Ep.89 – Wisdom at Work with Chip Conley

When I first walked through the doors of CBS News several years ago, one thing was immediately clear: it’s an interesting mix of the old school and the new school. On one hand you have countless employees who have been in the building for 30 plus years. On the other hand, you have fresh college graduates looking to make it in journalism.

And yet somehow we all come together and make it work. One big team with a crazy assortment of players.

And according to our latest guest, Chip Conley, it’s these well balanced and diverse teams that hold the keys to success. Hence his latest book, Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.

At age 52, after selling the company he founded and ran as CEO for 24 years, Conley was looking at an open horizon in midlife. Then he received a call from the young founders of Airbnb, asking him to help grow their disruptive start-up into a global hospitality giant.

He had the industry experience, but Conley was lacking in the digital fluency of his 20-something colleagues. He didn’t write code, or have an Uber or Lyft app on his phone, was twice the age of the average Airbnb employee, and would be reporting to a CEO young enough to be his son.

Conley quickly discovered that while he’d been hired as a teacher and mentor, he was also in many ways a student and intern. What emerged is the secret to thriving as a mid-life worker: learning to marry wisdom and experience with curiosity, a beginner’s mind, and a willingness to evolve, all hallmarks of the “Modern Elder.”

In a world that places emphasis on the new, bright, and shiny, many of us are left feeling invisible, undervalued, and threatened by the “digital natives” nipping at our heels. But Conley argues that experience is on the brink of a comeback.

At a time when power is shifting younger, companies are finally waking up to the value of the humility, emotional intelligence, and wisdom that come with age. And while digital skills might have only the shelf life of the latest fad or gadget, the human skills that mid-career workers possess – like good judgment, specialized knowledge, and the ability to collaborate and coach – never expire.

Have a money question? Email me here.

Better Off is sponsored by Betterment.

Please let us know what you think by leaving a rating or review in Apple Podcasts.

“Better Off” theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.