For the next several days, I will be writing about the cool book Claiming Your Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose by Richard Leider and David Shapiro.
Here is the link to the first post. I had the pleasure of meeting with David Shapiro to discuss the book. Here are a couple of my questions and David’s answers (I’ve paraphrased his responses).
There have been several books come out recently that discuss a quest for purpose and place (The Highest Goal, for example). What is the unique message or coaching that you hope readers of your book will receive? If readers were to take just 2-3 things from your book, what would you hope they be?
Obviously we would like people to get the whole message of the book. But in terms of a couple key messages, the idea of growing whole rather than growing old is important. Many books for this audience on aging are about how not to die rather than how to live. The adventure is not one of decline. We talk a lot about how growing whole involves an inward search. Another unique aspect of the book is that we talk a lot about how purpose and meaning and place are found within a community.
Claiming your place at the fire comes out of this model of indigenous people gathering around the fire. Our focus on connecting with others and the importance of being a part of community is unique to our book.
We focus more on the questions than the answers — we offer a model of inquiry.
As I read the book I kept thinking about your manifesto as an interesting alternative to the mid-life crisis (As a 40 year old, I have been thinking about what kind of midlife crisis I want to have). In the Epilogue you say that contemplating retirement is one of the three times one ought to go off on a retreat. Most people have their mid-life crises well before thinking about retirement but it strikes me as another perfect time to retreat. What are your thoughts about whether and how the mid-life crisis fits into the journey toward becoming a new elder?
The subtext of Repacking Your Bags was how to have a positive mid life crisis. There can be an intentionality about the mid life crisis. Claiming Your Place at the Fire gives people a space to be thoughtful about how they are going to proceed with their life and figure out what really matters.
This book is not so much about the mid life crisis as it is about the second half of life. This book is relevant to someone in the midst of their mid life crisis because is allows them to see beyond it.
I met with a small group of folks this evening to discuss this book. Interesting discussion! I think that David and Richard would be pleased with our discussion because it demonstrated thier intent for the book – to facilitate inquiry and conversation. We each found something unique in the book but we also agreed on a few key contributions:
1. The quest to find meaning and live our best lives is important – we need to be in our own skin, so to speak (this is something that struck me about David Shapiro when we spoke – he seemed to fit his skin and life like a glove).
2. Finding place is critical to finding peace and solace. There are many ways to explore and find place.
3. We saw the power of chatting by a fire and engaging in retreats (even short ones).
4. We discussed how recalling our stories helps us discover the types of experiences that are meaningful and the times that we were not being our authentic self.
Tomorrow, I will continue this conversation about the book, including how one gets started! In the mean time, if you would like to get a copy of any of their books, here are the links to Amazon: