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Episode 445
The Doctor's Farmacy

Turning A Midlife Crisis Into A Midlife Calling

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

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It’s not surprising that a near-death experience can completely alter the way we view life. But it is surprising that, in general, people often underestimate the amount of life they have left ahead of them.

This means they write off the ability to learn new things or make major changes mid-life, even when it comes to pursuing lifelong dreams and goals. Letting go of the cultural constructs that frame the course of our lives and embracing a fresh, beginner’s mindset, actually leads to many psychological and physiological benefits.

We can go through our remaining years feeling more fulfilled, happier, and healthier if we open ourselves up to all the possibilities that are waiting.

Today on The Doctor’s Farmacy, I talk about all this and more with Chip Conley.

Chip and I dig into the three key concepts of longevity (purpose, wellness, and community) which we see evident in the Blue Zones. He shares the life lessons he’s learned from these ideas, along with his own story of a near-death experience and how it changed his perspective on the second half of life.

Most people have a negative association with the term “mid-life.” Chip helps us redefine it, along with the word “elder,” and puts an upbeat and insightful spin on how we can all share our own wisdom and appreciate the advice others have to share with us. His experience starting at Airbnb in his 50s, without any prior tech experience, is sure to inspire you that anything is possible when we keep doors open.

Chip wants to help people in mid-life and later realize they are useful, without needing to be youthful. In our culture that idealizes youth, Chip and I explore the beautiful parts of aging, from increased emotional intelligence, pattern recognition, and even systemic thinking to greater happiness. At 62, I know I’ve noticed these things in my own life, as I’ve learned more about what matters to me and makes me happy, separating what I authentically want out of life from all the “to-dos” and “shoulds.”

We talk about becoming conscious of the aging process, changing our operating system from ego-focused to soul-focused, and making the space for more of the things that feel important to us.

It’s never too late to change and make life what you want it to be. I hope you’ll tune in.

This episode is brought to you by BiOptimizers, Paleovalley, and Rupa Health.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Here are more of the details from our interview (audio):

  1. Chip’s near-death experience and how it changed his perspective on mid-life
    (6:11)
  2. Embracing a beginner’s mindset at middle age and beyond
    (9:58)
  3. The 3 key things we need after age 50
    (12:53)
  4. The definition of a “modern elder”
    (16:35)
  5. Becoming useful vs. youthful
    (22:10)
  6. Unexpected pleasures of aging
    (23:57)
  7. The connection between life satisfaction and age
    (26:10)
  8. Key tenants of the Modern Elder Academy
    (33:49)
  9. Growing younger as you age
    (39:10)
  10. Disrupting the retirement and higher education structures for longlife learning
    (43:33)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Chip Conley

Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author and the hospitality maverick who helped Airbnb’s founders turn their fast-growing tech start-up into a global hospitality brand. In [email protected]: The Making of a Modern Elder he shares his unexpected journey at midlife—from CEO to intern—learning about technology as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, while also mentoring CEO Brian Chesky. Chip is the founder of the Modern Elder Academy, where a new roadmap for midlife is offered at a beautiful oceanfront campus in Baja California Sur, Mexico. He serves on the board of Encore.org and the advisory board for the Stanford Center for Longevity.

Show Notes

  1. Learn more about Modern Elder Academy

Transcript

Speaker 1:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Chip Conley:
Wellness is not just about your own … What you do personally, physically. It’s the social wellness in terms of who you surround yourself with.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy, I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, that’s Farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve ever wondered about what is going to be the second half of your life, what it looks like, how we might reimagine aging and mid-life, then this conversation’s going to matter to you. And it’s something that’s particularly interesting to me now because I’m almost 62, so I’m like, “Wait a minute. How did I get here? What am I doing? Where am I going? And what’s next to have a meaningful, deep, fulfilling life?”

Chip Conley:
And what’s your birthday? What’s your birthday, Mark?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
My birthday is 11/22/59. And-

Chip Conley:
11/22 … So, you’re a Scorpio?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m a Scorpio, yes.

Chip Conley:
So am I.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
All right. Well [inaudible 00:01:03] that man is our guest, his name is Chip Conley. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, he’s a hospitality maverick, and he helped Airbnb’s founders turn their fast-growing tech startup into a global hospitality brand. In his book, Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, he shares is unexpected life journey in mid-life, from CEO to intern, and learning about technology as Airbnb’s head of global hospitality and strategy, while also mentoring CEO, Brian Chesky. Chip is the founder, and this is what we’re going to talk about today, he’s the founder of Modern Elder Academy. What a great idea, which is really a new roadmap for mid-life. He offers programs in a beautiful oceanfront campus in Baja, California, which I’ve been to, it’s beautiful.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And also New Mexico. He serves on the board of Encore, and the advisory board for Stanford Center for Longevity. So, welcome Chip.

