30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer, Ph.D.
I love the concept of this book in spite of the fact my younger self would have given it an exaggerated eye roll. Now I know better. Over my lifetime I’ve been privileged to have several friends who are decades older than me, whose advice I respect and often seek. This book reads like a conversation with them.
As the founder of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, Karl Pillemer has made a career of studying aging, family relationships, and elder care. A few years ago he launched The Legacy Project where he studied life through the eyes of more than a thousand people over the age of 65. He conducted personal interviews, surveys, and asked individuals to contribute their wisdom to his blog. He wanted to know what they had learned about life through marriage, raising children, managing finances, choosing careers, and how they felt about their life as they got older. When Pillemer interpreted his research he found the advice of those in life’s “third age” consistently fell into one of 30 lessons, which he shares in this book.
This is not a book of pop psychobabble, it is simply personal reflections of those who have lived life well, often overcoming adversity to achieve a better life. He uses the word expert to describe the people who shared their wisdom with him, and I believe expert is a good descriptor. These are not just theories, they are lessons learned through a lifetime of choices. This book is a compilation of wisdom on living better, happier lives, and if we are being honest, who couldn’t use a happier life?
You are probably thinking this has been done before. Maybe, but not quite like this. The book is structured so you can read it straight through or choose a topic at random. My personal favorite is the chapter called “I Can Look Everyone in the Eye”. The first advice I intend to act on is from the second chapter, start finding some five minute task I can do every day to make life easier for someone in my life. Pillemer wraps up the book with 10 questions to ask the experts in your life. Asking won’t just result in an engaging conversation, these questions will help you record your expert’s legacy.
This book is a must have for library collections; however it would also be a great gift book. The Legacy Project is ongoing, so feel free to check out the blog for a dose of instant wisdom, or to submit your expert’s advice.