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Who's "On Your Bus" in your Second Half of Life?

In his classic book, Good to Great, the famed management guru Jim Collins created a lasting and memorable metaphor by comparing a business to a bus and the leader as a bus driver. He emphasizes that it is crucial to continuously ask “First Who, Then What?”

You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you're going, how you're going to get there, and who's going with you.

Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they're going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision.

In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.

I would like to adapt this metaphor of the “on the bus and off the bus” to our lives in the "second half". What are the changes that we need to make in our "circles"- the people who are with us, around us and who impact us? Are we aware of how much our lives our influenced by having the "wrong people on our bus"?

I brought this exercise to our stellar group called "Harveting your Wisdom", which I have had the privilege of faciliating for two years now on Zoom. I presented them with this exercise and encouraged them to explore the metaphor in their own lives: Who do they want IN and who do they want OUT?

We all know this intuitively: difficult and toxic people DRAIN us, they keep us stuck, bring out the worst in us, keep us in our "small self" and far away from our "Bigger Self". They do it out of hypercriticism, pessimistic character, argumentative nature, out of sheer habit, oftentimes they don't know any better and we probably don't tell them how much they affect us negatively.

Can we "rid us of them", distance from them, neutralize, dilute, reframe- you name it- can it be done? Well, it depends...sometimes they are family members who are not going away and we just have to tolerate them. To a certain degree. BUT...oftentimes we can do quite a lot and simply do not have the awareness, courage or tools to keep them as far away as possible. I ask- in the second half of life, haven't we earned the right to decide who is "right for us" and who is just not? Don't we have any control of who is on our "bus"? Of course we do!

In our group exercise, I was quite floored what I heard! Each individual was honest, bold and extremely earnest in putting his/her bus "in order". We left all the guilt trips, uneasiness and political correctness outside the room and really explored and shared- THAT is the stuff you can do with a great group!

Now, who will you put in your CAR?

And then I decided to make the exercise even harder. It's one thing to have 20 seats on a bus and get lots of people on it without really digging deep to use and discern who should be there. But what about in a car? If you suddenly have only 4 or 5 seats...what do you do THEN? Who will you want in your "car" as you drive forward into the horizon, in the later years of your life, knowing that there will be hurdles, losses and declines but ALSO knowing that in most cases there will also be intimate moments of meaning, happiness, value and spiritual and personal growth IF we allow ourselves to be there and do the work?

The confidential secure space of the group allowed for some amazingly profound reflection, exploration and values-clarification. It was certainly a "wow" exercise if I ever saw one, and I have seen plenty....

So, I ask all of you readers: who do you want on YOUR bus and in YOUR car and who do you want to "steer elsewhere"? It does not mean that you disconnect in most cases- absolutely not! We can love and appreciate many people while knowing that they are just not cut out to be with us in certain situations. Most importantly is to cut out, distance and dilute the "toxicity generators"- they can really cause you to lose the zest for life.

We have earned quite a bit with our graying hair and less than young bodies. We have earned the right to get clear on our values and the people we want to be with and near us.

Let's get the right people on our bus sooner than later. They can make all the difference in our lives.


Interested in connecting with me/ joining the programs?

- My website has been updated to reflect the new and diverse offerings on “meaning in the second half of life”- please have a look, perhaps something might resonate with you at this time?

- Join the “Harvest your Wisdom” Zoom group- finishing up our second year- a new series every month, a powerful, inspiring group of wise elders exploring personal development in our wisdom years. For further reading and interest.