It makes huge sense to create some sort of plan for your "extra" 30 years--until it comes time to sit down and do it!

Half of that is doing the planning itself, so we have a separate section that helps with that process.

But we also need something to do beyond just surviving, and that's the purpose of this section.

In How to Plan a Great Second Life: Why not live fully every day of your extra 30 years?, Gordon suggests creating a Dream List of what we particularly want to do, then adds 200 activities from which we might select as part of our list and plan.

In his workshop by that name, he asks the participants to expand on that list. And he asks you to do the same and send your additions to us at That expanded list appears below.

Gordon's next project is to add volunteer-type activities in their own list, with links. Expect that in June on this much more as the year progresses.

200+ things to do...
Looking for a place to start? Some fun things to do? Wondering how to help others?
Gordon's book
Most of our best ideas are hiding on its pages, plus the process for organizing your second-life planning
NEW INFORMATION from the Super Second Life Newsletter

3/1/02: Still partying hearty? Not likely.

After reading a synopsis of social psychologist Jerald Bachman’s new study from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR), I asked a single male friend in his mid-60s if he still partied. “Not if it starts after my bed time or I have to drive or walk in the dark to get there.” I guess that means no.

He’s not alone. While 18-year-olds go out as much as their counterparts in 1976, according to the 25-year study of 38,000 people, that continues to diminish as they age, particularly as their get married and become parents.

What is “going out”? “Evenings out for recreation or fun, especially going to parties, hanging out with friends, and going to bars.”

At 18, 94% of the males and 92% of the females go out at least once a week. (52% of the men and 48% of the women go out three times a week). By 23-24, 35% of the men and 24% of the women still go out three times a week. But by the crusty old age of 31-32, 73% of the men and 64% of the women get out once a week, while only 15% of the men and 11% of the women go out three times a week.

A positive aspect of fewer nights on the town: less heavy drinking and illegal drug use. “Their social lives change as they take on other responsibilities,” says Bachman. “That accounts for a lot of the change.”

If you want to make this study obligatory reading for over-partying or grounded kids or grandkids, get Bachman’s The Decline of Substance Abuse in Young Adulthood: Changes in Social Activities, Roles and Beliefs. That should get them on the straight and narrow.

1/1/02: Mentoring, or staying alive 200 years…

Ever get the feeling that all you have done and learned will simply disappear when you do?

And how often have you met or known a person that you wanted to help through a period of uncertainty or growth so that farther down their life path they could more fully bloom? But you didn’t quite know how to offer, then give, that help?

Mentoring is a way to blend the two, to keep yourself alive both through immediate, positive action and through the mind and later acts of another. It’s about as close as most people can get to an eternal life on earth (or 200 years, whichever is longer). A bonus: it can be lots of fun.

Rabbi Zaiman Schachter-Shalomi teaches mentoring at his nondenominational Spiritual Eldering Institute in Boulder, Colorado ( , and discusses it in a book he coauthored (which I will review soon) called From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older (Warner Books, 1997).

In the October 2001 issue of Bottom Line Tomorrow,  he defines mentoring as “the age old art of bestowal, passing to younger people the living flame of our knowledge and understanding.” Where can you mentor? At home (to grandchildren or teens and adults outside our families), in the workplace (particularly at in-house workshops given by seasoned workers or retirees working full or part time), or at all levels in schools. Check to see if your school has an inter-generational program; if not, start one.

According to Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi, the difficulty is in not imposing our doctrines and values on the people we mentor, thus cloning ourselves, “instead, (mentors) bring out their apprentices’ individuality, applauding them as they struggle to clarify their own values and discover their own life paths.” It’s helping them find themselves, and providing insight as appropriate and sought, much through sharing what we did wrong and how we corrected it or would do it better today. We must resist trying to “create an ideal follower based on (our) own hopes and ambitions. Only rebellion can follow.”

He concludes, “At age 78, I won’t live to see what will happen 50 years from now. But by acting as a mentor to others, by “sage-ing” as well as age-ing, I plant a seed that becomes a tendril into the future.”

