Increasing My Life Expectancy

Chip Conley tells the story of taking an online life expectancy assessment and discovering he was only halfway through his projected adult lifetime.

After reflecting on this yesterday, I decide to find one of those calculators to see what I might expect.

The top one on Google (which means it must be the best, right?) was developed by University of Pennsylvania professors and is part of a retirement financial planning website.

Based on a short quiz about my habits, height and weight I got this estimate of life expectancy:

That got me thinking: what if I hadn’t made the changes outlined in My Health Journey over the last four years?

What if I still weighed more than 260 pounds?

Answering the quiz questions based on that scenario provided a strikingly different result:

So four years ago my remaining life expectancy was 35 years.

Today it’s 38 years!

I’ve lived four years while increasing my life expectancy by seven.

And given how much better I feel, and my increased energy, I think it’s highly likely those additional seven years will be productive and enjoyable instead of being characterized by disease and decline.

What result= do you get when you take the quiz?

It’s not too late to change it!

Is 58 Halftime?

Today is my 40th anniversary of being an adult.

What if I have another 40 years left? What if I’m only halfway through my adult life? How would that change my career perspective?

Those are among the questions Chip Conley raised in this TEDx Talk in November 2019.

I had heard Chip earlier that year on Tim Ferris’ Podcast Episode #374, just after I had turned 56, and his message deeply affected me.

It made me think I should be planning to work at least well into my 70s, and that maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea to go back for an MBA at my age.

With the health changes Lisa and I have made in the last few years, we feel healthier and have more energy than we did 30 years ago.

We’ve been doing what we can to prevent diseases that could shorten our lives or diminish their vitality.

On my 58th birthday I’m especially grateful for Lisa, our six kids with their five spouses and a significant other, and our 14 grandchildren. My brother Mark and I are both eligible for the discounted breakfasts at Denny’s, and yet we’re blessed to have our parents still doing well. Dad turned 90 in January.

Ultimately we can’t know how long we have remaining. Life is a vapor. “If the LORD wills we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15, ESV)

That’s not denigrating planning. It’s admonishing against presumption.

Whatever your age, as a Modern Elder I encourage you to watch the video above and to think about how you can be both curious and wise.

How might the COVID Chrysalis be preparing you for something beautiful and amazing?

How can you Wield Wisdom Well and become a Wisdom Worker?

What percentage of your adult life is still ahead of you, and how can you make the most of it?

As Chip concludes, “Life is not a one-tank journey.”

How are you planning to refuel?

Can you lose weight and keep it off?

It is something of truism among dietary experts that “most diets eventually fail.”

See what Psychology Today and Scientific American have to say on the subject.

Researchers at UCLA state it flat out: Dieting does not work.

At my peak I weighed 265 pounds. When I started working in earnest and experimenting with different diets in October of 2016, I set a “dream” goal of getting to 210 pounds.

Realistically, I would have been pretty happy to reach 22o even 230.

And when I got to those milestones I did feel a lot better.

So I don’t know whether what Lisa and I have been doing is a “diet” or not, but today I’m celebrating a full year under my dream goal weight.

June 2016 in Beijing, today in Austin, MN and a year’s worth of monthly average scale readings.

I first cracked the 210-lb. barrier on May 1, 2020 and this morning’s reading was 205.5, which is what I weighed 40 years ago in high school.

Lisa and I experimented with a few different approaches over the first couple of years of our journey, but for the last 20 months we’ve been following a low-carb, relatively high fat eating pattern along with intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating windows.

She’s been averaging between 136 and 138 pounds for the last eight months. That’s about 50 pounds below her peak, and is what she weighed when we were married in 1984.

This approach is totally sustainable.

It’s not always easy, but we don’t have the constant willpower battles that characterize many diets.

And if we find ourselves inching up a bit, we know exactly what we need to do to reclaim control.

To see how I’d do things differently (and get results more quickly) if I were starting over again, see my #BodyBabySteps page.

If you’d like to consider coaching to help you on a similar journey, send me an email and we can set up a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation.

You can do this!

Five Reasons I Love My WGU MBA

Yesterday was a joyful occasion for Lisa and me, as I received notification that the final paper for my Capstone course had passed muster and that I have completed all program requirements for my Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management from Western Governors University (WGU).

That this news came on the 21st anniversary of my first day working at Mayo Clinic made it even sweeter. I celebrated by playing a round of golf with my brother Mark and sons Jacob and Joe, and then we had a family cookout with steaks and brats.

