This week I added another trip around the sun, making it 62 in total. Since we are all about age here, it has been suggested that I review some of what has changed in the last year and some of what I have learned.
What would this year have been like without a pandemic? Probably a lot like the year before. But a circulating, highly contagious, potentially fatal disease has a way of opening up one’s thinking to what one really wants to do.
Escaping the City
The obvious change for me has been to choose not to live in a city this year. In my adult life this is a first and one that would never ever have been on the menu a year ago. Having been living in a small town in the mountains of Utah for the better part of the last 8 months, I have come to the surprising realization that not only can I create and make good work here, but the work is also easier and more flowing than when I was in a city. Having a constant interaction with nature and something as simple as the weather is a great reset. That said, a binary lifestyle seems best, spending time in big cities to gather energy, then returning to the country to understand, reflect, and output some creativity. My recollection is that this is how Carl Jung worked. I am very much looking forward to checking in with some of the world’s big urban centers. Bangkok 2021?
Finding Flow With Remote Work
I have also found that although in-person face-to-face work is great, remote work is also fine. A regular bi-yearly in-person meetup is needed, then doing most everything remotely seems to work pretty well, perhaps even better than having everyone in one place all the time. We have not had an office since March. At the time, I mourned its loss but now it seems ridiculous that we had one at all. The adjustment to working from home, even for someone like myself who has never worked in a regular job, was a bit tricky. Partially this was the lack of predictability and fear around the virus, and partially it was having to create time structures within the day with clear objectives so that every day didn’t become Groundhog Day. I’ve found that if I give each day a theme, and then break the days into blocks that are for specific work, more good things happen.
Altered Fitness Routine
For my fitness regime, this lack of predictability and lack of having a prescribed space is something I still find challenging. Having a gym, and having a daily appointment at that gym, gave me the structure to really dial in strength training, cardio, flexibility, etc. If it was Monday, I knew it was going to be a heavy lower-body day. Without a gym, and without all that gear, the routine has become much more ad hoc. I have a modest set of kettlebells, my beloved Schwinn IC4 bike, some heavy elastic bands, and a few apps to help me out. This is not the same thing as having a squat rack and a trainer, and it shows on my body. My body fat is up to 12% from 10%, and my strength is way off. But who knows, it could be that changing up the routine every year or so is a good thing.
Connecting With Friends Around the World
One big thing I discovered this year was how important my relationships are. It is easy to let friendships slide when one is around people all the time but, here in semi-isolation, taking the time to send an email, or pick up the phone and check in with people becomes a necessity. A surprising thing about this year has been the dramatic expansion of my connection with people around the world. Zoom has flattened the world, with time zones, rather than physical distance being the impediment — an unexpected upside to the Covid lifestyle.
Tackling New Challenges
There have been a number of new initiatives here at AGEIST and now SuperAge. Whenever I am asked to take on something new, my standard answer is: No, I cannot possibly learn this new thing and find the time in my week to do whatever it is. What can I say? No is my go-to reflex and a constant challenge to overcome. I’ll ponder a request, maybe give it a try, practice a bit, and before I know it these things are part of our daily workflow. At 62, my range of skills and abilities has expanded significantly from age 61.
This year my bibliomania has kicked into high gear, while at the same time my patience with anything television has dropped precipitously. I can recall three TV/Netflix series I have watched during the entire year — perhaps that Netflix subscription should be re-evaluated. What I long for are actual movies in an actual movie theater where I do not have the distractions of the home around to disrupt the experience. In the meantime, I am on track to have finished 40 books this year, a new record for word consumption, and shelf space occupancy.
Part of my book obsession is that because I live in the hinterlands, for a good portion of the year I did not have a mailbox, meaning no magazines, no newspapers. If you want to make a credit card company nervous, tell them that you don’t have a mailing address. Actually, telling them that is a really bad idea.
Here are some questions that our discerning readers wanted answers to:
Michelle asked: I’m 59, turning 60 next year. Do you still have a lot of energy and how do you stay fit?
Oh yes! I manage a very demanding work week and still get in an hour of exercise 5 days a week. I find that one of the keys to having energy is to expend energy via physical activity. If I am feeling slothful, I’ll knock out a set of pushups, or get on the floor and hold a plank for as long as I can. I try to get out and walk several times a day. This is mostly to clear my head, and it works. Activity also helps me sleep, which I find is one of the secrets of age.
Cynthia asked: Are you going to collect Social Security while there’s still money there? I plan to when I turn 62!
