Richard leider Richard leider
Podcast 291

291: The Art of Purposeful Aging with Richard Leider

Today, I’m talking to Richard Leider. For over 40 years, Richard has been a Nationally Certified Master Career Counselor at Inventure – The Purpose Company. Richard has been studying purpose (and the purpose of movement) for decades. He’s led expeditions around the world, climbed Kilimanjaro, and shared his insights in a powerful TEDx talk.

He’s also the author of 11 books, including three bestsellers. In his most recent work, Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging, he invites readers to grow old on purpose and chart a path to elderhood with choice, curiosity, and courage. He explores why purposeful aging is both accessible to all and fundamental to health, happiness, and longevity–and how to authentically become the person you were always meant to be.

I was introduced to Richard’s work by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, and now I’m a huge fan. In our conversation, we discuss the expeditions he’s led in Tanzania, how he’s helped people to find their new purpose and meaning in their post-career lifestyle, and how to reframe your life to focus on your greatest gifts.


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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
  • Why Africa is a popular destination for many people on their journeys to find purpose and meaning.
  • The three M’s that Richard sees as essential to living with purpose.
  • The differences between purpose, meaning, and calling.
  • How to use the Napkin Test to identify your gifts.
  • Why only one in three people has a clear reason for getting up in the morning–and how to clarify your purpose each day.
Inspiring Quote
  • "The one universal thing about purpose is it’s always beyond yourself, it’s always the difference you make in the world, in the lives of others." - Richard Leider
  • "When you start to look for the little moments, life changes, we start to live purposefully rather than having a purpose." - Richard Leider
Interview Resources
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Read the Transcript

Casey Weade: Richard, welcome to the podcast.

Richard Leider: Hey, Casey, I’ve been really looking forward to this for a long time so here we are. And thank you for having me.

Casey Weade: Well, the only time I have someone referred to me by a previous podcast guest that I have nothing but respect for, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox. In this scenario, I’m really excited to have the conversation. She had sent me over your name, then I dug in, started doing a little research, and I got, “How did I miss Richard?” I mean, just a prolific purpose guy. I mean, not just prolific, but looking at your LinkedIn, you’ve been in the same role for 42 years and three months. I don’t see any other jobs on your resumé outside of Inventure - The Purpose Company. And you’re a Nationally Certified Master Career Counselor, a national certified counselor, a master’s degree in counseling. I’m going, like, he’s a master career counselor. He seems to be pretty good at it because he’s only ever had one job.

Richard Leider: Well, my colleagues call me the pope of purpose, so...

Casey Weade: I like that.

Richard Leider: The key is that I have been in the midst of doing a deep dive into the purpose conversation and the purpose of movement for decades. And so, I want to share with you some of the insights from that.

Casey Weade: Yeah. And I wanted to kick off our conversation and kind of the area of your TED Talk but just different areas that I find really interesting in your bio and in your experience have to do with your experience in Tanzania over the years. You’ve led something called Inventure Expeditions in Tanzania over the years. And I just wanted to kind of start there. Why Tanzania? What got you started there? How often have you been doing this? How long have you been doing this? What’s the purpose of these events?

Richard Leider: Well, if you look at my company Inventure as opposed to adventure, that gives you a clue, Inventure expeditions, our travels both outwardly and inwardly. And in 1983, I was on the board of trustees of Outward Bound and I went with that board to Tanzania, never having been there before, but had a long time interest in The Snows of Kilimanjaro and books like that, and went there and climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for Outward Bound and to do a safari and to visit the African Outward Bound school.

And Casey, I don’t know where your sense of place is, but all of a sudden, when I hit the tarmac and I got off the plane in Tanzania, something clicked and I can’t explain it, but something clicked like I’m home. And I climbed Kilimanjaro, which I have now done eight times, which is seven more than any civilized person should do, and fell in love with Tanzania and started to lead my own trips after that called Inventure Expeditions and eventually, co-founded an NGO over there called Dorobo Safaris. Dorobo was the overarching name for hunter-gatherer types of tribes.

