MICHAEL CLINTON

CEO ROAR

THOUGHT

Leader

AN INNOVATOR OF INDUSTRY
HOW LIFE LAYERING ADDS YEARS TO YOUR LIFE

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Many of us spend our lives identifying ourselves in what I call the 3 P’s…

Partner, Parent, and Profession. There’s no question that these three identifiers take up a lot of our lives. There’s only one challenge with letting these roles dominate life however, especially as we live longer, healthier lives. Kids grow up and move away, jobs inevitably come to an end, and we can hope that our partner sticks around for a long time. But life happens. We all know the story about the person who loses his or her identity when they leave their profession. Or the 50-something that is suddenly in the empty nest and single. How can we think about ways to innovate our own identities as we age?

At 39, I had an epiphany that I needed to think hard about the idea of the 3 P’s and my future self. While I had a happy family life, I realized that all I was doing was working, building my career in the publishing business. On a 12-hour flight home from yet another business trip, I decided that I needed to change the direction of my life, or I would become one of those people who never built a multi-dimensional self-identity when my own 3 P’s might be gone or meaningfully diminished.

With a yellow pad, I came up with a new approach to productive and healthy aging that I called “life layering.” The idea is to step out of the 3P’s framework and begin to build new layers of experience, fulfillment an identification as a way to be ready for the second half of life in a more proactive way.

I’ve always had an adventurous streak in me, so my first “layer” was going to focus on new ways to explore adventure. At 40, I gathered a group of friends to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I took a race car driving class and a flying lesson to see what might appeal to me the most. It was climbing and flying. Throughout my 40’s, I hiked mountains in Bhutan, Patagonia, and more, and ultimately became a private pilot. Most often, I did this with family and friends, inviting them into my “layer.” Ultimately, it also led to what I call my Adventure Travel Club, where a group of us pick a place every year to have an exotic experience.

In my 50’s, our group traveled to Madagascar, Tasmania, Myanmar, and other exotic destinations. I piloted along the coast of Namibia and started doing adventure marathons as a unique “branch” of my layer. This led me to run seven marathons on seven continents. To celebrate 60, I ran the seventh and final continent, Antarctica! Next came a hike to Everest Base Camp and a marathon down!

I think you get the idea! For over 25 years, I have built out my adventure layer and now identify as an “adventurer”. That identity has nothing to do with my 3 P’s but adds to it and often times integrates into it. Over the years, I have added other layers to my life too. One I call my creative layer, one I call my philanthropic layer. One doesn’t replace the other, but rather they build out simultaneously. I’m constantly cultivating them and plan to make them lifetime endeavors.

When I talk about the idea of life layering, many people ask me how I identified my layer(s) or will say that they don’t know where to start. I usually suggest three simple exercises:
1)Go back to your younger self. There was something that you left behind that is core to who you are and your interests. I met a sales executive who wrote her first novel at 60 and a corporate executive who wanted to always be in the social impact space. He quit his job in his 50’s and launched a nonprofit. We all have something that excited us in our young life.
Recapture it.

2)Write down five words that describe you to yourself. Not nouns, but things like funny, courageous, and empathetic. Now ask 10 of your family and friends to write down five words that describe you to them. They cannot share with each other. Now map out those words and see which one comes out on top. In my case, generous was the word that rose to the top and as I explored that word more deeply, it led me to my philanthropy layer.

3)Ask yourself a simple question. What brings you joy? You might say your children or grandchildren or partner, but for this exercise, it should be a personal experience. One woman loved being in her garden and decided to get a certificate in botany to deepen her knowledge.

For me, a solo run in the fi elds is my way to stay fi t but also to clear my head. I call it my moving meditation. It led to my return to marathoning in my 50s. Take your joy and lean into it.

The idea of building a life layer, especially as we grow older, is to expand our identities beyond the 3Ps. It’s an approach that can bring individual satisfaction and purpose throughout life.

With my 40-year publishing career behind me, I never looked back. I had built layers that included adventurer, photographer, writer, philanthropist and more. I call it my big, delicious layer cake of life. It’s also made me a better and more interesting person to my family and friends, who have worked on their own layers. We share slices with each other which has led to even more richness in my relationships. And we all know that as we age, it is our relationships and those experiences that bring us the most meaning. Life Layering is a way to make that happen.

Michael Clinton is the Author of ROAR into the second half of life and the Founder of ROARForward.com.

Michael Clinton is the former president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, and now serves as special media advisor to the Hearst Corporation’s CEO. He is also the CEO and Founder of ROARforward, a joint venture with Hearst Ventures and author of the best seller ROAR into the Second Half of Your Life – Before It’s Too Late (Atria Books/Beyond Words, Sept. 2021).

From his working-class roots to success in the New York magazine world, Michael shares his own journey as an avid traveler, having experienced 126 countries, and running marathons on seven continents. A photographer, private pilot, part owner of a vineyard in Argentina, and founder of a nonprofit foundation, Michael holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, plus two master’s degrees (from Columbia University and Pace University).

He serves on the boards of trustees of the International Center of Photography and Pace University and the Advisory Board of the Stanford Center on Longevity. He has written for The New York Times, Town & Country, Esquire, Men’s Health and has had 8 books of his photography published, as well as two travel memoirs. He resides in New York and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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