Suggested Song: When I’m 64, Beatles
Suggested Drink: Accelerator cocktail, cherry brandy, peppermint schnapps, vodka

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams. – Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

porchswingsWe humans are a curious species. Half of our lives are spent developing into interesting, capable creatures. We get degrees, build careers, save money, acquire knowledge and experience, hone interests, learn from mistakes, gain compassion and learn to love. From molehill to mountain we slowly, steadily grow our possibilities and potential. And at the peak of our prowess we downshift to the “good life” and atrophy into a retiring sunset.

Wasted potential is everyone’s loss. We harangue the young about squandered time when their hourglass is mostly full, and then become the worst violators when ours is half empty. At a time when creativity in all its forms is most needed and appreciated on this planet, the surrender of our talents to the porch swing and wine cave is a communal loss.

How do we stack up at midlife against our younger selves in the capacity to achieve great things? The following table displays a brief summary.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 11.01.19

Oh to be young again, just starting out and facing adventure, pursuing such promise, the exciting unknown of the roads ahead. Most of us were balancing a host of obligations and still seeking our balance. We were finishing studies and starting careers, probably the first of a series as we pinballed through different ideas and experiences. We were discovering ourselves and uncovering new interests, but generating income was the primary concern and motivator. Time was consumed with work and kids, and the emotional child inside lingered well past the twenties (speaking for myself). Our time and resources for pursuing grand ventures outside conventional careers were limited in all manner of ways: our finances, support networks, bases of knowledge, and emotional maturity.

pool diveThese factors that hobble our passion plans start to dissipate by midlife, leaving us well armed for the pursuit of grand ambitions. Kids graduate from our daily lives at about the time our core careers are winding down, leaving us with more time, fewer distractions, and more disposable income. We have been well educated, trained and retrained through our university and working years, gained knowledge, and as importantly gained perspective and balance. Our rolodexes are full of people who can help, or people who know people who can help. At midlife we have the time and resources, the maturity and experience, and we have interests that are blossoming into real passions. This is when we retire to porch swings and sunsets?

We humans are a curious species, it is true. Our interests shift to the deep end of the pool with age, the lure of the profound not marked firstly by splashy income, but personal achievement, meaning, and the possibility of leaving something big behind. We’re taking better care of physical and emotional selves than did our parents; 60 is the new 40; interpreneurs are the new entrepreneurs. Now is the moment to accelerate into the experience, to dive deep. There will be time for sunsets down the road.

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

Suggested drink: Rum punch recipe, pineapple juice, orange juice, Bambarra rum, grenadine
Suggested song: Kokomo, Beach Boys

We descended on Turks & Caicos last week to celebrate the 50th birthday of a great friend. There were 25 or so in the group, arriving in clumps as summer schedules allowed, couples and singles and kids in tow for the family few.

The Caribbean is wilting in July and between the pool and beach we were growing gills by the end of the week. Constant hydration was le rigueur, with a steady water infusion plus rotating lineup of cold Presidente beer, rosé wine and local rum punch as the sun dipped from noon to night.

conchSea life

Turks & Caicos has the third largest coral reef in the world. Its beaches have been voted the most beautiful, it’s diving the most stunning on this planet by Tripadvisor and others. The water is warm and calm and visibility exceeds 100 feet, sometimes more. Needless to say the boating and snorkelling is unforgettable.

The variety of sea life darting over and through the vibrant coral is a visual feast, from spinning swarms of tiny forage fish to solitary predators gliding majestically over the sandy floor. Blue tangs and bar jack, eagle rays and lemon sharks and barracuda, parrotfish and trumpet fish and damselfish, … and conch. Oh the conch! This large spiral sea snail is the sought-after celebrity of Turks & Caicos and served in most every eatery, as raw ceviche, over tender leaves of salad, deep fried into fritters, however you enjoy it. It’s the royal plate for the well-heeled to the flip-flopped. It’s colorful, delicious, and makes for one hell of a sea horn. Yes, by week’s end we grew gills and had conch coming out of our ears.

IMG_0229Land life

The birthday party group at Turks was as diverse as the fish in the crystalline blue sea. We were old and young, gay and straight, black and white and beige and olive, carnivores and herbivores and pescetarians, liberal and conservative, wealthy and not nearly so, some overworked and a few unemployed, flying in from all points on the globe. Among us were doctors and consultants and professionals of every stripe, restaurateurs and a bartender, jewelry shop owners and a jewelry designer, musicians and writers (who isn’t these days?), a physical therapist and a garbage man, students and grandmothers. Who am I missing?

