Saturday, March 30, 2024

by Scott D. Parker

I’m not sure how many folks might need to read Chip Copley’s Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age, but I certainly did. 

Now, before we go any further, I must say that I am not going through a midlife crisis. At all. Most people who see me ask me why I’m always smiling or be-bopping to a song I hear in my head. I’m an optimistic, happy person. Have been for as long as I can remember.

But this book ignited something in me.

I refer to my current age as “fifty f*cking five!” so you know where I am in life. It’s true that when it comes to, say, my writing career, I used to lament that I didn’t start at a younger age. If I did nothing else other than write a book a year, I’d have more than twenty out there. Heck, if I’d even have kept up that pace since 2005 when I wrote my first book, Treason at Hanford, I would have had more books published.

That’s not how it went, and stewing about that fact and the choices I made gets me nowhere. I do, however, have control on where I am now and where I’m going. And that’s where this book comes in.

A Shift in Perspective

Chip Conley is a little bit older than I am so I see him as one of those more seasoned voices I can listen to and learn from. A central tenet of Chip’s philosophy is shifting our perspectives on aging. 

Many folks hate getting older. They look at old photos and see their youthful bodies, recall that zest for life, and were confident they never forgot where they put the car keys. 

Shifting our perspective from negative to positive actually has good benefits. We’ll ultimately be healthier, our brains function better, our days will become more happy, and we’ll actually live longer. And who doesn’t want that?

Those same folks who see me walking the hallways at work with a grin on my face ask me why I’m smiling. “Because I woke up today.” Yeah, there will be bad days. There always are, but the good days always best the bad. 

The Midlife Chrysalis

Chip sees midlife in three stages. Early Midlife (ages 35-50) involves the emotional and physical transitions. He calls it adult puberty. In this stage, we’re no longer young, but we’re still spry enough to play with our kids or maybe run a marathon or ride a bike 150 miles for MS. 

Your fifties is the center of midlife. We’ve changed our way of thinking about ourselves and have settled into who we are. Chip quotes David Bowie here: “Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” Kind of also echoes the famous quote from George Bernard Shaw: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

Stage Three of midlife is roughly 60 to 75. You’re probably still working, probably still somewhat youthful, but you see your golden years approaching. 

Chip’s metaphor of a chrysalis—of when a caterpillar consumes, then gestates, and then transforms into a butterfly—is the core of this book. It’s the lens through which he advises us to see our lives. He calls everything that came before a dress rehearsal. 

And butterflies? What do they do? They pollinate and, in his take, this is the stage where we can pollinate the world with the wisdom we’ve all accumulated.

What Does This Mean?

The book examines the twelve reasons why Chip sees life getting better as we get older. If nothing else, take a look at the sample pages on the store of your choice and you can see the table of contents. (Or you can click this link that will take you to Chip's page where he has a video on what inspired him to write the book and other resources.) In addition to the twelve, he also breaks things down into broader categories: the Physical Life, the Emotional Life, and the Vocational Life. 

The more I pored over those pages, the more I saw the possibilities of what I want to do and how I can accomplish the things I want. 

A driving factor in all of this is the growth mindset. Chip defines it not as winning but learning. “A growth mindset facilitates seeking out, exploring, and enjoying new experiences. It is the antidote to midlife boredom.”

It is also the antidote to boredom no matter how old you are. 

For us writers, a growth mindset can manifest itself into improving our craft, learning how to write better stories, and letting folks know about our books. For us readers, it might be going to a bookstore and going to a section you’ve never visited and selecting something brand new to read. For anyone, it can be learning a new language, a new skill, or trying something completely new. 

In short, this is a book that can make you ecstatic to be alive, no matter your age. 

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