Chip Conley:
Thank you Mark, good to be with you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
All right. So, we met in Mexico a few months ago, and I was so intrigued because all of our norms, and beliefs, and attitudes about aging, and what happens to us, and the meaning of life, all this in this culture is just … We’ve got it so screwed up. And I just got back, I got back from Sardinia, which is where they have the longest lived men in the world. And of course, women too. One couple, combined age was 110. No sorry, 210.

Chip Conley:
210, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
210. She was 109, he was 101 when he died. And it brought up the question of how do we live in a way that honors and values the elderly? And includes them in our society in a way that we haven’t? They end up being discarded, they retire, get their gold watch, end up in the nursing home. But there, I mean, nobody’s in a nursing home. It’s just fascinating. So, we’re going to get into all this. And I want to move back to a time in your life when you died.

Chip Conley:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It was in 2008, and you had a divine intervention of the heart, where your heart literally stopped after giving a speech on a book tour. You basically flatlined nine times. So, tell us about that experience, and being so close to death, and what that did to you. How’d it change you? How’d it make you rethink your life?

Chip Conley:
Wow. What a hello here.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We’ll get into it. We just don’t have any time to waste.

Chip Conley:
Well, first of all it’s an honor to be with you, Mark. Yeah, so I was 47 years old, which I have only later found out that if you look at the studies of the U-Curve of Happiness, the lowest point in adult happiness or life satisfaction tends to be around 47. Well, I didn’t know that in 2008, and I was going through a very dark time. And weirdly, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, including the fact that I was allergic to an antibiotic and had a septic leg. And after my speech, I was signing books, and I went unconscious, and then when the paramedics showed up I went flatline the first of multiple times. Went to the other side, had an NDE experience, and what I will say is that the divine intervention on this was the fact it was …

Chip Conley:
I was a hotelier. And it was my wake-up call for the hotelier, because I had been running this company, started when I was 26 years old, I was now 47. And I had 3,500 employees and I no longer had any creativity or freedom, and didn’t like it. I was in the great recession, running out of cash. So, long story short is it woke me up to two things. Number one is I shouldn’t be doing this anymore. And so, it accelerated my process of figuring out I’ll sell this company for virtually nothing just to get out of it. And it also was something that a seed I planted for later, which is why is it that we don’t have schools, tools, rights of passage, or rituals for people in mid-life, to understand the stages of life, and the transitions of life, that tend to be happening in mid-life, so that we can do something about this mid-life unraveling, as Brene Brown calls it.

Chip Conley:
It’s not a crisis, it’s just sort of an unraveling that’s going on. But none of us have been trained on this.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I think you sort of reframe it from crisis, and be like crisis to mid-life calling. What do you mean by that?

Chip Conley:
What I mean by that is for some … Often change doesn’t happen in our lives until something fucked up happens. And it’s that health diagnosis, it’s getting divorced, it’s losing a job, it’s having your parents pass away, it’s becoming an empty nester and all of a sudden you and your spouse are looking at each other saying, “We don’t really know each other, do we?”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Who are you?

Chip Conley:
Yeah, exactly. So, the crisis is often what actually creates the desire and need for change. But wouldn’t it be interesting if we could go into this era prepared for the transitions, and instead of it looking like we have to have the crisis to create the change, we say, “I’m at a crossroads. What is it I want to do?” And so, often when you do that you could actually find that there’s a calling you had that might’ve been something from childhood, or from early adulthood, something that you’ve been missing that you’ve wanted to do, and you give yourself the hall pass to go out and do it. So, we see this every day, we have about 1,500 alumni now from 28 countries come our MEA programs in Baja-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Modern Elder Academy.

Chip Conley:
The Modern Elder Academy, exactly. And what we found consistently is that people vastly underestimate how much life they have ahead of them. So, the average age of the people who come is 54. And if you’re going to live till 90, and if you’re 54, the chances of you living till 90, especially if you’re a woman, are pretty good. Almost 50/50. So, if you’re going to live till 90, and you’re 54, you have as much adulthood ahead of you as you have behind you if you starting adulthood at age 18. And it’s that kind of math where a 54-year-old says, “You know, I want to start doing some things that I wasn’t going to do.” And how you move people out of a fixed to a growth mindset so that they start learning Spanish, or they learn how to do yoga, or they say, “Man, I’m a lawyer but I want to be a pastry chef.”