12/15: Are you using holiday gift registries?

Anybody who has had a kid get married (or did it themselves again—and again) knows about gift registries, where a couple tells those invited to the shower and/or reception where gold-plated goodies can be purchased, to “surprise” them at the gathering.

Guess what: the newest vogue is a gift registry for almost any event, including birthdays, graduation, religious celebrations, and now the holidays! (The real challenge is conning our friends to flock to the registry to celebrate our last paycheck, our new knee, or our first cane!)

This is a boon for those of us who dislike shopping in general, and the holidays in particular. All we must do is find out where those to be gifted have their registry posted, call up that website, and shop until our fingers drop. It also reduces the giving and getting of truly stupid gifts.

Since the concept for holidays is still new and online shopping is still debugging, the biggest push will likely take place in 2002. But it will happen. About half of the offline wedding-gift purchases (of an $18 billion total) are made through bridal registries. So there is no way that the overall offline gift market of about $130 billion, as it comes online, won’t make the registry routine. Debbie Gillotti, general manager of Starbucks X, agrees: “Registries will become a fairly generic requirement for most retailers in the future.” (But not for Starbucks yet.)

Where can we find them and how do we create your own registry now? For single-site help, try stores like,, or, which calls their registry “the single most efficient way for shoppers to buy for their loved ones, particularly on the holidays which people find really stressful.” Many more stores have holiday registries so check the headings in their online catalog or ask.

Or we can use gift registry portals, like,,,, or  Called universal registries, they help organize multiple wish lists from various sites. Through them, we can check out merchandise at many online stores, create a registry, and email it to our family and friends. Then when a gift is bought, it is removed from our registry so we don’t get nine monocle polishers.

We can post specific items, sizes, color preferences, and the stores where that particular gift is found. Some registries help kids let Santa know which toys they want. The more unique gift ideas have their site too, like student loan payments and stocks and cash. (Alas, our kids don’t need a registry to know that they can send us cash at any time. But if a registry helps…)

12/1: The right time to volunteer?

If volunteering figures in your second-life plans, now might be a great time to start—or redouble.

USA Today, on November 23, noted that the number of volunteers had increased sharply since 9/11 by both the young and old. “I want to give more than blood,” is what Sandy Scott of AmeriCorps (the domestic Peace Corps) is hearing. Interest there has increased 30% the past two months.

Similarly, agency referrals jumped from 20,000 to 36,000 a month at, a non-profit Internet service that links volunteers with agencies needing help, said spokesman Jason Willett.

While those numbers will subside, new help is particularly needed and appreciated by local charities whose donations have dropped significantly in the rush to help the New York victims. Local agencies have also had to lay off workers because of the national economic turndown while the need for their services has increased.

11/1: Staying alive long enough to draw retirement.

One of this newsletter’s most humorous and faithful readers is my kid brother, Jim.

Though he’s 56 and was selected as Illinois’ top school administrator last year, what comes first to mind when I think of Jim is him as a scraggly lad in shorts riding his bike around the neighborhood in about fifth grade. So you can imagine my delight when I read his September article in The School Administrator titled “The Care and Feeding of the Superintendent” in which he tells his harried colleagues “how to stay alive long enough to draw retirement.”

To read the article itself, please click to the AASA copy at The article’s message is important to us because we must keep our bodies and minds intact during those no-nonsense years from about 45-55, when it’s possible to be consumed by jobs and burned out almost beyond repair.

Jim calls for a five-point balance for prime productivity and contentment by focusing on good physical, mental, social, spiritual, and professional health. Then he explains, half in humor, what each means and how they can be attained.

“Contrary to what some may think, superintendents are human,” he assures us. When he discusses mental health, he adds, “If you are a typical superintendent, you can spell ‘stress’ at least 30 different ways.” Jim suggests six ways to reduce that stress and to right your mental ship: (1) set time aside for yourself each day, (2) reduce time wasters, (3) take a nap when you need one, (4) don’t feel guilty about taking that “free time,” (5) lead with kindness. and (6) talk to someone.

