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Podcast 430

430: Living Your Best Life in Retirement with Lux Narayan

Today, I’m talking to Lux Narayan. Lux is an author, entrepreneur, stand-up comedian, and storyteller. We first discovered Lux through his TED Talk, What I Learned From 2000 Obituaries. From there, we learned about his work as the founder of StreamAlive, where he helps livestreamers and storytellers engage, in-person or online, with AI-powered SaaS.

In our conversation, we discuss his new book Name, Place, Animal, Thing: An Inspiring Fable For Grownups About Hope, Positivity, and Living Your Best Life, in which he weaves a fable for adults about life transitions full of wisdom–especially as it relates to retirement.

You’ll learn why Lux believes in the beauty of being a generalist, what inspired him to write this book, and how it changed his life during a time of great personal and professional uncertainty. You’ll also discover a few things we can do at every stage of life to live a kinder, grounded, and deeper existence.


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ABOUT HOWARD BAILEY FINANCIAL: Our mission is to help others gain clarity in purpose and elevate meaning in their lives through personal and practical financial strategies. Our Retire With Purpose™ Framework starts with establishing your unique financial philosophy — the true meaning and purpose for your money in retirement. Through continued education, one-on-one meetings, and a comprehensive team planning approach, we have helped retirees across the country secure their financial futures. And while we can't work with everyone, our goal is to provide value to everyone we meet. Our team of advisors and support specialists strive to deliver the very best experience in pre-retirement and retirement planning. Learn more about our process here:

In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
  • Why people who have been laser-focused on one thing for 30, 40, or 50 years have such a hard time in retirement.
  • How Lux’s pursuit of so many different skills has proven valuable and interconnected over the course of his career.
  • New ways to answer the question: “So, what do you do?”
  • Why so many retirees think they’re going to travel far more than they actually do–and the beauty of going near and narrow, rather than far out into the world.
  • The beauty of living a life of curiosity, humility, and empathy.
Inspiring Quote
  • "Make more things, get in touch with your inner animal, travel places not just far and wide, and wear more names than your job." - Lux Narayan
  • "I think these are probably the three most important attributes for any human being to have. It's curiosity, it's humility, and it's empathy." - Lux Narayan
Interview Resources
Offer valid in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, to first-time requestors. During the offer period, receive one (1) in-stock book per request. Limit (1) book per week per household. Limit three (3) books total each calendar year, between January 1 and December 31. Offer valid while supplies last. Howard Bailey Financial, Inc. reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify this offer at any time. Void where restricted or otherwise prohibited.
Read the Transcript

Casey Weade: Welcome to Retire With Purpose podcast. My name is Casey Weade, where it is my mission to deliver clarity and purpose and elevate meaning in your life. And if you're new to the show, I want you to know how we accomplished that. We do that through focusing both on the financial and non-financial aspects of life, and most specifically, that stage of your life as you transition into retirement. And every single Friday we get together with you and we discuss a trending topic. We'll discuss a trending topic that usually comes from our Weekend Reading for Retirees email series. That's an email that hits your inbox every single Friday. We cover four different trending articles that can make a big difference in your life, give you some great reading material for the week, along with summaries and takeaways curated by myself.

But not only do you get that email in your inbox but we'll send you all kinds of free goodies and great and valuable resources, things such as free webinars and book giveaways, questionnaires, assessments, all kinds of things that can make a positive impact in your life. To get yourself signed up for that weekly email, all you have to do is text WR to 866-482-9559 and then every other Monday we get together with you and we bring you a world-class guest. And these guests come to us from a variety of different disciplines, experts from all over the world, all here to help make a bigger impact in your life. And it is my job to deconstruct these individuals and provide you real value that you can implement in your life. And I think today is going to be no exception to that.

Today, we have Lux Narayan joining us. He is the author of Name, Place, Animal, Thing. We got a real-life Renaissance man here. He is the founder of StreamAlive, Unmetric, and Vembu Technologies. We actually initially encountered Lux through his TED Talk titled What I Learned From 2000 Obituaries. So, this is someone that studied a lot of end-of-life scenarios, and we're going to talk a little bit about that. But then I discovered his book, his book, which is actually a fable that comes with a lot of really practical application for life and just life transition, and especially this stage of the life that so many of you are going through. That book being Name, Place, Animal, Thing, an inspiring fable for grown-ups about hope, positivity, and living your best life. We're going to be giving away that book here later in the show. But before we get there, let's welcome Lux.


Casey Weade: Lux, welcome to the show.

Lux Narayan: Hey, Casey. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.

Casey Weade: I'm excited to have you here, my friend. We're going to have a wide-ranging conversation today. As I told you before we got started, I said, “Ah, I don't know where to take this. We have so many different ways we can take this.” We've got this great book, which was my initial, really outline for the conversations. We're just going to talk about the book. We're going to walk through the chapters, talk through a practical application. And then I kept coming back to this amazing graphic that you include in the book that you can check out. If you get the book, you're going to love this graphic. I mean, honestly, I think I'm just going to take this thing, print it off, and have it all over the office, all over my house. I think this is truly a very simple way to continually remind yourself how to live an incredible life. So, I love what you have there.

And I think in order to get us there, I have a couple of ways that we can get there. And one thing is who you are and another thing is a quote from your book that really ties well into this. So, Lux says, we introduced him. You heard some of the things that he does, right? He's an entrepreneur, he's an author, he's a stand-up comedian, he's a chef, he's a pilot, he's a family man, and he does all of these things. And this is an opening quote from his book, which I want to read this because I think it is something that I continually go back to, and I think others will find value in it. The opening quote in the book is, "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects (and I will add doctors),” by Robert Heinlein.

