“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”
– John Lennon
What if you could become more superhuman the older you got? After all, it’s function – not age – that makes the biggest difference to how you feel.
Joining us today is David Stewart, the founder and face of AGEIST, a media company dedicated to championing the vitality, influence, and contributions of the modern 50-plus demographic. It’s also an agency that advises businesses on emerging trends and how to better understand, speak to, and engage this influential demographic.
As a leading authority in this field, David has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Times, and Forbes. He also consults for a wide range of Fortune 500 brands and businesses. Outside of this work, he is an award-winning photographer and creative director, whose portfolio includes multiple magazine covers and global advertising campaigns.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about:
- How to extract the most joy and fulfillment from the later stages of life
- The biggest mistakes people make when they turn 50
- Why retiring is the fastest way to die; and
- The mindset you need to cultivate to stay strong, healthy, and happy.
Before we begin, the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode – perhaps a parent or grandparent – or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.
Let’s WIN THE DAY with David Stewart!
Dave, great to see you my friend! Thanks for coming on the show.
Oh, it's such a joy to be here! Thank you for having me.
Well, to kick things off, is there a story of struggle or success from when you were younger that helped put you on the path you would ultimately go down?
Yeah, I grew up in a little small farm town, upstate New York. Parents really just wanted to keep their heads down, not stick out, and I did. And so my school teachers, even my family, they always wanted me to be less than I was, which led me to be sort of a shy, quiet kid, because every time I stuck my head up, it got kicked.
My school teachers, even my family, they always wanted me to be less than I was.
And so going forward in my life, I just always felt my mission in life was to sort of actualize my potential to do these things that perhaps I was told I couldn't do. I was told I wasn't that smart. I was kind of a weird kid, and I've used that going forward to just sort of power myself forward to be, how can I use today to become that best version of myself today?
Was there a specific moment where you said, I'm not listening to these voices anymore, I can do anything that I set my mind to? Or was it more of a gradual evolution?
It was an evolution, James. I wish there was one of those sort of white light experiences, but there wasn't.
It was just sort of an ongoing evolution where I learned to sort of inhabit more and more my capacity to realize there's more and more things. There's more and more David that I can bring out into the world.
And now I'm probably more fully that way than I ever have been in my life, but I'm going to be 65 next week, so I'm a slow learner!
You look amazing for 65! Incredible.
Well, thank you.
Who was the first person to believe in you?
I've had a multitude of teachers in different ways. I started studying martial arts when I was about 40, and one of the things about martial arts is you're always told you're stronger than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can. And I've sort of taken that forward.
I met my wife about 20 years ago and my wife said, "You're an amazing storyteller." And at the time I was a photographer, I didn't talk, I hadn't written anything. God, I'd never been on stage, never done any of this. And she's like, "You're really good at this." But I just didn't think I could do it. But then I found, because of my starting AGEIST and Super Age, I had to do it.
Each year or decade a new teacher, a new person, would emerge and say, “There's more to you than you think. You can do more than you think you can.”
And then I found out, oh, you're really good at this. This is really fun, but I sort of needed a sequence of people going forward. There's never any one person, there were people who believed in me as a photographer, but just in that realm. There were people who believed in me in maybe an athletic pursuit, but just that. Or my wife who sort of believes in me in ways.
But for me, each year or decade a new teacher, a new person, would emerge and say, “There's more to you than you think. You can do more than you think you can.” One of the things I think the challenges that we all race as human beings is we have this poverty of imagination as to what we can do. We're only seeing this small amount. We're being reflected in other people or we have very limited ideas of what our capacities are.
We have tremendous capacity, but we need to enlarge that vision of what we can do.
When you started martial arts, what was your intention and when you made the decision to get married, what were you hoping to receive out of that?
In martial arts, it's fun to hit things! It's really great.
You sound like my 2-year-old son, actually!
Yeah, it's great. You get to hit things, you get to kick things. Unfortunately people hit and kick back, so that's one of the downsides of that!
I got injured a couple of times, but some people, they put their kids in martial arts because they want discipline or they want order. Well, with me it was just sort of fun. It's like, oh, I get to scream and kick something. How great is that?