I’m convinced that this variety was key to the unending smiles, hugs, and the warm and familial vibe of the amazing week. We open ourselves to the diversity of colors around us and our worlds become richer and vastly more fascinating. Among our immediate and extended networks, and networks beyond that, we have the diversity of the boundless sea. Why limit our reach to fish of our own color and stripe?

The merits of openness extend beyond simply more interesting rum cocktail conversation. Many of us have grand ambitions that profit from a wide spectrum of connections, experiences and advice from all walks of life and corners of the sea. Limit your network and you limit your possibilities. Teach, learn, grow, … now where’s that rum punch?

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

Suggest Song: Something New, Nikki Yanofsky
Suggested Drink: Bee Tea cocktail, Bärenjäger honey liqueur, tea, lemon wedge

Judy Freedman writes a wildly popular blog called A Baby Boomer Woman’s Life After 50 (click here to go there). She’s a featured blogger in the Huffington Post and has also been published in HealthWomen.org, Midlife Boulevard, VibrantNation.com and others publications. You don’t need to be a woman to enjoy Judy’s wit and wisdom and I have been a fan for a few years now.

Judy lives of what she writes and her past few years have seen significant change and growth, a classic interpreneurial journey from core career to reinvention and new ambitions of deep personal meaning. She had also lost her husband during this time. We reconnected recently and I asked Judy for an interview and a few suggestions for others traveling the same path. I’m confident that you will find her experiences fascinating and lessons being learned inspiring. We cover a lot of territory in the interview, perfect for rosé reading on a summer afternoon. Enjoy!

BM: What did you do professionally for a core career Judy and what precipitated your decision to consider a new direction?

JF: I’ve always been in communications. I started my career on the editorial side as a magazine editor. A few years later, I moved into public relations at General Foods (now Kraft) and then joined Campbell Soup Company, working my way up the corporate ladder over 30 years. I held many jobs including overseeing brand PR campaigns, writing annual and corporate social responsibility reports, executing CEO and executive communications, building employee communications and creative services and multi-media departments, and more.

It was a wonderful career and I really enjoyed my time at Campbell. However, as I approached my 50th birthday, the year became a major turning point. Professionally, I started blogging and really enjoyed writing and hearing feedback from my virtual community of readers. Personally, my husband became ill that year and passed away shortly before my birthday.

Losing my husband at such a critical time in my life and then emptying my nest shortly after when both my children left the house – my daughter graduated from college and left for a job in NYC, and my son graduated high school and left for college – really jumpstarted my transformation.

I spent the next five years strategically preparing to leave my full-time job. I became more introspective as I worked with a personal coach. I studied mindfulness meditation and began a yoga practice. I expanded my blog, which began to be recognized with accolades from publications such as The Huffington Post and a Webby Award Honoree.

When I was given the opportunity to retire early from Campbell, I took the leap and I haven’t looked back.

Judy freedmanBM: You’ve had a truly accomplished and fulfilling career. How do you wind down from that? What are you doing now and what does it provide that your core career did not?

JF: My biggest challenge in the beginning was channeling all my interests – there’s so much I want to do during my second act and I’m immensely curious about many areas. I’ve spent the last two years trying to look at my passions and what brings me joy. Another focus has been bringing greater balance to my life. I take my work very seriously, yet I also take time to play.

I’ve continued to grow my blog at aboomerslifeafter50.com and become a contributor to The Huffington Post, HealthyWomen.org and other midlife publications. Along with blogging, I’ve expanded my reach as a social influencer working on campaigns with brands and causes I believe in and have a desire to support, such as positive aging, caregiving, eldercare, and health and wellness for boomer women.

My mindfulness and yoga practice greatly helped me to process my grief and transition after losing my husband. As I continued to explore my interests I realized that yoga was extremely fulfilling. It provided me with the physical movement I needed (after years of sitting at a desk and even now as a blogger), mental acuity (doing poses really requires you to focus and strengthen your core being), and spiritual understanding (through stillness and the Sanskrit teachings). I wanted to learn more about yoga and began to research teacher training programs in my area and other locations.

This winter I registered with Lourdes Institute for Wholistic Studies not too far from home and started a 200 Hour Yoga Instructor Training program. I love being a student again and look forward to sharing my knowledge with others once I receive my certification in 2016.

BM: So some major changes then. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years, living where, working with whom?

JF: Five years is a long way off. Yogic philosophy reminds us to live in the present moment, so I’ve been trying to enjoy each day and each hour of my day. My hope is that I will be practicing and teaching yoga to other mature adults so they can age gracefully and live a long healthy life.

I’ve had some job opportunities, but I don’t see myself working full-time in a corporate environment again. I enjoy my flexible lifestyle after years of having such structure. I want to continue to give back to my community and more broadly pass down all the knowledge I have learned to help others achieve their dreams.

