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Who are you and what do you want?
Richard Leider: Writer, life-coach
BY PETER BOWES | LOS ANGELES | NOVEMBER 25, 2021 | 0100 PST
Achieving a great age, with good health and vitality, is at the heart of everything we discuss on this podcast. But who are we, as human beings? What is our purpose and what is the difference between getting old and growing old? Richard Leider, founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company, is one of America’s preeminent executive-life coaches. He has spent a lifetime trying to better understand the components of life that really matter. His book, Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old? dissects the aging path, from adulthood to elderhood. In this interview with Peter Bowes, Richard explains why we should feel liberated by the process, rather than daunted or hostile, and how purposeful aging – a reason to get up in the morning – is accessible to all.
Recorded: Sept 27, 2021
Connect with Richard Leider: Bio | Website | YouTube | Book: Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?
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Now that we’re living longer by as many as three decades, hopefully, what’s the point? What’s the point of the exercise? Is it just about the old model or is there a new model? Is there a new life stage?Richard Leider
Transcript and chapters
Transcribed using Sonix. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.
- Discovering the power of purpose
- Friendship and philosophy
- Aging is not a disease
- The pandemic and purpose
- Self-help and growing old
- Embracing elderhood
- Obsessions, curiosity and learning
- The golden hour
Richard Leider: [00:00:00] I was in a bookstore recently, and I asked the woman behind the information desk, I said, Can you tell me where the self-help section is? And she said, ‘Well, if I tell you, won’t that defeat the whole purpose?’ I laughed and she laughed, but I said, no. Is there a section on aging? And she said, it’s huge and growing.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:19] Hello again and welcome to LLAMA. That’s the acronym that we use for Live long and Master Aging. My name is Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity. Today, I want to focus on two words from the name of this podcast Master Aging. You’ll know that I don’t generally talk about or really embrace the concept of anti or anti-aging or the idea of reversing aging. So, yes, with an optimum diet and exercise regime, it might be possible to assume a biological age younger than our actual years. But aging, for me is a forward moving process. And the sooner in our lives that we seize the opportunities presented by growing old? The better. Joining us is the writer and life coach Richard Leider. Richard is the coauthor with his long time friend David Shapiro of Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old? The Path of Purposeful Aging. Richard is a prolific writer best known, perhaps for two classic titles in the field of personal growth Repacking your Bags and the Power of Purpose. Richard, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Richard Leider: [00:01:30] What a great title, Peter. Thanks for having me.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:33] It’s really good to talk to you, and I think you’re talking to us from the city of Minneapolis where you live.
Richard Leider: [00:01:38] That is correct. It’s a beautiful day here today, and it’s a great day to talk.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:42] I imagine it is looking beautifully autumnal right now. We’re recording this right at the end of September.
Richard Leider: [00:01:47] Yeah, it is my favorite season.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:49] Me too. So, Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Old? I’m looking forward just to dissecting that title with you. I thought it might be useful. Just first of all, though, to talk about your background. And I guess this is a subject, especially purpose that you’ve spent much of your life thinking about. So maybe you could just tell us how you’ve got to this point and really what’s focused your mind and your interest on this subject over the many years that you’ve been doing it?
Discovering the power of purpose
Richard Leider: [00:02:16] Well, thanks for that. That question, and it’s been five decades that I’ve been a pioneer in the what I call the purpose movement because purpose is not only in aging, in health and well-being, but it’s actually also in leadership and in education and a lot of other aspects of of life that I got into it way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was getting out of counseling psychology graduate school, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. And I found that a person that I had studied and was totally smitten with Viktor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, was doing a seminar in San Diego, California. And I was in Colorado at the time and I made my way there with no money. But I spent a week with Victor Frankel, and that was life changing when it comes to this whole purpose movement because those who may not know Frankl was a very esteemed neurologist in Vienna, doctor, medical doctor, and he was taken by the Nazis with his family and his grandparents, parents, pregnant wife Tilly and siblings all killed. He’s the only one who survived. He was liberated from Auschwitz. He weighed 87 seven pounds. He went back to Vienna to heal, and he once he did, he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in nine days where he said the last of the freedoms is choice – to choose what you want your life to be about, regardless of the adversities you’re facing. And he talked about his adversities and it was a life changer. Like many people listening, probably who have had fortuitous encounters with others in their life. It was a life changer in terms of my own perception of things, and I went on from there to do other things, including a fellowship that with the Harvard study of Adult Development, which is the longest standing study of progressive aging in the U.S. at least. But I think worldwide and I realized the power of purpose in people’s lives, and so I’ve been about that ever since.