So, I’ve been involved there now for all these years, going back, except for COVID. Now, it’s been three or four years since I’ve been back, which I really miss it, but I’m connected with them all the time over there through Zoom and everything, but it’s not the same, obviously. But I’ve been leading Inventure Expeditions since 1985, every year except for. And the subtitle is Back to the Rhythm. People say, “What’s this Back to the Rhythm?” And I said, “You know what it is intuitively. It’s back to your core, back to what really matters. It’s back to what your company is all about, about meaning and purpose in life.” And what can we learn there from people who have been living a lifestyle of I’ll call purpose meaning? And I learned so much from elders and other leaders in Africa over the decades that I’ve written about over that time. But Back to the Rhythm is really what we’re doing today right here now. It’s back to your core, back to the core of what really matters in your life.

Casey Weade: I just finished reading Boyd Varty’s The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one, but it’s a great book that is really centered in Africa about life and meaning and purpose. And I just adored the book. And it seems that there’s something special about Africa. What do you think is so special about Africa that brings about this sense of purpose and meaning?

Richard Leider: Well, I think we yearn for the wild in certain ways so there is that. But let me share with you, one of the books I wrote is called Claiming Your Place at the Fire. And that book came about because of a conversation I had with an elder in Africa from a tribe called the Hudson, which Hudson is a hunter-gatherer tribe. They’ve been around, Casey, for about 100,000 years. So, here I’m with this elder and I’m interviewing for my book, Claiming Your Place at the Fire because I noticed that the wisest of the elders sit the closest to the fire. So, I have a fire in the background here. So, that’s not the point.

But where would my place be as I grow older? Where would your place be? Would it be close to the fire or far from the fire, depending on not your age, but your wisdom? So, this man, who is an elder in the Hudson tribe, was getting a little tired of my interview, and he said, “You mind if can we step aside through the fire and through a translator?” I could talk to him in Swahili, but he was talking in an ancient click language, a Khoisan click language. And so, through a translator, he said, “Richard, you know what the two most important days in your life are?” And I said, “Sure. Birth and death.”

And he looked down at his feet and he said, “Well, you wrote these books and you came out here and you flew? No.” Well, I said, “What are the two most important days in the life of a Hudson?” He said, “Number one is birth because of infant mortality or things like that.” He said, “The second most important day in your life is the day that you determine why you were born. What you’re here to do.” And I said, “Oh, my God.” His name is Kampala, and he’s never been more than 50 kilometers from where we’re standing at that moment. And I’ve studied it all over the world for four decades. And I said, “How do people determine why they’re here?” And he said, “As elders, that’s what we help them do. We help them name their purpose and in this case, it’s really naming their gifts, what they bring to the tribe.”

So, I think Africa represents not only the wild, but it also represents wisdom in certain ways and the unknown and the mystery that we all live within our lives. And so, I keep going back and I love the people in Africa. People say, “All the animals and climbing Kilimanjaro.” And I said, “It’s not about that, it’s the people.” And so, that’s my point.

Casey Weade: I didn’t know this about the fire and those that had greater wisdom or that were recognized to have greater wisdom in the tribe, they sat closer to the fire, and it didn’t have anything to do with age. How did they discern that? How do they discern who gets the right to sit closest to the fire? Who carries the most wisdom?

Richard Leider: Those that hold the stories, the myths, the history in certain ways. Keep in mind, without internet, without encyclopedias, without all these things, how do things over history, how do they get transcribed, the one we get from one generation to the next, from elders to youngers? And so, that’s why claiming your place at the fire was an important insight for me.

Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, another important insight, one of the ones that I really enjoyed and I think this is the origin story of one of your books that sold over a million copies, repacking your bags, lighten the load for the good life, you talk about a trek you’re on with an elder where you did some things. And I don’t want to spoil the story. So, please, share that story for those that haven’t heard it.

Richard Leider: The trips used to be backpacking trips. And now, they’re more like walking or hiking and with the day pack and things like that. But in the past, picture yourself walking with a pack, like we were in this story. And on the left is the Serengeti, there are millions of animals. And we usually go in January, February, when the wildebeest are calving, so there are all kinds of action. On the right of where we’re walking in the green hills of Africa are the snows of Kilimanjaro and other mountains like Ol Doinyo Lengai and others. So, it’s spectacular.

And we’re hiking there or backpacking, as I said, at the grace of a tribe called the Maasai, that I’m walking next to a Maasai elder named Koye, and he’s leading, but I’m co-leading the trip. And there are a dozen of us. And he keeps looking over his shoulder at my pack and he keeps looking at me, and we’re talking back and forth. And he sees that I’m not actually observing everything on the left and the right because I’m looking down kind of what they call slogging in the trail. When you’re tired, carrying a pack, you’re slogging one foot in front of the other.

