Season 1
17 Minutes

E45 | Special Edition | Elder Wisdom Isn’t What You Think It Is

Here are 3 brilliant guests who help me bust some misconceptions about what elder wisdom is - and what it isn't:

Chip Conley, 61: Former Head of Hospitality and Global Strategy at Airbnb, Founder of the Modern Elder Academy

Steven Petrow, 64: Acclaimed Washington Post & New York Times columnist, author of the best-selling Stupid Things I Won't Do When I Get Old

Marge Schiller, Ph.D., 83: Appreciative Inquiry Thought-leader, Author, Intergenerationalist

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Achim Nowak  00:03

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. If life is a five act play, how will you spend your FOURTH ACT? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected FOURTH ACTS, listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening on. Let’s get started.  Hello, as the host of this podcast, I have the privilege of speaking with some really cool people about what it means to be a modern elder. And you may have lots of associations just by hearing the word elder. And one of the guests I was really excited to speak with was Chip Conley to Conley was the VP of hospitality and global strategy for Airbnb. He helped grow that brands to what it is today. He’s written a bunch of marvelous books. Cesar has a long career in hospitality. But the book that really stood out for me is called wisdom at work. The Making of a modern elder. To chip has really played around with the meaning of what it is to be a modern elder. He founded an organization called a modern elder Academy. And we spoke about so the first time actually, when he began at Airbnb, the first time that he was called a modern elder. And what was meant by that, let’s listen.

Chip Conley  02:01

So Brian calls me and says, Chip, how would you like to democratize hospitality, democratize hospitality. That’s interesting. And then he starts telling me about Airbnb. Now, this was eight and a half years ago, I’d never used it to know much about it. And like many hoteliers, I thought it was just sort of this millennial thing that would never go anywhere. But their headquarters was 12 blocks from my home. So this was not an easy, this was not a hard thing to say yes to because it was like, okay, I can walk to work. But I said to him, I’ll mentor you. I’ll give you 15 hours a week. And then let’s see how it goes. And but within a few weeks, it was like, wow, Brian, you need me a lot more than 15 hours a week, you need me 15 hours a day? And and he said, Yeah, I know. And I said, Well, why didn’t you say that? He says, I didn’t know we needed you that much. Because it was a fast growing company, but was still quite small. Yeah, there was nobody in the company who had a hospitality background, or, frankly, much of a leadership background. So I became the head of Global Hospitality and strategy, and was Brian’s mentor. And in many ways, I took what I learned from Jawad Aviv, about how to create a great culture, I applied it there, took what I learned about the hospitality and travel business, applied it there, took what I learned about leadership and entrepreneurship, applied it there. And I spent four years in a full time role helping this little steer this rocket ship with the founders, until I then moved to a strategic advisor role, which I did for four years, as well. So eight, basically eight years total.

Achim Nowak  03:31

So when you started at Airbnb, were you an elder? Man, I have this vision of these these young guys. And they’re saying, Yeah, we need an older dude, with some experience, let’s call Chip Conley.

Chip Conley  03:41

I don’t think they were actually looking, I don’t think they actually were looking necessarily for an older person, but they were definitely looking for someone with experience. So okay, that usually will mean an older person. Yeah. What they were looking for us, I was 52 at the time, I’m 60 now, so 52 I just I came to the office for the first time and realized, Oh, my God, these people are so young. And I knew the founders were young, but the founders were 31 and 29, there were three founders 231 129, but the average age in the company was was 26. So I was twice the age. And within the first month, someone called me that, you know, Airbnbs, modern elder, and I said was that mean? What does that mean to be a rotten elder? And they said, that means you’re as curious as you are wise, because a modern elder has to understand the context for how to deliver their wisdom. But you’re also as the person said to me, and of course they knew it. You’ve never worked in a tech company before. And so you’re working in a tech company for the very first time and so you better be curious because otherwise you’re gonna go running for the hills and that is true. I was very scared the first couple first few months because I really felt like an imposter. Here I am supposed to be helping the founders run this company and and be the wise elder but at times I felt like the imbecile you know that somebody who just to not understand the world. And of course, I was also the head of strategy for a tech company. It’s like, I’ve never worked at a tech company. What did you know? So the lingo was the lingo and everything else was really something I had to learn quickly. And I think there’s something to that. I think that you know, when you are putting yourself as a midlife are in a situation where you have to actually learn something new. It’s, it’s great. It forces you from a fixed mindset, a growth mindset. And when you’re in a growth mindset, you’re less worried about how it looks. And are you going to be successful, you’re more focused on are you learning how to find success as a learner.

Achim Nowak  05:41

I spoke with award winning journalist, Steven Petrow, last June, right after his book, stupid things I want to do when I get old was published. That is, to me a completely irresistible title. This book is funny and poignant. And it has been a best seller from the moment it came out and continues to be so. Steven Petro also gave a wonderful 2019 TED talk called Three ways to practice civility, which has been viewed nearly 2 million times and translated into 16 languages all over the world. As Steven and I spoke about getting older, and things we don’t want to do, we got into a marvelous conversation around dating as we age, dating on dating apps. And whether or not it behooves us to state our actual age. And Stephen engaged in a little experiment around claiming your actual age. When you’re dating, let’s listen.

