Photo by Jann Freed

What is Long Life Learning?

Jann Freede-newsletter, Sage-ing Leave a Comment

My mission in life is to continue to learn and to share what I am learning with others. I do this primarily through my monthly newsletter, monthly podcast, teaching, my column in Training Magazine called “Leading Edge,” and through informal conversations.

This month I’ve had several learning experiences I want to share.

Last month, my podcast interview was with Kristi Nelson. Nelson is the Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living, and the author of Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted. After reading her book, I reached out to her to learn more about living a grateful life. 

You can listen to our conversation here. We talk about the difference between gratitude and gratefulness and how to live with a grateful heart. One quote from Kristi that sticks with me is this: “Gratefulness is the opposite of taking everything for granted.” 

The Network for Grateful Living is one newsletter I appreciate so much that I am a paid subscriber. It adds value to my life. I learned so much from Kristi that my plan is to interview her again! Her journey is inspiring.

So much to learn and so little time.

Learning. What does it mean to be a long life learner? If we are going to have a long life, then let’s spend it learning. Reading and listening to podcasts is another way to continuously learn. If you want to learn more about becoming a Sage, turn to Arthur Brooks. He writes a column for The Atlantic called “How to Build a Life.” In addition, Brooks has a podcast titled “The Art of Happiness” where he weaves together the art and science of living a better life. 

Decide what you want to learn and there are resources to help you learn it. And then think about how you can share what you are learning with others. At 95, my dad learned how to navigate his iPad from a resident where he lived who offered a free class. It was a win for everyone involved. 

In his book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, Brooks writes “Devote the back half of your life to serving others with your wisdom. Get old sharing the things you believe are most important. Excellence is aways its own reward, and this is how you can be most excellent as you age.”

In July, I took the plunge and went to Baja, Mexico (close to Cabo San Lucas) to attend the Modern Elder Academy (MEA). The mission of MEA is to help people navigate mid-life and beyond. A concept I know as Sage-ing from my work with Sage-ing International.

Coming to MEA has been on my bucket list since I read co-founder Chip Conley’s article in the Harvard Business Review in 2017. Then I read his book, Wisdom @ Work. Followed by my discovery of MEA. The founders are opening up two more sites outside of Santa Fe, One will be on a ranch. MEA. It will have a similar focus to MEA, but provide a different experience. My understanding is the other site will be more of a retreat site that could be rented by other organizations.

In fact, I interviewed Chip in 2019 for my podcast “Becoming a Sage.” If you missed it, you can listen to the conversation here. My main criterion was to come to Baja when Chip was going to be here so I could meet him in person. I met Chip and I am a groupie!

I describe MEA as summer camp meets summer school.

For those of you who know me well, I have always loved libraries and even librarians. They seem to be always calm. Yes, call me a nerd.

For about eight years, I served as a commissioner on the State of Iowa Library Commission which oversees aball of the libraries in Iowa. That is how much I love libraries. 

Libraries have become community centers and librarians have taken on the role of computer teachers. For people who can’t afford books or a computer or even the software (which needs constantly upgraded), they can usually find what they need at a library. I am an advocate because it helps narrow the gap between the “haves and have nots.” 

Library at MEA

When I was at MEA, Chip dedicated the new library. He told us how he hauled all of these books from San Francisco bags at a time with each trip back and forth. He said, “Friends may come and go, but a good book never leaves you.” Leaders are readers.

What was fascinating was how the books are organized by questions. What do you want to learn and seek the wisdom through reading. Honestly, I think Chip is brilliant in how he writes, how he thinks about life, and he can translate information to be more easily understood. The library is organized by topics and then under each topic are some questions addressed by the books in the library. For example:

Wisdom

  • How can I cultivate and harvest more wisdom in my life?
  • What can philosophy teach me?

Purpose

  • How can I live with more purpose?
  • How can I give back to society?
  • How do I leave a legacy?

There are at least 12 more categories with questions associated with each: Aging, My Body, Workplace, Change, Learning, Self-Awareness, Relationships, MEA Authors (and I donated Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts), Creativity, Mindfulness & Spirituality, The Earth, and Travel. These categories reflect what the founders of MEA believe are important at this time.

I found just reading the questions inspiring. There is so much to learn and so little time. Recently, I invested in the Blinklist app as a way to read and learn more in less time. I have a free trial for a month and then I will decide if I want to pay for it.

Reading is only one way to keep learning. There are so many online courses. Check out the courses offered at libraries, art centers, or audit college courses. If you are willing to pay some money and invest some time, you can learn about anything. I know someone who decided to take ping pong lessons during the pandemic!

Did you ever hear of Elderhostel trips? These were educational travel trips. But Baby Boomers did not like the word “elder.” So now these same experiences are called Road Scholar Trips.

What are you reading?

What do you want to learn?

How will you be a long life learner?

MEA Library