Dr. Bill Thomas: I’m Dr. Bill Thomas, and I’m here with Nate Silas Richardson. And you’re listening to the #AskDrBill podcast. Glad to have you back. If you had heard episode 0, this is episode 1. And a whole big team has come together. We’re in Ithaca getting ready for a dress rehearsal before we go out on the road for the Age of Disruption Tour, and we’re at Rep Studio recording this. I’m going to bring you up to speed with what’s happening. So Nate, busy day ahead of us?
Nate Silas Richardson: Pretty exciting day. We’re building the stage. Right now, as we sit down to record this, Robby and Shawn are flying the lights and everything. It’s pretty awesome.
Dr. Bill: Yeah. But one of the things that’s going to be new for us this year is we’re traveling with an entire light show and trusses. The front of the stage has these 16-foot tall towers. And part of the reason we’re doing that is we play in so many different houses, and everyday, a different theater that we have to bring our whole rig with us. So it’s going to be a new look for us this year. So while they’re setting up, we’re here, and one thing we wanted to do was spend a little time talking about Life’s Most Dangerous Game.
Nate: That’s right. I mean, I’ve often wondered myself, even though we’ve done 30 shows or so, what is Life’s Most Dangerous Game? Is it aging? Is it embracing aging?
Dr. Bill: I think, Life’s Most Dangerous Game, you start playing it when you’re willing to look fear in the face. And for people all across the life span, one of the ways we turn away from fear is sticking to what we know, sticking to what we have, sticking to our current version of our self. And Life’s Most Dangerous Game is when you turn around and say, “Wait a minute, it can be different.”
Nate: So that brings to mind midlife crisis. That’s what I think of. I’m going to be 44 this year, I think. That’s kind of what I dealt with two or three years ago when I realized that my marriage wasn’t working out, and I had to make some big life decisions. And you came along and said, “Hey, let’s try this.” So, in a way, you coached me through this personally. But what was it for you? How did you discover the game?
Dr. Bill: I discovered the game, I think, like most people do, by accident. I had been living…some people listening to this know, living for years on a farm, cattle and maple syrup and making hay and running a retreat center on the farm, and I had this idea that I was going to just do this the rest of my life.
And I remember the day I was in an airport, and some heifers had broken out of a fence and were loose, and it was winter, and the water and the barn had frozen, and I was away, and Jude was calling me, just going, “Ooh.” And we both, at that moment, just said, “Maybe it’s time for a change.” Because we’d always thought we were just going to keep doing that.
It wasn’t’ the first time the heifers got out, but we realized maybe this was a pivoting point. So a couple of weeks later, we drove to Ithaca, just about two hours from our farm, and started looking for a house, and we chose to leave the farm. That’s why I’m saying play Life’s Most Dangerous Game. It’s choosing. So, yeah, lots of people get knocked around by life, we all do, but you’re playing Life’s Most Dangerous Game when you choose to embrace the next thing.
Nate: The next thing.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, I think that’s the key. So when we’re out performing and stuff, and we’re trying to help people think about this…you mentioned midlife crisis. I don’t care how old you are. There comes a time when either you choose to embrace the next thing, or you just keep going down the road your own.
Nate: So what do you say to the people who say, “You just got to persevere”? I know that there is definitely a mindset of, especially when you’re coming up in the world, “Just don’t give up.” How do you distinguish?
Dr. Bill: I believe that it should be a matter of choice. There’s a classic way of phrasing this, which is, “Persist or pivot.” Choose. And that advice that you said was just, “Persist. I don’t care what’s happening. Persist.” And I’m like, “Whoa, Life’s Most Dangerous Game, you can persist, but you chose to persist.”
Dr. Bill: Or, “You can pivot, but you chose to pivot.”
Dr. Bill: Yeah. That’s why I think this idea of playing the game really resonates from me, because you’re in it, you’re an actor.
Nate: You’re not getting played.
Dr. Bill: That’s a good one, how not to get played. But people do it all the time. People, whatever, they persist, not because they chose to, just because they persist.
Nate: They just are reading the script and doing the thing over and over and over again, which probably is how a lot of people end up in the “midlife crisis,” is they’ve realized that just keeping on barreling forward, keep your head down and keep on riding doesn’t necessarily work.
Dr. Bill: And I’ll just say, another way to think about it is playing Life’s Most Dangerous Game is how you get unstuck. So “stuckness”. We’re on an “anti-stuckness” crusade. How’s that? We need a T-shirt. “I’m getting unstuck.”
Nate: I like it. I like it a lot. So let’s see. We have a question here. We’re going to do one question for every episode here of our podcast. This one comes from Ellen Glovsky.
Dr. Bill: Hi, Ellen.
Nate: Her question is… “I’m intrigued by your ideas and really enjoyed your book. I love the optimism, and at 67, it’s helped a lot. What about the aches, pains, and chronic illness/risk of disease? Any tips on how to manage that?”
Dr. Bill: Great question. That’s one of the cool things about being a geriatrician. Sixty-seven? She’s a baby. She’s like really looking ahead, from my point of view, a person who has a lot of living ahead of her. So first off, one of the counters that come back when anybody says anything positive about aging, it’s like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re living in fantasy land. You can’t say anything good about aging, because aging contains some difficulties. And those difficulties invalidate everything.”
So one thing I like to emphasize here is that we, in our work, we go, “Yeah, there are aches and pains, risk of chronic disease elevated, risk of death 100%.” Okay, I faced it. That is true. What I just said is true. The question is, “What is the meaning of the aches and pains? What is the meaning of the journey?” And for people who look backward and compare themselves constantly to a younger, more physically fit self, the meaning of aging is declined. And every time that knee hurts or the back is sore or shoulder aches, the meaning is, “I’m less. I’m diminished. I’m losing.” It’s also possible to have the joint pains and aches…
Nate: Different lens.
Dr. Bill: Different lens, and go, “Yeah, this is part of the price I pay for being awesome, and having all this lived experience, and having known all these people, and having been to all these places, having learned all these things.” There’s a price, price tag. But okay, aches and pains, awesome decades of life, loving, learning, laughing. It’s a trait.
Nate: This is a question for me. “When is the last time you did the taking stock?” Sometimes, when I’m journaling, I’ll just write down a list of the things that I can remember from the last year. And it’s amazing once the flood gates open. You think, “Oh yeah, I did a few things this year,” but once you start listing them, it can be pretty incredible. And it’s also fun to do that from your deep past as well. But when is the last time you took stock like that? Have you ever done that?
Dr. Bill: I don’t think I really have. Maybe I should. Interesting, in my journaling, and you’re really pointing out something new and interesting to me, Nate. When I’m journaling, I’m constantly journaling about the future, “I want to do this. I want to do that.” I almost never look back. Maybe that’s something new I could add to my own…
Nate: Well, it’s just a matter of celebrating the lived experience, the spoils of the trial.
Dr. Bill: Right. What you got. So with our friend Ellen who wrote into us, I’ll just say, yes, you got aches and pains, but you’re paying that price for some really cool lived experience.
Nate: Love it. Love it. So we are going to wrap for this time, and we will be back very soon. Thanks for listening. The #AskDrBill Podcast is brought to you by the Center for Growing and Becoming and Dr. Bill Thomas’s Age of Disruption Tour, sponsored by LifeReimagined.org, produced at Rep Studios in Ithaca, New York. We’ll see you next time.