Traveling is a favorite – so I hope I remain healthy so I can explore all the places on my bucket list.

BM: What were your primary motivations then and how have they changed?

JF: When I was younger, my primary motivation was to provide for my family. I was partially driven by the paycheck because I was the main breadwinner. Once my children were born, my husband and I decided he would be a stay-at-home dad. His health issues made it more conducive to this lifestyle.

I was a highly competitive type A person – went to an Ivy League college, went into a corporate environment afterwards and climbed the ladder. I thrived in large, complex organizations.

However, spending so many years under fast-paced, high-stress conditions takes its toll on the body and the mind. Plus, after experiencing the trauma of my husband’s illness and death, it’s a reminder that we are only on this earth for a short time and life is finite.

present-momentToday, I am more motivated by my passions and all the things that inspire me rather than the paycheck. I don’t need much – the big house, the expensive clothes and accessories – they aren’t necessary. I’ve learned to live on a lot less and with a lot less, but I feel like I have so much more. My relationships are richer and my experiences deeper because I am living in the present.

I’ve become more introspective and in some ways more selfish, but in a good way. I still give to others, but I also take time to stop, breathe and be. As the Taoist Proverb says, “No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”

BM: Did you follow any particular process to structure your thinking and create a plan for change?

JF: I worked with a wonderful coach/therapist after my husband died. She encouraged me to study mindfulness and yoga as a way to live in the present. It helped me get through the grieving process. I also reached out for guidance and love from my friends and family members.

On the professional side, I was getting restless shortly before I turned 50 and my world turned upside down. I knew I wanted to make a change, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or how I was going to do it. My husband was older than me and we had always talked about my retiring early.

Sometimes when you put yourself out there, the universe responds. I never dreamed that my little blog would become the center of my life after 50. It was so fulfilling to hear the positive comments each week and to develop my writing skills– skills that I always had, but used in different ways. Going to blogging conferences opened me up to a whole new group of talented midlife women from all parts of the country. Many have become good friends.

After my children left the nest and both finished college, I had more flexibility financially. I sold my house and moved into a smaller townhome. I also bought a small property at the shore – my condo on the corner – was a perfect place to refresh and renew. The ocean waves are very calming to the senses.

I also started budget planning to see how much I needed on a monthly basis. It’s a really good eye-opener. I still keep track of my budget each month to see where I’m spending and if I’m in line with my goals. If I go over one month, I try to conserve the next month.

Through my blogging I connected with AARP (American Association of Retired People) and did some work with their Life Reimagined mapping. It provides six guideposts to make change:

  • Reflect: pausing before you start the journey. Mindfulness and yoga offer very beneficial exercises for reflection.
  • Connect: getting feedback and counsel from friends and guides. After leaving my full-time job, I worked with a career coach (different from my therapist/coach) to look at my strengths and interests.
  • Explore: this is the discovery and testing step – curiosity and courage are essential to finding the way forward. This step was exciting and at the same time challenging for me because I have so many interests.
  • Choose: narrowing of options. As my work/life played out I saw that while I enjoyed my blogging, it wasn’t something I wanted to build a new business around. I don’t want to blog 24/7 or hire people to blog for me. I enjoy my writing and want to spend some of my hours pursuing this work, not every waking hour of every day. Whatever small amount I earn from my blogging I reinvest in my blog and in my knowledge building, such as going to social media conferences or investing in my blog design.

Judy freedman 2At the same time, I realized that yoga was becoming a bigger part of my schedule. I knew that I wanted to spend some part of my day and my work in a more active space of health and wellness. That’s when I decided why not bring it a step further and pursue yoga instructor training.

  • Repack: deciding what to let go of and what to keep. I had to let go of all the baggage that was holding me back from moving forward. Part of that was selling my house – which I loved but was a financial, emotional, and physical drain on me after my husband’s passing.

My heart has mended after such a significant loss. The love never fades for a lost spouse – the hole just gets smaller. About two years after my loss, I decided I wanted more companionship. I tried online dating and was lucky to meet a fellow New Yorker living nearby. We had lots in common and today he is the new love of my life – it’s a different kind of love the second time around.

I’ve changed my diet to better address my health issues. I am on the FODMAP diet, better known as the “tummy diet” and I no longer have heartburn or take any medications for heartburn. I’m eating more mindfully.

  • Act: a first step toward making things real, releasing the energy through the optimism that comes with choice, curiosity, and courage. I did make choices when I sold my home, left my job, and committed to yoga instructor training.

follow dreamsThese six steps are an iterative process and once you finish, you likely will be ready to start all over again. I’ve learned from my yoga training that life is always changing but flowing with the river is a more positive way to move forward.

