We’re revisiting a listener favorite this week that was originally released in March of 2022. The Retire Sooner Team believes this message from Carl Honore about slowing down is more relevant than ever.
Our world is built on speed. From our lives to the stock market, even retirement, we aim to tackle every task as quickly as possible; but when is it time to reduce speed and pump the brakes? While our first instinct is to hurry, as humans, we must remind ourselves that being slow is not about doing everything as fast as possible but as smart as possible.
In this episode, Carl Honore, Journalist, TED Speaker, and Author of “In Praise of Slow,” joins Wes Moss to talk through the “slow movement” and the importance of finding your inner tortoise. Carl reveals the root of his fast-paced life, taking a slow approach to money, and how slowing down grants us time to reflect. He also touches on ageism, unveils the signs of being stuck in fast forward as well as three tips for slowing down your life.
Read The Full Transcript From This Episode
(click below to expand and read the full interview)
- Wes Moss [00:00:00]:The world is built on speed. Our lives, our families, the stock market. We want to get things done as quickly as possible. Right here, the Retire Sooner Team Wes spend countless hours poring over data to help people retire sooner and faster. Today’s guest, Carl Honore, is all about honoring the importance of slowing things down. His book, In Praise of Slow, examines our human compulsion to hurry, hurry, hurry. And chronicles the global trend towards putting the brakes on everything from work to food to parenting. As his proof, he uses examples from the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, as he believes that on the altar of speed, we sacrifice reflection. Today, he’ll teach us how to stop moving at the speed of software and start moving at a more human pace. I’m Wes Moss. The prevailing thought in America is that you’ll never have enough money and it’s almost impossible to retire early. Actually, I think the opposite is true. For more than 20 years, I’ve been researching, studying, and advising American families, including those who started late, on how to retire sooner and happier. So my mission with the Retire Sooner podcast is to help a million people retire earlier while enjoying the adventure along the way. I’d love for you to be one of them. Let’s get started. Carl honoree. Welcome to the Retire Sooner podcast. This is like you’re the perfect guest for us because we’re always talking about sooner, faster, retire sooner. I wrote a book called You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think. The Five Money Secrets of the Happiest. Retirees. I live the opposite of the live slow life. But maybe, as you explain this to our audience, maybe that’s not totally true because I love your concept and I can relate to their times in life when I think perhaps I’m living what you are an expert in, which is this let’s call it the slow movement. But maybe let’s just right out of the gate describe the genesis of this. What inspired you to essentially embrace slow and explain what that means to you and our audience?Carl Honore [00:02:28]:Sure. Well, I’ve discovered along the way that all of my books start with a personal existential crisis. Yeah. And the crisis that launched me into my journey towards finding my own inner tortoise and launching effectively. The slow movement was a very private and intimate moment, which was when I started reading bedtime stories to my son. And back in those days, I was just so fast that I really couldn’t slow down, so I would skip lines, paragraphs. I became an expert in what I called the multiple page turn technique, which we’ve all been there, right?
Wes Moss [00:03:07]:
Genius. But, yeah, I think yeah.
Carl Honore [00:03:10]:
It’S not a good look, and it never works. Right. Because our kids know the stories back to front. My son would always catch me and say, daddy, why does Snow White only have three dwarves? It was just awful. And I got to this moment where I found myself flirting with buying a book I’d heard about called the 1 Minute Bedtime Story. Right? So snow White in 60 seconds. And I remember reading about this book and thinking, you know what? That’s the book for me. I need that now. Amazon drone delivery, right? But then the light bulb went on over my head and it was one of those moments of genuine epiphany. I suddenly thought, Whoa, what’s happened to me? Here I am racing through my life instead of living it. And that was the powder cake moment, right? That was the catalyst for starting my own move towards slowing down. But let me just pick up the second part of your question, which is, what does slow mean? Right? It doesn’t mean doing everything slowly. I am not an extremist of slowness, man. I love speed. Faster is often better, we all know that, but not always. Right? And that’s kind of the core of this slow revolution or slow movement. It’s about doing things at the right speed. Like musicians talk about the tempo just though the right tempo for each piece of music that kind of gets at what this Slow with a capital S movement is about. It’s about choosing when to go fast and sometimes when to slow down. Right? It’s a mindset. It’s quality over quantity. It’s being present and in the moment. Ultimately, Slow with a capital S is about doing everything not as fast as possible, but as well as possible. A super simple idea, but one that can just revolutionize and improve everything you do.
Wes Moss [00:04:43]:
So what were you doing? So let’s go back to that period of time when you were reading. And I’ve got four little kids, so believe me, many a bedtime page turn technique. Yeah. And I remember, and I absolutely am guilty of having multiple times I remember, dad, did you miss something? Or why didn’t you read that? That’s what it was where I started to get caught. When my kids could start to read, they’d say, well, why didn’t you read that part? Right. So as I was getting older and I’m like, man, you’re starting to now you’re catching up to my techniques. But what were you doing professionally during that period of time?