And I read that quote and I go, “Is that true?” I mean, that's never what I've been told. I've always been told that it's more valuable and you'll be more successful if you're an inch wide and a mile deep, rather than a mile wide and an inch deep. And this seems like you're trying to challenge that as a means of success in life. I do look at all those different things. I'm a numbers guy and I always want to know where I stand. I said, "Well, I checked 15 out of the 21 boxes in that quote, so I'm 71% of the way there.”

Lux Narayan: For your own sake, I hope you checked out the box and diapers and all of those things.

Casey Weade: I got that one. The three little kids, I got that one. I'm hoping I'm done changing diapers here someday.

Lux Narayan: Absolutely. But I found the good. Fascinating, right? So, just in terms of his breadth, what he just related, it's a whole bunch of uncorrelated, different things that are things you would do in everyday scenarios, things that one does not necessarily do. There was also an old-world charm about the way it's articulated in terms of the different tasks. Just pointing to the fact that there is a lot more beyond what we do for work, which is often what we choose to let work define us is, I think, a good reminder of the fact that there is so much more to life. So, that's the reason really I chose to open with that quote because you read it, and I'm hoping that people really go, "What the hell? I mean, this is crazy, right?” And then it kind of wakes you up a little bit and prepares you for what's coming up later in the book. So, it's one of my all-time favorite quotes. It's a long one and I can't remember it well back then, but I think it's beautiful.

Casey Weade: Well, when I think about the families that we work with and helping them into retirement and then managing them from not just a financial basis but doing their lifestyle as well and managing from a coaching basis, those that tend to struggle with this retirement transition versus those that don't. And when I look at something like this, I think it's those individuals like myself that have been trained. If you want to succeed, you need to be an inch wide and a mile deep and focus deeply in one area. You choose that area, you go deep and you do that for 30, 40, 50 years in your career, and then you transition and you don't have all of these other things. You've always had this one thing and this thing is so vital and important to your identity. It's what makes you you. And now when you no longer have that, who are you?

And what you're trying to communicate here is if we broaden that moat earlier on in our lives and start to experiment in these other areas, we won't struggle with these transitions as much or these identity crises won't show up in our lives. You wrote this book when you were turning 50. Was this a time in your life where you were experiencing a bit of crisis? And did this come to you because, yes, you go, “I've always been very narrow. I need to get wider. And this is why I'm going through this crisis.” Maybe didn't even experience a crisis but how did that transition show up for you?

Lux Narayan: So, before jumping Into that, what you asked me earlier was pretty interesting too, what you mentioned, right? We've been trained to go an inch wide and a mile deep. And I'm originally from India. And when we were growing up, I think it's even narrower than that. It's a quarter of an inch wide. And what I mean by that is you're often told that if you want to succeed in life, either be an engineer or be a doctor and that's it. It's changing now for the better but those are parameters of success, going to one of these things, study to be one of these, and then do your career and work and work and work, which is typically how kids of my generation and the generation before grew up, that is kind of hammered into our heads in some ways with the best of intent.

But as you grow up and you just see different things and in my case, in my 40s, I just got exposed to a lot of things that piqued my curiosity that I started doing. I don't know if it was an extended midlife crisis that came out a little earlier that made me do all these different things, but I just found a lot of joy in a portfolio of activities, so to speak. And just found them enriching and cross-pollinating different dimensions of life in very, very interesting ways. So, something I might do on, say, improv comedy would actually help with teamwork back in the office or something else would connect with a talk I was doing and a pitch to a client in ways that I had never seen before. So, when I started seeing the cross-pollination, it kind of said, "Oh, wow, we can have these different things that enrich your life, make it richer, make you happier, and at the same time contribute to the other's fields.” It kind of totally made sense.

And then over time, you start seeing some patterns in some of these things that kind of lend themselves to some structure that allows you to do it in a bit more of a structured manner. But I think all of these things come from some kind of crisis or some kind of introspection or thinking. I can't point to one specific moment, but there were a bunch of them that happened that finally led to what came out in the book.

Casey Weade: There's something that one of my mentors has tried to teach me and said, "You can only ever have two priorities in life.” And any time he's ever seen anyone have more than two priorities, things start to go off the rails. And I think that's what I find mentally challenging about being a Renaissance man and doing all these different things because there are so many things that I love to do. And I wanted to do some things this coming year with golf. I wanted to go to the open qualifier and the stadium qualifier and do some of these things and my wife goes, "You know what's going to happen if you do that. Now, you're going to have all of this obsession over golf, then you have work, then you have family and the kids and all of their events, and you're not going to be able to manage it all.” And she's right.

So, I think it's hard for us to manage all of these different things and really have more than one priority. So, how do you think about that? How do you work through that in your own life where you have business, you have family? And I'm sure these are the two priorities in life but then how do you prioritize diversification and all of these other experiences? Do you prioritize them at all? How do you think about it?

Lux Narayan: I think that's a very, very valid question. And the unfortunate short answer is it's impossible to do justice to all of those dimensions at the same time. So, as in probably many instances, your wife is right in this one as well. You know, you're probably better off focusing on some things. But having said that. I think we’re all so much more richer when we add those, we call them hobbies, call them vacations, call them interest, call them passing interest that you might do for some time and maybe continue on if they strike a chord or not continue if they don't strike a chord. I think it's important for sanity, right? I mean, you run a business. I'm sure you'll see it when you're trying to solve a particularly thorny problem. The answers don't present themselves to you even when you're just sitting and deliberately constantly thinking about it. It probably comes at you when you're in the shower or on a walk or on a hike or playing golf for that matter.

So, who was it? Was it Aristotle or Plato who used to advocate a lot of problem-solving by walking, right? That was a very peripatetic deliberate attempt at walking and solving problems while walking and discussing things while walking. I just think different areas of the brain get activated with different things, and they actually contribute back to some of the things that might be more important in the current sphere of life. And of course, each person's life stage is different. For me around the stage of the 50s is also when I kind of became an empty nester and with the kids going to college and stuff, you admittedly get a little more bandwidth to do some of these things. And that bandwidth is going to be different for different people at different stages of life.

Casey Weade: It seems like you're saying prioritize, right? Have some core priorities in your life, maybe have two core priorities in life but don't forget to dabble and create space.

Lux Narayan: I couldn't put it better. Absolutely. Yes. Dabble is a very powerful, beautiful word. Dabble, right? I mean, experiment and things. And then only if you dabble, you would find what you might be interested in. I would argue that a lot of us have dabbled in things to lead us to work that is meaningful and hopefully, we're all doing jobs that we enjoy, and that is probably the end result of dabbling in a bunch of things. People go through their careers, where they dabble in different jobs, different roles, and then settle on one. It needs to extend outside of their career too.

Casey Weade: Yeah. When you wrote this book, you wrote it as a fable. And I'm curious, why not make it a more practical application to everyday living? Why a fable? Are these real-life characters? Is it a story about you and people that you love and know?

Lux Narayan: It's like a Frankenstein mix of different life characters. So, yes, the characters are defined by people I’ve been influenced by and folks I can relate to, and it's like a mosaic of those different characters. As to why a fable and why not a classic nonfiction book? Interestingly, the book was for its first 20 or 25 pages, a nonfiction book. And then I did the cardinal sin of reading my own work before finishing it, which every person who teaches you how to write a book says you should never do because we are often our harshest critics, right? So, I’ve written it in a non-fable fashion. I read it after about two dozen pages, and I didn't like it. I was like, I'm not going to read this guy. Who's going to read this guy? I think a lot of these things are also colored by the circumstances of when things happen.

So, when I wrote the book, it was actually a very cathartic thing for me personally because I was going through a very difficult time in our lives. This was during the first year of COVID in 2020. And it was probably the toughest year of my life personally. And the book was almost like a vent of sorts for me. And then after reading the nonfiction side of it, not really resonating with it. Something you just said, it needs to be a story, right? And I've also been a fan of a lot of this limited small genre of books that are fables that have lessons where the fable does not overtake the lesson. At the same time, the lesson is not so overpowering that you're reading one lesson after the other, the rest of the story kind of anchoring everything together. So, classic books would be Jonathan Livingston Seagull or Illusions by Richard Bach or The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, or The Go-Giver, and books like that which have a story stringing along a whole bunch of things.

I've always enjoyed the genre and maybe I'm a sucker for punishment but as the first book, I said, "Why not tackle both nonfiction and fiction at the same time?” And it was a beautiful experience for me at that time.

Casey Weade: Yeah, I'm sure it brought a lot to your life. Well, what did it bring to your life? After you went through this process and looking back, what kind of impact did it make?

Lux Narayan: At that time, this book gave me, I mean, imbued me with a pretty good sense of purpose. So, a fair amount of it is stemming from some personal experiences. Just to put it in context, I wrote the book in 2020, published it in 2021. So, 2019, I've been a startup entrepreneur for most of my adult life and in 2019, a company I previously co-founded, a company called Unmetric, had been acquired towards the end of the year. And that is typically a reason to celebrate and new journeys and things which did happen. The company that acquired us got acquired three times over. So, we moved from being an independent company to having a corporate-grade grandparent over one month in October, which you would think is the craziest thing that might happen to one. But in November, we saw totally new levels of crazy.

So, our older son, I mean, he's now a working architect in New York City, but he was doing a semester abroad in college in Berlin at that time. And I was in Copenhagen about to announce the acquisition and that evening he calls and says, “Hey, Dad, something weird is happening.” And later, we found out when he called me that time, he said, he's just suddenly losing sensation in his body, which he did. Over the span of 24 hours, he was paralyzed from the neck down, and he's an athlete, which you can imagine, it scares the living daylights out of any parent. So, I kind of dropped everything, flew down to Berlin, and found him in an ICU. And what it turned out was this thing called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which he had come down with. It’s a rare autoimmune disease. And he's an athlete and stuff. So, we never thought something like this would happen to someone who's so young and so fit.

He was in the hospital for two weeks there, had to be airlifted from there to the States, was in hospital for two months here, got discharged. And then through the first six months of COVID, we had to continue going to hospitals for physical and occupational therapy. And that messes up your mind space in a lot of ways. So, once a company transitioned in terms of all my colleagues getting fantastic roles in the acquiring company, the day the 75th person joined, I quit. And this decided I need to focus on just taking care of things at home. And that's what I did to most of 2020. I had a lot of free time for the first time in my life. My only job was driving to the hospital waiting in the parking lot because they wouldn't let you in since it was COVID. And that's when I started walking on hikes and things and doing a lot of going around. And I just realized about a month or two into it that I needed something to occupy my time.

And I had all these notes that actually were parts of Name, Place, Animal, Thing, the book as we see it now, in a folder somewhere and I said, "This is probably the best time to rejuvenate it. Pulled it out, wrote that first nonfiction version, decided I didn't like it, had all the time in the world to revisit it and make a newer version. I was reading some of these books I mentioned, the genre, and sometimes these dots connect, right? And I said, “Why not write it as a fiction book?” So, It came from a very different journey but for me, it gave me a fantastic sense of purpose. Because it had been, I mean, for the last couple of decades, I was used to doing something in terms of running a startup or building something and suddenly, I had all this empty free time. I had to fill it up with some activity. So, that extent that there is a self-reflection, which is present in the story because I was going through a lot of that introspection myself as well.