I was doing something called Hapkido, a Korean martial art similar to TaeKwonDo with some sort of nasty jujitsu locks put in there. And I did it for five years. I hold rank there now.
And what about that decision to get married? How did that change your life?
Well, I think getting married is probably the best thing I ever did in my life. It was a commitment, and I think anytime you go into a partnership with someone, be it a business partnership, a marriage, a friendship, it's rolling the dice. You really don't know. I mean, you have some sense of what's going to go on, of how you're going to relate, but you really don't know.
I saw somebody here who made me feel better about who I was. And that's one of the things I tell people. If they're with somebody and they're dating, they're not sure what they should do. I say, "Well, how do you feel about yourself when you're around them? Do you feel better about yourself or less than?" And with my wife, I felt better about myself and I thought, oh, this is a good sign.
Your creative career had you living in places like Paris and New York, traveling all around the world, doing some very cool stuff. How would you describe your life at that time and what did an average day look like?
Oh my gosh.
Was there an average day even!?
There wasn't. So it accelerated. I had my first ad in Vogue when I was really young. I was like 24. I was living in Paris by the time I was 25. I moved to New York at about 27, 28. Right away, I started working for Conde Nast, all the magazines. And then by my late thirties, early forties, I was sort of splitting my time between Paris. My route was Paris, New York, L.A., Tokyo.
And very often I'd be with my crew, we'd be doing a job somewhere, my agent would call and say, "You're not going back to Paris or New York tonight. You need to go to this other place and do this other job." So sometimes it would just be this ongoing thing, but it was awesome. It was just an awesome life.
I had this poverty of imagination.
The economics of that just don't exist anymore, because of a lot of the magazine world. The advertising world is very, very different now. But then it was incredible. I got to photograph amazing people, I got to work with. My crew was wonderful and they never send you to some ugly horrid place. It's always someplace amazing.
The difference then is that I thought it was the only thing I could do. I thought that that was my thing. There was nothing else. Again, I had this poverty of imagination. I thought, “I do this, therefore this is the only thing I can do. I can't do any of these other things.”
And my level of impact in that job, even though I was doing magazine covers and I was working for Nike and American Express, I'm doing all this big stuff, was really comparatively low to what I do now. Now I have real impact. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there that I'm in touch with, and to me, this is a much greater actualization of my abilities as a human being.
Did you need to be an entrepreneur? Was that part of it?
Well, so this is the deal – I've never had a job. So when people say entrepreneur, it's just like, no, this is just my life. I had a job and I was in college. I think that was the last time I've got social security taken out. And going forward as a freelance photographer, you eat what you kill, you didn't work for a couple of weeks, things are bad. So you've got to sort of start... You got to do that on your own.
When I started AGEIST, it was just normal to me. People are like, oh, well this is a very risky thing going forward. And it's like, well, it's like the only thing I've known, I haven't known going into an office and having a boss and I've always had to create it.
I love that. It's the idea that you're not willing to relinquish creative control of your own life.
Yeah, I think that's a good way to put it. I hadn't thought of that. I think there's a certain freedom that I've had through my life that I think is really wonderful, that I really value.
The flip side of freedom is insecurity. So you don't really know what's going to happen. And AGEIST has been around for nine years, we're somewhat successful, but it's still, I mean the whole thing could fall apart tomorrow and then what?
How did you celebrate turning 50 and what realizations or changes did that bring into your life?
It was no big deal. And 60 was like, no big deal. I have a Medicare card now and I'm turning 65 in two weeks. That somehow seems like a big deal to me. I don't know why. Maybe it's just holding the card.
Medicare, by the way, is awesome, so much better than private insurance. But I've never put that much stock into the number. And I think that people, we as a species, we didn't used to do that. In the 1800s, it didn't matter how old you were, it was, can you do the thing or can't you? Look at Benjamin Franklin, I think he started his first business like 14 or 15 and he was going strong into his eighties. Nobody cared what his age was.
In the 1800s, it didn't matter how old you were, it was, can you do the thing or can't you?