We get to where we’re going to be at the end of the day, and this is our first day out, and it’s his first day with people like us. And I put my pack down in the dust, and we’re going to camp there for the night at one of the villages where he’s an elder. And he says, “Richard, what are you guys carrying? What’s in these things? Why did you bring all this? All I have is a herding stick and a spear. And you’ve got like a lot.” And so, I start to unpack my bag, and out comes the wilderness first aid kit, out comes the route finders, out comes the water filters, out comes my Gore-Tex rain gear. I’m piling all this out and I’m looking at myself going, “What am I doing here?”

And he comes over to me and he says, “Richard, tell me, this question, does all this make you happy?” And I paused and I immediately went into, “Well, Koye, I need this, I need this, I need this.” And I realized that I was carrying twice as much as I needed that I was weighed down, that I was overpacked, which could happen to any of us. And that night, I went to the fire and I told the group that I just had this event with Koye, and I’m going to leave half of my stuff here.

And they said, “Well, you told us what to bring. What half are you keeping? What half are you leaving?” And so, we went through that whole conversation, but then, Casey, the conversation morphed into, well, this is a metaphor for my life. I came over here back to the rhythm in Inventure expedition to figure out what to do with the next phase of my life. And I need obviously to unpack some things and to repack some things.

So, that night I went to my tent and I wrote down, Repack Your Bags: Lighten Your Load. And that became an international bestseller, which has been out there for several decades now, sold millions of copies in 27 languages. So, the question is, to your audience, what makes you happy? What is the good life? And then we determine, my coauthor, David Shapiro, who’s a philosophy professor in Seattle, we determine way back to Aristotle, to Plato, to others who say, what is the good life? And what was it? And what is it over history? And what is it today?

And we saw that the good life had four characteristics – place, people, right work, and purpose, in addition to health and money. Health and money which is very clear to your business and my business, but beyond that or in addition to that, are you living in a place you love with the people you love doing the work you love, whether it’s creative work and retirement work or paid work with purpose? And we saw that those four characteristics scientifically work fundamental and as is purpose fundamental.

And so, that’s how that whole story. Thank you for asking. And it’s traveled around the world. That story has traveled around the world. Does all this make you happy with what’s in your bag? What do you need to unpack to lighten your load for the next phase of your life? And I think for a lot of people who are retiring, for example, they’re going through the unpacking/repacking process and they don’t know how to do it. And you can help them and you are helping them. And that’s what your business is all about ultimately, in addition to obviously the financial resources to do that.

Casey Weade: As I thought about you, I imagine taking all these things out of my backpack, first aid kit, Gore-Tex, and all these things that seem pretty necessary. And in the moment, you’re asked, does all this make you happy? Well, it’s making you miserable in the moment because you’re carrying all this junk and it’s weighing you down, it’s making you tired, you can’t really enjoy the scenery as a result of it. But you didn’t need it at the time, right? It’s making you unhappy in that moment, but if you needed it, it would make you really happy. So, did you find that...

Richard Leider: Yeah, I know exactly where you’re going and I agree with you. What we looked at is what’s essential to the good life, not all the luxuries. And so, when you look at what’s essential, there are essentials like health, like the first aid kit and hydration and safety. So, we didn’t give those things up for sure. And so, I think if you look at retirement, for example, what’s essential to the good life in the next phase of life? And how do you determine what are the essentials beyond health and money, which are fundamental? What we know is this, is that purpose is absolutely fundamental, not a luxury, to health, to healing, to happiness, and ultimately, to longevity, but most people aren’t getting that information early in life. That’s why what you’re doing is so important to help people to say, I need help and I need my financial resources, but I also need a reason to get up in the morning.

If I don’t have, I call it the three M’s, money, medicine, and meaning. Do you have enough money? Check. Do you have enough health, medicine, key for the house? But do you have meaning? If you have enough money, you know people and you’ve got clients probably who have enough money and enough health but are miserable, or that’s not miserable, hungering for meaning.

So, the third M of meaning is just we’re finding is just as fundamental oftentimes as health and money. That’s a big insight for people to swallow these days, but the science is now there. And every new idea goes through three steps – ridicule, opposition, self-evident. We now know that meaning is self-evident, not a luxury. I can point to science after science after science, and the book you pointed, The Power of Purpose, the last chapter is Can Science Explain Purpose? The answer is absolutely, yes. But that isn’t getting out enough except through podcasts and things like this. And that’s why I wanted to do this with you.

