Just as you begin to thaw-out from the winter, I suggest a series of articles, speeches, and a film for you to read or watch. No pressure…this is evergreen material that can wait for a long airplane ride or a drizzly, rainy summer day…
LET’S START WITH HAPPINESS. My speaking career got a positive jolt when I spoke at TED in 2010 on what CEO’s (and all of us) can learn from Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. While the teenage King popularized the concept of metrics with meaning, when he said he cared more about his country’s GNH than its GNP, Bhutan has never been atop the global happiness list. Denmark has repeatedly won this honor and this article suggests it has a lot to do with the Danish cultural construct of “hygge,” a premise that suggests even cold weather countries can be happy. So stop sniveling about the fact spring feels like winter where you live and just cozy-up.
MY HAPPINESS HERO. Just a couple years before I spoke at TED, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (who wrote the Forewords to my last two books) asked me to come to the company’s Las Vegas headquarters and talk to employees at their All-Hands meeting. Tony was cogitating his bestselling book, Delivering Happiness, at that time so we talked about that and I introduced my new book, PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. Tony shut down the company (truly) for four hours as I was the first external speaker at an All-Hands meeting. A decade later, I was invited back last month to talk about PEAK again. Here’s my speech, with me dressed like an aging Chippendale’s dancer because, of course, I was in Vegas!
THE TOLL OF UNHAPPY EMPLOYEES. There are a few companies in the world, Zappos included, that believe it’s their mission to create a culture of happiness for their employees. And, then there are the rest of the toxic workplaces. That’s what my friend and Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer writes about in his new book, Dying for a Paycheck. I’ve often said it’s great we’ve started calculating the environmental footprint of companies, but it’s time we measure the “emotional fist-print” (as in the figurative fist to the jaw many workers feel) of how work impacts not just employees’ emotions but also the emotions of their families. Jeff’s book may be the catalytic Silent Spring (Rachel Carson’s seminal book on the environment) of workplace health.
SINGAPORE CONTINUES TO IMPRESS ME. When PEAK launched more than a decade ago, I was lucky to be asked to give speeches on every continent but Antarctica. Singapore was the #1 spot where I gave speeches outside the U.S. Their cultural passion for innovation – both in companies and the government – has stayed with me and been reignited as I’ve spent more time understanding how various countries around the world address their aging populations. Singapore has invested in “second-skilling” their citizens so that they can adapt in a constantly changing world economy. The U.S. could learn a few things from Singapore.
IBM CAUGHT WITH ITS PANTS DOWN. Singapore may earn a Longevity Lover’s Hall of Fame honor, but IBM earns a Hall of Shame award for their systematic rooting-out of older workers as evidenced in this comprehensive article in ProPublica. Maybe shining the light on these institutionalized practices will get the EEOC to start looking at ageism as a discriminatory practice that needs to be more aggressively dealt with by the legal system.
REAPING THE BENEFITS OF AN AGING WORKFORCE. Fortunately, IBM may be more and more an outlier as chronicled in this New York Times story about how employers are starting to wake-up to the fact that demographics necessitate a rethinking of their experienced employees.
A BEAUTIFUL OSCAR CONTENDER. Face Places should have won the 2018 Academy Award for “Best Documentary.” Made by the 89-year-old avant-garde filmmaker Agnés Varda and her young friend known simply as JR, the film is an intergenerational buddy movie, a road film, and a rumination on “modern elderism.” It beautifully shows so much of what I have explored in my upcoming book, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder: the beginner’s mind, the delights and unexpected learnings of an internship, the joy of new collaborations, and the gentle seeding of insight and wisdom that experience has to offer.
WHAT CAN YOU TEACH A MILLENNIAL? As power in a digital society cascades to the young faster and faster, I believe wisdom and experience are about to make a comeback. You have something to offer those younger than you and they can teach you a few things as well. I love this bit of career advice about what 50-year-olds can teach 20-year-olds. If you had to come up with 15 things you’ve learned in your life so far, that you would pass on as your wisdom legacy, what would they be?
WHEN IN DOUBT, READ A LITTLE RAM DASS. “I remember when I became irrelevant. I mean, you can walk down certain streets in any city and you’re either a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant. I became a walking lamp post after awhile. It was incredible because people look right through you, they don’t even see you. At first I got all uptight about it and I’d wear my hair spread all over my head and do all these things. Get tighter suits and diet and everything so I’d be somebody, but then it’s a new moment, and you realize that’s the way it is.” This is how Ram Dass’ rumination on aging starts, but by the end of his short blog post, you’ll come away smiling about how to be relevant in all kinds of new ways.
LEARNING TO SURF IN MY 50s. Unwittingly, I learned to surf disruption in my mid-50s when the millennial founders of Airbnb asked me to help take their small tech startup and turn it into a global hospitality giant. That’s the subject of my next book (launches September 18), but it’s also the landscape of my next speech, Surfing Disruption, which I launched in Tallahassee, Florida at the end of January. If you want to learn how to surf the accelerated waves of change in the world, you might enjoy watching this speech (I begin at 30:00). As for me, I’m hanging out in Baja for more than a month and it’s time for me to go surf some morning waves.
*Photo credit: Vanessa Inn