*Note: More details about these steps can be found in the book Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities (click here to go there)by Richard J Leider and Alan M Webber.

BM: We’ve talked about different resources you’ve found helpful. Any additional books or articles that you found particularly enlightening or inspirational during this phase of consideration?

JF: As I mentioned earlier, I read the NY Times every day and learn so much from so many articles and stories. Plus, the Life Reimagined book was thought-provoking.

The last leadership meeting I organized at Campbell included one of my all-time favorite speakers and authors, Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is a great historian and researcher. He takes simple concepts and turns them into big ideas that can facilitate change within individuals and organizations. The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, David and Goliath – all are excellent.

I like to listen to podcasts while I ride on my stationary bicycle each morning. On-Being with Krista Tippet. Tippet has a soothing voice as she interviews fascinating experts on various topics such as mindfulness, psychology, and philosophy.

Plus, I highly recommend subscribing to Dr. Deepak Chopra’s email newsletter. One of my favorite posts was “For the New Year, Do Something Better Than A Resolution.” He describes “The Four Intentions” to follow for the year. As he says, “There are countless things a person can want, but being consistent for a whole year with four basic intentions gives you a greater chance for success, because these intentions don’t run into inner obstacles – – they fit every lifestyle, belief system, personality, and individual situation.

I keep “The Four Intentions” on my bulletin board in my office and re-read them every so often. They are:

  1. I want a joyful, energetic body.
  2. I want a loving, compassionate heart.
  3. I want a restful, alert mind.
  4. I want lightness of being.

These simple intentions are an approach I aim to master during my second act.

BM: What advice would you offer for anyone considering a new and grand ambition, a dramatic shift toward a new direction?

hospiceJF: Let go and take the first step. Sometimes change happens because we make it happen. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it. Flow with the river, not against the current – it’s too hard to paddle backwards.

Do some planning in advance. Look at your values, your goals, your monthly and yearly expenses (if that is something that is going to be impacted by your new direction). What do you have to give up to get what you want? Sometimes you have to make compromises.

Don’t rush. Remember the Taoist Proverb, ““No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”

When I lost my husband and turned 50, I realized that life is short. If I wasn’t going to make changes now, what was I waiting for?

BM: Clearly, plans for your amazing website have changed. What was the original objective and where is it heading? Will it continue?

When I started this blog I had just turned 50, my husband had passed away. My kids were both leaving the nest. My entire world had changed. I wanted to share my reinvention that was unfolding with the virtual community of women who had followed my countdown to 50 (my original blog was ayearto50.blogspot.com). They wanted judy freeman 4to know what was going to happen to me.

I was inspired to capture in writing what I was going through and how I was evolving and transforming in mind, body, and spirit as I entered the second half of my life. My goal was to reach other boomer women who were going through the same or similar experiences and show them that they are not alone (and show myself that I am not alone either.) I also wanted to address aging in a positive and fun way. The second act can be a time of great experimentation, discovery, and joy. We will all face loss in our life – whether it is a parent, a spouse, a job, a pet – it is how we manage after that loss that is our defining moments.

Looking back on the past seven years, I had a great fear of being alone when my husband died and my kids left the nest. Now I’ve conquered that fear as I’ve reinvented myself and I want others to share in the experience in the hope that I can inspire them to not be afraid.

For now, I plan to continue to keep my blog going. I usually write weekly on a wide variety of topics including health and wellness, fashion and beauty, aging and reinvention, and travel and leisure. I am curious about so many things and like to share what I learn.

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

Suggested Song: All Day and All of the Night, The Kinks
Suggested Drink: Insomniac cocktail, espresso, Frangelico liqeur, Tia Maria liquer, cream, milk

insomnia-green-guyI hear voices. I hear music as well for that matter, rich and full spectrum, from the deepest thumpy bass to the tinniest of high hats, all swirling around my skull like a crazy sonic carousel. This frustration begins in the middle of the night, usually around 3 a.m. when all is still and I’ve been listening to music before bed. Last night it was Ray Davies singing the Kinks classic “All the Day and All of the Night.” Damn that Ray Davies.