Casey Weade: Yeah. I have a sense of understanding of what that felt like. With our second son being born, he was born with some major physical ailments that required me to take six months off. So, six months of me going to the hospital every day, and just trying to figure out what am I going to do with my life. It’s the first time I took more than a week off work in my entire career, and now I'm gone for six months. And I would say it felt a bit like a crisis as well. And when you exited that, for me going through that process really crystallized what I wanted out of life. And for you coming out of that process, how would you say that you viewed life differently after going through it versus before? And because this is what the people listening are either going through already. They're just in retirement, they're experiencing this time, freedom, this gap that might feel like a crisis, or they want to preempt that.

They want to know, what's it going to feel like when I don't have to be anywhere at any given time? I don't have this one thing that I focus my entire life and career on. What's that going to feel like? And what's it going to look like on the other side?

Lux Narayan: I hear you and how you can relate when something strong like this happens in the family, right, but it gives you all this time to think, introspect, and reflect on things. In my case, since it happened along with leaving the previous company, it also translated. It was a surreal time, right? You have this crazy thing we're dealing with at home with our son’s health. Thankfully, he’s perfectly fine now. And at the same time, the whole world has gone into lockdown with COVID, and you're not meeting people, you're not social anymore. For me, after years of having my identity defined by what I do for work, I was used to six months before that. Someone asks me that question, “So, what do you do?” I will be answering and leading with what I do for work, right? I will say, “I'm a co-founder and CEO of this company, and we do this, this, this, and stuff like that.”

Suddenly leaving the company and not having a regular job, per se, robbed me of that entire sense of identity in a way because if someone asks you, "What do you do?” I would almost give the old answer first, and then stop myself saying, "No, I don't do that anymore,” and then come up with an answer, which was half-baked and stuff. And that sort of struck me so much of our identity of not necessarily when you're touching 50, or after 50, or when you're retired, and most of that time, but even when you're working, so much of our identity is according in the most recent line of our LinkedIn profile, which is what you do for work and what your title is. And then we wear that as our entire identity but there's so much of sides to us that we sometimes just stifle or we don't give voice to.

And, again, that was a weird time where I wasn't randomly meeting someone at a coffee shop or a bar because everything was closed. But I was meeting people online. I was attending all these different communities and places and I meet people. And then we get into breakout rooms. And people will say, "Oh, so what do you do?” And I would start off with, “I’m a co-… Oh, gosh, I'm not that. That was six months ago.” And at some point, I said, "You need to define your identity independent of work or adjacent to work and not just that.” So, in a lot of ways, that experience can dovetail very beautifully with the book because the central thesis is how do we give better answers when someone asks us, "So, what do you do?” It's important, yes, when you're taking a break and you're not employed anywhere, and you're dealing with other stuff. It's important when you retire and you're not working anymore on a regular job, at least. I think it's important even when you’re in the prime of your career and working in a regular job because the question is equally relevant in all those contexts.

Casey Weade: I mean, this is a silly question but why is identity so important? Why is it so important to have an answer to, "So, what do you do?” And how do you answer that question today?

Lux Narayan: I'll do a simple instance. Right? We were talking a few minutes ago and I was sharing how we went through a difficult time with our child and you shared how you had something happen with your child as well. And at that moment with those respective stories, in some ways we both connected, right? And they're connected because we allowed our conversation to expand into the canvas of what's happening in our personal lives. Now, if you were to restrict your canvas to the core dimension of what you do at work. And then, by the way, I love the stuff you do around work. And if you're not to give in to that canvas to talk about everything that’s happening to us, there's so much less intersections you can find with people. And we just stick to that little kernel of what we do for a living. I mean, the purpose of interaction, the purpose of having a conversation, the purpose of this podcast, the purpose of you and me catching up for a bite, when we meet in person, you playing those rounds of golf with your friends, is connections, is intersections, is enriching ourselves with our experience as being layered on by the experiences of others.

And for that, we need those conversations to expand into the canvas of other stuff. I mean, sure enough, when you have a friend you've known for years, you know a lot of dimensions of their life. But I think the challenge is when you know someone for a lesser time, how beautiful would it be if we could expand the canvas of our conversations into other things as well? So, you find more things maybe that you agree or disagree on or might be interested in each other. It just makes interactions and conversations so much richer I'd like to think.

Casey Weade: Just trying to create depth, I think, and I think you're doing that in a very creative way. And I've never seen it done this way. My team was looking at the book, and they're going, “Name, Place, Animal, Thing. What are you going to talk about? How does this fit in? And what's this really mean?” And so, explain that to us. What does the title of the book mean? Where's that come from? What's that mean to you?

Lux Narayan: So, actually again, it's a beautiful convergence in my head of a couple of totally disconnected things. A lot of the book talks about your childhood things and if you look at the cover also, it's a very playful childhood childlike cover. So, Name, Place, Animal, Thing is a pen and paper game, that a lot of kids in Asia, especially in India, played growing up, at least I did, right? It's a game which painted possibilities in a lot of interesting ways. Not to spend 50 minutes describing the game but very, very quickly you have a bunch of kids.

Casey Weade: You have to because the game is actually pretty fun. I'm really looking forward to just having this part of the thing that our kids grew up doing.

Lux Narayan: I think it’s a lot of fun. So, it's like, everyone has a sheet of paper, everyone has a pencil. And there's someone who starts reciting the alphabet as fast as they can. So, they go ABCDEFG, and someone says stop, and they start with the letter G. And everybody has got to write the name of a person starting with G, the name of a place starting with G, the name of an animal starting with G, the name of a thing starting with G. So, tell me the animal starting with G, Casey.

Casey Weade: Goat.

Lux Narayan: Goat. Okay. I thought giraffe, right? So, since you and I didn't think the same thing, we get 10 points each but if I had said goat as well, we would just get five points each. And if you couldn't think of a place starting with G, you get zero needless to say, right? Everyone gets a score from zero to ten so zero, five, or ten. And you add up your scores for that round and you get a score and you play it all over again. And over the course of maybe playing it for 15 or 20 minutes, you might cover about eight alphabets. And if you have five people playing, you have heard eight times, four times, five names being rattled off, which is beautiful because sometimes a mind goes down a certain direction. For example, I did not think of goat. I could only think of giraffe. And once I thought of giraffe, I could not think of any other animal.

Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, you put me on the spot and go, "Oh boy, I hope I can think of an animal that has a G in it.”

Lux Narayan: It could be worse. I mean, you could have ended up at X and then you're both on the spot, right? But actually, the game was a beautiful game because it painted a picture of vividity, right? You would think of an animal and then others would tell animals some of them we’d not have heard about. You would challenge it and say, "No, that's not an animal,” and then we'll have a discussion on what is an animal for example, or name. Now, name is the easiest one because you can make up any random name on the spot and argue that it's a name. I mean, who's someone to say that that's not a possible name? So, very, very, very rarely will you have someone get a zero on name. But you would have the fives happen because I might say George and you might say George and we both get a five.

So, name is where people will really exercise a creative muscle, which I think also taught us an underlying message saying no name is weird. Just because we haven't heard of it or know someone with that name, it doesn't mean it's weird. I mean, it's a big world that are what? 7 billion people at this point. So, probably someone has his name that I just invented on the spot to make up 10 points. And I thought the game was a beautiful metaphor for the ideas behind the book. And the ideas were amorphous ideas until that point, and it just struck me that the game could be a placeholder for all of the ideas. A lot of the ideas actually came during a talk I was giving at an event many years back. Have you heard of this? I think it's called PechaKucha. I can't remember the exact name but it's these 15 slides for 15 seconds each where you got to create a presentation of 15 slides. They're going to auto-advance at the end of 15 seconds for each slide.

So, if you have not finished your narrative for the slide, too bad, because the next slide is already up on the screen for the audience. So, you need to be precise, exact, and it's a lot of fun to see people stumble over their words, not be able to finish the thing or go too slow and wait for the next slide. It's crazy entertainment for the audience as speakers stumble through it. So, I gave a talk once in one of those, and I had a thing on purpose. And I just realized that I had three slides each into what would later become these buckets of name and place and animal and thing. So, they were all these ideas that I was referring to different places, and they all kind of came with a place to roost in the book during that time in 2020.

Casey Weade: Yeah. When I think about Name, Place, Animal, Thing, well, that's almost the framing of our identity there, right? My name is Casey. I'm from Fort Wayne and I have three children, three animals, right? And then I love golf and hunting. So, then there's identity, and it almost forces you to, I think it'd be a great exercise, go through that. How do you identify with name, place, animal thing in your own life? And then that takes you out of your career. These are the things that are going to make up your identity once it's no longer a career. But I think you have a different take on each one of these things. You said the first one, name, take on new names in society and life. What does that mean?

Lux Narayan: So, first of all, your interpretation of it in terms of what you just described is bang on. It's perfect because it gives the multi-dimensionality of it. It's that there is more to you when you define yourself by your children, by where you are from because there's a story behind where you were born and what you do, whether that's golf or you work at all of those other things. And you're absolutely right. This is all dimensions of identity, right? In the book, I have taken some creative liberty with all of them. So, I’ve used name almost like title in a way. So, name is almost like those name tags that we were. To me, again, during that time, I was used to attending a lot of trade shows and events and speaking at conferences and everything, and you walk around with a bag that would have your name and your title below it.

And that to me was mean, right, which is why the cover also has a picture of a badge with name because that is almost like a visual metaphor for me for how we carry name at this point. Someone asks you what do you do, we tend to say, "Read my name tag. I’m so and so. This is what I do.” So, the encouragement there was can we wear additional names? I mean, we are part of communities, we might be part of a community at a place of worship, at a PTA at school, at a soccer club with all of those different hats that we wear. So, there's just a more deliberate attempt at have more hats beyond the one that you wear for your nine-to-five job. That was really gotten behind a name. So, name became a placeholder for title and things that we do and we’re known by. And with there I have been a big fan of the way, you know the whole ikigai model of how they talk about what you love, what you're good at, what the world needs?

Casey Weade: So strange. I had never heard of ikigai until, I don't know, six months ago. And since then, I think I've had at least three guests that have brought up this concept in conversation. So, I don't know if this is something that's trending or it's just something that's just super applicable for those that are going through major life transitions.

Lux Narayan: Unless it's had a repeat trend in recent times. It's been around for I think since the book, Ikigai, came out. When it was about? Six years back or so but even before that, there has been a concept that just entered public consciousness a little more recently. You talked about the diagram at the end of Name, Place, Animal, Thing. In a similar vein, ikigai is beautiful because it's got a beautiful visual metaphor of intersecting sets in terms of what you're good at, what the world needs, what makes you money, and taking intersections of those into vocations, professions, and different things. The idea is that profession is just one dimension of these things. The other paths that people talk about whether it's this kind of pull-up, as we speak, the other path that people talk about, which is passion and mission and vocation, are equally important. But we tend to answer in our own heads, not necessarily to somebody else, “What do you do with what we do for our profession?”

So, the nudge there is, what about your vocation? What about your hobbies? What about your passions? What about things that you might consider a mission and so on and so forth? It just gives it so much more of a canvas.

Casey Weade: Yeah. I think there was something that I heard a long time ago. I believe it was on a podcast, but something that somebody does every time they get into a cab or an Uber, is trying to uncover their goal every time and I've put myself up to this challenge. What's this person do for work? What's their hobbies? What's their family situation and what's their purpose? And like just navigating that really helps you uncover what someone's true name is, and that name being much broader than just what's on your nametag is just a beautiful metaphor. And this next one, places. So, we have places, explore new places near and far. What's that mean to you?

