In this issue of SSL Newsletter…
1. Help me share your thoughts in this newsletter
2. Okay, ladies: three photos of six sweaty studs!
3. New senior-style triathlons begin on 9/9 in Chicago (actually Naperville)
4. Take a look at your cohort!
5. Part 6 (of 7)--Planning our own Super Second Life: Prioritizing and Timing
6. What questions do most people ask about planning their own Second Life?
7. Book Report: New Passages, by Gail Sheehy
8. Interviewing for travel articles
[ 1 ] Help me share your thoughts in this newsletter
From Burt Dubin, President, Personal Achievement Institute, (http://www.SpeakingBizSuccess.com):
This may be useful: At my attained age--I'm in my middle earlies--with no more responsibilities raising children, I find myself in a state of inner serenity most of the time. I live the life I want to live, travel overseas for a week twice a year, and attend virtually all the international speakers conventions. I am fulfilled doing the work I love while earning a very good living consulting out of my home office.
If a minor health issue has me under the weather (like a recent, uncomfortable reaction to the side effects of a prescription), I can take a day off with no real loss. I feel in charge of my life experience and pretty much do whatever I want.
I address the future expectantly and am eagerly awaiting the next adventure. I expect to continue doing this for the next 63 years, Gordon--then I plan to retire!
[ 2 ] Okay, ladies: three photos of six sweaty studs!
A surprising number of you folks (some, ladies) asked if I had any photos of our C & O bike trip, even though I had promised not to dwell longer on this death-defying feat. (I suspect they want to see if we did, in fact, cycle all that way.)
So I plucked three of my brother Bill’s photos of us standing at the three most important points: the end, the middle, and the beginning! (I know. We could have just driven to the spots, looked scruffy, and posed. During the rain on Sunday, that would have been a serious consideration!) But here we are (at http://www.super-second-life.com/CObikepix.htm).
The rest you must take on faith. Since Bill is a minister and took the pictures, that might help. You can also sniff the Georgetown photo: five days on the trail leaves pungent proof.
[ 3 ] New senior-style triathlons begin on 9/9 in Chicago (actually Naperville)
Of course, any of us can enter a regular triathlon but there’s always the danger that the pit crews and time-takers will be at home in bed before we finally limp across what we imagine was the finish line. And there’s that problem of looking like a dumpling at a pretzel convention.
No longer! AARP and the USA Triathlon group are joining forces to offer the first seven of many scaled down triathlon versions for the 50+, beginning in (or near) Chicago on 9/9, followed by Nassau County (NY) on 9/23, Dallas 10/14, Raleigh (N.C.) 10/20, L.A. 11/4, Tampa/St. Petersburg (11/18), and Honolulu (12/2).
“We’ll also offer health fairs and clinics at each event,” says AARP’s Katie Sloan. “We’d like to draw about 500 people to each one. Nobody should be intimidated. They’ll be fun.” (Particularly for the survivors.) There will also be a free, no-registration one-mile run or walk for family and friends immediately following each race.
Forget the Iron Man. The new distances will be a 400-meter (quarter-mile) swim, 12.4-mile (20K) bike ride, and a 3.1–mile (5K) run/walk (or crawl). Participants can enter solo or in three-person teams, one person for each event. Cost is $30 per person, $75 per team. There’s another bonus: all registrants receive a training manual (12-week program), plus the option of a coach-led (8-week) training program near each venue.
Check the website at http://www.super-second-life.com/aarpusa.htm
for more specifics, locations to register, and “Top Five Tips for Triathlon
Training” provided by AARP / USA Triathlon.
 Take a look at your cohort group!
In 1976, Gail Sheehy wrote a book that virtually everybody in my generation read (who read at all), called Passages. (I review her 1995 counterpart book, New Passages, for those entering or in their Second Lives, below.) Let me expand on that book report here by directing you to one chapter in New Passages that tells how our respective age groups did, seen about 20 years later.
In Part One, “Whatever Happened to the Life Cycle?”, Sheehy describes five different generations that occupy current adulthood, with birth dates from 1914 to 1980. While I was born (in 1938) plunk in the middle of the “Silent Generation” (which included those born from 1930-45), you might find your group in one the others: World War II generation (1914-29), Vietnam Generation (1946-55), Me Generation (1956-65), or the Endangered Generation (1966-80). (Check your generation on pages 23-53; the book will almost surely be your town library, at 305.24.)