Carl Honore [00:05:17]:
Yeah, I was a journalist or a foreign correspondent. So a profession by its very nature, built on deadlines, right? Built on getting things out the door as quickly and as swiftly as possible. And I gravitated first to that profession because I’m naturally a fast person. That’s one reason I ended up in that line of work. But I think that line of work probably made me faster. Right? It did push me into a kind of deadlineism where I turned every moment of the day. Even when I didn’t need to be fast, I would be speeding up. So those moments when I was sitting down to read Snow White, I was not on the clock. Right? There was no deadline. The work was basically done. It wasn’t like I had to rush off and do anything. There was nothing important or urgent waiting for me at the end of bedtime stories. But I still did bedtime stories in turbo mode, right? Because I was stuck in roadrunner mode. And I think that’s what happens to a lot of us is the virus of hurry gets into our veins and it ends up infecting every moment of our lives. Even when we don’t have to go fast, we go fast. Right? It becomes our default mode.
Wes Moss [00:06:22]:
It’s almost like, have we been boiled slowly? Boiled like frogs. Why has that happened to us? Is it technology? We do 17 things at one time. Whose fault is it?
Carl Honore [00:06:35]:
Wes Moss [00:06:35]:
And has it gone too far? Maybe I think of this as almost Moore’s Law, right, about computing power doubles every four years. In my mind, it’s like, well, humans need to keep up with technology. And at some point, technology has almost stuck us in overdrive.
Carl Honore [00:06:54]:
I think that’s where we are now is that we are bumping up against the limits of what human beings and let’s be honest, the planet can take. Right? All of this constant acceleration for much of the modern era was by and large a good thing. Yeah, I would argue. Right. The speeding up was good for us in many different ways. But I think that in the last sort of 15 years, we’ve entered the stage diminishing returns, where we have turned everything into a race against the clock. Right? This is the world of speed. Yoga, drive through, funerals, even things that are designed to slow us down. We are manically trying to accelerate them. And we’re paying a heavy price. We’re paying a price in health, physical and mental. Look at how few of us can get through the day without I don’t know how much caffeine stress. Children these days having all kinds of burnouts, right? Children in primary school, young kids struck because everything is moving at the speed of software. I’m not a Luddite. I love tech, right? It’s great, but it’s a tool. And the trouble is that tech, in a way, the tables have flipped on us so that we are now dancing to the speed of Silicon Valley rather than using all of these wonderful gadgets to make our lives better, to make them slower, which we can do if we use them more wisely. So I want to make it really clear up front that, like I said before, I’m not against speed. And by the same token, I’m not anti tech. Right. I’m not a luddite. I’ve got an iPhone, right? I’m speaking to you on my top of the line, straight out of the gate MacBook, right? And I went for the fastest MacBook out there. Speed is good, right? But it depends what you do with that speed, right? If I’m using my MacBook to check emails in the middle of the night. That’s not a wise use of speed, right? But if I can speak to you on the other side of the planet with a good, solid Internet connection, that’s good speed right? There’s good fast, bad fast. There’s good slow, and there’s bad slow. And that’s the thing to keep in mind here.
Wes Moss [00:08:51]:
So how quickly were you able to kind of almost revolutionize this or create this movement for yourself? And then how has it changed your life?
Carl Honore [00:09:03]:
Well, the first thing to say out of the gate is that slowing down is slow. Yeah. I mean, this is one of the ironies of our fast forward culture, is that we even want to slow down fast, right? So I really, genuinely get people saying to me, oh, I read your book, or I watched your Ted Talk and I thought, yes, I need to slow down. So I signed up for yoga, and then I ran across the street to do some meditation. Then I rushed home to cook a slow food meal for my kid. That’s not quite the right approach here. You’re not getting it right. That’s going to end badly. I think you need to slow down slowly, right? With small steps, small adjustments, little pilot projects, experiments. Try stuff out for a week. If it doesn’t work, modify it, chuck it out the window, whatever. And also just be patient, because one metaphor I often use for our addiction to speed is addiction, right? It’s like a drug. You’re coming off a drug, and no one comes off a drug. There are withdrawal symptoms. It takes time to reset, reboot, recalibrate your body, your mind, your spirit. You don’t just snap your fingers one day and tomorrow morning you have the inner calm of the Dalai Lama. These things take time. We’re talking about coming off a serious chemical, physical, emotional, metaphysical, philosophical addiction, the addiction to speed and hurry and distraction and overstimulation. So it takes time. That’s the key thing to hang on to here. You will get there, but you need to slow down slowly. And I did it, right? And if I can do it, man, I can tell you, anyone can, because, like I say, I’m a naturally fast person. You can tell from the way I still speak. Yeah, I like Speed. I’m talking to you from London, my favorite city in the world. I live here. I love the Falconic energy of it. I love fast. Yeah, I’m a hockey player. But what slowing down did for me was it allowed me to I was going to say tolerate, but actually also fall in love with slowness, I think is the right way to put it. And so I now have that gear change. So there are moments when I’ve got to go fast. I can go as fast as anyone out there, but I’m not like that all the time. There are other moments where I just take it down many, many gears and I go slow. And for me, it’s just been an utter game changer. I’ve got more energy because I’m not tired from going fast all the time. I’m happier, right? I take more pleasure from things, I may do fewer things, but the things I do, I do them well, yeah. And I’m really there in the moment. I’m more productive at work, I get more done because I’m not rushing