Cynthia, I have zero knowledge of Social Security, how it works, when you draw or the consequences of drawing. Since I am working full time, and intend to do so for at least another 20 years, it is not really on my radar. Ask me again in 2040 and I may have a better answer for you. We do want to talk more about financial planning at AGEIST in the future and are already booking financial folks for the SuperAge podcast.
Aging With Grace asked: Do you think younger people look at you and think you have nothing else to add to the world?
When I first read your question I interpreted it as: younger people, while in my awesome presence, felt they could not add anything new to the world. Clearly not your question, but the thought amused me. Seeing as how I output more work, more creativity, more stories and more everything than at any time in my life, although younger people may feel I am beyond contributing, they would be misinformed. As Steve Smith and I talk about on The SuperAge podcast this week, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum, one of the great buildings of the 20th century, when he was in his mid-80s. We all can go much farther than we may believe we can. You may also be interested in knowing that about 25% of our readers are under the age of 30.
Sarah asked: How did you learn all the stuff you write about?
So much of this health, wellness, and fitness knowledge is the result of decades of experience. I started taking fish oil supplements in my early 30s. I have been physically training in one form or another for about 25 years. I also have a degree in mechanical engineering, of which I can recall close to zero, but it gave me the fundamentals of how to understand somewhat complex science. Hint: once you are able to pronounce intimidating multisyllabic scientific names, it all becomes pretty much common sense.
Brian asked: What was the hardest thing about changing careers?
That is a great question, and although I could answer it with an enumeration of the various skills I had to humbly learn, the real answer is that the hardest thing was overcoming me. I had an idea of what I was good at, and I took that to mean it was the only thing I was good at. I happened to be good at this one thing because I had spent my life up to that point mastering it. This carried with it the delusion that it was the only thing I could possibly do. Wrong. What I had to learn, was that I was a very poor judge of what I was good at and that I am well served to listen to others on that topic. One of the wonderful attributes of this new life is the variety of daily experiences and challenges, especially the requests from our consulting clients. They come from a wide array of industries all wanting to better understand how people like us are living.
Lee asked: What is your week like?
My weeks are all different, but the structures are similar, as they revolve around the weekly rhythm of the AGEIST Newsletter and the SuperAge Podcast. We are generally working on a number of client projects at any given time, which may involve consulting, doing research or producing content. There are often interviews for other podcasts and for other media outlets who want to know what we are thinking about people in our cohort. There are always the interviews for our AGEIST profiles, editorial meetings, social media sessions, and our twice-a-month Happy Hours that I do with Chip Conley. I take Saturdays off to generally loaf about. Sunday afternoons are when we assemble the SuperAge podcast, as it is the only day in which there are not the incessant waves of phone, text, and emails to respond to.
Emma asked: At what age do you feel you hit your stride professionally?
As a photographer, around 45, but with AGEIST, it is still a work in progress. I’ll know in another 15-20 years.
Megan asked: What’s an unexpected surprise of and what is an unexpected challenge of aging?
The most unexpected part of aging is how much control we have over it. It seemed like a pre-ordained grim reality to be accepted, but actually I find I have tremendous control over it. The hardest part is re-calibrating my fitness, as I require more recovery time these days.
Candace asked: What advice would you give to someone your age looking for love?
The best advice I ever heard on the subject was: Just keep doing what you love, keep growing and learning, and you will attract similar people. Looking works for some people, but never worked for me; it was always about people coming into my world and me staying open to things.
BurlyBest asked: Coffee or tea?
Double espresso every morning with a bit of Keto creamer. I’ll do a matcha now and again, but it doesn’t fuel me the way coffee does.
Kelly asked: In what ways have you remained childlike?
Ha! Perhaps a better answer would be in what ways am I not childlike. Financially I am an adult, but in most other ways I am a wide-eyed kid. I am constantly surprised and awed by what I see and the people I meet.
Teacher Chambers asked: Do you find yourself forgetting things the more you get older? Is it hard to learn something new?
Not at all. It is easier to pick up languages, new skills, vocabulary. My memory seems unchanged, too. At least in my experience, this whole idea of people in their 60s being in decline mentally seems like an exaggeration. You also asked about loose skin. This I am noticing a bit under my chin, but otherwise not so much.
Marcus asked: What is the strangest thing you have eaten and liked?
There are so many strange things that I really dislike: fried grasshoppers, live fish, weird brain stuff…yuk. My culinary sense of adventure is decidedly limited. Lately, I have been buying salmon roe from the local Japanese market and eating it by the spoonful. Is that strange? My wife thinks so.