Peter Bowes: [00:04:28] What kind of upbringing did you have? What kind of childhood. Did the thought of aging occur to you? Very much as a as a young boy or even as a teenager?
Richard Leider: [00:04:38] Well, another great question. It did. I mean, as an introvert, my father was a banker, a middle immigrant, middle class manager type. But he used to. His real passion was helping people, guiding people, and he used to bring people home all the time for dinner, and he’d make me sit on the steps and listen to their stories and. So I saw that, but the real breakthrough Peter was, my father worked at the same place for 40 years, retired kind of got the gold watch and died two years later. And I started to look at what was then called executive death syndrome. Why do so many people retire and die and those that don’t die physically often die emotionally or psychologically, mentally? And so I got very interested in second half of life. And what do we know about that? And now that we’re living three decades longer, what do we do about that? So as I was growing up, that his death really was transformative to me in certain ways because, you know, the old linear model of life which was getting it, you know, learn, earn and then retire. That’s what he lived. And I said, I’m not doing that and I’m going to look at what the what the options are, and I’m not doing that. I’m 77 and I’m working full time and enjoying it more than ever and have a global platform in terms of purposeful work and and loving it.
Friendship and philosophy
Peter Bowes: [00:06:08] And another huge factor in your work, and especially this book that we’re talking about, is a lifelong friendship of yours. Your coauthor with this book and clearly friendship and people in your life, they are crucially important to the way that you view aging and often influence the way that you age.
Richard Leider: [00:06:27] True. One of my colleagues has a answering machine or when you call his phone and he’s not there, he says that the sound of the tone please leave your answer to life’s too eternal questions. Who are you and what do you want? Well, those are pretty good, pretty good questions, but at different ages and stages. Who are you and what do you want? Comes up for people. And now that we’re living longer by as many as three decades, hopefully, what’s the point? What’s the point of the exercise? Is it just about the old model or is there a new model? Is there a new life stage? So I’ve been studying that new life stage now for a long time, and we could go into and will into some of the nuances of that. But I found that there are so many people, you know, if you if you look at another simple, mental model is that we all need money, medicine and meaning. And medicine Peter stands for health, not just pharmaceuticals, like vaccines or things like that, which are important as well. So, you know, and I know and others listening know people who have enough money and enough health but are bored or kind of dying or depressed or whatever, and others who have, don’t have enough money in medicine but have meaning and perhaps health or something in our life. So what is it that is the distinction between getting older? Not a choice and growing older – a choice. And that’s what I’ve been studying.
Peter Bowes: [00:08:09] And that’s what is so fascinating about your work. So let’s delve into the title of the book that I mentioned. And of course, everyone was is familiar with that childhood question. What do you want to do when you grow up? What are you going to be doing in a few decades time? But you’ve turned that around to talk about who do you want to be? And you’ve just reflected to some extent why you did that. But maybe let’s just delve into that a little bit more and answer the first question, which you must have been posed many times as a child as I was too in terms of what do you want to do when you grow up? Were you able to answer that and looking back on that question being posed to you? How did the years turn out?