If we use up both ends of our candle the first time around, we’ll be out of flame in life #2.

11/1: Some specific Super Second Life activities (Part 2).

Okay, you’re convinced that there is such a thing as a “second life,” that you will live long enough to enjoy it, and you’re willing (is eager too strong?) to take a stab at some planning. What, specifically, should you do?

In the last newsletter we looked at five activities, and I left five for this time. My book, How to Plan a Great Second Life, contains another 200 ideas that my workshop participants suggested. (That list is also found, and expanded, at the website at Later, send us your ideas and we will add them too.)

(6) Find out who you and your kin are.

One of the most enjoyable ways to use a home computer is in the preparation of family trees and genealogical hunts. There are a dozen books in the library that will walk you through the process—and half as many software programs (which is often overkill at the outset until you know specifically which would most help.) On the computer it is as easy as typing your full name (or a kin’s) into the subject box on a web search engine (like or and see what appears, then following those leads back to their links, and so on back to Adam or the cave.

Let me explore this topic in a later newsletter, with specific websites that you can visit to put a well-researched family line together. Why not create a family website where you and others in your family can add, browse, post photos old and new, and generally gather?

(7) Let others know what you have to say.

This is simply putting your knowledge and ideas into some publishable form, whether it’s for a newspaper, magazine, book, or a website. Sometimes that can make you money; as often, it’s done just to save some good ideas and words for posterity. Whether somebody else publishes it or you do, this requires the usual discipline of taking rough stuff and reworking and editing it into some form of proper prose, so the final draft can be easily read, understood, and enjoyed.

Why don’t more people do this? They think they have nothing new to say, that others will laugh, that they will appear vain by presuming that others care to hear what they think, that they can’t write, or that it takes too much time or work. Mostly excuses. Usually they’re just too lazy.

Almost nothing is more treasured (except perhaps piles of gold) than old letters and diaries from ancestors who are speaking from their heart, however simply.

(8) Volunteer.

Don’t have to say much here. Ours is a volunteering society. But the old adage is as strong today as it was in colonial times: the person who benefits most from giving is the giver.

It seems to me that the best kind of volunteering is where you learn new skills while you are helping others. A close parallel is teaching: I learned more, many years ago, when I taught sixth grade than I suspect my students did. About life and motivation and what it tales to light individual and group fires of excitement.

(9) Be a model.

By the time we reach our second life, our values are in place. We have reasoned points of view and should know right from wrong. All it takes to model is to live those values—preaching by action, showing by doing.

One of the supposed problems of aging is that we fade from site. That others look through us. I’m not convinced, frankly. Modeling is assurance in action, and it’s impossible not to see and be impressed by people, really of any age, who carry that dignity of conviction and are consistent in all they do. Modeling is a state of mind in action.

(10) Deepen your bonds with those you love.

This is a delicate game of giving others growing room and still playing a vital, loving role in their lives. It’s easiest done by grandparenting because kids absorb love like that new Bounty absorbs spills. A second life can give us the time to rebuild ties to other family members, and to deepen those with our closest kin. The truth of mortality rings loudly by our 50s. It’s a last chance to mend and retie family bonds.

10/15: Some specific Super Second Life activities (Part 1).

Okay, you’re convinced that there is such a thing as a “second life,” that you will live long enough to enjoy it, and you’re willing (is eager too strong?) to take a stab at some planning. What, specifically, should you do?

Alas, how would I know? If you live in a cave, have no idea what electricity is (even though you howl to the gods to stop the lightning), and find comfort in atonal chanting, maybe more (quiet) chanting would be your thing. Whatever your circumstances, you are such an original, if peculiar, entity that you must decide what will add joy and fun and even meaning and purpose to your extra days.