Chip Conley:
Truly, truly. It’s happened, and we’ve seen it multiple times. So yeah, helping people to get comfortable being a beginner again, and realizing that you can start something new at 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, and it’s that starting something new that actually creates almost a dynamic of that fresh, beginners mind that has huge, both psychological and physiological effects.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You know, it’s really true. I think most of us stay fixed in our lives, sort of have the expectations, the norms, the beliefs, the notions that our culture gives us about what we should do, how we should live, where we should be, how we should be in a relationship, the things that matter. And honestly, they’re all constructs, and if you travel to different countries they’re very different. And so, if you go to America you’ve got to think this is how things are. But it’s arbitrary, and it’s an artifact of our culture. And it may not even be something that is really that fulfilling for most people, and yet it’s like the Truman Show, we don’t know we’re in it.

Chip Conley:
Well, or The Matrix, or …

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. And your work is really important because it calls out, and it calls into question the beliefs and attitudes we have about how we should be and live, in any stage of our life. And brings the notion of how do we create the structures and rituals, and the initiations to actually live an authentic life that’s an authentic connection to who we are, and what we want, and what matters to us, what we care about, and what we love. And life’s too frigging short to not do that. And yet, most of us don’t. And I’m actually at this point right now where I’m like, “Wait a minute. What’s next?” I’m believing I’m going to live to be 120, so I’m about halfway there.

Chip Conley:
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When I had my 60th birthday party, I put up a big sign that said, “My first 60 years birthday party.”

Chip Conley:
Yeah. Well, actually having that mindset is important. And you know, Phil Pizzo, Dr. Phil Pizzo at Stanford ran the medical school, and showed that there’s three key things that we need after about age 50. And these are the three building blocks. And you also see this in the Blue Zone studies and research, and I know you’ve been to Sardinia, and it’s one of those Blue Zones out there. So, the three things we tend to need, and this is particularly too if you actually retire, which I don’t recommend. Purpose, wellness, and community. So, the purpose piece is understandable, especially if you retire. Like okay, what’s your purpose in life?

Chip Conley:
Purpose has this effect on us about … It helps us to understand why we got up this morning, and who are we, and what’s important in our lives, and how do we invest our time? Wellness is obvious, and kudos to you for helping people understand the topic of wellness. And we’re definitely going to lure you to our MEA guest faculty [crosstalk 00:10:36] Okay, that was easy, that was easy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, is it on the beach? Okay. Fine.

Chip Conley:
It’s on the beach. It may even be walking distance for you. We won’t even get into that-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Can I surf? Can I surf?

Chip Conley:
You can surf, yes. We’ll have a surfing and gut health week. And then the third one, so purpose, wellness, and then community.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes.

Chip Conley:
And this idea of community, Blue Zones very clearly shows this. But it’s, I think, probably been my greatest lesson in the four years since we started MEA, Modern Elder Academy, and that is that there’s a … We’re thirsty for community. Now, that was true pre-COVID, even more so during COVID. But it’s not just being in community with a collection of other folks, it’s actually having deeper conversations in community, because you could be a community by going to an NFL football game. Community can be many things to many people, but what people are thirsty for more than anything else, is the deep and intimate connection with other people. And that’s what we curate at MEA, is helping people with a cohort of 20 people for normal workshops, to do that.

Chip Conley:
And then we also have something called Sabbatical Sessions, which is people coming for extended stays, and doing … Going through some lighter programming. And it’s more of a DIY experience as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
All right, I like that. I like that extended stay sabbatical idea. So, for you, Chip, this was very personal, and your work now is really an outgrowth of your own shift when you were 47, or whatever it was.

Chip Conley:
Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Tell us more about what changed for you, besides selling your company, and what was the reinvention and the insights that you had? And what happened after that?

Chip Conley:
You know, in the movie The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, De Niro early in the film says, “Musicians don’t retire, they quit when there’s no more music left inside of them.” And I had music. It was there, I just wasn’t sure who to share it with. And I got a call from this guy named Brian Chesky. I didn’t know who the hell he was. He was co-founder of a company called Airbnb, I didn’t know much about Airbnb, even though I was in the hotel business. This was nine years ago. And he said, “I’m looking for an in-house mentor to help us democratize hospitality.”

Chip Conley:
And I didn’t know much about what they were doing. And so, I started spending time with them, and I came to realize that I was going to become a mentern. A mentern is someone who’s a mentor and an intern at the same time. And that’s what I was. I joined the company almost nine years ago, and I was head of global hospital and strategy, and Brian’s mentor. But I never worked in a tech company, and I was 52 years old. And so, I had to learn the tech business, and all the lingo, and it was wonderful. So, a few months into it, Joe Gebbia, one of the other co-founders, said to me, “Chip, you’re our modern elder.” And I said, “Fuck you, Joe. I don’t want to be a modern elder.” Because I thought he meant elder [crosstalk 00:13:48]

Chip Conley:
What he said was, “Chip, wait, wait, wait. What I mean is [crosstalk 00:13:54]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Elderly’s a bad word, and elder is actually a word of honoring.