Casey Weade: Alright. I’ve got to move on from this topic, but I still want to know, did you miss anything you left behind? Did you make any mistakes there?

Richard Leider: No, not really. Not a one.

Casey Weade: But did you have some anxiety? Was there some anxiety in leaving certain items behind?

Richard Leider: Well, what it got down to us, two of everything. I mean, do I really need two of this, two of that? I’m very good with wilderness first aid. We needed that. We needed the hydration stuff. We needed the route finders. We needed other gear for warmth. We can’t leave any essentials, but the key is what is essential to not only the good life, but your life in that moment. And we obviously didn’t leave, but we had the conversation about it. And I’ll say that on my trips, you could only bring £30. Now, think of £30, it sounds like a lot, boots, camera gear, things like that. What is not essential? Well, what is essential is what we talked about, and I think it plays out in our lives as we age, for sure.

Casey Weade: Yeah. It’s this collection of things. And we see it from a financial perspective. You show up and you have 35 different accounts. How many do you actually need? We don’t need all this stuff. And we see it in the same way that we have our to-do list is a simple way to look at it. And I tell my team all the time, we show up every Monday and say, “Hey, what are the three things that you need to do this week?” Just three things that if everything else fails and you get those three things done, it was a successful week. And that’s been a major shift for a lot of people as they make these transitions to really just we find what happiness is because we think we need to get all of these things done to make us happy, but that’s kind of the unpacking of what’s actually making us happy or ultimately leading to success financially or otherwise, right?

Richard Leider: Yeah. I did a PBS special called The Power of Purpose showing about 400 cities across the US. And one of the exercises I did is the drawer test. I said, take a drawer in your house and open it up like a junk drawer and look at the next phase of your life and have three buckets or three boxes in front of you. Ask yourself, take every single thing out of that junk drawer. You could pick a closet or something like that if you wanted to. And ask yourself, “Is this essential to my happiness and fulfillment or my health in the next phase of life?” If it is, put it in the yes box. If it’s not, put it in the no box. If you can’t decide, put it in I can’t decide box.

And I had people to this day who come back to me, Casey, and say, I started with a drawer, then I went to a closet, and pretty soon, I sold my house because I realized that what’s essential for the next phase of my life is tangible to begin with, with stuff, but then it gets to my calendar and how I’m spending my time and my relationships. What do I need to do to unpack my relationships or unpack my calendar? So, I think that the first half of life often is about accumulation, and the second half of life is about unpacking it.

Casey Weade: Decumulation, yeah, as we often talk about in finance.

Richard Leider: Yeah, right.

Casey Weade: You look at these things really, money, health, and purpose, or money, medicine, meaning. Looking at those three things, I mean, I know the answer, which one’s the hardest to get? And quite often, we get distracted by one of the other two before we actually get to meaning, right?

Richard Leider: Right.

Casey Weade: Is that the hardest one?

Richard Leider: Well, I think we know, but I think we do get distracted because it’s tangible and...

Casey Weade: Yeah, you’ve got two tangible things and one intangible.

Richard Leider: Right. And so, I think that’s true. But no, the research is pretty solid about what’s important at the end of life. And it gets down to relationships and it gets down to our legacy, whatever that might concern that which we can talk about, but I think people know that. I’m often asked to officiate at memorial services and often, it’s like David Brooks writes the difference between legacy virtues and resume virtues. And when you do, if you look at a memorial service or you look at it on the obituary, it starts out with resume virtues. Here’s who Casey was, here’s what he did, here’s what like, but then it ultimately gets down to who he was and how he impacted my life. And that’s where the real juice is, the real energy is. And so, oftentimes, it takes a crisis or something to wake us up to pay more attention to that.

Casey Weade: That’s great. You mentioned purpose, you mentioned meaning. And you also talk a lot about calling. I think it would be nice to hear you discern between those three – purpose, meaning, and calling.