Richard Leider: [00:08:47] Well, I wrote about it, but and by the way, my colleague David Shapiro is a philosophy professor, so we brought decades of philosophy and psychology in our own stories together into this book. And this is our sixth book together. We’ve written two bestsellers together, but. And so it’s it’s the book starts out with the long conversation, so we’ve had a long conversation. So we flipped that from what to who? From what? What do you want to be to who? And then we flipped from grow up to grow old. And we fought with our publisher, who ultimately gave in because they didn’t want to use the term old because old doesn’t sell. And the fact is, it does now. When you look at the demographics worldwide and not every country, but in many and including where I’m sitting in the U.S., we’re going to be a, you know, an older population, let’s say. So we won and kept the term old because we wanted to honor old. We wanted to be pro aging. Not, as you said earlier, anti-aging or in our conversation. And so we’re pro aging. We know that there’s going to be changes, but we know they’re also going to be choices. And so way back 47 years ago in the U.S. and worldwide, a book came out called Passages and it was written by the late Gail Sheehy based on the research that she’d studied, which is some of the research that I was involved with. And that book was on the New York Times, that only took life, though Peter up to midlife, it was about midlife. But what about, you know, now three decades more or more? Because the fastest growing cohort, U.S. centric is 85 and over, and there’s going to be 10 times more centenarians in the next, you know, the next decade. And this is true in other countries, in Europe and elsewhere, not everywhere. But, but but true. So what’s the point? How do we grow because we go through two major shifts? We grow up twice. Once is from childhood to adulthood. And there are rituals for that and, you know, honors for that. But the second one is growing from adulthood to elder hood. How do we outgrow adulthood and grow into elder hood without it being aging, without all the negatives that go with that? Because so that’s what we wrote about.
Peter Bowes: [00:11:11] It’s interesting you mentioned the response of your publisher to the word old. I often get the same when I use the word age or aging in my title of this podcast, Live Long and Master Aging. The aging is seen in a very negative way. Yet it clearly happens to all of us. The years pass by and that process is aging, and in this respect, words really matter, don’t they?
Aging is not a disease
Richard Leider: [00:11:37] They do. You know, aging is not a disease. It’s a design problem. It’s a perception problem. In certain ways, we’re all aging. There’s no and sometimes we’re pushed by pain, and sometimes we’re pulled by possibility in the aging process. And so we’re not about ageless aging, like just this is some Pollyannish version of this. But the choices we make to grow versus just get old are really, really profound. So one of the words that we talk about in the book that we want to push the delete button on is the word still, Oh, Peter, you’re still broadcasting. Oh, Richard, you’re still writing or you’re still doing whatever. Who gets who gets to define that, who gets to set the rules for that? Those are old norms. And so the language of this book, when you dig into it, are, it’s a short book. It’s a it’s a narratively beautiful book in terms of stories, but it’s people who have really pushed this button, the pause button or the delete button on still.
Peter Bowes: [00:12:44] And another phrase that struck me admitting I am old. Now leaving aside the I am old, just the use of the word admitting – someone admits I am a – admit brings with it a certain level of guilt, doesn’t it? And in all of my reporting over the years, it’s always been hammered home to me that be very careful about the use of word admitting because you can acknowledge something, but you’re not guilty of something and we’re not guilty of getting old.
Richard Leider: [00:13:11] Yeah, I mean, it’s a fact of life for everybody. You know how old is old? Well, it’s not necessarily an age. It’s a mindset. It’s a perception in so many ways. And so we talk about purpose as a path and a practice purpose is a verb. Purpose is something that we actually do, and we live out through active engagement. And so I, you know, my whole model is about unlocking bringing out the power of purpose because having a why – having a reason to get up in the morning – is fundamental. And that’s the number one thing that I hope your listeners would get that this is not a luxury purpose. The path of purposeful aging. Purpose is not a luxury. It is fundamental to health, to healing, to happiness and ultimately to longevity. I did a PBS special in the U.S. a few years back. It’s shown in about 400 cities. It’s still being shown and some of those. And one of the things I got to do, Peter, was to visit, which I’ve done earlier as well neuroscience labs that are measuring purpose in the brain, purpose in dementia, purpose and well-being in many ways. And one of those doctors at Johns Hopkins held up a pill. He said, Richard, you see this pill? I said, Yep, his name is Dr. Majid Fotuhi. And he said this pill will increase the quality of life. Even with Alzheimer’s will reduce reduce the incidence of macroscopic stroke by 41 one percent will help with sleep apnea. And he went on and add seven to 10 years. What do you think you want to buy it? I said, Well, of course, who wouldn’t? But is there one and what would it cost. And he smiled and he said, well, you invented it, it’s the power of purpose, he said. We now know all these other things about nutrition and diet and fasting and everything. Exercise are all essential, but so is purpose having a reason beyond yourself to get up in the morning and we’re now able to measure that. And so it’s become purposes become self-evident. So that’s really helped me over the years because, you know, every new idea goes through first ridicule, then opposition. Then ultimately with the science becomes self-evident. So purpose is now self-evident, which is a big sigh of relief for me.