Chip Conley:
That’s right, that’s right. So, he said, “A modern elder, Chip, is as curious as they are wise, because the curiosity opens up possibilities, and the wisdom distills down what’s essential.” And he said, “That’s what you do for us.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll sign up for that.” And that’s how the term modern elder came about. I mean, I was 52 in a company full of … Average age is 26. So yeah, elder’s a relative term. It doesn’t speak to an exact age. Elderly is more like an exact age, it’s the last five or 10 years of your life. But elder is a relative term. You could be a 35-year-old playing baseball for the L.A. Dodgers, and you’re probably an elder as the 35-year-old amongst a bunch of pro athletes.

Chip Conley:
Or in the software development business, same thing. So, long story short is I embraced that, and I spent four years full-time helping the three founders, and the leadership team, steer the rocket ship, because it was a rocket ship. We were growing really quickly. And I spent the last five years as a strategic advisor, during which time I started writing my book. And I had a Baja a-ha on the beach, going for a run on the beach. My epiphany was why don’t we have mid-life wisdom schools where people can just cultivate and harvest their wisdom, and repurpose it. And so, I call that same seed, different soil. Same seed, different soil, which means you have to get clear on the seed of what you have to offer the world. And then you might start looking for different soil, and that’s …

Chip Conley:
Airbnb was different soil for [crosstalk 00:15:36]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For you, yeah.

Chip Conley:
But so, it worked well. And, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, how do you define a modern elder? Someone who’s basically curious, and open, and has a beginner’s mind, but also is wise. So, it’s almost this interesting marriage of-

Chip Conley:
It’s the alchemy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
… opposites. Right?

Chip Conley:
Yeah, Mark, it’s like learning to have the perfect alchemy of when do you boost up the curiosity, and the curiosity … We teach, at MEA, appreciative inquiry, which is an empathetic form of curiosity, of how to ask questions. And then when you dose up the wisdom, and be in a position to actually offer some advice, or some lesson, a teachable moment. And so, it’s that right alchemy of both. So, a modern elder is somebody who has an unvarnished insight, and is open to sharing it. But often leads with questions, and leads with empathetic curiosity, and has an insatiable desire to learn. And to me, that’s what defines a modern elder.

Chip Conley:
And the beauty of it is we’re living in an era where we’re living longer, but power in a digital society is moving younger, as evidenced by companies like Airbnb, and the world is changing faster. And those three variables, living longer, power moving younger in digital world, and world changing faster means there’s a lot of people between age 35 and 75, which is what’s now considered mid-life, there’s a lot of people who are confused, and bewildered. And often feeling a bit irrelevant. And so, that’s what we’re there for.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How do you address this cultural phenomenon of the idolization of youth, and the culture of youth, where becoming older is seen as something not desirable, and not welcome? And onerous, in a way. And where you become irrelevant.

Chip Conley:
Yeah. It’s a great question Mark, and it’s a hard question to answer, and I’ll give you my thought on it. But there’s a lot of nuance in this. I like to think of it this way. How do we help people in mid-life and later realize they need to be useful, not youthful? And it’s not that they shouldn’t be youthful. You’re in great shape, and it’s not like we shouldn’t try to keep our bodies, and our minds, and our spirits in a constantly regenerating state. We talk about creating regenerative communities. And regeneration’s a big deal. And I’m not diminishing that. But what I will say is that in a culture, where there’s a cult of youth in, let’s say the United States specifically, where your standing in society, especially for women, has a lot to do with how you look.

Chip Conley:
And especially how you take care of yourself as you get older. There becomes a pie chart, and the percentage of your pie chart is dedicated to just your looks, and your healthful appearance becomes larger, and larger, and larger. And what that does is it crowds out the opportunity for the unexpected pleasures of aging. Which, what are those? Well, guess what-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, what are they? Tell me.

Chip Conley:
Okay, I’ll tell you-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Give me the good news.

Chip Conley:
So, here’s some good news. So, on the other side of every bad piece of news around aging, there’s often a good piece of news. So, let’s start with the brain. So, very clear that our brain gets less good at memory, especially short-term memory, as we get older. The evidence is pretty conclusive. And our brain even shrinks a little bit. But what’s beautiful is actually our brain starts to learn all-wheel drive, as Dr. Gene Cohen, how wrote the book, The Mature Mind. But all-wheel drive means we can actually move from left to right brain, from logical to lyrical, we have crystallized intelligence that is growing. We have the ability to think systemically, holistically, and connect the dots.