Richard Leider: Yeah. Well, first of all, purpose I talk about with a big P and purpose with a little p. Purpose with a big P is kind of the noble purpose, the thing that would be your company’s purpose or your life’s purpose, and people really not avoid that but don’t discuss that because it seems too noble. I’m not Mother Teresa, I’m not Gandhi, I’m not up to that. And purpose with a little p, though, is what you do every day to make a difference in the lives of others. So, for me, personally, my big P purpose is to help your listeners unlock the power of purpose. My little p purpose is to make a small difference in one person’s life today, here in Minneapolis where I am, whether that’s virtual or live.

And there are 14,140 purpose moments in the day, times that you can give someone a kind word, a hug, an affirmation of something. And when you start to look for the little p purpose moments, life changes, we start to live purposefully rather than having a purpose, it’s being purposeful or living purposefully. And so, moving to calling, so does that make sense so far?

Casey Weade: Yeah. And you also said that on purpose, is there a nuance there with this on purpose or with purpose?

Richard Leider: The one universal about purpose is it’s always beyond yourself, it’s always the difference you make in the world, in the lives of others. Your purpose can change over time, things can happen, but it’s not about self-absorption, it’s not about goals, it’s about how you show up in the lives of the world and others. And so, when you get to calling, calling is a vocational word for purpose.

And so, the formula that I espouse and I have studied now, for decades, are three characteristics – G plus P plus V equals C, gifts plus passions plus values equals calling. And calling is your vocational discernment and effort that are you using your gifts, your most enjoyed gifts on things you feel passion, purposeful, or curious about in environments that are healthy and a good fit for you? If so, you’re following your calling, which is living and working purposefully. So, they’re interchangeable to me in many ways, but the formula is the formula. And I’ve studied this, I’ve done research on it around the world, and it is the universal purpose formula.

Casey Weade: So, capital P, purpose, is broad impact. Little p, what we’re going to do in this moment to leverage our gifts to make a positive impact on somebody else’s life. And our calling, what we’re going to do over time to continue to make a bigger and bigger impact leveraging our purpose. Would that be fair to say?

Richard Leider: That’s fair to say. And I would round it out in two ways that I think are important for your listeners. Number one is that people say, “Oh, I still don’t know my purpose, it’s too big. I will listen to Casey’s podcast.” And I said, “Alright, here’s your purpose. It’s the universal purpose. Jot this down. It’s to grow and give.” So, people say, “What does that mean?” I said, “Well, every single day is an opportunity to grow and give. So, what I’d like you to do is to write that, those two words – grow and give on a Post-it and put it on your mirror. And tomorrow morning, when you get up, look at the mirror as you’re brushing your teeth and getting ready for the day, how am I going to grow and give today? And at the end of the day, before you go to bed, ask yourself, how did I grow and give today?”

If you’re not growing, and growing is really another word for being curious that people who are purposeful or curious about themselves, curious about you, probably why they’re on this podcast right now, so growing means that we’re continually alive beyond our own story to what’s going on around this world. And then giving is that 14,140 purpose moments. Did you do something today for somebody? And you’ll find that, with grow and give, there’s a felt sense of purpose. Now, what that means, Casey, is that it’s not just a concept, it’s a felt sense. Wow, that felt good. I felt more alive. I felt more joy. I felt more meaning because I reached out in that moment rather than just have it be about me in certain ways.

So, the second point I wanted to make that I think is really important here is that everyone on this has fortuitous encounters, has had encounters with people that have changed their lives. One that changed my life forever, in 1968, after I got out of graduate school, I spent a week with Viktor Frankl, who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning who was in concentration camps. His whole family was exterminated. He was a psychiatrist and a neurologist in Vienna who was taken by the Nazis with his pregnant wife, Tilly, and his parents and siblings. And they were all killed, and he survived.

And he got out of the concentration camp and came back to Vienna to heal. And after he healed, he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, which is an epic book in nine days. But what he said about this, he said, the last of the human freedoms is choice, is to choose what you want your life to be about regardless of the circumstances. And that’s what purpose is, purpose is a choice. Purpose is a verb. It’s an action. And so, what’s the action in the concentration camp for him? He said I could wake up in the morning and give somebody else a hug, a kind word, a will to live. And it doesn’t mean that they would automatically survive, but the chances were that they might have a better chance of survival with a will to live, with the help of others, etc.