Gail explains why time-grouped “generations” often go through the same passages and have similar life histories, by saying “(t)he point where you and your friends came in on your culture’s history has influenced your choices and attitudes. That distinctive generational coloration affects each stage of life and the passages between them, profoundly influencing which tasks of development you accomplish early, which you postpone, and which you will have to catch up on--or may never complete.” These generations are sociologically called “cohort groups”--people who will always share a common location in history. Those of us in the same groups experienced defining events at about the same age, shared like social and economic attitudes, were at the same technological level, and were victims or victors of the same medical advances.
How did my “Silent Generation” fare, about 20 years later?
We popped out between wars, but hid under desks in school nuclear bomb drills. We were born before TV, computers, credit cards, tape decks, artificial hearts, and condominiums. Our Moms stayed at home, we usually had a live-in grandmother (before day care or nursing homes), and we gave girls corsages before dances and wore a coat and tie to the dance. And we were good kids: chores, tasks, and dish drying by hand. Sex was “heavy petting,” with luck. We called it charm.
We were drinkers and smokers but other drugs were virtually unknown. We listened to Perry Como’s “Wanted,” rhythm and blues, “doo-wap,” and Elvis. We were at the bottom rung in almost every social pathology, perhaps because we still respected authority and American institutions. We married earlier and had the earliest babies in American history. There was no effective birth control, “shotgun marriages” were a reality, and 70% of the women were married by 24 (as were 50% of the men). The women were the most fertile of all time (93% became mothers)--but the female script ended there. Only 5.4 percent had college degrees by 24. (The men weren’t much better: 7%.)
High school male grads got jobs but many of the 33% who didn’t graduate went off to Korea to fight in the “police action.” Career opportunities abounded, though the descriptions of the Silents seemed accurate: withdrawn, unimaginative, unadventurous, and without burning causes. Most went into business.
When flung into the wildly incongruous society of the fiery Boomers of a few years later, we were clearly out of sync: adults just as the world went teenage. We missed the Sexual Revolution. So the Silents waited a bit and had their fling with adolescence later, creating our own boom in divorces and displaced, unskilled mothers. Which is precisely, after 40, when the women returned to school in droves.
Alas, we weren’t silent after all. Virtually every major figure in the modern civil rights movement was from this cohort group. And because they didn’t come of age angry, John F. Kennedy was their icon and Peace Corps, a shared experience. They were best at mediating. No Silent every became a President of the U.S., but almost every President since had top aides from this group.
Our question in this newsletter is what will become of our respective cohort groups now that they are faced with an unprecedented life span, no clear social paths to follow, and sometimes insufficient financial planning to see them through with comfort. That really means us. Because we can’t just sit back and let others take the lead--we have to eat, we have mates and kids and kin, we are smarter and healthier now than we could have ever expected before, and we have at hand affordable tools to instantly communicate and intellectually explore.
We can take control of those gift 30 years in a way that no other group could in the history of mankind. Which, in a way, makes Gail Sheehy’s valuable generational descriptions both intriguing as history but unhelpful for the future, other than to say, to quote the tired cliché, “the fruit seldom falls far from the vine.” We are conditioned by history and influenced by our time in it, but history (“his story”) mostly stops talking about humans at about 50 or 60, then speaks of the rare survivors who, despite age, excelled. Now, almost all of us are survivors of the old mortality lines, and we can excel in the 30 extra years if we want to. Or we can create any other kind of life we wish…
That’s my opinion, of course, and mostly what prompts me to write this newsletter, on the long shot the others agree, care, and want to mold their own exceptional Second Lives. Anyway, you might find your own “cohort group’s” description in Gail Sheehy’s New Passages as interesting as I found mine. Just remember, though, it’s nothing more than a well written journalistic description of what happened, in general, to you and your friends who happened to be born at a specific time in the U.S. It has almost nothing to do with future actions…those are in your hands.
[ 5 ] Part 6 (of 7)--Planning our own Super Second Life: Prioritizing and Timing
For these last six issues we’ve been looking at steps one might take to create their own Super Second Life. As the list below shows, we’ve already read a topic overview, then looked at two areas of immediate concern at any stage of life: finances and health. In the fourth issue we discussed a key tool, the Dream List, which can help us create the kind of life we want after, say, 50. And in the last issue we talked about mates or spouses and how you and they fit into this grand scheme.