Chip Conley:
So, one of the unexpected pleasures of aging is you have a greater sense of intuition, and pattern recognition, and pattern recognition is a form of wisdom. And so, something gets better. What else gets better with age? Actually EQ. Your emotional intelligence, and your emotional moderation-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Definitely. I’m such a much smarter guy than I was when I was-

Chip Conley:
Well, you know, we’re like … Excuse me. But we’re like these pinballs in the pinball machine. I love Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, and he said quite famously these three sentences. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is your power to choose that response, and in your response lies your growth, and your freedom. When you’re younger, you don’t have a lot of growth and freedom because it’s not … Between stimulus and response is a reaction. And what does that do for you? I mean, there’s some beauty in that, and yet what it does frankly for the people around you is it creates a reactive environment. In the work place it means that often it’s not a psychologically safe team that you’re on if you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who don’t know how to emotionally moderate themselves.

Chip Conley:
And psychological safety is the number one variable for effective teams in the U.S., or in the world, according to Google in the study they did called Project Aristotle. So, long story short is our emotional moderation, our EQ, our ability to be wise, and think systemically, and the U-Curve of Happiness, which I started with at the start of this conversation, the U-Curve of Happiness research shows that from about age 23 to about age 47, our level of life satisfaction declines. And then we hit bottom between 45 and 50, your mileage may vary, and then it gets better. And-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Your mileage may vary.

Chip Conley:
Your people in their 50s are happier than 40s, 60s happier than 50s, 70s happier than 60s.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I found that true for me. Yeah.

Chip Conley:
Yeah. For sure. And why, Mark? Why do you think you’ve been happier?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Just think I’ve figured more out about how to live in a way that is more in integrity and alignment with who I am, and what I want, and what matters, rather than living according to beliefs or ideas of what I should be doing, or my responsibilities, obligations, and to-dos. And it’s inviting the questions of how to show up more in integrity and alignment with what matters, as opposed to filling on other ideas of society that I had, or beliefs that I had about what I should do, or shouldn’t do, or what’s okay, or not okay. I’m really challenging some of those annoying assumptions and beliefs.

Chip Conley:
All of that is true, and we get to reevaluate our script for success. What, at MEA, we call our success script. And how we define it, whose script is it? Did we write the script for ourselves or did someone else write it for us? We do something called the great mid-life edit. You learn how to discern what no longer serves you. One of the things that Carl Jung and Richard Rohr, the Christian mystic, who lives not too far from where I am right here in Santa Fe. He’s become a good friend, in fact I get to see him tomorrow. What they both have talked about is that-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh yeah, I just read his book. Falling Up.

Chip Conley:
Oh, that’s a great book. Falling Upward. [crosstalk 00:23:17]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Falling Upward.

Chip Conley:
Falling Upward [crosstalk 00:23:20]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s about the same thing, really.

Chip Conley:
It really is. It’s an anthem for what we do, and that’s why he’s become a good friend because it’s about actually realizing that the first half of your life the operating system that we work with is our ego, and that’s fine. And it serves a purpose. And then it’s around mid-life that we have an operating system change, and we move from the ego to the soul. And we do not have language, or rituals, or any kind of education to help people understand this. And it is when you make the shift that you start to realize that the kinds of things that motivated you in the past may not motivate you as much anymore. But you’ve got to get conscious about this, and intentional about it, otherwise you’re just living in a new world that you have …

Chip Conley:
You’re not even aware of what’s going on. As one of my friends said, she said, “Just when I got comfortable in my own skin in my 50s, it started to sag.” And I think [crosstalk 00:24:23] And what I said to her was, “You know what? If you had to choose … You could work on the sagging there’s things you could do. But the process of actually getting comfortable in your own skin is so much more valuable,” because it really does lead to that kind of life satisfaction we’re talking about.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What you said, Chip, was so … It hit me like a laser, which was we’re changing our operating system from our ego to our soul. And within that there’s a lot to unpack. How do you do that? What does that mean? What does it look lik? How do we rethink what we want? I know for myself, I don’t care about getting another New York Times Bestseller, what I care about is how well am I loving the people in my life? How many sunsets have I watched? How many times have I just been still and just been in nature, and let it enter me? How much can I be kind to people? And just simple things that are way more important to me than any kind of material, or success, or public recognition.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Those are really less important to me, and it’s really more now about just service, and love, and being present, and not missing anything. Not missing life. I feel like I missed a lot of life in the service of my ego. And I think my soul is calling me to re-inhabit that landscape of soul. And that’s my entire focus right now. And it doesn’t mean I don’t do my normal work, it just means I do it differently, and I feel different.