The pandemic and purpose
Peter Bowes: [00:15:35] So why do so many people struggle with purpose and embracing purpose in their lives? And I wonder if it’s because, well, we’re going through difficult times now. Perhaps we’re always going through difficult times in one sense or another, but it’s been particularly bad in the last couple of years. Your book is very recently written. You reference the COVID pandemic and the real difficult times, the nightmarish times that so many people have had to go through and it’s affected people’s mental health. It’s been very difficult to look to the future for many people, and perhaps that is why this optimistic sense of purpose, positive sense of purpose becomes so difficult. It is so difficult to embrace for so many people.
Richard Leider: [00:16:20] Well, it actually I would suggest the opposite in some ways in that the pandemic, if you will, has helped people to or as force people to step back and look at life and work in time and mortality and all of these things in a more real way, rather than just as, Oh, I’ll get around to that at some time. So many people now want to quit their jobs who want to move from where they’re living, want to make different choices that have always been in the back story. But now I’ve kind of moved to to the front story in many ways. So the way that I get at this question that you’ve asked is purpose with a big p and purpose with a small p. So purpose with the big p is kind of noble. Oh, I have a purpose. I need to have a purpose like a cause or something that’s quit my day job, so to speak, and do something more noble. Purpose with a small p, however, is where I live. The big P is important, but the little p is even more important. A little p purpose i often. If it’s an audience where I can actually see people, there’s a sigh of relief when I talk about purpose with a small p because that’s what can you do on a day to day everyday basis to make a difference in life and your own life and the lives of others. So let me give your listeners the the universal worldwide default purpose. It’s only two words grow and give. That’s it. If you get up in the morning and ask, why am I here or what am I going to do today? It’s to grow and give. That’s it. That’s the universal purpose. And so think about how simple that is, but how profound it is in terms of execution, in terms of operations on a day to day basis. And so one of the practices that I preach is to write those two words on a post-it, you know, a little sticky. Put it on your mirror, grow and give. And tomorrow morning, when you wake up, ask yourself, how am I going to grow and give today? How am I going to make a difference beyond myself in one other person’s life? And at the end of the day, ask yourself, what did I do in that? Because there are 1440 purpose moments in the day. If you take sleep out, it would be less, of course. But if you add up all the moments in the day 1440 choice points, I call them purpose moments where you can step in and give somebody like Victor Frankl in the concentration camp said, give somebody a hug. A kind word a crust of bread to slurp of your soup, something that will make a difference that’ll help them create the will to live and another day. And so Frankl used to say, in spite of everything, Peter, say yes to life. And that’s what purpose is really about, in spite of it all, say yes to life, but what does that mean or what it means to me and what it meant to him was don’t ask what my purpose is big P ask what am I willing to do to make a difference in somebody else’s life today in this moment? And that’s what the little p is all about. So I hope that helps your listeners by making a distinction between the two because I think it’s an important one.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:30] I think that is it’s hugely profound. And of course, giving to others the biggest reward is ultimately what we’re giving to ourselves through that.
