Four New Books to Check Out.
Over the past few years, I've been inspired by thought leaders who articulate their vision for an alternative to The Game of Life that we grew up with.
My two Brit friends, Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton, wrote "The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity" seven years ago, suggesting that the tyranny of the three-stage life was loosening its grip: learn till you're 20, earn till you're 60, and adjourn till you die.
Now, we have a new book, The Perennials: The Megatrends Creating a Postgenerational Society, by the former dean at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University and vice dean at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I don't know the author, Mauro Guillén, but the book is profiled in this great Fast Company article. I do know Gina Pell, the serial entrepreneur who coined the term "perennials" as "an ever-blooming group of people of all ages, stripes, and types who transcend stereotypes and make connections with each other and the world around them…they are not defined by their generation." I've always liked that definition.
Guillén's book feels like a logical extension of my book, "Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder," as he suggests a new post-generational workforce known as "perennials" will make it possible to liberate scores of people from the constraints of the sequential model of life. He writes,
"If people could liberate themselves from the tyranny of "age-appropriate" activities, if they could become perennials, they might be able to pursue not just one career, occupation, or profession but several, finding different kinds of personal fulfillment in each. Most importantly, people in their teens and twenties will be able to plan and make decisions for multiple transitions in life, not just one from study to work, and another from work to retirement."
Another book I want to profile is by my friend Adam Grant, who sent me an advanced copy (the book was on shelves this week), called “Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things.” While the focus of this book is on uncovering your gift, I found it to be particularly relevant to the MEA curriculum and to what David Brooks wrote in his book, “The Road to Character.” Here are a few quotes from Adam:
“Character is often confused with personality, but they’re not the same. Personality is your predisposition - your basic instincts for how to think, feel and act. Character is your capacity to prioritize your values over your instincts. Knowing your principles doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to practice them, particularly under stress or pressure. It’s easy to be proactive and determined when things are going well. The true test of character is whether you manage to stand by those values when the deck is stacked against you. If personality is how you respond on a typical day, character is how you show up on a hard day. Personality is not your destiny - it’s your tendency. Character skills enable you to transcend that tendency to be true to your principles. It’s not about the traits you have - it’s what you decide to do with them.”
“If our cognitive skills are what separate us from animals, our character skills are what elevate us from machines. Computers and robots can now build cars, fly planes, manage money, represent defendants in court, diagnose cancer, and perform cardiac surgery. As more and more cognitive skills get automated, we’re in the midst of a character revolution. With technological advances placing a premium on interactions and relationships, the skills that make us human are increasingly important to master. When we say success and happiness are our most important goals in life, I’m curious about why character isn’t higher on the list. What if we all invested as much time in our character skills as we do in our career skills? Imagine what America would look like if the Declaration of Independence granted every citizen the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of character.”
“We worry about making our parents proud when we should be focused on making our children proud. The responsibility of each generation is not to please our predecessors - it’s to improve conditions for our successors.”
Thirdly, wow, I can’t wait to meet Karen Waldron, the author of the new book Radiant Rebellion: Reclaim Aging, Practice Joy, and Raise a Little Hell. She has such an empowering take on growing older that I know she would be a great MEA faculty member. Karen shares how we can rewrite narratives around aging illuminated by purpose, wisdom, levity, and curiosity. Highly recommend you listen to this Good Life Project podcast with her with Jonathan Fields.
Speaking of David Brooks, he is definitely on the same wavelength as MEA these days based upon his recent The Atlantic article which I wrote about in this blog post. Brooks has a new book out that feels like it comes straight from the MEA workbook, “How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen.” I think you might enjoy this recent NYT essay from Brooks on “The Essential Skills for Being Human.”