Lux Narayan: The timing couldn't have been crazier with COVID and all of us being constrained in terms of how we can travel and all these interesting trends happening in terms of suddenly the whole RV market exploding, and people taking minivans and refurbishing them into places they can live in and finding new ways to just travel. But I truly believe that travel is a phenomenal teacher because it exposes you to things outside of your own bubble. And travel was hugely constrained at that point and we had to get creative about it. So, place, to me, was a combination of all of these things. I was doing a lot of hikes around that time. And then I do the hikes, the same hike out here in the Northeast. In Jersey, we have all four seasons, and they look so different. So, when I go on the same hiking trail in summer, winter, spring, and autumn, it looks different all four times. And then if I do it in reverse, it looks different. So, each trail effectively was eight different trails for me.

So, just tracking how many amazing things are here. We always talk about traveling far and wide. And at this time, when traveling far and wide was not an option for a lot of us for various reasons, whether it was COVID or the fact that you're dealing with things at home, traveling near and narrow suddenly made so much sense. It was the only thing we could do but it's just crazy and beautiful how many things are there in our own neighborhood that we've put off for visiting because we’re like, “Ah, it's right here. I can do it tomorrow. I can do it next week. I can do it next month.” I'm pretty sure all of us know those places that we drive past almost every week and say, "Oh, I need to go there someday.” And that someday never comes, right?

So, the underlying thesis there was travel and places can teach you a lot but it's good to think about it not just from pack your bags and travel to Rome or Europe or Asia or something. Travel can be thought about in different dimensions. So, we talk about things taking time and money. So, I'm a big fan of having different mental models to think through these things. So, it was almost like let's think about money on one axis, and let's think about time on one axis. So, something that takes you a lot of time and a lot of money to get to, which should be a holiday in Thailand, for example, is on one corner of the axis. And something that does not take you a lot lesser time, a lot lesser money, just something right in the neighborhood is the other extreme of the axis, right? And then it forces you to paint the other four corners. So, for example, and this is one of my pet questions I love asking people, which is how can you travel really, really, really, really far without spending almost anything, for almost nothing? What's the best and easiest way to travel really far? And I don't know if you know the answer to this one.

Casey Weade: Walk? I don’t know.

Lux Narayan: Walk? So, distance, yes.

Casey Weade: So, is this meditation?

Lux Narayan: That helps too. But the answer then was looking through a telescope. So, I was just stretching the definition of travel saying travel does not necessarily require you to physically be in a place. You can meditate and travel as you just did. You can physically be there by walking and traveling or you can be here and mentally somewhere else. If you're looking through the eyepiece of a telescope and looking at the rings of Saturn, and just marveling at how beautiful our universe is, you are traveling to Saturn at that point in time.

Casey Weade: So, this is an interesting thing that we talked about on the podcast recently, just some recent research that Transamerica did around the way retirees actually spend their time and what they think they're going to spend their time doing. And one of the things is travel. The biggest disparity in the data is travel, where they believe that travel is going to be their number one thing they spend time on in retirement. And the amount of time they believe they're going to spend traveling is what they actually end up traveling is about a quarter of what they thought they were going to travel. People don't actually travel as much as they think they are in retirement. And I think it's partly because of this because we never had all this space and time in our home, where we are when we're in that place. Now, we uncover all of the value and all of the great things that we can explore by staying near and narrow without having to go far.

Lux Narayan: Absolutely. If you want to redefine travel as not necessarily getting on a flight and going somewhere, there’s a lot of travel you can do. You can rent an Airbnb in a town that you aren’t familiar with. And that's travel, right?

Casey Weade: So, we talked about name. We talked about places. Now, we get to animal. Now, I answered animal in the way that I don't think I was supposed to answer. I don't think this has to do with animal, children, or actually having dogs or cats or things along those lines. I think you have a much different idea of what animal is and how that shows up and creating a whole human.

Lux Narayan: So, I think the animal part is also influenced by something I did towards the end of the pandemic. It’s probably one of the best. Not the end. I mean, the end of 2020, I mean, which is probably one of the best things I did at that time, personally. This is, again, one of those things I had put off for years when I was working saying I can't pick the time for it. It's something called Vipassana. And although the name sounds very Hindu and thing, it's a totally non-denominational, nothing to do with religion. In fact, I can tell you what they do right away. It's 10 days. It's pure meditation. On the first day, you give up your phone, and anything else that's electronic and might distract you. So, you're not holding your watch, you're not holding your phone, you're not having anything digital. You don't even have pen and paper because you're not allowed to give into your thoughts and everything. It’s just you.

And you're literally living like a monk. And the meditation has nothing except just observe your breath. And then it goes on to some of the things but it's nothing to do with chanting or religion or anything. It's just you getting in touch with yourself in a way you've probably never done through your entire life. And you do that for 10 days. The first day, the curiosity keeps you going. The second day, the hangover the curiosity keeps you going. By the third day, you’re wondering what are you doing here. By the fourth day, you’re wondering whether you consider yourself a failure if you jump out and leave and stuff like that. Then you hear this…

Casey Weade: You’re perfectly describing retirement though. This is phase one and phase two of retirement here crammed into 10 days.

Lux Narayan: And then they finally say, "Gosh, I'm halfway there. I might as well continue.” But by the time you've got the hang of it, you are beginning to enjoy that silence that solitude. You're hearing and getting in touch with parts of your mind and your memories and your body in ways that you never did before just in observing yourself and staying quiet. So, I got majorly into, I mean, I've always done a bit of meditation but nothing as intense as this and I came out with a lot of clarity in a lot of different things and in my own personal life. But your mileage might vary of course but for me it was beautiful. And it just struck me that we spend so much of time about with our bodies and the body was especially important with that time considering we'll be going through with our son and seeing what he was, at that point, he was recovering and you could see how much the body is capable of going through something really difficult and then coming back from it and everything. It just struck me at how beautiful and powerful our bodies are.