Here we take our Dream List and subject it to prioritization and timing, on the assumption that it is exhausting to do absolutely everything all at once! And anyway, what do we do then?
Chapters 9 and 10 in How to Create Your Own Super Second Life: What Are You Going to Do With Your Extra 30 Years? discuss these very steps, so let me summarize each here, then send you to see them at the website, with a better, funnier explanation, plus fill-in charts! (Please do not write on your monitor.)
It’s one thing to have a Dream List of 143 things we want to do during our Super Second Life. It’s another thing to really want to do them. Commitment is the key word, and we measure commitment by prioritizing.
Some of those 134 are far more exciting than others. There are five ways to measure our commitment to each dream, but only one of those ways works for me. I put any item on a secondary, wanna-be list if it doesn’t provoke a resounding “yes!” to this question: “Will I do whatever it takes (including what I don’t know) to make that dream happen?”
Those that get the “yes!” are the core of our Dream List. (Any other dream can be added, or moved up from the secondary list, at any time--when it shouts a hearty “yes!”) So much for prioritization. (But in fact there’s much more about it at http://www.super-second-life.com/chap10.htm).
Let’s say that 20 items survive the grueling selection. Not every dream is appropriate at every age or level of interest, nor can we do all of them simultaneously. So here we draw up lists (or fill in boxes) by periods of time, say decades, and assign the dreams to the most appropriate time periods. Let me invent two quick examples for clarity, then send you to http://www.super-second-life.com/chap9.htm for the many more details and examples.
Let’s say that our high-five dream is to swim a mile across the Mississippi River. If our time boxes are for 50-60, 61-70, 71-80, and 80+, we might most prudently put this dream into the first box (50-60), when we still have the vigor and strength to accomplish this considerable feat, lest we find ourselves dog-paddling from Dubuque to New Orleans. (We will further use these boxes in the next issue, when we create Action Plans.)
Yet another of our dreams is to help youngsters learn to make puppets, which has been a hobby of ours for years. That dream can surely be done in all of the time boxes, so it can be listed in all, and re-evaluated at the outset of each decade to see if it still has that “I’ll do whatever it takes…” no-nonsense fervor.
The wisdom of both exercises is based on three premises: (1) if we don’t plan at all, the chance that many of our dreams will be realized is slight, (2) if we do whatever comes to mind, willy-nilly, much of what we start will fall by the wayside for wont of commitment, and (3) if we don't match dreams early-on with potential desire and ability at respective age periods, many of the dreams will occur to us too late to make them come true.
It’s easy. List what you absolutely must do in your gift 30 years, put the most important of those on top, and figure roughly at what age(s) you want to do them. Then you’re ready for the Action Plan in the next issue.
(To review already published parts of this “Super Second Life Planning” series, see http://www.super-second-life.com/6-partplan.htm)
Part 1: Outline and Overview (appeared 6/15)
Part 2: Finances (appeared 7/1)
Part 3: Health (appeared 7/15)
Part 4: Dream List (appeared 8/1)
Part 5: Mates or Spouses (appeared 8/15)
Part 7: Super Second Life Action Plan (to appear in the 9/15 issue)
Super Second Life Check-off Chart (to appear in the 10/1 issue)
[ 6 ] What questions do most people ask about planning their own Second Life?
The questions hardly vary whether the askers are housewives, tenured professors, oral surgeons, the public works folk I’ll speak to in Philadelphia on both the 11th and 12th of this month, or my high school classmates at our 45th reunion at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a few days later…
But the timing and the urgency do differ.
It seems to me--pure observation from a couple of years probing--that the more one enjoys what they do for a living, are consistently satisfied by it, and aren’t overly pressed financially, the slower they transcend into their Second Life, and the more smoothly. They are usually concerned with how they can continue doing quality work, for how long, and how they can keep at least part of their dedication active almost forever--like teaching or using their knowledge and skill to help non-profit groups). Usually their family life is already well balanced, and the other elements, like exercise and outside diversion, are well integrated. These tend to be professionals, men, and disciplined.
But for the rest of us?
When does a Second Life start? How do I know? What do I do first?
How much money do I need, right now and as I go along, to live worry-free until I die?
How do I overcome my irrational fear of becoming a “bag lady”?