Do you have the same maddening problem from time to time? I have a remedy to suggest that is unorthodox and counter to standard thinking on insomnia relief, but effective for me. It’s a mix of my mother’s old technique – a notorious 3 a.m. riser herself – and the time-honored approach of sheep counting. The latter one you know. As to my mother, she would write letters for an hour at the kitchen table (which was exasperating in the extreme for a teen trying to sneak back into the house after some Friday night party).

sheepFor the deep-sleep deprived, Bill’s 3-step approach:

  1. Get your mind off whatever music or stress is taking up all that space in your overactive brain. I keep an iPad by the bed and turn on a small light. Every expert in the insomnia field will tell you ABSOLUTELY NO SCREENS, NO ONLINE ACTIVITY, but I find that nothing gets my mind off music or work-related concerns better than answering a few emails or reading some articles from the web. A book in my hands isn’t quite as effective, but might work for you. Try it.
  2. Find your crossover point: that point when you’ve stopped hearing the music or stressing out and are thinking more about what you’re reading or writing. Don’t stay up too much longer or it may be impossible to get drowsy again. Finding that point but not going beyond is tricky. It’s usually about 30 minutes for me.
  3. Turn off the light and count your sheep, … well the sheep are optional. Actually I use a meditation technique that I learned from my Interprize partner Jaki Weller: count slowly from 5 down to 1 and back to 5; repeat. Each number should fall on a breath and concentrate on your breathing. This will keep your mind from wandering back to the music or whatever has you awake. Within 5 minutes I’m sawing logs. God forbid you hear that; you’ll be applying the 3 step approach yourself.

Let me know if this works for you as well as it does me. Have other effective solutions for this maddening condition? Please let us know!

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

Suggested Song: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Aretha Franklin
Suggested Drink: Olympic cocktail: cognac, orange juice, Clemente Creole Shrubb, orange bitters

bruce jenner1Bruce Jenner disclosed the worst kept secret in America last week. Her great misfortune of being assigned the wrong birth body didn’t hinder extraordinary Olympic achievement and an enviable career and life (the Kardashian taint notwithstanding). Perhaps it was exactly the snare of natural gifts and achievements and the celebrity they engendered that kept her closeted to the world for 65 years. She’s opting for honesty now, to finally live and express her true identity openly. Brave woman. Bravo!

How many of us are that brave? To honestly consider, accept and possibly realign our (dis)orientations, and assume the risk no matter how unsettling? Like Jenner we may have fabulous careers, solid marriages and friendships, enviable lives, but still feel dishonest at the core.

The momentum of life sweeps us in unpredictable directions. It can carry us further and further from our authentic selves: what we do, where we live, whom we love. Correcting course is often uncomfortable, although I would venture cause less disruption than Jenner is undergoing at the moment.

Imagine fighting the powerful sweep of the Jenner riptide, the transition from “Worlds Greatest Athlete,” the Hollywood handsome 1976 Olympic medalist, to estrogen injections and breast enhancements, all under the microscope of the celebrity press.

orienteeringIt’s never too late to assess and realign our bearings. In fact there is no time better than post midlife, when the mighty forces that keep us compliant, channeled and predictable – kids, mortgage, aging parents – start to dissipate. Am I wrong?

We keep a set of helpful tools and tests on the Interprize Group website that are useful in this consideration and are always looking for new ones (to go to our resources page click here). Taken an honest look lately?

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

 

Suggested Song: Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
Suggested Drink: AIX 2014 rosé, Coteaux d’Aix (comes in magnums for the spirited groups)

Imagine what you could do if financial sense was a secondary consideration of the adventures and ambitions you pursued, if the principal factor was knowledge, growth, creative production, or quality of the experience. Liberated like a child.

Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004. It has over 1.4 billion active users and generated $12.5 billion in revenues in 2014. Zuckerberg’s net worth is estimated at $36 billion.

Jimmy Wales led the launch of Wikipedia in 2001. It hosts 35 million articles in 288 languages. It has had over 18 billion page views and receives 500 million unique visitors each month. Wikipedia generated just $40 million in donations (through the Wikimedia Foundation) in 2013 and Wales’s net worth is estimated at $1 million.

knowledgeWhich of these 2 internet services will survive a half century and who, if either, will be a household name 100 years beyond that? One service provides a virtual community hall for photo updates of our cute kids doing silly stuff, snapshots from our travels and misadventures, videos of puppies and kittens doing even sillier stuff, exciting games like Farmville and SongPop, and advertisements. The other provides an encyclopedia of seemingly endless information appended and corrected every second of every day for every imaginable user regardless of age, location, interest, or spoken language. A 12 year old sitting at home in Manila seeking a summary of Napoleon’s exile to Elba written in Tagalog? They have that and without the publicity. They also don’t have videos and games.

Facebook and Wikipedia are successful ventures because they provide value to their users at no direct cost. One of them also provides real value for advertisers by selling data on everything you like, link, and suggest and a map of your network of friends. The other service has no idea whom the vast majority of its users are and that distinction goes a long way in explaining the contrast in revenues.