It's sort of a thing people get very hung up now on, and I think really what we need to be thinking about, there's chronological age, people talk somewhat about biological age. I like to think about functional age. How functional are you?
And by that I mean, how many people are you helping? What useful things did you do today? How are you out there elevating other people? The higher your level of function, the stronger you are in terms of physical strength, economic strength, relational strength, emotional strength, and the more people you can help.
So let's get as strong as we can and think about functioning out there.
So you were 56 when you founded AGEIST. What was the problem you wanted to solve with AGEIST and why did it fall on your shoulders to do it?
I don't know, I'm just nutty enough to do it. Somebody asked me that the other day, why were you chosen? It's like, I don't know. It wasn't like that.
It was just, it was a curiosity and-
Most good businesses, it seems like a no-brainer in retrospect, right?
Oh, it wasn't then.
James, we were the disease that people ran from, we would call up brands and we were like, "Hey, we have this information for you. This is really good." Click. They wanted nothing to do with us. And now it's different. We do very little outreach, everything comes to us.
But back then it was just a curiosity. It was, I saw this mismatch. This mismatch of resources between who's spending the money. Do you know the largest consumer group for Apple products is men over 65. They're buying it for themselves. They're buying it for their family, buying it for their grandkids.
So why is all the messaging aimed at young people? So I couldn't understand that. Why are we messaging to a group that doesn't have the capacity to buy a product and this other group does? And why is all the messaging that was aimed at people like me, medicalized and essentially infantalized? And why is it that youth marketing works in this sort of inspirational aspirational mode and you cross, I don't know what, the 35, 40, 45 and suddenly it's not that at all.
It's like you're a problem in need of a solution. And I just thought, huh, who are those people? I'm not one of them. I don't know anybody like that. Let's dive into this and understand why is this happening? Who are these people like myself who are living in this new vital, vivid forward-leaning way? How can we understand them and then let's start to talk to them.
It's interesting. I don't recall seeing a 70-year-old, for example, on an Apple billboard. They're all the young people.
There are reasons for it. One of the reasons is if you're an art director, you probably top out at about 30. Creative director, maybe 35. When you think 50, 60, you're thinking of your parents and that is not a good place to go.
So, I spoke to somebody, a very smart younger guy, he's like mid-thirties. He was in an agency and I said, "Hey, this thing is going on." I said, "We can own this. Nobody's doing this. We can do this cool." And he looks at me and says, "That is a great idea, but I cannot time travel into the future. I can't do this." And I thought, I don't have to time travel into the future. I'm there, so I can do it.
It was a bit like when the young, cool people, once their parents got on Facebook, Facebook had a very big problem. No one wants to be seen on the same platform as their parents and grandparents.
Yeah, I kind of wonder what's going to happen to TikTok.
TikTok's very young, but increasingly, you what happens is the parents get into it because they want to see what the kids are up to and then that whole thing starts.
Mass adoption is the biggest threat for some of these companies.
Well being Meta, there are good points and bad points to being Meta.
For sure. Well, with the business, obviously you've had very good success in a very short period. What were some of the things that you did to get the word out there about AGEIST as quickly as you did?
The main thing we do is we talk about inspiration, aspiration, and the attainable. And we tell story. And we tell people, you don't have to live like this, but don't tell me it's not possible. It's hard, I agree, but don't tell me it's not possible. You can do it. And we want to put that on the menu.
We don't lower the bar. We don't tell people that you go mall walking for 10 minutes, you're going to be all set. This is not true. It's harder than that, and I think continually treating people as adults, letting them know that, hey, this is complicated, this is messy. This can be hard, but we don't fearmonger. I refuse to do that. I leave that to the AARP and the pharma companies and financials, they can deal with that. I don't do that.
You can do more than you think you can.
What I try and do is I just tell people, as I said, this is what I did with myself. You can do more than you think you can. Don't believe the hype, don't believe all that stuff that says that at a certain age you can't learn. I don't care what age you are, in three years, you can learn Mandarin if you want to do that. You're not going to be translating at the UN, but you can banter with a taxi driver in Beijing if that's what you want to do.
Yeah, I love that.
On that journey of running the business, is there a particularly dark day that stands out?