Chip Conley:
Yeah. I mean, it’s probably [crosstalk 00:26:03]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m also questioning what’s next.

Chip Conley:
It’s part of the reason that you’re enjoying both working and playing on the road. You’re in Europe right now, and it’s part of the reason I think we’ll be seeing more of you [crosstalk 00:26:18]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Chip Conley:
Yeah, there’s an element of learning how to become untethered. In fact, there’s a Michael Singers book, The Untethered Soul. So, how do you untether yourself from what has been the scaffolding for your life? And so, what we help people to see is we help them take down the scaffolding in a safe, crucible with 20 other people. And to recognize that they can re-architect their life. Mary Catherine Bateson wrote a book called Composing A Life, and then Further Composing A Life-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s a beautiful book. A beautiful book.

Chip Conley:
Yeah, it is, and she talks about the mid-life atrium. And so, I want to give you this metaphor, because I think it’s actually an appropriate one for people to understand. So, she says what we’ve thought of in society is that our extra longevity that we are earning, which it’s … Obviously COVID, and let’s recognizes that longevity in the United States is very much a socioeconomic demographic issue as well, because very big differences between different demographics. But overall, the longevity trend has been quite clear. She says that the way we look at it is as if we’ve added an extra bedroom or two, to the back of our house.

Chip Conley:
So, in other words, if we have an extra 10 or 20 years compared to our grandparents, it means that we just have more years being older. And her premise is that that’s just not true. You’re not getting an extra bedroom or two on the back of the house, you’re actually getting as mid-life atrium. And her premise is the mid-life atrium is this era, often between about 45 and 65, where you have more space to actually go out and be different. And to have time to reflect, and to … As is true for any atrium, to actually feel some spaciousness so that you can actually re-architect the blueprint of your life. And so, I like to think that … It’s one of the metaphors we use at MEA, to help people understand hey, you’re an architect of your life here for this week.

Chip Conley:
We may need to do some reconstruction, but the process of doing [crosstalk 00:28:38]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Roof’s falling in over here.

Chip Conley:
Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The bathroom needs a renovation.

Chip Conley:
Is that right? Well, once you recognize that you have the ability to see it, and then make changes to it, and then be part of a supportive community moving forward around it, it’s miraculous what kind of transformation you can architect in your life.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How do you take people from a mid-life crisis to becoming a modern elder?

Chip Conley:
Well, [crosstalk 00:29:14]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What’s the curriculum? What’s the process? How do you help people reclaim that?

Chip Conley:
So, there are four key tenets that define the program. Number one is mindset. So, Carol Dweck’s work on fixed versus growth mindset, how do you help a person? Because frankly, if you have a fixed mindset, man, your life does not get any better after age 50, because what you do is you just … Your life gets smaller, and smaller, because you’re not willing to try new things. So, we help with mindset. And a lot of that is helping people to get comfortable being liminal, and to be liminal is to be in between two things. And so, whether it’s learning how to surf, baking bread with a group of people and serving it to the rest of your cohort, learning improv, learning to juggle.

Chip Conley:
I mean, people come there thinking, “I’m going to this professional transitions workshop,” and then the next thing they know they’re actually writing poetry. And like, “What the hell’s going on here?” But it’s basically taking them in the back door, to helping them realize they can become a beginner again. So, number one’s mindset. Number two is transition. How many of us have actually been taught what the three stages of transition are? Not many. But the three stages of transition have been around ever since rights of passage days. Hero’s Journey with Joseph Campbell, et cetera.

Chip Conley:
And so, we help people to understand the anatomy of a transition, whether that transition is getting divorced, changing your career, moving, et cetera. What are the three stages, and how do you actually accelerate your TQ, your transitional intelligence? Thirdly, is we teach a lot about regeneration, including the fact that the regeneration of the soil and the soul are both about the biome. It’s the biome in the soil, the biome in the gut, and actually how do you help people to understand what is regeneration? And so, this is something I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time talking to you about in person.

Chip Conley:
And the last thing, and I’ll throw it back to you, is we help people to reframe what it means … What elderhood means, because there’s three stages of life. There’s the childhood era, there’s the adulthood era, and then there’s the elderhood era. But we tend to think of the elderhood era as being just elderly, but it’s actually you can be an elder for 30 or 40 years. And we have prep schools, we have … The word adolescence didn’t exist in the U.S. until … Or in the world, until 1904. Prior to that we just said, “Once you hit puberty, you’re an adult.” And then, once adolescence became a thing we made a bunch of changes. Child labor laws, public, junior high schools, and high schools, et cetera.

Chip Conley:
So, there’s this thing called middle-escence. And it’s a new thing. And it’s adolescence is your time of going through emotional, hormonal, physical changes in your teens. Middle-escence is when you’re going through menopause, or men going through andropause. You’re going through a lot of changes, often in your 50s, or 40s, late 40s, sometimes early 60s. Why don’t we have prep schools for elderhood? We have prep schools in high school to prep people for college, but also to adulthood, why don’t we have prep schools that help people? So, that’s what these really are. The four things, mindset, transitions, regeneration, and reframing elderhood.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And you said something, maybe I misheard you, but you’re saying regeneration of the soul?

Chip Conley:
That too. Yeah, soil and soul.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Soil. Okay.

Chip Conley:
Soil and soul.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And soul. Okay.

Chip Conley:
Yeah, the biome has something to do with both.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You know, I think one of the challenges in aging is that we have, in this culture, an environment that perpetuates abnormal aging. And the frailty, the disability, the disease, the dysfunction, the loss of ability to be part of things is what we see as aging. And so, it’s a little bit scary for a lot of us. And when I was in Sardinia it was amazing. This guy was like 96 years old, and he literally straight up jumped up from his chair, fully functional, and he had literally just given up doing his shepherd work like a year before. He was walking five miles a day, herding his sheep for, I don’t know, 75 years or something. Or maybe more, since he was a kid, maybe 85 years. And he was so in his body, and he was so robust.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And this other guy, he met him, and he took us down to his sheep. He was like 87. And I could barely keep up with the guy. He’s doing what he loves. I’m like, “What are you doing?” He said, “Well, I have my orchard, I have my sheep. I have my farm, I plant everything.” I said, “It’s just you?” He’s like, “Yeah, just me. And I give it to my family, and this one, that one.” And it was serious physical wellbeing that they had, and they ate an incredible diet. And they had this longevity. And I think that one of the things that I’ve noticed is that our beliefs about aging are pretty cultural here. And for me, what is that Dylan Thomas saying? Rage against the dying of the light? I think maybe there’s a little bit of that in me.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But I’m also trying to experiment with how can I get younger biologically? How do I get healthier, fitter, stronger? Have more energy?

Chip Conley:
Mentally, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Mentally, yeah. So, what I’ve noticed is that people can really reclaim their lives, and come back from the brink of death, and get really robustly healthy if they have the right ideas about how to regenerate health. And really, functional medicine is regenerative medicine. It’s about regeneration of all the biological systems, and networks. It’s like you said, it’s an ecosystem like the soil. And I think that’s such a key part, because … And if you’ve spent your whole life developing yourself to have wisdom, and compassion, and learn how to create that space between stimulus and response, and actually can be authentically engaged, and curious, and wise, if your body’s falling apart it’s really … It’s kind of a problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, and you can still do that even if your body’s falling apart, but I think it’s an invitation to think about how do we reimagine aging? Not just from a psychological point of view, but from a physical point of view as well.

Chip Conley:
We talked about not growing old, but growing whole. And growing whole speaks to what you were just saying. If you’re compassionate, and wise, and all this, but you’re not focusing on your body, then you’re not integrated. And to be able to be integrated is about growing whole. And I think one of the biggest travesties that we had, and I understand why it happened, and that there was logic and it made sense, is that retirement became so pervasive. And it happened in the ’30s, it happened because we had a depression, it happened because people were working 40 years, backbreaking work.

Chip Conley:
And in their 60s couldn’t do it anymore, and there’s no social security or pensions. All of that’s good, but studies have shown that when you retire you accelerate your mortality by two years.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Incredible, yeah.

Chip Conley:
Which is shocking, because you think the opposite. You have more space, wouldn’t you … No. But actually because you lose your purpose, your wellness, and your community you actually accelerate your process toward death. So, I think what you heard, and what you’re seeing in Sardinia, is exactly that. When people have this sense that they do something they love, they can do it as long as they want, and they actually … Socrates supposedly said this long ago, and someone else said it to me as a mentor, the meaning of your life is to find your gift, the purpose of your life is to give it away.

Chip Conley:
And for many people who are older, and are doing things they love, they want to give it away. What I mean by that is they really want to share that learning, share that wisdom with others, and it’s that … That’s another key part of our program, is to help people to understand what is the gift? What is the gift that they have actually … And if they don’t know it yet, here’s some steps that you can take to help understand what it is. And then once you know what it is, how can you give it away?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s so beautiful. Yeah. When I was in Sardinia, I interviewed all these centenarians, and near centenarians, and asked them what would they advise people to live a happy life. And it was interesting to hear all the answers, and the wisdom, and it was really beautiful. It was just like wow, there’s so much there. And we’ve lost that. And what are all the treasures that are locked away in nursing homes?