Self-help and growing old
Richard Leider: [00:19:40] Yeah, I mean, I love books like writing them. I like holding them. I like underlining them, books as opposed to. And I was in a bookstore recently, and I asked the woman as a big independent bookstore, and I asked the woman behind the information desk. I said, Can you tell me where the self-help section is? And she said, Well, if I tell you, won’t that defeat the whole purpose, which I laughed and she laughed, but I said, no, is there a section on aging? And she said it’s huge and growing. And so I went back to that and I found and I do find that people are looking for guidance because this is new territory. This is not something that, you know, my father’s story that I told earlier was not is, not my story. So we have this new phase of life, and I don’t know if your listeners globally have heard of something called AARP used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons. Now it’s just called Arp – Real Possibilities. But I created their life reimagined institute, which was their think tank think and do tank on the future of aging. And I was the curator of that for five years until they took it inside and made it part of their own.But what we found was that there are millions of people who wanted to join some new platform where they could look at this new phase of life, like going to the bookstore and looking for a book on this. That would be helpful because it was new territory, and often their friends and colleagues would say, Oh, well, just, you know, enjoy life and it’s leisure time. It’s not – for 30 years or 40 years. I mean, really. And so I love what the American essayist Peter E.B. White said. He said “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Well, I think the good life is about saving and savoring, but we need to find everybody’s an experiment of one. We needed to define that for ourselves. And isolation is fatal. Going it alone. Not a good idea. What we find is an epidemic of loneliness worldwide right now. Technology is helping and abetting that in certain ways.
Peter Bowes: [00:21:59] There is a right, an epidemic of loneliness. And you write in your book about, I think we’re all aware of the midlife crisis. There are at least the phrase whether we have a midlife crisis or not, but also a late life crisis. And I guess that loneliness might come into that, that you’re getting to a certain stage in your life, whether you’re 70, now 60 50. For some people, it’s the perceived as being the final phase of your life, right? And it is a crisis for some.
Richard Leider: [00:22:28] It is. And it’s a crisis because a lot of people do not have what I call a sounding board, a sounding board as people, they can really talk to about what’s up with them. They have social contacts and they have friends. But very few and a lot of people say, Yeah, they don’t really get why I’m still doing and I can attest personally. A lot of people don’t get including my neighbors, why I’m still working, why I’m still writing, why I’m still doing what I’m doing. When can’t you afford to retire and do? And I said, ‘Yeah, but this is what I love to do. Why would I? Why would I retreat, which is another word for retire from this?’ And just what we’re doing this minute, and I’m not doing it to sell books. I’m doing because I love to grow and give myself, that’s my own sense of my small p purpose. My big P purpose is to help others unlock the power of purpose, really shift their mindset. My small p is to make a difference in one person’s life every day, and that gives me great joy and great aliveness. And in so many ways. And so the late life crisis, the data is still out on that. But a lot of people have that late life crisis because they don’t have somebody that they can talk to. And so when I talk about a sounding board, I talk about like, who is your committed listener? Who’s the person who practices care versus cure? They care about you, but they’re not there to fix you. Tell me more about that, Peter. Give me an example, you know? And. As opposed to, well, here’s what I did or what I would do, type of thing. And another person on a sounding board is a wise elder who is there? Who are your exemplars of aging like like Victor Frankl was one who continued post concentration camp till the age of 93, earning 30 doctorates and continuing to speak and write. And not just the work he did, but who he was and who he brought to life was, among others, was a fortuitous type of exemplar for for, for me. And then who are your wise younger’s? Who are the younger people in your life and then who is your purpose partner? Who is the person who can really let that little post-it hold your feet to the fire and say, Well, Peter, you said you want to do this, what have you done this week? So I think the point is that we going it alone is a bad idea. Isolation is fatal. We need partners, but we need partners who really get us.
Peter Bowes: [00:24:58] Well on that point. We had Chip Conley on the podcast a few months ago, and I think he has. I know you quote Chip in your book as well. He’s probably done more than most to just change the perception of the understanding of the term elder or elderly, which has the connotations that you’ve just been talking about too, making it positive and moving into that phase where you are an elder. And of course, there are many communities around the world where the elders are the esteemed members of that society. And I think it’s certainly something I live in California, something in the United States and other parts of the world that has been lost and lost to the detriment of all of us.