Should we spend every last penny we saved or leave some to the kids?
What do I do with that one kid who refuses to be cut loose?
How do my spouse and I get in sync so the second half is a lot better, with us, than the first?
I want out for the next 30 years! How can I cut loose without losing everything?
How can I convert the 1000 things I learned into a work-free, steady income?
How do I build on the best of this life, dump the rest, and get in harmony?
Help! I simply don’t know how to find out what I want to do when I grow up!
How do I shuck some bad behavior and habits so I can clean up before I die?
How do I scale back, get rid of “things,” and inject fresh fun into my coming days?
Where do I find exciting, new friends to grow old with?
Can I find or join groups of others creating their own Super Second Lives?
How do I take care of my folks, as they age, and still have my own Second Life?
How can I give more meaning to my final days by fully using what I know now?
Where do I find an heirless zillionaire weeks from expiration to adopt or marry?
We’ll talk about almost all of these things here and at the website, and I’ll point you to related sites, books, and other sources as I find them, so you can apply what works as needed.
As for that zillionaire, my phone number and email address appear above. Either will do. Might be just the person for whom I could name a newsletter! (But don’t dally--I don’t usually stay single too long!)
[ 7 ] Book Report: New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time, by Gail Sheehy
Most of us read (or heard about) Gail Sheehy’s book Passages, published in 1976, in which the journalist defined life by time periods, until 50, and contended that not only did we think and act alike during those periods, we were also disturbed or distressed in roughly the same way during the intervals between them, or the passages. (A debatable premise but there are enough similarities at age plateaus to build around.)
Surprise! As Gail aged twenty years, she discovered that she (or we) needed a book that covered the 50+ period, plus a quick review of the earlier book, particularly the now remarkably different 40-50 age segment. New Passages is that update, published in 1995.
What did Gail find, then document in this highly-readable, example-filled book? That what society presumes about deterioration and aging is largely a myth, and much more individualistic than biological. If people stay mentally and physically active, avoid dietary extremes, and follow their health regimens, they can determine and maintain the high quality of their lives until their last few months, when, often, illness intrudes. And even illness isn’t inevitable.
It’s understood (at least by readers of this newsletter) that we are taking longer to die, but has is only recently become obvious that society is taking longer to grow up (although this won’t surprise anybody with college-aged, and 30ish, kids). Start at 20 and add about ten years to every life passage and we are closer to 21st century truths. Then see menopause, retirement, and the “empty nest” as the gate to Second Adulthood, with another 30-40 years of potentially healthy, vigorous, alert living possible, and we have the territory she calls the “Passage to the Age of Mastery” (at about 50) and then “The Passage to the Age of Integrity” at around 60.
What I liked best about Sheehy’s book was both her research (mostly using census data) confirming that we are the healthiest and brightest “old folks” ever (and can remain so well into and through our 80s, even 90s) and her examples showing the myriad of new, liberating lifestyles we can assume if we take the effort to do so.
She also emphasizes the need to plan, to find anchors we can moor to, when we start seeing our friends dying around us. That we must have purpose, be productive, and intentionally enjoy life, otherwise “when the seas become unpredictably rough, the wave may break over us and we’ll begin losing ground.” Gail says we must take responsibility for our future, integrate that with our mates, and inject new meaning into our gift years. “The secret in the search for meaning is to find your passion and pursue it.”
Though the book is five-plus years old, it remains a profitable and enjoyable read. Her examples are well chosen and her message carries promise. She notes that with the pace of life constantly accelerating “we seldom take time to process even the most meaningful experiences of our lives; we just speed through them." In a Second Life we can create the time and we can apply the brakes as needed. She provides a good analytical tool to evaluate our past and present lives so we can plan our own best future.
(In  above, I look at one segment of New Passages to share her analysis of my cohort group, the “Silent Generation.” To read earlier book reports, please see http://www.super-second-life.com/bookreports.htm)
[ 8 ] Interviewing for travel articles
If you plan to travel in your Second Life, can write clear sentences, would like to share your information with others by newspaper or magazine, and wouldn’t mind earning a few spare bucks for all that foot and pen labor, the past two issues (and two to come) contain some guidelines that should make the feat possible. (You won’t get rich and it takes work, but somebody a lot like you is filling those travel columns!)
