Saturday, May 17, 2008

Leonardo da Vinci: Renaissance Rebooter

This cartoon by Mort Greenberg, which appeared in the New Yorker, then in a Fidelity Investments print ad in the New Yorker, and most recently in Last Laughs: Cartoons about Aging, Retirement… and the Great Beyond (Scribner, 2007) perfectly captures the ideal of rebooting – Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, in his studio, busy working on two things at once.

The housekeeper is saying to the visitor, “Oh you know with Leonardo, it’s never retirement, it’s always reinvention.”

The cartoon brings back fond memories of a visit I made some years ago to the Clos Luce manor house in Amboise, in the Loire Valley of France. This is where Leonardo, at the invitation of King Francois I, came to live when he was 65. He happily continued to paint, sketch, and work as an engineer, architect, and festival organizer for the King Francois I court in Amboise, spending the last three years of his life there. The manor house is now a Leonardo museum.

I was traveling with a group of Stanford Sloan classmates, including Mike Fitch, a highly regarded Wells Fargo banker with a well-tuned and mischievous sense of humor. As Mike and I were walking through the models and drawings, we got into some nonsense banter about how Leonardo might have interacted with “Jacques,” an imaginary person who might have been hanging around Leonardo’s workshop (perhaps the guy in the cartoon).

Jacques: “Hey Lennie! Whatcha doin’ today?”

Leonardo: “I’m inventing a helicopter.”

Jacques: “Oh.”


Jacques: “Hey Lennie! What’s a helicopter?”

Leonardo: “It’s something to fly around in and report on traffic.

Jacques: “Oh.”

(Longer pause.)

Jacques: “Hey Lennie! What’s traffic?”

OK, you had to be there. There was much more. Too bad one of our classmates didn’t have a video camera. Our improv routine might have made it to YouTube.

"A well filled day gives a good sleep. A well filled life gives a peaceful death." -- Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Doing Good Work and Getting Paid to Do It

Between working at a for-profit business for a salary and working at a non-profit organization as a volunteer, there’s another path for rebooters: Doing “good work” and getting paid for it.

That is, starting a new career by taking on a salaried position in an organization devoted to some higher social good, such as health care, education and social services.

Marc Freedman, co-founder of Civic Ventures, author and one of the nation's leading thinkers and writers on the opportunities presented by the aging of America, documents this growing trend in Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life. He calls it one of the most significant developments of the new century, and the biggest change in the American workforce since the women’s movement.

“Millions of boomers are headed not for an endless vacation but for a new stage of work, driven both by the desire to remain productive and the need to make ends meet over longer life spans,” he says.

"Boomers can capitalize on longer working lives to go beyond their own narrow needs, get down to some of their most significant work and leave the world a better place than they found it.”

Civic Ventures ( and its affiliate ( are dedicated to helping people make such transitions to “encore careers,” working both online and offline. On the Web, members share their stories, their ideas and their challenges. On the ground, the community includes nonprofits, companies, colleges and other organizations that help people explore, prepare and launch their encore careers.

While has no official affiliation with Civic Ventures and, we are proud to share objectives with them and help further this valuable, vital and much needed trend.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 featured in SF Chronicle Sunday Magazine

With your permission, a bit of self-promotion.

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Magazine (May 11, 2008) has an article about how I came up with the idea of Here’s the link:

I would be pleased if you would take the time to peruse the article. I’m gratified that the folks at the Chronicle consider a “bright idea,” and I hope you do, too.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The next big thing: Neuroplastics

You remember the line in “The Graduate” when a friend of Dustin Hoffman’s parents pulled him aside and revealed the next big thing: “Plastics.”

Well, the next big thing today may be: “Neuroplastics.” This is the field of medicine that explores the ability of the brain to improve itself through activity or mental exercise.

“The idea that the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity is, I believe, the most important alteration in our view of the brain since we first sketched out its anatomy and the workings of its basic component, the neuron,” writes Dr. Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science..

“The neuroplastic revolution has implications for, among other things, our understanding of how love, sex, grief, relationships, learning, addictions, culture, technology and psychotherapies change our brains,” Dr. Doidge writes.

Today’s New York Times has a related story: “Exercise Your Brain or Else You’ll … Uh…” The lead actor in the story: ELDR magazine editor David Bunnell, who recounts his techniques for maintaining the acuity of his own brain.

“Mr. Bunnell now does regular brain calisthenics, largely avoiding expensive software in favor of simpler solutions,” says the Times article. “He works at memorizing the numbers that swirl around his daily life – credit cards, PINs and phone numbers – and devises mnemonics for remembering people’s names. ‘Smart people find new ways to exercise their brains that don’t involve buying software or taking expensive workshops,’ he said.”

A growing industry is turning out brain health products – both dietary supplements and computer-based products such as math and memory exercises, cognitive assessment and training and other “neurosoftware” programs.

My favorite brain exercises are crossword puzzles and the “Scramble” word game. I’ve tackled sodoku but so far with little success. But I haven’t given up yet.

Now where did I put this morning’s puzzle page?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Now here is a rebooter for the books: Jason Poole

In November I wrote a blog that started like this:

Are you hesitating to reboot yourself because you’re afraid you might have lost your edge, let your skills go stale, or become unable to do what you used to do?This happens sometimes. Self doubt creeps in like an unwelcome visitor, displacing self confidence. You’d go out and really do something new and exciting, but … you are worried that you don’t have what it takes any more.

Well, I just met a guy who suddenly became unable to do what he used to do. Only we’re not talking about playing sports or managing complex projects or creating works of art. We’re talking about the basics:

• Speaking
• Walking
• Reading
• Functioning in society

This is a reinvention story that will amaze you, inspire you and get you to think about the rebooting process differently. It’s Jason Poole’s story, and it’s posted on at [link]

Jason, a corporal in the U.S. Marines, was severely wounded by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Iraq. Half his face was blown away and he suffered severe brain damage. He was unconscious for two months. When he awoke he was blind in his left eye, deaf in his left ear and unable to control the muscles on the right side of his body.

But four years later, thanks to superb medical treatment and extraordinary physical, neurophysical and speech therapy, he has made a recovery that borders on the miraculous.

He continues his recovery today, literally reinventing himself from the ground up. He has had to learn how to talk, read, walk and think all over again. He is providing inspiration to fellow veterans, friends, doctors and therapists, and anyone who comes in contact with him.

And here’s the truly amazing part of the story: Jason is the most positive, optimistic, hopeful and sunny person you’d ever expect to meet. Please read his story at [link].

When I started, I was thinking it would be mainly about rebooting at “retirement age.” Most of the articles and resources on the site are in fact keyed to people who are reinventing themselves relatively late in life.

But web expert and RebootYou collaborator Hugo Evans, who does a lot of behind the scenes work on the site, suggested that I seek rebooting stories of people at earlier stages in life. “What about an Iraq veteran?” Hugo said. “Some of them probably have great stories to tell.”

That turned out to be a terrific idea. I contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, a few miles from where I live, and through the help of VA spokesperson Kerri Childress, was introduced to Jason Poole. Meeting him and talking to him was an inspirational experience I’ll never forget.

And yes, I am definitely expanding the scope of to include inspiring stories about reinvention at any age. You’ll be seeing more in the future.