You mean every day!?
Sure. I mean the first seven years. It was just like, oh boy, I don't know how we're going to do this. The money was very difficult. And to be an entrepreneur, you need to be delusional. You just need to be delusional because you need to believe in something that no one else does. And this may or may not come true, but you need to be able to sort of power that through and believe.
And I think the biggest problem, and we advise a lot of other companies now, a lot of startups, I say to them, "Okay, you have this great idea, but tell me about your values. What are your foundational values? Tell me what those are." And if you can't tell me those, you're going to be in a ditch in six months. That's just the way it's going to go.
Very often you get a group of clever MBA guys from Stanford. They're like, oh, we see a white space opportunity. We're going to sell shit to old people and this is what it's going to be. And I just say, well, listen, why don't you just open a liquor store or something? Just do some dry cleaners, because this is not going to work for you. You need to have a certain kind of foundational values.
One of the things about being my age is I've developed them. I know what's right, what's wrong. I know what looks good, what doesn't look good. I'm really clear on that. And you may like or not like what we do. I'm okay with that, but it works for me. It works within my value set. And then from there, the whole sort of organization and everything flows.
Gary Brecka has a quote, "Aging is the aggressive pursuit of comfort." How do you feel about that definition?
The thing here is we are told increasingly the older we get, the more comfortable we're trained. It's like what's the most comfortable chair? What's the most comfortable environment for you? How is this hotel? Oh, first class? Oh, that's very comfortable. So we're trained to be directed towards this.
You need to push back against this. You need to do hard things. And you did hard things when you were 16, when you were 18, you were 25. You need to keep doing hard things. And hard things can be doing physically hard things, but it can also be, talk to somebody who's completely different than you. Talk to somebody who has very different ideas from you. Start an organization, help people. For some people, just saying hi to somebody in an elevator is a very difficult challenging thing. Just do that. You're not going to die.
You learn doing things like cold showers and cold immersion, all this sort of stuff. Yeah, physiologically, there's some good signals there, but it also tells you, you didn't die. You made it through. You can do this. And I think that as there's so much cultural noise out there that says that you can't do it, and that's what I push back against. I said, you can do it.
I'm going to brag. Is that okay?
So I'm going to be 65. My fitness metrics are in the top 10% of a 35-year-old. That's hard, but I can do that.
So don't tell me you can't do this. What you're telling me is, it's uncomfortable or you don't want to allocate the resources, the time or the money to do it. But there's so much more we can do and it's not this nonsense that we hear out there in TV or the movies. Like if this was a race thing, and I said to you, oh, you're a white guy, so you're never going to be able to learn this. Forget it, give up. You're a white guy, you're never going to be able to go to the gym. How would you feel about that?
Well, I have no hope. Why even bother?
Yeah, or the rest of us would just be aghast that I had said that. Right? And that's how it is out there with age.
Age is more complicated because there's an element of mortality, there's an element of sort of disease associated with it, but additional to that, it's not now. It can be very far in the future. There's a very good chance... You're 40? There is a very good chance, there's every probability you're going to be alive for another 60 years, probably 70 years. So if I said to you, oh, at 60 these next 40 years of your life are useless, you're not going to be able to do anything. Just give up. What kind of message is that?
The belief then determines the action.
Absolutely. Yes. And first comes imagination, then comes some believing and some action, and then it's self fulfilling. So then you say like, oh, I did that. That's amazing. I wonder what else I can do?
What does your daily routine look like these days?
Well, it's somewhat variable, but in general, probably like a lot of businesses. I have team members from the UK to the Philippines and sort of in between. So there's a lot of checking in, seeing what's going on. I try and do an hour and a half of physical stuff every day. There's oftentimes writing stuff I have to do. There's usually a lot of Zoom calls, there's podcasts and recordings.
My life is... I love being David right now. David is having the time of his life and sometimes I'm tired in the morning. I'm really tired at night, but I love what I'm doing. I love the level of engagement and I love the amount of my capacity that's being put to good use.
What are your big three focusing on from a wellness perspective, starting from highest priority to obvious things like sleep, nutrition, social interaction? What type of things do you think about as your big three?