all the time. That’s what I think of the delicious paradox of slow, that by slowing down and approaching every moment of your day with that slow filter, that slow spirit, not only do you get stuff done better, but often you get it done more quickly. So you have got to slow down to speed up, if you like. At work, my relationships are stronger because I’m with people, right? I’m not distracted, I’m not rushing, I’m not trying to skip pages with bedtime story, but in a lot of ways, I think it comes down to relationships. That’s sort of the thing I feel I’ve got back the most, and those are relationships. Improved the moss as well. Yeah, you notice it at work, you listen, you hear things that you didn’t hear before because you’re actually listening. All that sort of stuff pays off in the workplace just as much as it does at home. And also there’s a kind of bigger payoff I’ll signal here as well, which is that one thing you gain when you slow down is space and time to reflect, to ponder the big questions like who am I? What is my purpose here? Am I living the right life for me? Right? Those big questions that just go out the window when you’re stuck in roadrunner mode. Because when you’re stuck in fast forward, all you have time or bandwidth for is the small stuff like, where are my keys? I’m late for my 11:00 A.m.. You don’t ever stop and really think and really look inside. And in a way, I think the Pandemic for many people was that right? Of course, it was a total nightmare, the pandemic. I’ve hated it from start to finish. But I think it has had a silver lining for many of us, because for many of us, it was like a global workshop in slow. It forced us to slow down. It took FOMO off the table. And what happened? Well, for the first time, for many people in their lives, they had time to slow down, they had time to look at the big picture, to let their minds wander, to reflect, to look inside. And I think that explains why so many people are coming out of the Pandemic now, making big tectonic changes in their life. They’re looking back, big career, finally had time. They’re looking back and saying, you know what? The life I led before that was the wrong life. I was on autopilot because I was going so fast. I’ve had some time to slow down, taken stock. I’m going to make some changes. So people are leaving jobs, changing careers, bad relationships, all that stuff that was just getting pushed to one side because we were skating over the top of it at full speed. We slowed down and a lot of us are now living the lives that we ought to have been living probably years before.
Wes Moss [00:13:59]:
How do we know if we are stuck in fast forward? I mean, I guess I would probably be. I remember in preparing for our conversation here today, just thinking, wow, I am like the worst. I am the worst because I know that I’m stuck in fast forward, balancing multiple jobs. I’ve got clients, I’ve got research I’ve got to write. Then we’ve got to do podcasts and radio and it’s all these things and it feels like the plates are always spinning and it’s always like, where are my keys? How do we know if you’re listening to Retire sooner today? How would you identify or self identify if you are kind of stuck in this fast forward mode or Carl is it just pretty much all of us right now, those who haven’t changed jobs during the pandemic to something, let’s say more higher quality of life, are most people stuck and how do you know?
Carl Honore [00:14:55]:
I think many people are possibly even most. Yeah. How do you know? I think there’s a long list of what’s the word? Symptoms maybe, or alarm bells that you can see. I’ll give you three that jump to mind to start with. The first we touched on it a moment ago is exhaustion. Yeah. It’s just feeling wiped out either during the day or certainly by the end of the day. I think the body very often is the barometer, right? It’s the canary in the coal mine that sends the message saying you are just living way too fast. So before you get to the burnout or whatever the serious health problem is, the body will be sending you messages. And the message that comes through loud and clear, telling you that you’re living too fast is that you’re tired all the time. Yeah, that’s one good marker. A second is if you are thinking constantly about time, right. If you are freaking about the minutes, you’re looking at your watch, you’re thinking, oh, it’s ten minutes to this, what can I do? Because when you get into a slow state, people talk about being in a flow state. Yeah. When you’re completely engaged in an activity or a task, you are fully there. And the other thing that happens in that flow moment, or I call it a slow moment, is you forget the clock. Yeah.
Wes Moss [00:16:06]:
So if you find yourself, it’s a wonderful time. I rarely get there, but when it is, it is such a great period of time. The flow.
Carl Honore [00:16:14]:
Exactly. And you recognize that feeling. Right. It’s hard for someone to give you a checklist of things, say here. Exactly. This is how you get to flow. This is how you we just know it. It’s like when you’ve eaten too much candy, you haven’t counted the candy, but you know you’ve eaten too much candy. Right. You just know it. And I think we know that state of flow, or state of flow when we’re in it. And one way to measure it, one barometer is whether we stop looking at the clock. And then a third way, which people often don’t think of, but which is equally valid here for judging too much speed in your life is memory. Because as the famous Czech novelist once said, milan Kundera, he said, there is an intimate bond between slowness and remembering. And that’s so true because when you are racing through life too fast, nothing sticks. Everything’s a blur. You go through the moment and it’s gone. Nothing stays with you. And I think a lot of us have that sensation, right? We get to the end of the week or the month or even the year, and we look back and think, whoa, that was 2021. I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, or I finished a Netflix series two days ago, and I don’t remember how it ended. Right. I think that when memories like that don’t stay, that is a very clear indicator that you are racing through, because you’re not there. You’re simply not there. And so you’re not there to absorb it and mark it and engrave it in your memory. So those are three little ways to look for warning flags, if you like.
