Can the second half of life be as exciting as the first? Arthur Brooks says ‘of course.’
You’re in your 20s, 30, 40s and at the top of your game. The pace is fast, and the rewards are great. As author Arthur Brooks puts it: “A lot of you were thinking early on work-work-work, achieve-achieve-achieve, succeed-succeed-succeed and then dine out on it for the rest of your life.”
But such success can be a scourge — the “striver’s curse” is how Brooks puts it — that research has shown can lead to disappointment and unhappiness in later life. A chance encounter in 2012 on an airplane with a world-famous but deeply unhappy man led Brooks to hop off the success treadmill and do research to discover if a person could find a way to happiness during their declining years.
The very good news is, yes, it’s possible, but it takes some effort, even when a person is still on life’s upslope. And he’s outlined it all in his latest book, “From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.”
Brooks shared his recipe for happiness and his latest book with a crowd of 175 (mostly second-half) people at Tallahassee’s The Village Square Tuesday evening. Apparently, his message is resonating because “From Strength to Strength” debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller List and promptly sold out its first printing.
When Brooks had his epiphany, he was a striver and had all the trappings of success as president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “I … was traveling around. I would have to raise $50 million a year, and I gave 175 speeches,” he said. “Basically, it was running for the Senate and never getting elected.”
He made the switch from politics to academia and is now on the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School faculty, where he teaches a class called “Leadership and Happiness.” He also writes columns on happiness for The Atlantic and hosts the magazine’s podcast, “How to Build a Happy Life.”
One of the takeaways from his research — what Brooks calls “me-search” since he was planning to use the findings in his own life — was that no matter one’s career, “you can expect significant decline to come as soon as your 30s or as late as your early 50s.”
Young strivers have an abundance of what is known as “fluid intelligence,” he said, with the energy and ability to innovate and problem solve. A curve shows it peaks, then wanes as one gets older. The good news is there’s a second curve called “crystallized intelligence” that rises well into old age. It allows a person to see the big picture, make connections and share their wisdom.
The happiest older folks jump from the fluid curve to the crystallized one when the time is right, something that should be planned for, Brooks advises.
“You don’t have to be an economist to know that you should start saving; you should put your 401(k) plan together so you can retire,” he says. “But nobody gives you a 401(k) plan for your happiness; you’ve got to figure that one out for yourself.”
Brooks’ book has eight chapters devoted to the process, much of it rooted in Eastern philosophies — the Dalai Lama gave him a cover blurb — and spiritual practices. In the end, he boiled it down to seven words — “Use things. Love people. Worship the divine.”
Asked if people tend to confuse his name with actor/comedian Albert Brooks, Arthur Brooks said “all the time.” Brooks the Author once bumped into Brooks the actor and told him about his troubles over the years with the name mix-up. The comedian shot back, saying “Imagine how Adam Hitler must have felt.” Albert Brooks may have had time to think through that comeback — his given name is Albert Einstein.
Signed copies of “From Strength to Strength” can be purchased at the Midtown Reader bookstore, located in Midtown Tallahassee at 1123 Thomasville Road.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Jason Delgado, Christine Jordan Sexton, Tristan Wood and the staff of Florida Politics.
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Legislature extends Session to pass budget — Albeit behind schedule, the Legislature is ready to pass the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Lawmakers will return Monday to vote on the $112.5 billion budget and related bills before adjourning Sine Die. The budget includes significant decisions: Employee pay raises, water, infrastructure, taxes, and more. Budget chairs Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull had remained optimistic they would meet the Tuesday deadline to wrap the budget in time for the scheduled Sine Die on Friday.
DeSantis battles Disney on LGBTQ lessons — Disney and other critics are pushing back against legislation passed last week that they call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, HB 1557. Despite Disney pausing its political donations, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida would stay the course to weed out “transgenderism and R-rated lessons about sexuality” for third graders and younger. Those comments were recorded in a video exclusive to Fox News and later reused in a DeSantis campaign video. But the Governor didn’t stop there. “If that’s the hill they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship with the Communist Party of China?”
Legislature approves anti-indoctrination bill — The Republican-led Legislature has joined the wave of state legislative bodies targeting “critical race theory” with a bill to extinguish “indoctrination” in classroom and corporate settings. The Senate voted 24-15 on Thursday to pass HB 7, inspired by calls from DeSantis to combat “woke ideology.” The measure would prohibit lessons and training which tell students and employees that they are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive because of their race, color, sex, or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex, or national origin.
Property insurance legislation dies on Day 60 — Among the casualties of Session is legislation on property insurance. But there are already rumblings that a Special Session could lie in the immediate future. The Senate did pass SB 1728 earlier in Session, but critics always opposed it because it would reduce responsibilities for insurance providers while boosting costs to homeowners. House Speaker Chris Sprowls expressed skepticism about anything needed to happen on the homeowner insurance front this year. But Senate President Wilton Simpson said a Special Session could happen, especially as hurricane season approaches. “We have many companies going out of business. It’s certainly a crisis.”
Deal reached on Simpson’s water bill — Budget negotiators reached an agreement on SB 2508, an Everglades water bill that is a priority of Simpson. The measure already contained language requiring water shortages within the Lake Okeechobee Region to be managed under the current rules set up by the South Florida Water Management District. New language added to the bill Thursday would give DeSantis and state lawmakers a say in any potential changes to those rules. Senate budget chief Stargel said senators were focused on addressing the needs of South Florida stakeholders in crafting the final language. “I think it meets the needs of that whole region down there,” Stargel said.
More than $650 million will remain in Floridians’ pockets under a tax-cut package approved by lawmakers.
Much of the savings will go to everyday residents through five sales tax holidays.
The lineup starts May 28 with a two-week disaster preparedness sales tax holiday. First offered in 2014, the holiday covers items typically included in a hurricane kit, such as flashlights, radios, tarps, coolers and batteries. The holiday also includes generators costing $1,000 or less.
The disaster preparedness holiday will partially overlap with a tax break on impact-resistant windows, doors and garage doors. That will last throughout June, followed by a monthlong tax holiday for energy-efficient appliances in July.
The back-to-school sales tax holiday is also making a comeback from July 25-Aug. 7. It covers clothing, footwear, and backpacks costing $100 or less and school supplies and learning aids costing $50 or less. Though not included every year, the 2022 package also covers computers — and the accessories and software that go with them — up to $1,500.
“Freedom Week,” which debuted in 2021, will return July 1-7. It’ll shave sales tax off tickets to a variety of live events, such as concerts and plays, as well as admissions to museums, state parks and fitness centers. The discount applies to tickets bought in advance if the event date falls between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2022.
Two new additions are also in the mix. The fuel sales tax holiday — one of DeSantis’ priorities — will cut pump prices by 25 cents a gallon throughout October. And the “Skilled Worker Tools” holiday will run Sept. 3-9, with exempted items including hand and power tools, work boots, safety equipment and more.
The package also includes some long-term cuts, such as a yearlong sales tax exemption for diapers as well as children’s clothes and shoes. The exemption aligns with the state’s July 1 through June 30 fiscal year. The sales tax on mobile homes was also permanently halved, from 6% to 3%.