And so, I learned so much from him in one week, it changed my life forever to say that purpose is about choice. Purpose is a verb. Purpose is what we do on a day-to-day basis regardless of our adversity. My point is here, regardless of our age or our adversity, purpose is age agnostic. Young people today are having as much interest. I’m finding millennials have more purpose-driven conversations than older people offer. So, that’s a whole nother thing because I think we’ve got a broad range of ages here in this conversation. It’s not just about getting older and having a purpose, it’s throughout life.

Casey Weade: Oh, it’s beautiful. And what an amazing opportunity to spend time, actually, with Viktor. That had to be absolutely incredible. We’re going to have links to all these resources and books, etc., in the show notes. However, I want to also say we’re going to put a link to The Napkin Test as a free exercise in the show notes. And when you do that exercise, you actually do some coaching around the exercise, so it’s not just simply doing the exercise, but what kind of coaching do you do as a follow-up for someone that just went through The Napkin Test?

Richard Leider: Well, The Napkin Test is why is it a Napkin Test? Well, a lot of creative ideas were held around a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while writing on a napkin. And it just came to us, and we jotted it down. But The Napkin Test came to me when I was on a flight to give a talk in London, and my PBS special just aired, and there was a man sitting next to me who had seen it, who kept bugging me about, “Can you help me with my life? I just lost my job. I’m going back to clean out my apartment.” And we were on a flight to London, and I said, “Look, I got to give a talk when I get there, I got to get some sleep. Take out this napkin and write down this formula – G plus P plus V equals C.”

And I explained it to him, which I will do. And he said, “This is brilliant. How come I never got any guidance like this when I was younger or even now in midlife?” And I said, “Well, you’re getting it now.” So, the G is gifts. That’s the biggie. Well, all three are big – G and P and V. But think about your most enjoyed gifts, Casey, what do you really love to do? So, here are four characteristics. I created a tool called Calling Cards, which you can get on Amazon or on my website which is, or probably on your website, but it helps you discern your most-loved gifts, what you love to do. And many, many people who have got a lot of education still don’t trust their gifts.

So, here are four characteristics of the gift. Number one, it’s something you love to do. Your hand turns to it naturally. Number two, others observe you loving to do it and doing it effortlessly and superbly. Why did the other’s observer may be more readily than you? Because they don’t have that gift. So, they tend to give it more value. And third, this is the big one, Casey. You can’t recall learning it. Well, I don’t have a degree in that, I don’t have a gold medal in that, I’m not the best in the world at that. I said, “Yeah, but look at how much you love to do it. Look at how well you do it, and you’ve done it for so long.” When I developed Calling Cards, I went back and interviewed parents, teachers, siblings, and I would ask. I’ll ask you, Casey, do you have siblings?

Casey Weade: I don’t. I’m the only one. That’s why we had three.

Richard Leider: So, when I asked people if they had siblings, I’ll say, “Your siblings, do they have the same gifts as you?” And there’s laughter. They’ll say, “Oh, no, they’re all different than me.”

Casey Weade: Well, I see that in our own kids.

Richard Leider: Yeah. So, you can see that in your own kids then. And I said, “When did you start to notice?” “Well, right away. I mean, they were all different.” They said, “We were raised in the same family. Why didn’t they end up the same, well, because they’re different?” I said, “That’s the point. Gifts are different.” So, we need to discern and revisit our gifts. And the fourth thing is we love learning more about it. We love studying it, developing it, and hanging around with other people. And when I help people at any age, but let’s say it’s midlife or beyond, revisit their gifts, oftentimes, they start to cry. They said, “Oh, I wish I could have done this earlier in life, but my parents said, you can’t be an artist. You can’t make a living. You need to go to law school. So, they paid for me to go to law school. And here I am in midlife and I don’t like law. I want to go back to art or I want to bring that into my life if I continue with that.” And so, gifts is a big deal to really discern.

And you remember the book, What Color Is Your Parachute? So, 10 million copies, the most any book on careers ever sold. Richard Bolles, who was an Episcopal priest who wrote that book, What Color is Your Parachute which is still out there now, he died about six, seven years ago, but the book’s still out there. He wrote the foreword for one of my books, and the foreword is called The Gifts We Love. And being an Episcopal priest, he said, “Richard, I had this dream that I had a conversation with God and I wanted to go to Earth and be born. And I had a conversation with God. And God said, ‘What do you want to do?’” And he said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.”