Richard Leider: [00:25:37] Well, I’m a faculty in the Modern Elder Academy, and Chip’s story is in my book and he’s endorsed it and vice versa. So. But, you know, I’ve been leading walking safaris in Africa for 35 years in Tanzania, and I’ve pushed the pause button during the pandemic. But I’ll end up going back again sometime soon and sitting around the fire with elders in Africa, I’ve learned – I wrote a book called Claiming Your Place at the Fire and coauthored that one with David Shapiro as well. And what we learned was that the wisest of the elders tend to sit the closest to the fire, and there’s no manual for that. It just happens because they have the wisdom and the stories and the worth listening to. They tend to sit closest to the fire, not just for the warmth, but so we can hear them. And one time when I was doing an interview and with a very esteemed elder from a hunter gatherer, one of the last of the hunter gatherer tribes called the Hadza – Hadza – in Tanzania. And he said, Richard, how about if I ask you a question? So through a translator, he said, Richard, you know what? The two most important days in your life are? And I said, Sure, birth and death.
Richard Leider: [00:26:50] Oh, he was totally chagrined, Peter. He said, Well, birth for sure. Because of infant mortality and the way we live. You know, we’re a total sharing culture and we live out here in the bush and there’s only like 12000 of us left and. But the second most important day is the day that you determine – and as elders, we help you determine why you’re here, how you fit into community, into society. Who are you in this? And how do you embrace that? And so I think that’s kind of an eternal universal question in many ways that why I say that purpose is not only fundamental, but it’s a universal. They’ve survived 100000 years because they’ve helped people fit in and with their gifts and talents, not just their age. And so I think that whole business of helping to create a new identity at different ages and stages is really universal.
Peter Bowes: [00:27:46] Just come back to what you said about your friends and neighbors who can’t quite understand why you’re still doing this at your age, why you’re still working. And I fully understand what you say. And I guess my intention is to keep on doing this as long as I can, because I see a purpose to use that word. I see a purpose in what I’m doing. I’m curious, do you ever get accused or do people say that you’re obsessed with your specialist subject the subject of purpose? I’ve certainly heard that I was actually just yesterday listening to an interview with someone in the UK who specializes in the science of longevity, but was accused by the interviewer of being obsessed. And this comes back to the use of words. It’s used in a way that has a negative connotation. It’s not being used in a positive sense that you’re doing a great job. It’s kind of questioning your your mental approach to this and whether you should still be doing it.
Obsessions, curiosity and learning
Richard Leider: [00:28:37] Well, nothing’s worse for me than sitting on an airplane or at a dinner or a party. Next to a former anything who’s lost their obsession, who’s lost their identity, who’s lost their reason to get up in the morning, so they say, Well, I used to be a CEO and I say, So what are you obsessing about now? That’s the question I asked. And they say, What do you mean? And I said, Well, what are you really curious about? What do you passionate about? What are you interested in? How are you growing? You know, if I have to have more to say about that? And you know, I was on a program recently with the founder of TED – TED Talks, Richard Saul Wurman, and his whole thing is about curiosity. TED was created based on the ultimate dinner party where he would invite people he was really curious to learn from and to see how they would interact with each other in the area of technology, entertainment and design. That’s what TED was. And so he said, there’s millions of people today every day watching maybe billions, but millions watching TED talks. Why? Because they’re curious about something. So I would just say obsessed. Yeah, probably true about me, but not obsessed in a negative way that you know that I don’t have a life, but obsessed in a way that I’m really curious. I’m a learner. The future belongs to the learners, not the knowers. And I’m a learner and I did something that’s is available on my website, which is RichardLeider.com. It’s called my incomplete manifesto for purpose. Incomplete manifesto. Why is it? Well, every movement needs a manifesto. So I created a purpose manifesto. But it’s incomplete because I’m still learning. And so I love learning, and that learning edge does not mean having to go back to school or obsessing about things, but it really is enlivening.