Wes Moss [00:17:41]:
Yeah. So if our audience is experiencing those, which is we’re always worn out, exhausted at the end of the day, end of the week. We are constantly thinking about time, checking o’clock, checking a clock, and then our memory starts to kind of be. It’s almost as though we don’t give it quite enough upload time. You’re going so fast, we’re not able to upload what happened? What day is it? Wait, was that Tuesday, Wednesday, or is that two weeks ago? That’s when you know you’re living too fast.
Carl Honore [00:18:14]:
Those are three good markers right there. Well, summed up.
Wes Moss [00:18:19]:
We do talk a lot about investing too, because part of getting to be able to retire sooner is to be able to have your finances in order and have kind of the pillars of making sure. We have at least a certain minimum amount of liquid money that will then produce income and multiple income streams and then getting rid of our debt. Those are three of the big financial checkpoints. But you talk a little bit about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and how they embrace this concept and almost use this need to slow down. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Carl Honore [00:18:50]:
Sure. Well, I’ll talk specifically about those two gentlemen you mentioned there, bill Gates. Wes one good example of the power of slow when he was running Microsoft busy guy, right. A lot of stuff in his entry, he made sure every year to take what he called two think weeks, where he would unplug leave everything behind and go like a hermit to a cabin in the woods somewhere and just know, read, let his mind drift, let his mind play around with ideas, recharge, reset, and then return. And those two weeks were not a waste of time. They were a wise investment in time. Right. They were a perfect example of slow in action. So that’s Gates Buffett, just one quick quote from him. He once said, famously, the difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything. And I think that’s another way of thinking about slowing down. Right? I talk about in praise of slow. A flip side of that is in praise of no. Yeah. Wes live in a world that is an infinite smorgasbord of things to do, experience, consume by, and the temptation is to try to have it all. Having it all means hurrying it all. So a key part of slowing down and living a life worthy of the name is prioritizing. It’s saying, okay, I’m going to pause, look, think about what really lights me up, and I’m going to give all of my time and energy and love and money to those things. Everything else, I’m just going to let go. Less is more. So those are two guys right there who walk the slow talk.
Wes Moss [00:20:28]:
They walk the slow talk. I’m going to use that with our producers here, Mallory and Doolittle, who are always pushing. And I’m going to just say, look, remember what Warren Buffett said. So no. The difference between success people are successful, and really successful is the amount you say no and higher. No’s are better. God, thank you for that. And I think I’d read that, but that’s a wonderful reminder. I was probably living too fast, so I don’t remember it. Tell me about you and your son. And I think I have four little kids now. Well, they’re not so little. My oldest is 15, down to six now. We just had a bunch of birthdays. And I have four boys. I’ve gone through the book example that you quick bedtime stories going quickly, but you had this one of your sons when he was little, gave you something like a sticker award. Tell us that story about how that relates back to slow.
Carl Honore [00:21:28]:
Yeah, well, that was kind of my Hollywood moment, when I realized that I had actually conquered the virus of hurry. Right. And I learned how to slow down because when I got off that kind of merrygo round of doing everything faster, a place I began putting on the brakes was with bedtime stories. So I started going to my son’s bedroom. No phone, no watch, nothing, just going in and reading every word. Right. No more multiple page turn technique. And I guarantee you, snow White is a whole lot more fun with seven dwarves than it is with three. And it’s funny, because I remember I got to be honest. Actually, it’s a terrible confession to make, but back in my fast days, I used to hate bedtime stories. Right? That’s an awful thing to say, is, if I used to dread them, it was like a punishment beating because they were so slow, I couldn’t bear it. Right? I just dreaded them. And then, paradoxically, when I slowed down and began taking time over them, I fell in love with them, because they became my prize or my reward at the end of the day. That sacred moment when I could be with my children just in that bubble together, hanging out, laughing, cuddling, reading stories. And the thing with the sticker is this, that I realized that I’d actually cracked this when I was getting ready to do a book tour of the United States. Bags were packed, waiting for the taxi to take me to the airport here in London, and my son appeared with a card that he’d made for me. He’d stapled together two index cards from the home office, and on the front, he placed a sticker of Tintin. Yeah. And we’re big Tintin fans in this family. I grew up with Tintin. We’ve got all that. I can see all the books on the shelf where I’m sitting right now. And I recognized the sticker as a gift a friend of the family had brought from the Tintin store in Brussels, Belgium. And when it had arrived in our home, my son had said, wow, this sticker, it’s so special, I’m never going to use it. So he’d hidden in his room somewhere, but there it was, in the front of this card, right? I opened up the card, and inside he’d just written, dear Daddy. Love, Benjamin. And I said, wow, Benjamin, what an amazing card, and what an honor. Right? The tintin sticker. I know what that means to you. Is this a card to wish me good luck on the book tour in the US? And he no. No, this is a card for the best story reader in the world. And I thought, wow. Yeah, I made a sound just like I thought, wow, this slowing down really works. But I slightly spoiled the moment with my next thought. I didn’t say this out loud, but inside my head I thought to myself, benjamin, why didn’t you hurry up and say that? Six months ago, I could have finished my book with this beautiful anecdote, but that is the total opposite of slow. Let’s please go back to my first thought, which was, wow, this slowing down really works.