Steven Petrow  07:06

I got divorced from my husband about three years ago, now we’d been together for 14. And there had been websites and I think had existed prior to our getting together. But this whole world of apps was something it was brand new. So three, four years ago, so I was actually 59 Yeah, who would ever believe somebody was actually 50? No, I didn’t, you know, their, their life. And if they say that, so I was pushing it down a little bit. And then it felt uncomfortable. And and then when I would meet people, they would say, so are you really whatever age I had said, well, now I’m actually 59 it became awkward and became like, well, that’s the first topic of conversation. And that’s a problem. So, I did an experiment. And I was on three different apps. And I was sorry, became three different ages, I was younger. And then I was I was my real age, and then something in between, and what what I learned was, it really didn’t matter except to me. If someone who’s younger was looking for an older person, a daddy, now I was gonna qualify whether I was 59 or 62. If they wanted someone age appropriate, that was fine. And if they didn’t want someone quote, unquote, hold, I was gone. I’ve done so that really kind of like pushed me to be 63 or whatever my ages. And next week, I’ll be 64. Yeah, and part of my interviewing was fellow icon to college with he suddenly appeared on on one of these, and that he was now 10 years younger than me. Wow. I was actually like, Well, you look terrible for that age. You look fine for our age. Yeah. And I said to him, well, so how does that work out for you? Kind of like, paused and everything. He said, Well, when I meet people, I always tell them my real age. Behind them what happens I said, and he said, Well, half of them get up and leave. But half of them stay. You know, that was his strategy. You know, last I looked, he was still single. I’m still single too. So I you know, honestly may only go so far and need a little bit of magic to

Achim Nowak  09:13

Marge Schiller is a luminary and thought leader in a wonderful field of communication called appreciative inquiry. She has written several books. She is a lifelong learner. She is a teacher. She’s a mentor. She is an activist. And she is opinionated and curious about life. Marge, is also the oldest guest I’ve had on my fourth podcast Marge is 83. And we were talking about, well, what’s the difference of the fourth act? And am I in my fourth act? Or perhaps I’m in my fifth act, and what are some things I’m in investigating or learning. In my fifth act is my chat with Marge Shiller. Now, this is called the my fourth act podcast. And you are the oldest guest I’ve had on the podcast so far Marge Schiller. And I love talking with you. Because when I met you, you were 76. And in my mind in your fourth act, and you asked me this provocative question, well, when does the fourth act end? And when are we in our fifth act? And I want to throw it back at you like, how do you make sense of that for yourself?

Marge Schiller  10:41

Well, first of all, because I know you are seeped in theater, and I am a lover of theater. I thought about it not as a fifth act. But as a CODA, as what’s something that brings things together at the end. And as it is my nature, I deconstructed the word, a, co da. And this, this is a refreshing some of the things I’ve said before, but it’s really where I want to leave the conversation, because it’s important. Anything that I think about, there’s a caveat. Right now, there is a wonderful opportunity that I would love, I would love to take advantage of. And I can’t do it right now, because my husband needs too much care. And so there’s a caveat. What is the it’s sort of like, it’s sort of like, when you go and look at the cherries in the supermarket. And when they’re 795 pounds, you say I don’t like cherries that much. But at 495 or 395. I want those cherries. So what’s, what’s the cost? The second. So that’s the see, then, oh, his opportunities, and they look different now. In the I see things as opportunities that never struck me as opportunities before. And then I see opportunities that I would have been ecstatic about in my fourth act, that I no longer I don’t see them as opportunity I see as opportunities to lay aside. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a player. Yeah, it means that the nature of the opportunity is changed. Because if D is discerning everything now is about what’s in the background and what’s in the foreground. My big learning is who said the body was going to be in charge. said that we made that one up. I always thought my head was in charge and that I understood my heart. But not only is the body in charge, it turns out, the body is very smart. The body is very, very smart. And I did not understand that the body was very smart. So I would say that one of the things in the coda of this play is listening to my body and saying, Oh, you’re tired. You know what you could do? You could sit down for 20 minutes, you could take a nap. What a concept. I never took a nap in my life. So that’s cod, but the A is the most important one. And that is about authenticity. I cannot say enough for Get Real, Be Real, particularly in this extraordinary time that we’re living in right now. Probably the most interesting time for reexamining so much has gone on during the time of COVID and the multiple pandemics. I believe that I do not feel defined by this time. And I hope you don’t feel that way either. But I do hope that the pandemics the multiple pandemics are a time where we can redefine ourselves. So in the Kota you’re playing Let’s redefine.

Achim Nowak  14:48

Cherish so many of the pearls of wisdom that Marge just shared with me and us. I love the word discernment And I also really appreciate the way March invites us to look at opportunities and then you and fresh way and allow our understanding of opportunities to evolve and change. So in that spirit, I wish you lots and lots of great discernment. And I wish you a wonderful and fun time exploring the opportunities in your life. Warm greetings. And let’s talk again soon. Bye bye.  Like what you heard, please go to my fourth And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us a review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao


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