Peter Bowes: [00:30:33] So what gets you out of bed every morning now as you look to your future and you’ve talked about and I fully appreciate your purpose in continuing to do what you do. You’ve talked about wanting to travel and go back to Africa and do what you’re able to do before the pandemic. What are you looking forward to?
The golden hour
Richard Leider: [00:30:50] Well, I have something called one of the practices that I practice myself is called Golden Hour. Every morning I get up, make a nice cup of coffee and write and read and I’ll say study, you know, under the rubric of grow and give, it’s my grow hour. And so I asked people, what what’s your what are your practices? Because so many people say, Oh, I’d like to write a book just like you wrote a book? And I said, Well, what are your practices for writing? And they look at me like, I’m from outer space. And I said, Well, if you don’t have a practice, you’re a reader, not a writer. And so the practice is something I enjoy doing, and I often Peter have to be interrupted when something when someone will say to me, Oh, don’t you have a meeting or don’t you have to go somewhere or don’t you? Oh yeah, I forgot, you know, because I was so engaged in it. So finding something that you’re curious, passionate and engaged in? No, it’s not for everybody, but making a little difference, a small p difference in other people’s lives. If you do that practice, I said earlier with the Post-it for for a week, you’ll get a felt sense of purpose, not just purpose as a concept, but purpose is a felt sense. It feels good to make a difference beyond yourself. And I think the people that I find the toughest for me are narcissists. People who are self-absorbed say, Well, don’t you think I’ve earned it? You know, I worked hard all these years and I said, Yeah, for a while, I think you should do whatever clean your closets, travel, play golf, fish, do whatever you love to do. But at a certain point, you know, you live in community, you live with others. And if it’s all about you all the time, you’re going to get sick. Pure and simple,
Peter Bowes: [00:32:36] I love the concept of your golden hour every morning. I think it’s a beautiful way to describe it, and I suppose we all well, maybe we all don’t. Maybe we all should have that golden hour in the morning. Mine is mine is going for a long walk with my dog, so it takes about an hour. It’s in the country. It’s relaxing, it’s it’s great exercise. It’s it’s almost spiritual. It’s the sun is just rising as I come back, oftentimes from that walk. That’s how that’s my moment. Do you have any other daily rituals that you’ve got to do every day?
Richard Leider: [00:33:06] Well, it’s related to the golden hour, but it’s called the two minute purpose practice and before getting out of bed in the morning. It’s two minutes and the two minute purpose practices is pause, meaning don’t reach for your cell phone or your computer or something like that. Secondly, take three deep breaths centering yourself. And the third is to make an intentional in your mind, an intentional difference to say: What am I doing today? Where could I make a difference today in one person’s life? Oh yes, I have this with my friend or grandson or whomever. And what could I bring to that and making that intentional act there yourself? So these are simple things, but I think that one of the things that needs to happen is a shift in mindset because purpose is not a goal. Purpose is an aim. It’s a direction you want your life to take. There are goals or practices like we’re saying along the way, but it’s it’s a mindset and part of creating a purpose. Mindset, which we call the path of purposeful aging is to learn to say no. No, is a complete sentence. No demands boundaries to say yes to something you can’t do it unless you say no because it usually requires either time or money or something that, oh, I don’t have time. Well, you’ve got all the time. There is same as me, but you’re saying, yes, the things that I’m saying no to. So what are you willing to say no to and say in order to say yes? So I always say to people and they always write it down. No. Period, no is a complete sentence. It doesn’t mean to be toxic or negative or hostile. It just means to be clear. And so part of it is to make appointments with yourself on your own calendar. You give so much time to others. And you know, we have an epidemic of busyness always going somewhere, never being anywhere. But to be someplace and to make a difference means to say no and to set those kind of intentions.
Peter Bowes: [00:35:16] And people, I think, would be surprised how others appreciate no as a full sentence because it’s an answer and it’s a clear answer. It is. People hesitate before saying no because they think they’re being rude or dismissive in some way, whereas actually it’s the clear answer that a lot of people want to hear from you.