Sure. I'm going to give you five.
So we've sort of made this model of how to super age. There are five things. Everything outside of these five are like exotics that are sort of working at the fringe. First of all, you've got to sleep. If you're not sleeping, figure it out, because if you're not, it's going to sabotage anything else you do.
Two, what are you eating? I'm not going to prescribe a diet for everyone. Our genetics are different, our level of activities are different, our age, our biome. You need a diet that works for you, whatever kind of foods. If you're a keto, you're a vegan, you take all the supplements, whatever, figure it out.
The benefits from exercise do not come from picking up the heavy weight. They come from the recovery from picking up the heavy weight.
Three, activity. You need to have some sort of an exercise plan. It needs to be, I'm sorry to say a program because at age 22, you can just go out the door and run 10 miles, who cares? You can do whatever. At this age, you need to be much more thoughtful about what you're doing.
Then there's stress. What are you doing to keep your stress levels down? So chronic stress is incredibly toxic. So again, we need to have methods to deal with this. Is it walking with nature? Is it meeting with your friends? Do you like to meditate? Do you have a religious practice? I don't care what it is, but you need to have it.
And the last thing is your sense of connection. Connection to other people, connection spiritually, connection to your purpose in life. So you need to have these sort of five things all working and then we can talk about cold plunge and NAD or whatever else you want to talk about.
Get the basics done first.
You’ve got to.
We feel resistant to the basics, doing and applying them consistently.
Yeah, everybody's like, give me the blue pill!
I also want to give a shout-out to Dr. Michael Breus who put you and I in touch. He's an amazing guy. I've learned so much about sleep from him. He's become a very close friend and mentor of mine.
That ability to focus on sleep and figuring out your chronotype and just recognizing that sleep is recovery and if you haven't done anything to recover from, you're not going to sleep particularly well. Fascinating insights on all of this stuff.
The benefits from exercise do not come from picking up the heavy weight. They come from the recovery from picking up the heavy weight.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when they turn 50?
That's a difficult question. I think it's really quite personal to each person, sort of where they're at.
What I have seen, and I've talked to thousands of people, is that generally what happens by your late forties, you start to get an inclination that there's something else and it's sort of like this mountain in the dark. There might be something else. And by the time you're 50, maybe early mid-fifties, you have enough life lived to be self-reflective and early parts of life tend to be alignment with parents, rebellion against parents. And then you get on this sort of career track and it's just this railroad track, head down, kids, the mortgage, the career, all this sort of stuff. And you just drive, drive, drive, drive, drive.
And then oftentimes people become more self-aware and they start to think, well, am I this? Whatever I'm doing, is this aligned with what I really want to do? Is this aligned with who I am? Oftentimes it's yes, and they're like, double down. I love what I'm doing. Sometimes it's like, maybe not so much. Maybe I need to figure out something parallel to do. Maybe I need to sort of step out of what I'm doing and think about something else.
These I would not call mistakes. I think possible mistakes would be I am who I am and therefore I will stay like this forever. There are no options. Stay on the railroad track. This, I think, is a mistake. You've been alive for quite a while. You have a lot of knowledge and skills, and you have stuff that you can do that you can't even imagine. That's so far beyond your imagination, it just doesn't even, it seems otherworldly to you. It's like going to Mars.
But there are things out there that you can do, but it's breaking out of that paradigm of this is what I do, therefore this is who I am and I must continue this because I have no options. That's not true.
There's been very high profile examples of people in marriages who are in their late fifties, sixties, they decide to move on, maybe they want more adventure or something else. Have you found anything in the conversations you've had or the research you've done about what makes people lean in more to the marriage they already have, versus those who are seeking some type of change in their life?
Well, they're probably seeing a change because it's not working. Or I'm 60, I'm going to be alive for 40 years. Do I want to be living with this idiot for another 40 years? No, I'm out. You've taken up enough of my time. Let's go do something else.
Maybe it could be a lot of things. I think in general, people stay if they're 60 and they're thinking about this, it's terrible of me to say, but they've probably been there too long to begin with, and now it's just the pain of being there has outweighed the fear of leaving.