But I can offer some suggestions, divided into 10 arbitrary categories, that might light a spark. My book, How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years?, contains another 200 ideas that my workshop participants suggested. (That list is also found, and expanded, at the website at Later, send us your ideas and we will add them too.)

The 10 categories follow. To keep this issue of the SLL Newsletter reasonable in length, let me summarize five here and save the last five for November 1.

(1) Keep working, full- or part-time, at the same job or with the same firm
(2) Get a new, different full- or part-time job
(3) Develop new skills
(4) Explore new fields of learning
(5) Travel with a purpose
(6) Find out who you and your kin are
(7) Let others know what you have to say
(8) Volunteer
(9) Be a model
(10) Deepen your bonds with those you love

If you already have 216 top-priority dreams on your list, and action plans in motion for each, any new items might be overkill. But if your list mostly consists of kicking back, drinking coffee, and reading the newspaper when you’re not golfing, shopping, fishing, playing with grandkids, or hunting, you might want to take a peek. Those are worthwhile endeavors but they can stretch thin over 30 years! They might also be underkill in the brain-stimulation department.


(1) Keep working, full- or part-time, at the same job or with the same firm

Whether you absolutely love what you do and can’t imagine a satisfying life without it and/or you flat-out need the income (or at least some of it), the safest place to go is nowhere, but earn differently.

If you’re self-employed, you just have to figure out how you can do just as much as you wish, then be able to exit with as much convertible equity as possible. Some bring in partners, then sell out their part of the firm over time, often with a proviso that they will be an employee at a set income for an open or specific period. Or they sell the entire firm with the same condition.

If you are employed by another, three choices often work. One, work out a schedule of reduced employment, usually focussing on a key area and progressively reducing the other duties. Two, become an independent consultant on that key area, and expand that consulting (if you wish) to other areas with other, usually non-competing firms. Three, make yourself available for spot assignments as needed.

Some vocations need just such temporary yet highly trained help. Nurses can hire out for three- or six-month contracts elsewhere in the U.S. or abroad. Oral hygienists can establish working agreements for specific days in different dental practices. Older ministers can fill spots for vacationing clergy or at churches that are between callings. The trick here is to ask others in the field how the retired or more seasoned practitioners keep their feet professionally in the door while simultaneously living a full second life.


(2) Get a new, different full- or part-time job

If you want to leave the old firm or you are closing your company but still want to work in the field, three time-proven techniques work: (1) ask all of your contacts made at the previous job to help you find something similar but new, (2) go to your professional association or labor union and ask for help, and (3) respond to the ads and employment listings in your professional journals and both trade and town newspapers. Be diligent but patient.

If you have no idea what you want to do other than quit doing what you did before, list every skill you developed and enjoyed in your work, at home, in other activities, while volunteering. Then from that list design your perfect job. If such a job exists, go for it, full or part time. If it doesn’t, pluck out the key components and reassemble them into a job that does exist. Go directly to the groups or firms that have a need that your newly designed job meets.

That is the idea behind an excellent book that has successfully been guiding job seekers for decades, Richard Bolles’ <What Is The Color of Your Parachute?> ( Check the library and follow his straightforward but not quite so simple advice.

I know. You’re saying, “Who is going to hire an old duffer (or dreamboat) like me?” Lots of employers (mostly in small and service-related firms) want wisdom, practiced skills, inter-personal competence, judgement, a strong work ethic, and integrity. If you’ve got those and enough stamina, a part-time spot may be perfect for both you and your new boss.


(3) Develop new skills

Sometimes they’re not really new skills, but old ones you finally have a chance to pay attention to. Like piano lessons, after plunking at ditties for decades. Or learning how to do graphic design or create a CD-ROM even though you’ve been able to write a letter and send an e-mail for years.

But there’s hardly anything more exciting (or scary) than getting in line like a greenhorn and really learning something new. A friend of mine learned locksmithing. Another, a part-time painter, learned how to weld so he could expand into sculpture. An older gent who had been an usher at the local drama programs suddenly found himself in high demand after taking acting and dance lessons.