Richard Leider: [00:35:33] I could have said to you, I’ll try to be on this today, this podcast today, which means I’ll probably won’t or I’ll, you know, I’m not committed or you can count on it. I’m committed or no, Peter, I can’t do that. So I mean, trying is OK at times, but it’s basically an opt out in certain ways. That is, as you said, kind of messy with others.
Peter Bowes: [00:35:57] One thing that you don’t do in the book is essentially reach a conclusion on behalf of everyone. You raise a lot of issues and pose a lot of questions. But then ultimately the message is it is for us, the reader to decide based on our own lives. But you, you set out the stall, you raise the issues, but you’re not telling people what to do.
Richard Leider: [00:36:20] Well, there are nine questions. Each chapter is a question and with some very profound stories to back it up because as I said, everybody’s an experiment of one. We don’t have a silver bullet, but I would push back on what you said by this. We start with what we call the long conversation, but we end with the ultimate conversation. And what we say is that ultimately you’re going to have to have this conversation. So have it earlier than later. And the the ultimate conversation is is about death, basically. And the three questions that we talk about is what do you think happens when you die? And we answer that both of us. How would you like to die? And we answer that in. The third question is what gifts do you want to leave the world before you die? Which is a profound question about, you know? So those are three things we think, as St Benedictine said with a couple of our stories keep death daily before your eyes. Some people would find that to be very morbid. We find many more people are saying that is helping us to really make choices today about saying yes and saying no and some of the things we’ve been talking about because you can’t just avoid it. Or, you know, at some point there is there is an end. And so the but the nine chapters, it’s only the books, only one hundred and thirty pages long and you. So it has it’s easy to our read in the evening, nice little hardcover, beautifully designed book. And if I might say so and I find it, it adds to having that conversation with somebody else like we’re having right now. But but I’m talking about somebody in your own orbit.
Peter Bowes: [00:38:06] And I agree with you. It is a beautifully written book. It is, as you say, it’s a sit down in the evening and read it in its entirety and then just think about what you’ve been reading, and you mentioned those questions that you pose to yourselves about death and and other issues will not go into now what your answers…
Richard Leider: [00:38:23] There in the book.
Peter Bowes: [00:38:25] But they’re in the book. Exactly. And they are. They make for a fascinating read, as does the entire book. And I’m really grateful to you for writing it because it does go along with what I think and what I try to talk about on this podcast. I don’t tell anyone what to do. I think ultimately it’s up to people to listen to people like yourself and perhaps reach some decisions for themselves and perhaps a new perspective on their own lives.
Richard Leider: [00:38:51] John O’Donohue, the Irish, late Irish poet, said the question holds the lantern. The question holds the lantern. So what we’ve offered are questions and stories of how people have answered those questions, but ultimately have left it up to you. So we hope that we’ve held the lantern the light for people to have those conversations with themselves and others. So so far, so good.
Peter Bowes: [00:39:15] Richard, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you very much indeed.
Richard Leider: [00:39:18] Me too. Thank you so much, Peter.
Peter Bowes: [00:39:20] Richard Leider, whose book with David Shapiro is Who do you want to be When you grow Old, the Path of Purposeful Aging, you’ll find Richard at RichardLeider.com. And I’ll add that link to the show notes for this episode. You’ll also find a transcript of this conversation there. You can search our entire catalog of past episodes, including the conversation I mentioned with Chip Conley. The episode is titled Wisdom, Curiosity and the Modern Elder. The Live Long and Master Aging website is at LLAMAPodcast.com That’s LLAMAPodcast.com. In social media you’ll find us @LLAMApodcast, and you can contact me and please do @PeterBowes. This is a Healthspan Media Production you’ve already found us, but a quick reminder we’re available at all of the major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Pandora, to name a few. Wherever you find us, do take care and thank you for listening.
The Live Long and Master Aging podcast, a HealthSpan Media LLC production, shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.