Wes Moss [00:24:10]:
But great for speech. Didn’t make it into the book, but great for speeches. I remember Tintin as a kid, but I haven’t read these Tintin books to my kids, so I need to grab them. The Adventures of Haven’t Done. Yeah.
Carl Honore [00:24:25]:
They’re beautifully illustrated and the stories are wonderful. And he’s a journalist, right. So maybe that was part of what drove me to where I ended up.
Wes Moss [00:24:31]:
Being later in The Adventures of Tintin. So let’s go back to your advice on and again, I’m not asking for stock symbols here, obviously, but just kind of your advice around how you’ve thought about your finances, maybe in a slightly different way when it comes to moving slow versus fast.
Carl Honore [00:24:54]:
Sure. Well, you may not be surprised to hear that there is, in fact a slow finance and a slow money movement right, based on these very same principles, and that I am an adherent of both. What does it mean? Well, one thing it means is taking the long term view, right? Not looking for quick wins, down and dirty, low hanging fruit, all that sort of stuff. It’s taking a slow approach to money. So it’s sort of pausing, taking the time to reflect, to ask the bigger questions before you even get to the stage of saying, where do I want my money to go? Is asking the deeper questions the why do I want money? Why do I want my money to be doing this? What am I looking for? What bigger things am I grappling with here? Rather than simply how can I make as much money as possible? So I think it’s important to frame any approach to finance with those bigger emotional, psychological, personal questions. Get that homework done first, if you like, and then start asking the questions, the more hard, nuts and bolts questions about where you want to place your funds and when you get to that stage, I think you also I would also recommend bringing a slow filter. So thinking not in terms of how fast can I churn this money around, but what is the best long term horizon? Do I want all of my stuff to be coming to fruition 40 years? Or can some of it be 20 years? Getting back to that slow idea of sometimes fast, sometimes slow, finding the right speed, not every investment has to mature 50 years from now, but by the same token, not every investment should be I would argue it’s not an investment if you’re looking to make it within 50 minutes. Right? To me, that’s more like gambling than investing. So I guess a slow approach is about investment is about longer term. It’s about taking the time to join up the dots and do the deep thinking and so on. And also, I think, yeah, the slow.
Wes Moss [00:26:51]:
Money movement is a nice way to think about this or reframing so much about investing is about perception and framing. Right. You can say one of the things that I’ve talked about this past year, as we’ve had lots of market volatility, is the reminder of we call this principle the dry powder principle. And for years, the investment world talks about your risk capital and let’s say. Your risk capital and then your safer, more stability capital. Stocks versus bonds as an example. And I found over the years that instead of saying, don’t worry, we’ve got, let’s say, a pandemic or a world war or a war, you’ve got 40% of your portfolio that’s in stable assets. They’re not going to be volatile with the market, which only works so much. But what seems to work better is this framing it slightly differently and say, no, the 40% actually don’t think of it as 40%. Think of it as in terms of time. Think of it in terms of years. So that equates to twelve and a half years worth of the amount of money that you need to be taking out of the whole portfolio. And most corrections correct themselves within a year. On average, it’s three years. So if you have twelve in stable, then it’s not helpful to think of it as 40%. It’s more helpful to think of in terms of time. You got twelve years of stable assets. I think we’ll recover on this side of the equation, certainly within that time frame. So just that the shift in perception from thinking of that money as a percentage to in terms of time, that shift is really powerful. And that’s kind of what you’re doing here with helping people understand that. You’re talking about time horizons. So you’re saying the slow money movement is another way of helping people understand long term investing.
Carl Honore [00:28:40]:
Wes Moss [00:28:40]:
It’s not that you’re doing it because it’s not a lugubrious endeavor. It is a measured endeavor. And it’s just a way of saying this in this slow movement. I really like that.
Carl Honore [00:28:52]:
Yeah, I like the way you framed that as well. And language, of course, is so important in everything we do, right? It shapes how we act and how we feel about ourselves and how we move through the world. So to get the right wording is so important, particularly for something that can get people really riled up emotionally, like investment. So I love the way you’re talking about using time as a metaphor, the right word here, or the filter that.