I started the MBA program on Dec. 1, 2019 with no inkling of the upheaval that would be starting just a few months later. It was quite a journey, and in retrospect I can see lots of personal growth from the experience.

As a life-long learner who is interested in trying new things and always looking for ways to improve myself, I had been somewhat skeptical of formal education.

I have taken (probably inordinate) pride in how I’ve been able to advance with my highest degree being a B.S. in Political Science. I’ve also been able to count on a good laugh in my presentations as I note how B.S. and Political Science kind of go together.

I guess I will have to come up with a new joke.

Some of my previous reluctance to go for an MBA had related to costs, but the WGU model is an excellent value. Here are five reasons why I recommend it :

  1. Affordable tuition. For the MBA in Healthcare Management the tuition is $4,180 per six-month term, and a pace of three courses per term is the standard expectation for satisfactory academic progress. At that rate you can get the degree in four terms for a cost of around $17,000.
  2. Flat-rate tuition. If you complete more than three classes in a term, you pay no additional tuition! In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WGU extended our term by a month last year. As a result, I was able to finish seven courses in my first term, which enabled me to get done one term early, and with pro-rated tuition for the last term. It took 16 months altogether, including a two-month term break in July and August.
  3. Competency-based learning. To pass a course, you need a rating of either Competent or Exemplary in each of the learning objectives, as demonstrated by performance on objective exams, papers, presentations or a combination.
  4. Benefit from demonstrating what you already know. At age 57 and with 35 years of career experience, I was familiar with the subject matter for several of the courses. That’s what enabled me to finish some of them quickly, after reviewing the course materials and completing the assessments.
  5. Optional Lectures and Cohorts. For some courses it was helpful to have lecture recordings I could review, and I also participated in some live cohorts, but they’re not required. No one takes attendance. They’re strictly a resource to use if you find them helpful.

While I still strongly believe in lifelong self-motivated learning outside of formal education programs, I found the rigor and accountability of the WGU MBA a helpful stimulus to my growth. It made me do some projects I would never have considered if they weren’t part of the program.

My daughters Rebekah and Ruthie introduced me to WGU a few years ago, as they had found it a great way to get their B.S. in Nursing after having finished a community college R.N. program.

So consider this your WGU introduction. Lots of different programs are available, and if you’re looking to get a college or graduate degree, I highly recommend this option.

20 Years at Mayo Clinic

It was 20 years ago today, on April 3, 2000, that I began a new career working in the Division of Communications at Mayo Clinic.

My 2005 Mayo Clinic staff photo

After working in politics and government for 14 years in various roles at the local, state and federal level, I was ready for a career change. I had been on a pre-med track in college, but having met my future bride (now my wife of 35 years) during the first months of my freshman year, the prospect of college, medical school and residency seemed daunting. That contributed to me taking a different direction for my first career.

Having an opportunity in 2000 to get into health care in a supportive role was therefore really exciting, and to do it at Mayo Clinic was amazing. My initial role was as part of the media relations team, and also providing support for some of Mayo Clinic’s diversification strategies, including some of the consumer books and the launch of what was then MayoClinic.com.

I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities for exciting, interesting and important work I have had at Mayo Clinic. There’s no way I could have imagined the full spectrum of what I would get a chance to do.

Until I started at Mayo Clinic, I had only been on an airplane for trips to Washington, D.C.

I didn’t have a passport.

With the evolution of media, and what became social media, my role at Mayo Clinic evolved and led to opportunities to visit places including

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • and something like 40 of these United States.

I often say my life has become “Norman Rockwell meets The Jetsons.” We live in my hometown of 25,000 people, and yet because of Mayo Clinic (and social media) I have gotten to make these global connections.

Teleworking on my 20th anniversary

A few months ago I wouldn’t have expected that I would spend my 20th anniversary at Mayo Clinic teleworking from my bedroom in Austin, Minn. And yet that was the case today, as it has been for the last two weeks.

I’m thankful that technology allows this, and there’s obviously a big need for health care communication right about now. I’m also proud to be able to work at Mayo Clinic, and of the contributions our staff are making to fighting this global, from development of new tests to leading this national study of convalescent plasma treatment.

More than all of that, though, I feel blessed to have made so many good friends in health care and communications, certainly within Mayo Clinic but also literally around the world.

As we work and pray toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, may that day come soon.