So, God gave him certain gifts and granted him the wish to be born and to come to earth. And he woke up from his dream. And he couldn’t remember the gifts. And here he is. And he said, “All of us are born with gifts. And we have to discern or figure out through trial and error what those gifts are. But when we do, magic happens, there’s energy. We’re filled with energy rather than drained in certain ways.” And so, gifts is an important thing for us to help. You need to help your kids discern those gifts, you need to do it yourself and to redo it at certain times, like in retirement.

And then passions, the P is gifts in the service of what? What do you want to use your gifts to do? Who do you want to help? What do you want to serve? What do you want to solve? Those kinds of things. What are you really curious about? I was backstage not so long ago with the founder of TED, his name is Richard Saul Wurman, Ted Talks. Richard Saul Wurman sold TED. He founded it in the 80s, but he sold it to Chris Anderson, who owns it now.

So, I’m backstage with Richard Saul Wurman, who’s 87 years old, and he says to me, “What are you talking about, Richard?” And I said, “Purpose.” And he kind of scoffed, and I said, “So, Richard, what are you talking about?” He said, “Curiosity.” He said, “I founded TED based on curiosity, technology, entertainment, design, how they all come together.” He said, “Don’t you think that curiosity is what keeps us alive? Look at the billions of people watching TED talks. Why? Because they’re curious and they want to be curious about the life and about others.”

So, the question is, what are your gifts? What are you curious about? What are you passionate about? What do you want to use your gifts in the service of? And so, The Napkin Test helps us to write down our gifts, write down our passions. And then values is the V, the third thing, values. And values is where we do what we do. There’s this thing going on right now called the Great Resignation with the post-pandemic with all these people resigning. It’s really about the fact that where they’re doing what they’re doing is not suiting and fulfilling them. They’re not getting their voice in the world in certain ways.

So, the V could be voice or values, but it’s the place where you bring who you are to life. It could be a job, it could be a volunteer situation, it could be a community situation. So, gifts plus passions plus values equals calling equals a solution. So, that’s The Napkin Test. And I’d like to come back with you, Casey, because I love what you’re doing and see if there are some people who might want to come back for a second round, do The Napkin Test themselves, come back, and then you and I could go, too. What do you think?

Casey Weade: I think that’s just a tremendous offer. You mentioned that before we got started. Oh, my gosh. Richard is just such a wonderful guy. He’s giving already, right? So, I would love to do that. And if anyone wants to take advantage of this opportunity, you can go back to the show notes. You can go through The Napkin Test exercise, and then email us,, just email us at And then we will have one of you selected to join us for a podcast where Richard will walk us through your Napkin Test and offer some coaching around this. This is an incredible opportunity to have someone like Richard of this caliber do this for you. So, thank you so much.

Richard Leider: Casey and I will do our own Napkin Test and we’ll share our results with you just to make sure that you know that we’re serious and we have integrity around this.

Casey Weade: I think that would be so much fun. I really look forward to that. So, Richard, in your bio, it says that you pioneered the question, why do you get up in the morning? When I first saw that, I thought kind of seems like a hard thing to pioneer. Is this really a new thing? Purpose? Why do I get up in the morning? Is this something we’ve been asking forever?

And then during your TED talk, you mentioned a statistic that only one in three people today have a clear reason to get up in the morning. So, I guess it’s clear that we have had this figured out, but is this really a new thing? If we’re pioneering it, that means that we’re one of the first people to actually go through this and explore this concept. Is it really that new?

Richard Leider: No, it’s not, but what’s new is the practice of it. It’s the distinction is that what are you really doing and how do we help people to do it? And so, purpose is a path and a practice. The path is the choice to live purposely or with intention, as you call it. And the practice is so, what’s your practice? We’re only as good as our practice. So, why do you get up in the morning question is really, so what is your practice, ultimately? Let me give an example of a practice case. I call it the 2-Minute Purpose Practice.

Casey Weade: I love this.

Richard Leider: You get up in the morning, and there are three steps, and it takes 2 minutes. Step 1 is pause. Don’t reach for your cell phone or your computer or whatever you need to do to get comfortable. Pause. Secondly, three deep breaths. The body never lies. So, take three deep breaths to sort of center yourself, to ground yourself. Third step is, what’s your intention to make a difference in someone else’s life today? Picture your upcoming day, and picture one person or one situation where you can make a difference in someone’s life today and make that intention out loud. Say it out loud, I intend to make a difference in Casey’s podcast today by doing this or sharing this, this type of thing.