I am an open user of one, a closeted voyeur of the other. My fickle teens are not loyal to any online service – Facebook, Wikipedia, or otherwise – and I look to them for direction on internet trends. Even email is from the bygone era of typewriters and fax machines for my kids and Facebook has been pushed aside by Instagram and Snapchat. Will they return to Facebook as they get older? I don’t know; what would be the driver? Will they use Wikipedia more often as they get older? Yes they will. It’s utility as a knowledge source for their school essays and work-related research is unmatched, not to mention the rabbit hole of reading it offers for the merely curious like me.

rose-wine-glass1Is a venture’s profitability the primary determinant of its value? Does the Facebook platform provide more utility to its users than Wikipedia? This is an interesting debate perfectly suited for a late afternoon rosé, … I could suggest a few from Provence (says the incorrigible corrupter).

We seem to be guided from a young age to consider all of activities through the lens of financial gain or loss. For our commercial endeavors it’s the measure of demand as reflected in cash paying customers (or advertisers in this new era). Even our personal considerations are run through the mill of financial sensibilities. I could move here or do that, study this or learn that craft, but it’s just crazy to consider it, you know? I mean that just makes no financial sense at all!

This takes primacy over our actions and limits our imagination, our potential. Imagine what you could do if financial sense was a secondary consideration of the adventures and ambitions you pursued, if the principal factor was knowledge, growth, creative production, or quality of the experience. It can be liberating to imagine, dangerous even.

We can be happy that Wales decided from Day 1 his creation would be best managed as a nonprofit. He could have been a billionaire by now, yacht hopping with Jay Z in Cannes or challenging Zuckerberg for the title of biggest charitable donor in Silicon Valley. (It turns out that the Zuckerbergs are giving munificently for this distinction.) But our Wikipedia browsing would be distracted with blinking ads and our surfing stats filling up the servers of the world’s great purveyors of useless stuff. Here’s to you Jimbo, un verre de rosé vous attend!

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

 

Suggested Song: Ave Maria, Franz Schubert
Suggested Drink: Marillenschnaps shot (a powerful Austrian apricot brandy)

If your primary ambition is a life defined by comfort, security and the relief from uncertainty then read no further.

For those continuing, please start the audio to my Suggested Song above, then read on.

Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria is one of the most recognized songs of the classics period, adapted for films like Disney’s Fantasia and recorded by most every major opera singer through the years. It has become the signature piece for the great Andrea Bocelli, performed with his contemporaries and grand orchestras around the globe. I prefer this simple, haunting version sung by Maria Callas.

schubertDuring his life Schubert was dismissed as a minor league composer, second-tier to the true giants: Bach and Beethoven. His bid to join the Vienna Society of Music was rejected and all of his 20 stage pieces were failures. Most of his career was spent as a nomadic bohemian, supported and lodged by a small circle of friends and fans. Yet in his short 31 years he produced over 1,500 works including 7 symphonies, 600 vocal pieces, and many sonatas and operas.

Schubert could have enjoyed a secure, comfortable life giving piano lessons at his father’s music school. He tried this for one year, at his father’s request, but was too bored and uninspired to continue. Thank god. Beethoven, on his deathbed, was said to have praised Schubert’s music as inspired by divine genius. Brahms, Mendelsohn, Litz, Schumman, Dvorik, and other greats to follow pointed to his work as principal inspiration, and they in turn inspired the next generation of romantics.

Are we thankful for Schubert’s sacrifice, the selfless and selfish dedication to his gift despite the poverty, disrespect, and disappointment to his family? Is our world a richer place with Ave Maria in it (not to mention his other works and those of his disciples)?

I’ve written before about singular promise, most directly in my essay Y U r U (click here to read). We each have a unique gift, at least one thing that we can do better than anyone else on this planet. This one thing is defined by the natural strengths and personality styles gifted from our DNA, plus the unique sets of education, training and life experiences we’ve enjoyed, plus the one-of-its-kind rolodex of friends and contacts we’ve made through the years. If this one thing aligns tightly with our passions then the Schubert inside finds its release and all the world gets a lift, more color, deeper experience.

invest-in-youIs it an option or an obligation to share our gifts, to commit to them? Should Schubert have been permitted to take the predictable path and relax in the stupor of his father’s piano school, his promise evaporated into the ether of countless other “what could have been” possibilities?

In a powerful scene in the film Birdman, Riggan Thomson’s daughter Sam talks about the human life span and our very short and insignificant moment on this planet (83 years on average, perhaps 100 if we are lucky) in the much longer 6 million years that humans have walked the earth. Her takeaway is the futility of ego, of the effort to divine a purpose and attempt to do something impactful. What’s the point Dad, just get over yourself (paraphrasing).