Wes Moss [00:29:15]:
We’Re using kind of just as framing, really, let’s think of this and let’s reperceive this as time versus a percentage number. I want to shift to this thought around, you know, when you Google, I think, what does Google fill in? Right? We know what Google I lie about my what? Lie about my age. Right? And you talk about ageism a little bit. You wrote a book called Boulder making the Most of Our Longer Lives, and you talk a little bit about ageism stereotypes around ageism. Where did that come from?
Carl Honore [00:30:01]:
Well, again, like I said at the.
Wes Moss [00:30:03]:
Outset, my books, you look like a pretty young dude. You look like you haven’t aged.
Carl Honore [00:30:09]:
Define young. Right. For me, it was another personal existential crisis. I was playing in a hockey tournament and we were in the quarterfinals struggling to beat a team we’d annihilated the year before. And then out of nowhere, I scored this total highlight reel goal, the kind of goal I will be thinking about on my deathbed many years from now, pushed us into the semifinals, floating on air. And then I discovered, because one of the tournament organizations came up to me and he said, you know what, Carl? I’ve just been looking at player profiles, and it turns out you’re the oldest person at the tournament, right? The oldest player out of 248 guys or something, right. And I knew I was one of the oldest, right? I’m not deluded, but somehow being the oldest just totally rocked me. Right. I just suddenly began to think, like, whoa, do I deserve to be here? Are people laughing at me? Should I be taking up a more age appropriate pastime? Like, bingo, maybe? It was like in the blink of an eye, I went from goal score to granddad. And it was something about the fact that my chronological age that up until then had kind of been in the background or been on just numbers on my driver’s license, suddenly took on this terrible power, and I felt defined and limited by how old I was. And I thought, this can’t be right. I’m playing well. I’m having fun. I just scored a great goal. Why should I feel like that? And that was sort of the starting point for investigating this whole cult of youth, right, that we find ourselves marinated in and taught from such a young age that aging is all about decline and depression and dementia.
Wes Moss [00:31:40]:
Yeah. Zuckerberg Facebook guy I’m sorry, meta meta guy says, look, young people are just smarter.
Carl Honore [00:31:46]:
Yeah. And nobody batted an eyelid. Can you imagine if somebody had stood up on stage like that and said, white people are just smarter, or, I don’t know, christians are just smarter, or men are hell to pay. Right. But you can say anything you like about people being older, because that’s the one group that’s open season on, right, so we talk about and a lot of the ageist rhetoric, a lot of the ageism comes from us, ourselves, directed at ourselves. So you forget your keys, right, and you say, oh, it’s a senior moment. Right. Or you say how old you are. Well, I’m the wrong side of 40, or I’m feeling my age, or I’m showing my age. All of these phrases that are woven into our vernacular, and they all tell the same story, which is that aging sucks. Right. That growing older is all downhill from 35 when it’s not, right?
Wes Moss [00:32:36]:
Yeah. Tell our audience why that’s tell our audience why that is wrong. I want to know that. Why is the other side of 35 not a problem?
Carl Honore [00:32:46]:
Well, obviously some things do change that we are not that happy about, particularly physically, right? As we get older, we start to suffer physically in ways that we wouldn’t have in our 20s, generally speaking. But the other side of the ledger easily offsets that for most of us right. From most of our later life. Right. So things like the Ushaped happiness curve that people tend to get happier in later life. Right. We follow a curve. We start very high in childhood, bottom out, middle age. Then we bounce back up so that.
Wes Moss [00:33:17]:
The adults actually you know what? I’ve read a lot about that because I write these books around happiness and I study happiness research. I’ve read many an article, or even almost I think I’ve even read this in, like, a medical journal because there’s been a lot of studies around. For those who don’t understand what that is. Can you just give us a quick reminder of the U curve of happiness?
Carl Honore [00:33:39]:
It’s that human beings trace in their lifespan a U shaped happiness curve. So we start high in childhood. We fall steadily till we bottom out in middle age, then we bounce back up again. So that across all, pretty much all cultures, socioeconomic groups, you find that the demographic group that reports the highest levels of life satisfaction and happiness are the over 50s or over 55s, which totally goes against the prevailing ageist idea, which is that older people think of the words we use grumpy, cranky, grumpy, old man. Yeah, exactly. Right. When in fact, the opposite is scientifically demonstrably true.
Wes Moss [00:34:16]:
When is the bottom of the U, by the way?
Carl Honore [00:34:21]:
They reckon it’s around 40. Mid forty s, I think, is where it tends to bottom out. 45, 50s seems to be the bottom of the year.
Wes Moss [00:34:26]:
Thank you for that. Thank you for that.
Carl Honore [00:34:29]:
So I’ve come out the other end and I’m feeling pretty chipper, but I can look forward. I’m 54 now, right? That means I can look forward to getting even happier.
Wes Moss [00:34:39]:
Carl Honore [00:34:40]:
Unfurl. And it seems like this U shaped curve seems to be they’ve seen it in bonobos chimpanzees and orangutans, which suggests it’s hardwired into our primate genes. Right. It’s Mother Nature’s gift to the aging. Right.
Wes Moss [00:34:55]:
Kind of fascinating, right? So it’s not great if you’re in your middle of your life cycle, but then you can look forward to getting even happier statistically and scientifically. So how is the world changing to help us maybe age a little bit better and feel better about aging?