If you do that every day for a week, you will understand exactly why it’s important to have an answer to the why question. Why do you get up in the morning? And I love the example of this from the American essayist, his name is E.B. White. He said this, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world, not literally save, and savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

Well, a good day is a day of both saving and savorings. If it’s all about savoring, we call those people narcissists. If it’s all about saving, we call those people saints. But we’re not saving the world and we’re not exclusively savoring. There’s a balance between making a contribution to community and the family; however, you put that together and savoring. And so, I think the why question is a biggie, particularly because we’re in a new phase of life.

In 1900, the average life expectancy was, what? Age 47. Now, the average life expectancy, you can play around statistics here, is in the high 80s, I mean, we add three decades to life. And you don’t probably remember this, but I do, a book called Passages. Passages came out in 1974. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for a decade. It still is out there. And it took people with a new language and a whole new metaphor up to midlife called Passages. And it was a bestseller and changed the game for so many people.

Now, we’ve added 30 years to life, maybe, maybe more, maybe less. And so, there’s this whole new phase of life that needs new language and new practices, and that’s what I’m all about. And since these days, with this new book that I’ve written, who you coauthored, Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Old?, it’s about this new phase of life. And how do we reframe it? We language it and bring new practices to it.

Casey Weade: Well, in that regard, what impact did your dad’s life have on the way that you think about retirement and also in writing this book?

Richard Leider: My dad’s life was the old model. Three stages of life – learning, earning, retiring. Now, I have to weigh in here, and I don’t think you’re going to like this, but the financial services industry still lives by that model – learn, earn, retire. That’s not what’s happening for the proponent majority of people, thousands of people I interview and talk with these days. Learn, earn, reframe, maybe retire. But if it’s retirement, it’s a new retirement. It’s not the leisure retirement of the past when people live less years and live differently in terms of health, etc.

So, this new phase of life is the one that so many books and so many people are, I’ll say, not struggling with, but questioning. I find that so many financial advisors, for example, are unwilling to change their mindset, myself included. My financial advisor who died a few years ago continually said, “Well, when you retire...” And I said, “Larry, I’m not going to retire. I need the money for this, this, but not that.” And so, his mental model was he wasn’t listening to the new phase of life.

And I think what’s happening now is that the whole industry is shifting, like you are, to help people. I mean, I look at your mission to elevate meaning and purpose in the lives of others. I mean, that’s what it’s all about. Now, how you define that, everybody’s an experiment of one as you know. They needed to define that in their own terms, but you can help them do that rather than put in your solution to help them to figure out their solution. And I hope what we’re doing here is helping with that.

Casey Weade: Yeah, learn, earn, retire. That’s been a reframing for us in our business. And that’s why I titled the book Job Optional. We can say this learn, earn, reframe, and job optional. That’s the way that we look at it.

Richard Leider: Job Optional is a great book and a great concept because that’s part of it. It’s also relationships. It’s also the good life, living in the place. Where’s the place for you now? People. Who are the people that you want to be with? And then right work, the third element of the good life that we’ve defined. I want to send you if you don’t have The Good Life Inventory, which helps people actually figure this out for themselves and have that conversation with you and you with them. And so, the job options is all about that third element, the right work. And then purpose, it’s right work for the sake of what?

Casey Weade: Well, we do have a link to that, so we will also include that in the show notes. And we’re going to be giving away your book as well, your latest book. The Power of Purpose is phenomenal, but you’re telling me that the newest one is multiple better than that. So, I go, okay. Well, if you think...

Richard Leider: Well, the new one is my 11th book. So, I’m not saying it’s, but I’m just...

Casey Weade: We’re always in love with the youngest child, right?

Richard Leider: Right.

Casey Weade: Well, we’d love to give that away on your behalf here today, Richard. We’ve got a box of copies in our office. We’re going to give them away until they’re all gone. So, if you’d like to get a free copy of Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging, all you have to do is this, subscribe to the podcast, write an honest rating, and review the podcast. And then shoot us an email at with your iTunes username, your address, we’ll send you the book for free.

And again, if you want to take advantage of a one-on-one free coaching session with Richard, which we’ll do with you on the podcast, please email us Let us know, and we’ll reach out to you and see if we can coordinate that. Richard, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure, and I cannot wait to do it again.

Richard Leider: I have enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for having me, Casey.

Casey Weade: Thanks, Richard.