My take on her poignant dialog is the opposite. Yes, we are here for a very short time, a blink of the eye, so forget about failure or making fools of ourselves. If we fail at our grand ambitions, and the chances are in that favor, we’ll be forgotten in a generation (same as if we attempt nothing extraordinary), but if we succeed we may leave our marks on history like Schubert. Do you want to be an ant in an ant farm, undistinguished from the colony, doing your dutiful job, living in relative security and anonymity until that fateful squash under the foot of life? Or do you want to strike out, defy convention, let your flag fly and make a difference? Comments please.

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

Suggested Song: Brand New Day, Ryan Star
Suggested Drink: Samuel Adams Ambition Pale Ale

A few questions for my mid-life readers.

Q1: Approaching the end of your core career and anticipating retirement years filled with golf, travel, grandkids, and wine collecting? That’s tragic!

gearsQ2: Building a unique base of talents, knowledge, experience, and contacts over decades of studies, work, moves, parenting and life lessons, and letting that skill-set decay in pursuit of the good life? That’s tragic!

Q3: Committing that sizeable retirement stipend to a beautiful home remodel, new furnishings, flashy toys in the driveway, and other impress-the-neighbors stuff? That’s tragic!

Q4: Over 50 and still living someone else’s vision of your life? Unwilling to disappointment a parent, partner, boss, friend, or child? Now that is really tragic!

Our greatest potential starts at midlife. By then we have made our share of mistakes; been scarred and tempered by life’s nasty lessons; been educated, coached, and drilled; have a clearer sense of our natural strengths, weaknesses, and motivations; and are driven less by income, more by passion. We may also have more disposable time and income as the core careers wind down and the kids move out. All of this offers tremendous possibilities.

Yet this is the moment when many of us decide to downshift, to redirect our time and savings toward the good life, and let our toolkit slowly rust. The truth is, sadly, that a lot of folks are happy to let entropy do its dirty deed on their brains and bodies while parking their derrieres on the proverbial bar stool of retirement. For the rest of us there is hope in the engaged life. It is one of our own choosing and can generate tremendous meaning and sense of purpose during the most productive years of our lives.

1 personQ1: Approaching the end of you core career and anticipating a new mission; an exciting challenge steeped deeply in your grandest ambitions? That’s mythic!

Q2: Using your singularly unique base of talents, knowledge, experience, and contacts compiled over decades of studies, work, moves, parenting and life lessons toward this mission that defines your powerful sense of purpose? Pursuing the engaged life. That’s mythic!

Q3: Committing the lion’s share of that sizeable retirement stipend toward the planning and implementation of your greatest ambition? Classes and training, tools and gadgets, educational travel, new contacts for new horizons; the things that strengthen your abilities, expand your awareness, and build your legend, …not fill your garage. A pursuit centered on creative production, not competitive consumption. That’s mythic!

Q4: Over 50 and living where you want, with whom you want, and doing what you want? Writing your own life story and pursuing a Grand Ambition that brings the greatest sense of anticipation for every new day. Now that is truly mythic!

 What’s your Grand Ambition? What are you waiting for?

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

 

Suggested Song: The Lemon Song, Led Zeppelin
Suggested Drink: a rejuvenating lemonade; water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup

Lemons are an amazing fruit: affordable, healthy, and hopefully core to your daily diet. They pack a power punch of nutrition, provide a recuperative flush after a night of indulgence, and add another dimension to your kitchen confidence in a many, many ways. The sex and wrinkles claim you ask? Yes, that was shameful.

fresh lemonsI’ve read a number of interesting articles on the merits of lemons over the holidays and during one of the many December dinner parties here in Provence this question was raised: the orange or the lemon, where do your loyalties lie? For me it’s the mighty lemon, that palm-sized grenade of pure zing and zest. They are available fresh throughout the year, so good for you, never break the bank, and simple to work with.

And now to those merits …

To firm you up:

  • Rich in vitamin C, a typical lemon provides 35-40% of the recommended daily allowance. And the peel of the lemon provides almost twice this amount! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and aids the body’s immune system; lemons are invaluable during cold and flu season. And that magic powerpeel is proven to be effective with brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
  • Lemons are also rich in calcium and potassium (even more so than grapes or apples), and therefore excellent natural boosters for heart and bone health.
  • Despite being acidic to taste, lemons actually work as an important alkaline in the body, which helps restore our pH balance. Why does that matter? These imbalances tend to bias toward acidic and that can lead to serious problems such as cardiovascular disease, complications from diabetes, and bone fragility.
  • 22 anti-cancer compounds have been identified in lemons.

limoncelloTo clean you out:

  • A glass of lemonade in the morning is an effective detoxifier for the liver, essentially liquefying the bile (sounds lovely). That second shot of limoncello at midnight goes down a bit smoother knowing you’ll be getting an organ flush in the morning!
  • Your morning glass also helps to keep the daily constitution regular in the bowels department. Fewer backups means cleaner plumbing and better health.
  • The citric acid in lemon juice helps to dissolve gallstones, calcium deposits, and kidney stones and is even known to destroy intestinal worms, should you be so unfortunate!
  • And 1 anecdote from my childhood: I remember getting bicarbonate of soda mixed with water and lemon juice from my mother as a kid when feeling nauseous. Worked like a charm!