Carl Honore [00:35:14]:
Well, for start, there’s science, medicine. Let me tell you, this is the best time in human history to be aging. You look around at the treatments and drugs and stuff we have. We’re getting to the point now where if someone loses the power to operate a limb, we can use the brain to just extraordinary things. Right. Andy Murray, the Scottish tennis player, got his hip replaced or resurfaced. He’s back playing top level singles men tennis right on the tour. Unbelievable. This is science fiction. Right on that.
Wes Moss [00:35:48]:
Yeah, it is.
Carl Honore [00:35:49]:
So that’s one side of it. The other thing I think that plays in favor of aging is that the economy has shifted, right? We no longer base moss jobs on brute strength. Right? Those days are gone, right? What gets you ahead in the modern workplace is brains. Yeah. It’s brain power. It’s not brawn anymore. And we know, and again, that’s one of the upsides of aging, is that a lot of things get better as we get older. BrainWise, right? We have experience, we’re able to join the dots. We can weigh up multiple viewpoints, better our social acumen and social skills, improve. Some forms of creativity get better because they depend on two things that only aging can confer time and experience. So there’s a whole bunch of reasons why, especially now, as the population ages and we’ve got this huge lack of workers in the economy, we’ve got this massive, untapped reservoir of older workers who can step right in and do these jobs in a way that wouldn’t have been available to us 30 years ago. So that’s one big change as well.
Wes Moss [00:36:53]:
I wanted to ask you about creativity. Is it true that Julia Childs didn’t or it’s Julia Child, I think, didn’t learn to cook. Yeah, Julia Child. Did she really not learn to cook until she was something like, in her 40s. Is that true?
Carl Honore [00:37:07]:
Yeah, exactly. After she was 40s. So I don’t know how good you are in the kitchen, but if you aren’t, there’s still hope, right? People go on learning stuff all the way through. I mean, one example of my mum, who’s 80 now, gives private French lessons in her spare time, and her star pupil is a 60 year old, 60 something healthcare worker right. Who’s soaking up French grammar and vocabulary like a sponge. That idea of you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it’s not even true of dogs. Yeah. We can go on learning all the way through our lives, and we can go on creating as well. Maya Angelou, the writer, had a wonderful quote. She said, you can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. And that’s why, if you look across the arts and the sciences, you find people doing triumphantly creative work in later life, whether it’s that’s true Bach matisse, right? These people have all done extraordinary things in the winter and the autumn of their lives. You don’t fall off a creativity cliff at some stage in your 20s or whatever or anywhere. You don’t fall off a learning cliff. You’re on an upward curve, right? Like the happiness curve. You can carry on enriching yourself all the way through your life if you have the right approach, if you approach life with that spirit.
Wes Moss [00:38:29]:
One of the pillars of a really happy retirement are something called core pursuits, or hobbies on steroids. Very often, one of those, or maybe more than one of those, can be part time work. Staying involved, particularly with our audience that are earlier retirees. I just sat with a teacher this week who started teaching right out of school and now already has her 30 years in. But she’s only in her fifty s. I mean, she is young, super young, but now she’s got this pension that is going to maybe not be quite enough that she needs. She’s got some savings. But we were talking about doing something totally new, totally different. And her question was, I think a lot of folks who get older, well, I’ve done this one thing forever. What am I going to offer to the world? Where am I going to go work besides continuing to do teach or tutoring? But you talk a little bit about how our productivity can rise because we’re, let’s say A, maybe more creative, b, maybe socially, we’re better at connecting, help our audience find some, let’s say, hope and creativity on a next phase as they get older when it comes to any kind of part time work.
Carl Honore [00:39:45]:
Yeah, well, I think an important piece of advice here is to slow down, right? Because if you’re going to make that transition, if you’re going to open up a new chapter, you don’t want to be diving in. You can it’s not going to be end of the world, but you’re better placed. I think if you just stop and take some time, take a six month, one year sabbatical and just, I don’t know, travel, read, expose yourself to novelty, do new things, right? Open yourself up. And I think if you take that slow time, you’ll hear a voice, right? A new path will open up. If you’re at that kind of stuck stage at, I don’t know, early 50s or whatever, 60 or wherever you are, right? And you’re thinking, I’ve run out of road with this chapter, right? It’s coming to a close, but I can sense that there are more chapters in my book. I just don’t know what the next chapter looks like is. Don’t expect to download your next chapter from Amazon, right? It’s going to take time, it’s going to take slowness. We’re coming full circle here, right, to let your mind wander, to talk to people, to go experience things. And I think with the experience you’ve got by that stage, you will be able, with that slow moment, however long it takes to identify what the next step will be. So I would recommend people not get panicked because I know I work with a lot of people in this situation who finish a job or finish a chapter in their life. They get up the next day and they’re freaking out.
Wes Moss [00:41:10]:
They’re thinking, where am I going next?
