LIVING IN THE AGE OF THE MODERN ELDER

We live in a provocative time. Power is sipping from the fountain of youth. The digital age has crowned a new set of billionaire business leaders who are in their mid-thirties. And yet, medical technology advances will have us living a decade or two longer than our parents or grandparents. So, power has shifted ten years younger at the same as life expectancy has shifted ten years older. This creates a fascinating and concerning sociological condition for the modern age. Life expectancy is being solved. Life relevancy - for those in the second half of an increasingly long life - is still a riddle.



 
WE NEVER STOP PEAKING
I had the good fortune of speaking at the Aging 2.0 conference at University of California San Francisco recently in which I presented this PEAK slide for our aging population. My experience as a leader at Airbnb (with a smart employee population that’s half my age), the founder of Fest300 (and my life in the festival world), a board member of Burning Man, and having a youthful spirit has me percolating a book idea about what it means to be a Modern Elder today. I’ve also been championing Airbnb as a community that gives those over 60 years of age a new way of being in the world as outlined in this blog post.
THE JOY OF MENTORING
My life feels relevant based upon the mentorship I’ve given to (and received from) 33-year old Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky who has an abundantly growth-oriented mindset. Fast Company profiled my role as Brian’s advisor last year and Brian’s education as a passionate learner was recently chronicled in Fortune. I’ve been mentoring about a dozen leaders in the company and am really encouraged by the future of cross-generational wisdom sharing. The Economist did an insightful review of the myths about millennials earlier this month and the New York Times just published tips for how to get along with a younger boss.

ANCIENT WISDOM
African scholar Malidoma Some wrote, “Where ritual is absent, the young ones are restless or violent, there are no real elders, and the grown-ups are bewildered.” In this video, he suggests that a person’s purpose involves the commitment to search for and find the lost harmony within one’s self and in connection with their village. We thirst for connection - both within ourselves and within our community. There’s quite a bit to be learned from Africa. In fact, Brian, who is now a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, just got back from Kenya where he and President Obama met and encouraged young entrepreneurs.

I also just welcomed two of my favorite people on the planet - Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith - to an Airbnb Fireside Chat on the rituals of African tribes. These two women have been traveling to Africa for 40 years learning from nearly 200 tribal groups in the farthest reaches of the continent. This talk sent shivers up the spines of our young employees who came to realize that a modern form of ritual (in America) is making a pilgrimage to Burning Man or Bonnaroo. This is why I find it fascinating that festivals are making such a comeback in the 21st century. Here’s my TEDx talk on finding our humanity at festivals.
MY TOP TEN PLACES IN THE WORLD
Having spent nearly 30 years in the travel business, I’m often asked by the media about my favorite spots in the world. Recently, I was asked about my 10 favorite places to be in the world. Maybe the fact the reporter said “be” not “go to” influenced my answer as 9 of my 10 choices started with the letter “B”: Bali, Brazil, Bhutan, Barcelona, Britain, Big Sur, Bolinas, Baja, and Black Rock City (Burning Man). My 10th place is in Africa: Morocco. Not sure why B has cast such a spell on me, but these are definitely places where I really feel I can BE me. What would your top 10 be and is there a common first letter?
Baja has become my second home over the past four years as I’ve been helping to vision a new community, Tres Santos, dedicated to wellness just south of Todos Santos (one hour north of Cabo San Lucas). I’m so pleased that my friend Liz Lambert, the founder of the Bunkhouse boutique hotel group who I mentored more than 15 years ago, will be creating a hotel on the beach as part of Tres Santos. This article in Skift outlines why I think more people will be keeping an eye on Todos Santos and the desire for living in a community dedicated to vitality. Come visit as you’ll find me surfing, beachcombing, doing yoga, and learning Spanish down there...and maybe taking a much-deserved daily siesta.

Photo: Nina Dietzel

RITE OF PASSAGE
I turn 55 this Halloween and, as I have done every five years since turning 30, I will be celebrating with - and expressing gratitude for - friends old and new. We always celebrate somewhere wonderful in the world and this year we'll gather in Todos Santos where Dia de los Muertos and All Saints are celebrated as well. I am especially grateful for three friends who’ve been at all six of these bashes, affectionately known as my “Wise Elders.” What rituals are you weaving into your life to create a sense of sacred passages, meaning, and relevancy?
Enjoy the second half of summer and, for some of you, the second half of life!