To zest up your meals:

As a general rule when cooking, us the juice of lemons in recipes that don’t require it to heat for extended periods, as the juice’s flavor and nutritional compounds are suspended in water and evaporate away quickly. The peel, on the other hand, traps these elements in its oil glands and is much better suited for long simmering or baking.

  • Protect poached fish by placing lemons slices underneath during the poaching process.
  • Prevent sticky pasta by adding 2 teaspoons of juice to 4 quarts of boiling water.
  • Dress mild greens with lemon juice (is less overpowering than vinegar).
  • Perk up soups and salads by adding a taste of juice just before serving.
  • Enhance side dishes like rice and vegetables with juice or zest before serving.
  • Keep pesto green by adding 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to each cup of packed basil leaves.
  • Brighten basting oil by adding 1 teaspoon of grated zest, 1 tablespoon of juice, and 1 teaspoon of minced herbs to ½ cup olive oil.
  • Brighten brown butter sauce by adding 1 tablespoon of juice for every 4 tablespoons of butter.
  • Substitute for wine in pan sauces by adding 1 teaspoon of juice and chicken broth for equal parts wine.
  • Grill lemon halves and squeeze over finished poultry or fish.

These meal tips were summarized from a January/February 2015 article in Cooks Illustrated magazine, my favorite resource for all things kitchen and cooking.

You don’t need to live in Provence to enjoy fabulous lemons and they will keep in your refrigerator’s vegetable bin for a month. For the hard-charging interpreneur lemons are an indispensable resource for balance and fitness. Stock up now and share with us all how you put them to work.

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence

Suggested Song: New Year’s Day, U2
Suggested Drink: Veuve Clicquot champagne (to ring out the old, in the new!)

At the Interprize® Group we are thrilled with big changes for 2015, including the launch of a new website (click here to see) and set of accelerator workshops (dates to be announced soon). Come see what the buzz is all about!

I am finishing 2014 on an emotional high after leading another Interprize Workshop here in Aix, my third at the local IAE Graduate School of Management. The scope of interprize projects that students brought for development was inspiring, as I’ve come to expect from this school, and participation in the program continues to grow. We had wine bars and cafes and even a food-truck plan, nonprofits focused on baseball and football (soccer) sports camps for kids, schools for the underserved in Africa and Asia, career ambitions in acting, fashion and graphic design, various mobile apps, a variety of clean energy solutions, and too many other fascinating ideas to list.

The Interprize Workshop, IAE 2014

 

Over the 3-day workshop each of the aspiring interpreneurs considered their interlectual property and natural strengths, styles and passions, framed their interprize ambitions in terms of value and offering and market and customer, defined their personal stage of launch, worked through an execution plan of key milestones until their interprize was fully implemented, and announced steps they could take in the following day, month and year to move forward.

workshop2No entrepreneurial activity remains viable long-term without respect for balance and interpreneurial pursuits are no exception. Interspersed with our sessions on project planning were happy hours, with a focus on the power of positive emotions and practices to stimulate them. I think the chocolates test for vision expansion was a favorite (who knew those cherry-filled candies were spiked with liqueur!). We also built a paper chain of our change bracelets and burned them in the campus courtyard at noon, picture at right. On Friday afternoon my Interprize Group partner Jaki Weller led the class through 2 hours of yoga, meditation, and an insightful nutrition primer. All very unconventional for an IAE business seminar and thought provoking for the participants.

2015 will bring a few changes for my faithful readers to note. As mentioned above we’re launching an Interprize Group website (click here to view) full of resources on interpreneurship, life balance, and the pursuit of one’s grand ambitions, and I encourage you all to join … and please bring friends! With today’s internet inundation of spammers and bots I have to ask you to register, … my apologies. The Group is being launched with my partners Jaki Weller and Mary Carey and we’ll be listing workshop events for 2015 soon plus AMAZING daily references to the latest thinking on all things interpreneurial.

This Postcards blog will remain live and my outlet for monthly essays and new music releases. New music releases you ask? Yes, a collection of tunes is in development for the new year. She’s My Babe was the first of what I plan to be a dozen new recordings. It’s been an interesting 2014 full of rich and deliciously provocative inspiration and that would be a shame to waste!

I wish you all the very best with your year-end plans and a 2015 full of good health, grand ambitions, and deep reward.

Bill Magill
Aix-en-Provence