every detail of this kind of meet-up:

After landing at a small dusty, open air rectangle of an airport in Loreto, Mexico, one person in the mostly empty place catches my eye.  

He leans against one of the support beams of the thatched roof with his right knee bent and the back of his boot planted firmly on the rounded wood. He surveys an airless, outside panorama; he’s a do-not-disturb dude.

This spare man in a worn cowboy hat removes his sunglasses, wipes his sweaty brow with the back of his hand and replaces the glasses. He’s not shaved in a while.

I scrunch up my forehead. “Geez, he seems familiar.” 

Meanwhile, my fifteen-year-old daughter in a wide brimmed straw hat, socks with Tevas and  dressed in a long sleeved t-shirt under scrubs heads my way. This outfit reflects her theme for the upcoming two week family sail in the Sea of Cortez – “no sun will touch my body.”  

She asks quietly, “Mom, why are you staring at that guy?”

“Because he is somebody and I don’t know who.” Finally, the neurons fire.

“You know, I think that’s Bruce Dern.”

“Whatever,” says the superbly executed teenage shrug of the clueless.

My discovery was meant to be a whisper but was not. Upon hearing his name the actor looked my way and tipped his hat.

I manage a small beauty contestant wave.

Ever since, Bruce Dern, the perfect picture lonesome cowboy, has been a favorite of mine.

 Career Without High Notes

Not to go all Hollywood on you (a recent post was about Matthew McConnaughey), but retrospective pieces investigating the ups, downs, luck and sustainability of the 2014 Oscar nominees mirror individuals – like you and me, except for the fame – who work hard at their craft, endure lows and at times struggle to find a vision for the future.

While Bruce Dern’s career is stronger than ever, his look back is full of accolades that forever eluded him. Not winning top roles makes for career angst. (more…)

Posted in Endless Careers, Self-Management | 1 Comment

Five Reasons You Have No Plan for Your Long Life


Made possible by Hurricane Ivan - my closet of Ikea.
Made possible by Hurricane Ivan – my closet of Ikea.

In 2006 after Hurricane Ivan propelled 16 inches of water into our house, my husband and I did what most everyone else on the Gulf Coast did. We rebuilt our home. 

For over two years, we lived like nomads and dealt with insurance issues, which wasn’t much fun, but the result is a house with every built-in I ask for and new everything. 

Every room is picture perfect, as far as I’m concerned.

So I’m baffled as to why I continue to stack up copies in my office closet of Dwell with ingenious ideas of storage design, how to build luxury modular units in lost valleys and glamorous photos of furnished industrial lofts in Belgium. 

Maybe I think next time a hurricane hits, I’ll be ready. I won’t be stunned by loss, but instead, inspired to move into the future with grand ideas and creative juices flowing.

Metaphorically, my stack of Dwells is really about how preparedness can eliminate  angst when faced with unknowns. 

Too bad, the magazines didn’t fall on my head to remind me of this critical message when the inevitable challenge of designing my life for the third age rushed in.  

For a person knowledgeable about passages in adult development, I was ill-prepared.  

I wish I had a do-over on that transition.

Why Late-Life Design is So Hard

It’s no secret we are living longer (I would discover it was a lot longer than I supposed) and no secret that in your mid-50s, transition into another stage of adult development is around the corner. 

Like others, I arrived at this corner with a string of achievements during my lifetime to be proud of, good health, abundant energy and a financial plan – albeit one whacked about by the economy.

Still, the future could be bright. Yes? 

Why didn’t I feel that?

Spanish lesson's questions about life.
Spanish lesson’s questions about life.

Too much time parked on my office couch with morning coffee asking, “What now?” produced a soul-searching inertia.

The ticker tape of questions included:

Why should I choose a lower-key life that emphasizes leisure and a bucket list, but not work?

Why didn’t my future seem as exciting as it did when I turned twenty?

Why should I volunteer my talents when I wanted to get paid?

Why wasn’t I equipped for navigating this terrain of aging and longevity? 

A strategy and plan for my super-sized life appeared daunting, and exposed a blunder I had to own. I didn’t given my late-life design nor the necessary transition as much attention as I had other pivotal places in my life.  

Hence a sloppy entry into the big jump to a third age. I am not alone; many are befuddled and bewildered.

With an extra thirty years for the average person, why do these newly minted lives in which most people will reach a very old age seem so hard?

“This is a uniquely a twenty-first century question,” states Laura L. Carstensen, professor of psychology at Stanford University and founding director of Stanford Center on Longevity.   

The Big Picture of Planning Future Life after 50

I tracked down and read every available source of information needed to plot a course through this third age, as the French call it; I can report the pipeline of understanding, skill and know-how is just now filling up.  