I think people need to do a better job of asking themselves, am I the type of person that I would stay married to as well?
Ooh, that's a good one. Yes. So that's one of the other things. Sometimes I see people in long-term relationships and their partner crushes them, puts them into a box so that their partner is more comfortable with that. And sometimes people are, they just say, enough of the box, time to live a little more.
One of the quickest ways to die is to retire. I think that's so interesting. What if you're in a job or a career that you don't enjoy?
Well, okay, so by retire, the definition of retire is to pull back. There's nothing wrong with leaving your job, getting your pension and all that. W
So you want to think of your life having a variety of asset classes, people generally think of how much money they have in the bank, how much is their house worth? Okay, those are asset classes. Your health is an asset class. You need to be leaning into that. Your community is an asset class. If it's not growing, it's shrinking. Your knowledge base. If you're not leaning into that and expanding that, you don't want to be pulling back from these things. You want to be moving into them.
You want to be thinking again, how can I make myself stronger so that I can help other people? How can I then pull back from everything? How can I more fully engage? Because if you don't, just inertia is going to pull you back into your house and in five years it's just you alone in there and this is not going to be a pretty place.
In Washington, these political figures like Pelosi, Biden, Trump, Sanders. Very old group. As someone who focuses on not letting age be a big factor, how do you feel about these people who are making the decisions for the most of society?
You want to go there, James? All right!
Let's do it. Open it up!
So we live in a gerontocracy. This is not good at all. And this is terrible, but for some of those people, they shouldn't be there. They have lost capacity and they're just there as like an ego thing.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, great. Why did she stay so long? She shouldn't have. Diane Feinstein, I mean God bless her. She was amazing. And then she wasn't, why was she still there? That shouldn't be going on.
Having a gerontocracy ruling class means they are now separated by multiple generations from the people that they're serving. And so if you look at the way that tax structure is, the way a lot of these laws are structured, it's to benefit people their age, and essentially what we're seeing here is a wealth transfer from young people to old people. This is not good. It is not good to be ruled by a class of people that yes, they have a lot of wisdom, this is great, they have a lot of knowledge, thank God, but we also need to have, it's a representative government.
Having a gerontocracy ruling class means they are now separated by multiple generations from the people that they're serving.
The majority of the population is not over 80, so we need to have other younger voices in there. I believe very strongly in a diverse ecosystem. I think a diverse ecosystem is a robust ecosystem and in companies in the tech world, it's the opposite. It's all 20 and 30 year olds. That's great, amazing programmers, boy, they can focus and get stuff done. They can't see the big picture. It's more difficult for them. So you need older people in there to pollinate that.
And I think in politics, the reverse is true. We need to have younger people in there mixing it up with these older people.
With politics at that level, I mean I used to photograph some of these kinds of people, the level of ego that says, "I want to be leader of the free world." That's a certain kind of ego and they just don't back down from that. So I think that it is good to have levels of wisdom, knowledge, experience.
It is also good to have people coming in with new ideas. I think that if you had a company that was all older people, this is not good either because what you're doing is you're sort of clogging up the ability for younger people to move forward. Not good.
In 2012-13, when I was living in Boston, it was when Bernie Sanders was having his big rise, and I will say for him, politics aside, he was someone who was able to energize the youth. That was a great example of someone who was a bit older, who was able to get it done rather than some of the decaying fossils who have no interest in engaging the public at all.
They can become quite detached. This was a couple of decades ago. I remember seeing George Bush, George Bush one, going into a supermarket and he was buying something and there was a scanner. And since he hadn't been in a supermarket in 20 years, this was completely new technology to him. He was like, "Oh my God, you mean that thing will put the price in?" So it's like that.
There's a reason why it's very difficult for these people to deal with technology to regulate social media in the way I think it should be because it's just not part of their world.
You could tell some of the questions they were coming up with. So bad.
They have no idea.
How can young people do a better job at supporting their parents and grandparents?
Well, I think it's a two-way street. I don't think any relationship is one way. I think it's always reciprocal.