All articles are built around fact, quote, and anecdote. Photos are a valuable fourth component for travel, but usually not mandatory. Alas, newcomers leave out the quotes. Double alas, editors rarely use items without them. Two ships sailing apart?
Quotes come in two forms: Dead (the speaker is) and Live. The first, rarely used, are often historic quotes that directly pertain to your article’s theme. Live quotes come either directly from a person or are in print--telling me whom I can contact to harvest newer, more precise comments. Since I research the site or event to be covered in my article rather extensively before arriving, I write out the dead quotes and list the live sources, plus anything else in print that will help me locate them.
Thus when I show up in Tangiers or Tulsa, I will have a list of five to ten names. If they are critical to my article, I contact them immediately and set up an interview. If they are background people, I go to the sites or activities and seek fresh sources who are in charge or there to help reporters. Then, if needed, I still have a few names in reserve should the on-site contacts prove disappointing.
Before I interview a person, I have in mind at least one key thought, fact, or opinion I need from them. After introductions, I open with a broader question, then I build on the replies to ask directly what I need. After that, I play it by ear, always letting the other person talk, acting as a gentle prod to steer him or her into the most fertile fields. I always take notes (on a small handheld notepad). Sometimes I simultaneously tape on a recorder in my pocket that has a microphone clip on my shirt pocket. (In the latter case, I ask, “You don’t mind if I tape?”) If they say “yes, I do” (very rarely), I take off the clip and turn off the machine, but continue taking notes by hand!
Most interviews take far less than 15 minutes, but if the person is enjoying the process and is in no hurry, I stay and listen for more good material. Be certain to get the correct spelling of their name (and others they mention) and clarify any position they now hold: in short, be certain the facts are correct. Promise to send them a copy of the article when it’s in print, thus you will need their address. I sometimes say, with good interviewees, “If I see that I need another fact or something clarified, would you mind if I called or emailed?” If they say no (almost always if you gave a good interview), they will provide their phone or email address. Do I use that number? Sometimes, usually for another, related article later on where they would, again, be a good source.
Must you identify yourself as a writer? Not really, but few will answer many questions without asking why you are asking. So I’m straightforward: “I’m ___ ____ and I'm writing a travel article (about ______ ) for ______ Magazine. Might I ask you a couple of questions ____ ?” It’s true and it’s almost always enough to get their cooperation. Since I promise to send them a copy of the published article later, few insist on seeing it in process, which I tell them is against the magazine’s policy. It probably is but in 1,600+ articles I think that only lost me about three interviewees. Do I pay them? No. But if it’s convenient and there’s rapport (or a reason), I might offer a drink or lunch after we speak. I don’t take notes then, but often additional material comes up, which I write down quickly after the guest departs.
Finally, how many interviews or quotes does an editor want? Read the last three issues, picking out in each at least one article similar to what you want to write. How many did the editor use? Four, three, and five? About four, so interview six.
Interviewing is like a key to the palace. It gets you into places and souls that outsiders never know. Writing is a great way to learn things and still cash in on your curiosity. Just be alert, at ease, respectful of the other person and their time, and not unduly deferential. Mostly, speak only when absolutely necessary to get an interview that bristles with knowledge that you and your readers want to know.
Again, if you’re in California, come to the travel seminar and join many Second Life colleagues (see http://www.sops.com/seminars.htm). If not, my Travel Writer’s Guide tells all--as does the “How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing” audio cassette/workbook series and “100 Best U.S. Travel Newspaper Markets” (see http://www.sops.com/travel.htm). Sorry, I don’t mean to plug products here but how, in clear conscience, can I not tell you that this help exists?
I’ll share some thoughts about query letters (the real keys to the in-print kingdom) to travel magazine editors in the next issue.
If you enjoy “letters to the editor,” you won’t be denied at this website. You’ll just have to link to read them: http://www.super-second-life.com/lets2ed.htm. If you want to read past issues, see http://www.super-second-life.com/pastissues.html. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
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Agemasters. Gordon Burgett, Author, Speaker, Publisher.
Information products about second life planning, writing, publishing, and speaking.
P.O. Box 6405, Santa Maria, CA 93456.
Phone (800) 563-1454 / Email Gordon@super-second-life.com
http://www.sops.com (information about writing, publishing, or speaking) http://www.agemasters.com (for age-linked athletic achievements)