And then it comes into how we take care of it. I mean we talk about my only dimensions then while you exercise and either you do cardio or you do strength training. And around that time, I’m exposed to stuff like moving slowly, like Tai Chi and animal movements and stuff. It just struck me that there are so many different dimensions to it. We probably need to be approaching it from different ways. We only talk about fitness and doing things fast. There is something to be said about doing things slow as well. If you try some of the slow movements that people do in animal movements or Tai Chi you find that sometimes it's so much more difficult than lifting weights in the gym. So, there were these two extremes of slow and fast. And as far as the brain goes, it just struck me that when you work, you're always in this fast mode. We're thinking making decisions, trying to do what is next jumping from one meeting to the other.

Context switching, right now we're doing an all-hands. Next, you're talking to a client and you're doing something that's got to drive here for this next coffee shop meeting, thinking what am I going to say? Our brain is constantly in fast mode. So, have these 10 days where our brain was in slow mode but it kept jumping into fast mode in crazy ways, right? I mean, there are times it was just like a runaway train. It was quite crazy and how it was oscillating between those two things. And the connection between the two, in some ways between your body and your brain is really your breath in a lot of ways, right? It is a reason why a lot of meditation and everything anchors, everything in observing your breath. And even there, there are times when there are certain meditative practices that encourage you to almost get into a hyperventilate to fast breathing kind of a cadence. And then there is slow breathing, and then there is just observing of it. In my head, there was a very interesting visual metaphor.

And by now you probably gather I'm a big fan of visual metaphors. So, there was a beautiful visual metaphor of the body, the brain, and the breath, and doing things fast and doing things slow. And it struck there, it goes across every animal as well. So, that is almost getting in touch with our inner animal. We’re such evolved beings that we sometimes forget the fact that we're still living, breathing blobs of cytoplasm. It's nice to get in touch with that once in a while, right? And this just gave me a mental model to ensure that you can’t click all six boxes, fast, slow, body, breath, brain, but tick some of those boxes some of the time. This was just a great way for me to remember that.

Casey Weade: Yes. We're all going through busyness withdrawal anytime we create that gap in our life. And that's what so many retirees are experiencing. They step into this area of, "Oh, I don't have anything to do.” I mean, I've said it a million times. I've got a challenge here. I often say and it's true, I'm stressed out when I'm not stressed out. If I don't have a little bit of stress in my life, then I just feel like I'm missing something, I'm missing out on something. And it's really a true opportunity to spend time really connecting back within ourselves. I mean, a lot of our purpose and I think our core purpose as you even right here, when it comes to name. You talk about, I mean, it's helping others in this hyperbolic reflector that you have in this graphic. It's all outward. I mean, our purpose, our mission should be outside of ourselves, but we cannot lead others if we're not leading ourselves. Well, we have to be well in touch with who we are physically and who we are mentally in order to create a whole human again. So, again, a beautiful metaphor. Now, last one is…

Lux Narayan: I mean, just to chime in on what you just said, I'm going to dial back to one of your recent episodes where you had I think Cynthia Covey, right?

Casey Weade: Yeah.

Lux Narayan: And you and Cynthia had a discussion on stress, not necessarily being a bad thing. And I couldn't agree more with you both because I don't think stress is bad. Stress is important.

Casey Weade: Yeah. She talks about the concept of use stress.

Lux Narayan: That's important.

Casey Weade: Yeah. But I think it's also important not to become addicted to it. And I think it's easy to become a stress addict throughout our entire lives. And you see it with retirees go, “I'm retired now. I’m busier than I've ever been.” And, yeah, not that there's anything wrong with that but make sure you're still creating some space to stay connected with yourself, and not make it all about things. All right. So, let's get to things. What is this segment of Name, Place, Animal, Thing, this piece about things? What does that really mean?

Lux Narayan: So, it's about using your hands and making stuff, right? Not necessarily your hands, but just making stuff. The timing couldn't have been better. This was a time people were making everything from sourdough to discovering carpentry projects to figuring out what they can do in the confines of their homes. There's a kind of flow, a period of Zen that you get into when you're deeply involved in doing an activity that you love. And people make physical things and virtual things. I mean, you make a beautiful podcast. I make apps and other things and stuff. The idea there is just to point to the fact that if you don't already, also think about making things with your hands as well because there's something deeply gratifying in whether it's kneading clay or folding paper or cooking or whatever. So, it was a mental model towards other physical things, other virtual things, other things you've never tried before, or things you're really good at.

So, there's a mental model for people to figure out what they might want to try out next. And you use a very powerful word early on in the conversation, dabble, right? It was a mental model to help people figure out what I want to dabble on. The overarching message is very simply just that, dabble in stuff, dabble in something new every once in a while. The more you dabble, the higher the probability you will find something or some things that excite you. And it was also in a very succinct way, pointing to the fact that these can very comfortably sit alongside a daily job or things that we're doing, and they actually help enrich it in some ways.

Casey Weade: So, when you think about these four different things, tell me what you think about this. The way I'm viewing it is, in order to have a whole human, we need to have these four core focuses. We have name, place, animal, thing. That could be purpose, adventure, health, and creativity.

Lux Narayan: I'm going to borrow that. That's beautiful. Purpose, adventure, health, and creativity. Why didn't I think of that?

Casey Weade: Yours is much more creative. I think it's much more easy to connect with that name, place, animal, thing, and then make it what it is to you. For me, that's how I view that. And this is why I want this graphic on my wall. I have inside of my mirror every morning, I opened up my mirror and I have all these different graphics that I like to look at in the morning to be a good reminder of what I need to focus on throughout the day. And I want this to be right there along with that. As we bring things to a close, I love to ask you this question. What does retire with purpose mean to you?

