What if all you ever wanted to be in life is a hipster centenarian? 

Well, now you can. And you don't have to spend a dime. I know. Nothing is free anymore, except shitty music and ketchup packets... and this self-help advice I’m about to share. 

Back in Okinawa...

Japan has more happy centenarians than anywhere else in the world. Yeah, because — health insurance. True, Japan has amazing socialized medicine. But that can’t be the whole story, or we’d see people living longer than fine brie in France. 

Turns out, the secret isn’t in the cheese. There’s another ingredient to a long life that the Okinawans call, ikigai. It’s a word that’s short for: finding one’s purpose, or the-thing-gets-you-out-of-bed-in-the-morning — without a paycheck. This word unfolds with meaning like an origami flower. Where the lines intersect lie the nuances, and possibly every answer you’ll ever need to get off the hamster wheel that's killing your spirit.

This isn’t a fresh batch of willy-nilly wisdom. Nor is it a new idea; Ikigai has been around for hundreds of years. Just ask a centenarian from Okinawa. 

The ancient secret to having it all. 

You’ll learn their simple formula. Living a healthy long life doesn't require much. You don't need to be filthy rich, or super hot, or esspecially talented. You only need the following: 

A sense of purpose + a kind community + a meaningful vocation =  having it all. 

Are you listening, Kim Kardashian?

No. An extra shot of botox is not the answer; But a dose of Ikigai is. The concept is easier to understand with this traditional Okinawan info-graphic I’ve re-created : 

Ikigai - venn Diagram A. By Petra

Ikigai - venn Diagram A. By Petra


The 10 step program

Take a principle. Leave a principle. We all can apply something from the wisdom of ancient Japan and live a fulfilled life on our B/side: 

  1. Why throw in the towel? You can switch it up, but don’t retire from the things you love doing — to do nothing, or stay stuck. Ok, so your career contacts may have dried up, but keep watering your curiosity about new ones. You’re never too old school to become an expert on crypto currency or the secret life of the sea anemone. Right?

  2. Life in the slow lane is good for you. Contemplate the view while you stay in the zone, also called, your own speed. Never be in someone else’s ‘hurry’ to get there. Fools don’t know they’re rushing toward a mirage, they’ve yet to discover there’s no there there.

  3. Invest your time in a kind community that values who you are becoming. Find a camp where you know you belong. And don’t be surprised how many camps aren’t for you, when you’re truly being you. The people who offer the following: unsolicited put downs, competitive jabs, and a keeping-up-with-the-Jones’s mentality deserve no energy — Seriously, their eye-rolling can take years off of your life. Dump them.

  4. Outdated music is good for you. So are dance breaks that keep you moving. You do not need a fancy gym membership; life is your personal fitness studio: Wine bottles = 2lb weights. Push-ups on a park bench. Ballet bars are everywhere — fences, hand rails, and garbage cans. Jog anywhere while pod-casting The B/Sider stories, or studying Spanish verbs. Shut down the computer & start training —You can do anything physical in short sprints. Remember, 10 minutes of activity is better than 10 minutes of feeling overwhelmed for no reason.

  5. Practice acknowledging people around you. Before virtual ‘LIKES’, there was smiling. Trust me, smiling is as easy as a click — easier than spelling acknowledge. (Said a friend with mild dyslexia.)

  6. Tune in to nature. Again, the sea anemone’s are calling...

  7. Remember to say thank you for the little things that brighten your day, or make you feel alive. Can you be thankful you don’t have a 2 hour commute in traffic? Or that your arms and legs weren’t blown off by a land mine in Afghanistan? Start there. Work your way up to expressing thanks in another language (Here’s a cheet-sheet in 5 languages I can sort-of speak: domo arigato, merci, grazie, gracias, and kha-pun-kha) Your turn.

  8. Find your Ikigai. (See venn diagrams A. or B.) First follow your sense of joy & wonderment. Then, do it. Give it all you’ve got. Because your sense of joy & wonderment is what the world needs now.

  9. Change it up. A stale routine is the death-star of aging. The human brain needs new information, or else... If you’ve stumbled and fallen in the corner of know-it-alls, know that you’re wrong. You might want to step outside your comfort zone, get off the cruise ship and out into the jungle. I promise not to ask have you tried meditating? But have you tried caring for abandoned baby seals? There’s a volunteer program for everything. Get enrolled. Or grow old.

  10. Eat until you’re 80% full. The Okinawan centenarians swear by this. Something about the leaving your cup slightly less than FULL full.

It's about flipping the record. 

Ikigai is an ideal map for the B/ Siders.  There is wisdom waiting on the other side of the record, finding your true groove — And surrounding yourself with people who'll clap for you and throw you money — Because you being you inspires them too be who they are. 

Lets get the party started...

Ikigai - Venn Diagram B. By The B /Sider.

Ikigai - Venn Diagram B. By The B /Sider.


Not in my back yard.

“The U.S. is the most unfriendly place in the world to older people.”
— Chip Conely

As a non-Okinawan, the concept of ikigai might seem impossible to achieve in your neighborhood. Maybe you work from home, and the only contact you have all day is shouting at a customer service bot. It’s also challenging to live in a society that shelves people over 40 like stale goods. But it is not impossible. It starts with us — the cool midults— if we change in ourselves, the culture will eventually catch up. I’ve noticed ikigai-like themes popping up in our country too. A collective shift is underway.  

This gai.

Author and ethical guru at AirBnb, Chip Conley, has a new book out next month — Wisdom at Work, The making of a modern elder. He talks about how changing mentoring in the 21st century can taking the stigma out of aging in our culture, confirming that, “The U.S. is the most unfriendly place in the world to older people.” It not you. Ageism is for real. But he believes there’s a tremendous opportunity to make the work culture better than it has ever been. By bridging the gap between button-pushing digital natives and people who learned to think in a pre-digital era, you get better results and people are happier. He’s already a founder of The Modern Elder Academy, a program to help midults mine their mastery, and learn ways in which they can recycle what they know into a sustainable purpose for their future. 

You don’t have to buy the book, but I highly recommend listening his NPR interview. 

I think this guy might be our... Iki-guy.

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