Nonetheless, navigating a transitional terrain is much less complicated with a prior aerial view of the best information found.

Here  is your big picture map:

1.    We are in the midst of the “biggest demographic adventure in history.” According to Carstensen, the number of centenarians in the United States is roughly four times the number just ten years ago and will likely exceed 10 million by 2050.  . 

As a result, everything will change -education, work, financial markets, retirement and how we choose to live and work during our lifetimes.

2.    Old age is a new phenomenon creating new territory, yet unexplored. Yes, stories of late blooming entrepreneurs, octogenarians pushing physical boundaries and ninety-year-old lovebirds prevail, but not enough information exists to create surefooted pathways for the rest of us. All we know is we’re breezing through our 60’s and 70’s, past eighty and ninety and beyond. You don’t feel old at 75 because you aren’t old but how to carve out productive longevity is largely ignored and processes or tools unavailable.

3.    We lack new social benchmarks.  You can get lost easily when social benchmarks like when to get an education, marry, work and retire don’t apply. These markers evolved when lives were half as long. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself on the brink of a next phase of life – like retirement – buying into traditional thinking that truly doesn’t make any sense anymore.

4.     Excitement is missing from old age. Carstensen poses this question and your response could be an uncomfortable chuckle: When’s the last time you caught yourself daydreaming about your exciting life after 60?  

When the future is hazy, chagrin replaces excitement. Once we poured hours into daydreaming about choosing a career, finding the right mate and starting families. The third age is a time to daydream and design things anew. The element of excitement – always an individual’s responsibility – cannot be secondary to  design.

5.    Why not work to enlarge a career arc not phase it out? There’s a thousand good ways to life productively until 90, but we are wedged into accepting that careers are better replaced by volunteerism, being super grandma or playing bridge while cruising the Med.  

Working identity – a fabric of our entire life – is defined by what we do, professional activities that engage us, and the company we keep. While trying to escape numbing corporate politics or dull-as-dishwater work, creating a late-in-life future without work is a drastic change of story and creates a fragile self.  

Still Unsure How You’ll Navigate Your Longevity?

 A hurricane’s landing is unknown; but human development life stages are destiny.

While each individual arrives at the crossroads of a the last third of life with a unique composition of data and experiences, a good comprehensive playbook – one taking into account longevity, societal norms, our true finances, and the pillars of the wellbeing (career is number one) is crucial.

While this information does not provide your specific plan, it does lead to the thoughtful preparation which could result in the very best time of life.

If you are post50, I encourage you to get to work. Give a voice to your future life. Be defiant. Challenge your thinking.

You can  leave a legacy of productively longevity for future generations (your grand-children, nieces or nephews) to envy enough to emulate.

Bravo in advance.

From a collection of stone faces - Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno in Cuenca, Ecuador.
From a collection of stone faces – Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno in Cuenca, Ecuador.




Posted in Productive Longevity | 6 Comments

On Decisions At Any Age

The very idea of a wrong or a right choice is polarizing. No matter what decision we make, we may end up pining for aspects of the life we declined even as we celebrate the many advantages of having moved on.

You’ve lived a lifetime of decisions. And sometimes when you feel you made a mistake, you have.

A Mistake is a Marvelous Thing

In my twenties, enchanted by a picture in a popular home decor magazine of a dark green hallway in a Los Angeles residence, I asked my husband to paint the stairway to the basement of our Ohio rental the exact shade of fir-tree green.

As the painting progressed, I often peeked down the stairway ever hoping the dried paint might transform into a magnificent color -more like the green in the magazine picture would be fine. Soon enough reality deemed my decision “dreadful.” (more…)

Posted in Self-Management | 1 Comment

Personal Evolution: Who Can You Be Tomorrow?

2014-01-24 15.27.44The amazing capacity to be different tomorrow than we are today is inside each of us. Change is often thought of as something bad to something good.

Change is also something good to something better.

From graduate school through careers of counseling and coaching, I find the wonder of change in human behavior is not a miracle, but purely a choice – stop doing A and start doing B.

I observe good leaders become great leaders doing just that. And never mind the individuals who astonished themselves (and often me!) by one day taking an untried path leading to amazing success and gratification.

Do you think about how you can live differently tomorrow than you do today?

Matthew McConaughey does. McConaughey, 44, is a collector and creator of aphorisms – from bumper stickers, truths and rhymes. His favorite is “Just Keep Livin.”

The line belongs to Wooderson, the long-graduated Lothario he played in 1993’s Dazed and Confused and it’s become a motto for McConaughey, inspiring the names of both his foundation J.K. Livin and his clothing line,(JKL) whose tagline is yet another McConaugheyism, “Find your Frequency.” (more…)

Posted in Self-Management | 2 Comments