So for the younger people on both sides, you just ask questions. Just ask questions, and just say, so you know that I'm not the guy, you want to go to code something? I have some facility with social media. I'm not that great at it, but if you want to ask me about how to negotiate, if you want to ask me about how do you read somebody, how do you tell whether somebody's... These sort of soft emotional skills, these abilities to sort of look down at a bunch of puzzle pieces and be like, this is the solution to the puzzle. So older people are better at that. Younger people are going to be better at sort of anything digital, social media, things like this.
On both sides it's about communication and it's about taking a genuine interest, just asking questions. My favorite thing is to be around teenagers and I just say, "show me your phone. How are you using your phone? Show me how are you communicating with friends using Snap, using text? How are you doing that? How do you interact with your teachers?" I want to know this stuff because it's completely new to me.
And for the kids to, rather than say like, "Well dad, in your day, did they deliver milk?" Okay, come on. What you really want to know is if I make this decision, how is this going to play out in the rest of my life? I sort of like this person and I'm thinking about being involved with them. How do you think I should negotiate that? So, we're good at that. We've just seen so many permutations of this. We can say, oh, well you might want to think about this.
I think that's such a better strategy rather than being resentful of someone for being on their phone. You engage with them with how they use it.
They use the phone. Phone is the thing that was plugged into a wall for me and it had a cord, so I used the phone to communicate in a certain way. They use their phone to communicate in whole other ways that I find fascinating. And I think that that's keeping an open mind. Don't be scared.
Remember, fear is the thing that's keeping you from asking the question that you really want to know on both sides of that equation. Older people don't want to seem stupid to ask about TikTok and the younger people don't want to seem immature, so they're not going to ask about the complicated projects that they actually need to think about.
Don't be scared, just ask.
You once mentioned that the most important thing is to have a life of meaning and purpose, and I love that. How does someone who feels like they're in a little bit of a rut at an older age go about finding some meaning and purpose in their life?
Get to work. Andy Warhol said, "Whatever you're doing, you're not working hard enough." And I believe the same thing. Your purpose in life is to be useful. If you can't think of what to do, like I said, next time you're in an elevator, you just look at whoever's there. You look at their shoes and you say, "Nice shoes, I like those."
You may not like them. It doesn't matter. You've made a connection with another person. You have been useful to that person. You have elevated that person. You've made their day.
How can you do this? How can you help someone else? The focus of your being should be usefulness. How can I make myself stronger in all ways? Not to put some numbers up on the board, but how can I help other people? Other people counting on you is what's going to get you out of bed in the morning. That's the thing to think about.
That's why at a certain point it's all about that. It's about being useful and some people will say, "Well, I can't, I'm whatever." Don't give me that buddy. There's stuff that you know, there's capacity that you have, that you can put to use helping other people. Now get to it.
Oh, that sounds like a badass, doesn't it!?
It does. It sounded awesome!
We talk about this idea of death, which is the one thing that we can't escape. It's coming for all of us whether we like it or not. In all your work in aging and living an extraordinary life, has it given you a bit of a clear vision of how you want to go out?
Yeah. And I think that's important. Think about how you want to die.
So, do you want to die in a hospital? You've been there for a year and you've got a bunch of tubes in your arm? Okay, I can show you how to do that, really easily.
My vision of death is I'm thinking I'm sort of in my late nineties. I have a massive coronary attack while hiking in the Alps. So what do I need to be hiking in the Alps at 98? That's what I'm going to do.
Hey, that sounds much better, doesn't it, than being in the hospital?
Yeah. My wife doesn't like it. She's like, "Oh my God, you'd do that? You're going to be there. I'm going to have to get your body down. The animals. How am I going to get the helicopter? You're going to leave me up there? No.
On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard that you could show yourself on your worst day?
You’ve got this.
And final question – what's one thing you do to Win the Day?
First thing I do in the morning, I'm going to give you sort of a breakdown. So I get up, do my whole oral hygiene routine, go downstairs, 18 ounces of water with some electrolyte, just slug it down. And then unless I have to catch an early flight, it's my time, it's my meditation time, so it's like 15 minutes on the sofa, me time, and that sets me up for the rest of the day.
Dave, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Oh, this has been fun. Thank you.
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