Carl Honore [00:41:13]:
What am I going to do next? Time is running out. And then they’ll either end up in a kind of panic state, or they will jump into something that ends up being a wasted rabbit hole where they do something for six months or they go back down to the same thing they were doing before, because that feels like a comfort blanket. No, I think you got to sit with that discomfort, that uncertainty, that doubt in that liminal space, if you like, between chapters, and just open yourself up to your own experience and to what you can expose yourself to in that in between time. And you will find things kind of.
Wes Moss [00:41:47]:
Goes back to your two weeks in a cabin.
Carl Honore [00:41:49]:
There you go. Bill Gates. And he’s managed to make some pretty successful transitions in his life, hasn’t he? Yeah, it’s having those and it may be two weeks in a cabin, it may be two years. Right. It may be two months, but it’s going to take time. And I think a big this is such a common thing, right, is that people get off the merry go round, get off the speed wheel, and then they instantly feel they’ve got to be on the next merry go round. No, this is the time to stop, to pause, to reflect, to take stock, and then you’ll find your next step.
Wes Moss [00:42:24]:
Well, in part of this, I love your metaphor, where you’re talking about how, yes, maybe our eyes get a little not as strong as we get older. We need glasses to see small print, but the bigger picture we’re maybe better at as we get older. Maybe this is part of the upswing of that happiness U curve, where maybe getting the bigger picture is part of why our happiness increases as we get into our 50s plus.
Carl Honore [00:42:47]:
I think it absolutely is. I think we get a sense of how things are joined together. The studies are really clear on this. As you get into that second half of life, you have a much better feel for why the world works the way it does, why things slot together like that. And that’s a huge relief, right? Because that’s one of the things, if you think back to what life and the world looked like in your twenty s, it was kind of scary in lots of ways you couldn’t work out. I wasn’t sure why things were happening and stuff. I think you have a much clearer sense of the why. And once you’ve got a grip on the why, very often everything else falls into place. Or at the very least, you feel less anxious because you’ve got a sense of a purpose, right, that you can see why things are happening, and it allows you to find your own why, if you like.
Wes Moss [00:43:34]:
So one last thing as we wrap here, Carl, is that if you’re thinking you’re listening to this interview, this episode, and you’re thinking, okay, I’d love to slow it down, what would be a first step for someone to start doing that? I know you said slow down slowly is one, but just is there a kind of a catalyst or first step for you to be able to start thinking this through?
Carl Honore [00:44:00]:
I’ll give you three quick tips for slow to start off right. The first is just do less, right? So look at your calendar for the next week and each day, identify one thing, the least important thing, and drop it.
Wes Moss [00:44:11]:
Carl Honore [00:44:11]:
Just drop it. Throw it out. I’m almost certain it’s not that important, right? You won’t even remember it six months from now. That’s one thing. Number two, use the off button on your phone. Yeah. Set aside 2 hours whenever they are, every day next week or 1 hour. Let’s start with 1 hour. And just switch off your phone. Be away from screens for, ideally, in a place of nature, like a wood or a park or something, but even just in your home, just off screen for an hour, one day a week, every day of the next week. And then the third suggestion is to incorporate some kind of slow ritual into your life, something that will inoculate you or vaccinate you against the virus of hurry. So that can be, I don’t know, yoga or reading poetry or meditation or drawing, sketching, whatever it is. Just build, I don’t know, 1015 minutes of that into each of your days for the next week. So one of those I don’t want to freak people out and say, do three things. Pick one of those next week and give it a roll and go with it. And the thing about slow is, once you taste it, the taste is so sweet, you never go back.
Wes Moss [00:45:23]:
Right, Mallory? Cancel our next podcast later today. I’m done.
Carl Honore [00:45:30]:
Wes Moss [00:45:32]:
Well, awesome. So, Carl, thank you so much. And again, this is the kind of thing that when I found you via Ted Talk, I thought, wow, I’m so guilty of living fast. I think our audience, these achievers that are listening, they’re guilty of living so fast and listen, it’s just part of the world we’ve kind of wanted to keep up, and the world gets faster with tech, and we’ve almost hit our ceiling of human fastness. And I thought, what a great thing to share. Kind of your life’s work. What a great thing to share to our audience that are a bunch of achievers, and they have the opportunity, probably more than almost anyone, to be able to take some time in the woods, take a little bit of time to understand how to slow it down a little bit. I just love the concept, and I thank you for bringing that to our audience here today.
Carl Honore [00:46:28]:
Thank you, Wes. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you from start to finish.
Mallory Boggs [00:46:32]:
Hey, y’all, this is Mallory with the Retire Sooner team. Please be sure to rate and subscribe to this podcast and share it with a friend. If you have any questions, you can find us @wesmoss.com. That’s wesmoss.com. You can also follow us on Instagram and YouTube. You’ll find us under the handle Retire Sooner podcast. And now for our show’s. Disclosure. This podcast is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only and is not to be viewed as investment advice or recommendations. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance or financial circumstance, chances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. It is not intended to and should not form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax or investment advisor before making any investment or financial planning considerations.
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