With the exception of one person who took lessons by computer, almost everybody I know goes back to school. It often starts with a one-night extended education program, and that sometimes expands to community college courses or recreational department workshops. Some hire private tutors. One friend pays high school kids to teach him different aspects of computer use. Some have learned several new skills through volunteering. One, a docent at a nearby rebuilt mission, can now cook full meals of grain-based dishes, weave the place mats from native grasses, and even pour and finish the candles to use while eating! You get the idea…

(4) Explore new fields of learning

Here I am suggesting new academic pursuits, rather than skills acquisition, although some of the latter also invariably occurs.

This is where curiosity is the guide. Where the historian wants to find out more about paleozoology, or the accountant wants a fuller knowledge of investments or mathematics. Sometimes it is a huge leap: the dentist with a gnawing interest in preaching or publishing.

Three paths suggest themselves: (1) heading straight for the university and digging in, a couple of courses to get wet, then heads down until they know what they’re seeking, (2) trying out a new academic venture through something like Elderhostel (, where a few days of exploration with others will see if more serious pursuit is worth trying, and (3) using the library and Internet as your guide, creating a master reading list, and going to it. Often experts in the field will gladly let you use their class syllabus or suggest the best current reading order, and might even be able to provide you with the names of other, serious seekers of knowledge in that area, for informal meetings or over-coffee exchanges. ____________________________________________________

(5) Travel with a purpose.

More than just bopping about and hiding from the rays, this suggests that there can be a grander purpose to spending your days and nights elsewhere.

Getting to understand a culture and people is just such a purpose, which has the reverse benefit of others getting to understand you (and us). That to me would mean some serious reading about the locale first: the history, people, economy, geography, whatever else interests you (like cooking, pottery, art…). It would also mean some language study, at least enough to have sufficient phrases to courteously and safely get around town. The language lessons can be added to once you are there, often by hiring other students or teenagers to help you learn pronunciation from the textbooks you bring.

Or much more detailed purposes that expand your news skills (in 3) or your new academic pursuits (in 4). You may also want to write about the new locale, either for American publications (see 8 below), or for other purposes. Photography is another activity that blends well with travel, and can result in publication too. A tip about the last two: people there will ask why you want information or a photo of them so you had better have a ready response. The name of a magazine for writing or a future photographic display in a library are often enough to offset others’ reluctance and concern.

7/15: Want to see your words in Chicken Soup for the Grandmother’s Soul?

Here’s a chance at immortality—your own article in the coming (April 2002) Chicken Soup series. But there’s a quickly-approaching deadline (August 28) and some hoops to jump through.

Does it pay more than immortality? Yep, $300 and an autographed copy, though I’m uncertain who will autograph it. (They also pay $100 for personal anecdotes used in the book.) For guidelines, what they want, and how to submit, check the authors’ (Hanoch and Meladee McCarty) slow-loading website at

I recently had just such an article in Bud Gardner’s Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul book. Lots of competition; a bit of rewrite; not much communication between acceptance and print, and a fun, many-author book-signing in Santa Barbara. If you’d like a peek at my humorous piece called “1,600 Articles Ago…” (at 1,450 words, it’s about the size you’ll submit), journey over to my writing/publishing website at

6/1: Only wierdos use computers

Because this is an electronic newsletter and its prime audience is about 50 and older, only two years back it would have been doomed, or limited to a wee percent of intrepid, probably weird daredevils. Even now, according to USA Today (5/24/01) quoting the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 59% of those 50-65 don’t go online. Why? Cyberspace is too dangerous, too expensive, and too confusing. (They think they’re confused now, wait until they read these pages!)

All that is changing as the elder Boomers sneak into 55. According to Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI), the number of Web surfers 55-64 grew 20% over the past six months, the largest increase of any age group. What brings them to the screen? Emails (37% send them, up 46% in the past 18 months), general web browsing (27%), investment tracking (13%), personal purchases (9%), travel plans (8%), and business purchases (4%).

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Gordon Burgett
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