Lux Narayan: I'm not saying this because I'm a guest on your podcast, but I love that title, Retire With Purpose. The fact that it talks about and the fact when you say retire with purpose, the most fundamental thing is you're saying it's possible because you talk to a lot of people who have, in my opinion, mistakenly associated purpose with their jobs. And now that they're retired, it's almost like that sense of purpose has been whisked from under their feet. When you say retire with purpose, that's a very powerful statement. You’re saying that there can be purpose in all that. To me, there are so many things we put off when you're working saying, “I'll do that when I have the time.” Travel is probably the number one thing saying, “Gosh, I wish I'd love to travel here and there and everything but, A, I don't have the time and, B, I need to save the money for that other priority.

Casey Weade: Yeah. And the top two are travel and time with family.

Lux Narayan: Travel and time with family. Right. And there is a limit to how much of those you can pack in a short period, in a reduced period of time. But I think those are definitely things that imbue a sense of purpose because spending time with family, you’re spending time with family and friends, I would think as well. And travel, yes, expanding your vistas. But the other things as well, just traveling inward, getting in touch with yourself spending more time by yourself, getting comfortable with being alone. Following that whole meditation thing, personally, I'm a lot more comfortable with solitude than I ever was before that, which is not to say you need to lock yourself up for 10 days for that to happen.

Casey Weade: I’ll say this could go either way. Ten days in isolation, you might be terrified of being by yourself the rest of your life or it went really well and you're comfortable with it.

Lux Narayan: It could go either way. Absolutely. But either way, I think you could build a bit of muscle of comfort with silence. I'm one of those people I still haven't gotten over it but I will find the need to fill emptiness in conversations with words. Silence made me uncomfortable. So, I just got more comfortable with silence and I think having a framework and that's really what I've tried to do in the book and that I believe it works beautifully for people who are tired but it also works for people at any stage in life. Just having a framework helps you remember stuff. You talked about the image that we have at the end of the book as a visual metaphor for everything that the book captures or probably capture everything into one big image. And having that image in your head or physically somewhere is just a nice reminder to say, "Oh, gosh, that particular box has not been ticked for a long time.”

So, for example, in the animal thing, you might just think, "Okay. Maybe it's a good time to try that yoga class that I've been putting off for a long time,” or, "Gosh, I wanted to move my body faster and now that the doc has cleared it, I want to go and try that half marathon. I'm not going to run it. I'm going to walk it.” It's just that when you have these empty slots, there's so much more to fill and think about and have a canvas. And I also recommend in the book that it's not like you decide on something, you keep dabbling. You’d be a constant dabbler. You do something now, you do something else a quarter from now, three months from now, and keep trying all different things. Retirement is beautiful because if you plan things out properly, which is stuff that [indiscernible 56:01] people do.

You have a canvas to do so many things. You just need to know that it's a gift, and with the right framework, with the right approach, it is so easy and beautiful to fill it up with meaningful experiences all around that will enrich you day in and day out.

Casey Weade: Yeah. It's truly about intentionality. I'm going to ask you one last kind of fun question here. If you had the ability to put up a billboard for free on the busiest highway in the country, what would you put on that billboard?

Lux Narayan: I'm obviously biased to the Name, Place, Animal, Thing right now. Can I have two billboards? Can I choose?

Casey Weade: Look, we want to make sure they see it from both directions. So, I'll let you have two.

Lux Narayan: So, if it’s a message from the book it would be, "Make more things, get in touch with your inner animal, travel places not just far and wide, and wear more names than your job.” But that's a lot of words on a billboard. And being an ex-advertising professional, I'll be the first person to tell you that that's more words than people ever see. So, I'll probably take a level higher, which is we talk about in the book as well but to some extent, what I think practicing these things helps you do is build three important attributes. So, if I had a billboard, I would just throw those three attributes and how they feed into each other. And I think these are probably the three most important attributes for any human being to have. It's curiosity, it's humility, and it's empathy. And I think it's just fascinating how each one feeds into the other because the more curious you are, the more you read and see, and see the things that you don't know.

You know the story of Umberto Eco having this phenomenally big library and someone saying, "Gosh, you read all of these books?” and he says, “No, I've hardly read any of them. It's just a great reminder of how much I don't know.” So, I think curiosity, and keeping on discovering things just reminds you of how little we know and how much more there is an immediate sense of humility. It's just beautiful. All the three do it. So, I would say curiosity, humility, empathy, they’re all that matters.

Casey Weade: I chuckled a little bit because last year, I was giving a talk in front of a pretty large audience and they asked what are the two things that you believe made you most successful, and I said curiosity and humility. And I think they're just so vital for all of us and that is throughout our entire lives. And we have that as little children but at some point, we lose touch with it, and our whole lives is just an opportunity to get back in touch with those attributes that really made us human, when we were kids, our curiosity, our humility, and I love empathy added in there as well. If you would like to get that graphic, and you've heard us talk about it a lot on the show, well, it's in the show notes. So, we're going to make sure there's a link to the graphic in the show notes, print it off, put it on your wall, share it with your friends, share this conversation with your friends.

And if you'd love to get a free copy of the book, we partnered up with Lux to give away copies of his book Name, Place, Animal, Thing: An Inspiring Fable for Grownups about Hope, Positivity, and Living your Best Life. If you think that's a book you need in your life right now, and I can't imagine you could be anywhere in your life and not need this in it, we want to get it in your hands. If you've never received a book from us before we're going to send this out to you for free. All you have to do is this: Write an honest rating of the podcast, write an honest review of the podcast, and then all you have to do is shoot us a text. So, shoot us a text with the keyword ‘BOOK’ to 866-482-9559. We'll send you a link so that you can provide us your iTunes username, we can verify it, get your free book, and add some more value to your life. Lux, thank you so much for joining us. It was a true pleasure.

Lux Narayan: Thank you, Casey. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for having me.