Chip Conley:
Yeah. Well, we created our own version of apartheid, age apartheid. We created Sunny City, and Rossmoor Leisure World, and you basically let’s stock-house all of our old people in these age segregated places. And yeah, I don’t think that’s the future of … We’re creating regenerative communities now, not retirement communities. That’s what MEA’s thing is.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I love that.

Chip Conley:
And it’s all about intergenerational as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I love that. I love that. Well, before we go I want to ask you about your vision for the future, because MEA, mid-life … I mean, the Modern Elder Academy, is maybe the first wisdom school for mid-life. But I think you’re thinking of it much bigger than that. So, can you talk a little bit about what your vision is for what you’re creating?

Chip Conley:
Well, two things. Number one is we’re dedicated to long-life learning, not just lifelong learning. So, long-life learning is how do you create a life that is as deep and meaningful as it is long? And how do you understand the stages of life in mid-life and beyond? Our goal is to be a catalyst, so that we are helping to disrupt the retirement community world and create regenerative communities. How do we disrupt the higher education world, which Clay Christensen who coined the term disruptive innovation-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh yeah, yeah.

Chip Conley:
… said five years ago, before he passed away, he said that 50% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. will be closed in the next 10 to 15 years. So, why don’t we take some of those campuses, those gorgeous liberal arts campuses that are closing, and turn them into mid-life wisdom schools? So, a person goes for a one year program in their 40s, or 50s, or 60s, and they’re there to basically do a gap year. So, I guess overall we want to be a catalyst for new thinking. I was one of the first boutique hoteliers in the U.S. I was an early person at Airbnb. So, I like disrupting things.

Chip Conley:
In this case, I want to disrupt education and where you live in community after … The latter half of your adulthood.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I love the idea like that, where people don’t go just to play golf but to actually grow, and learn, and develop, and-

Chip Conley:
Your living room faces a farm, not a fairway. I mean, come on.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s great. Well, I’m going to see you in Mexico. I’m going to come [inaudible 00:40:44] that regenerative community farm. I just love that vision. I think it’s really what we’re all longing for. And I think being in community was a lot of what the elderly talked about, was the importance of family, and friends. And [Anrita 00:40:58], who is this 91-year-old woman who I talked to there, who was asking me, “Well, what’s your advice?” She goes, “Well, you know, we just lost our time to just be with each other, and to talk, and to have conversations, and tell stories. And share life together.” And she was right. I mean, it’s really one of the modern scourges.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And if you look at the data, the number one killer isn’t obesity, or cigarettes, [crosstalk 00:41:27] exercise, it’s loneliness.

Chip Conley:
Loneliness. Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And you know, what you’re talking about is really the antidote to loneliness, is actually learning how to become part of a regenerative world where you’re included, and you’re-

Chip Conley:
Isn’t it interesting that the word illness starts with the letter I, and the word wellness starts with we. And so, we believe in social wellness. Wellness is not just about your own … What you do personally, physically. It’s the social wellness in terms of who you surround yourself with.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There’s a tremendous amount of science, by the way, around this. There’s even a whole field called sociogenomics, which is how our social connections and networks influence our biology in real time. Literally if we have an authentic deep intimate conversation, Chip, I will change your genes, and you will change my genes.

Chip Conley:
Wow.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And we will turn on all the antiinflammatory genes, all the repair genes. If we’re fighting, and having this conflict, we’re going to turn on all the genes that cause inflammation and degrade our health.

Chip Conley:
Wow. That’s amazing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s not some abstract philosophical thing, it’s like the Dao of biology, I call it, instead of [inaudible 00:42:41]

Chip Conley:
That’s great.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s great.

Chip Conley:
Wow, I didn’t know that. Thank you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well Chip, thank you so much for being on The Doctor’s Farmacy, it’s been such a great conversation. I think this is just the beginning for you. You’ve got another 60 years to go. I’ll see you in Mexico on the [crosstalk 00:42:55]

Chip Conley:
Okay.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Farm. And for those of you listening and love this podcast, please share it with your friends and family on social media, check out the Modern Elder Academy at ModernElderAcademy.com. There’s workshops, there’s sabbatical sessions, there’s online programs, there’s … You can be an activist in residence, you can join one of their regenerative communities, check it out. It’s pretty awesome. And hopefully if you are learning about your mid-life calling, maybe you should share with us. Leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you. And subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And we’ll see you next week on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Speaker 1:
Hi everyone, I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor, or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner you can visit IFM.org and search their Find A Practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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