I’m deep into the book proposal, currently wrangling with the chapter on Identity (the fifth Terror of Aging on my list being “I’ll be invisible.”) Late life puts a different spin the link between work and identity, and I really liked Dave Davison’s take on things. I interviewed the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist in his gracious living room not far from the Stanford University campus.
“Between 50 and 60 I was really at the top of my game — healthwise, interms of my ability to do stuff, my connections around the world,” he told me. At 80, he believed that the mid-life crises he and his peers had weathered “is there for you to pass through because you’re coming on to the best part of your life.” For Davison the catalyst was reading Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature at 50 and encountering “the concept of seeking the patterns that connect.” This, he explained, requires a period of “freefall” as you pass from “a period of intense knowledge-gathering to a segment of your life in which understanding occurs.” Coming out the other end, Davison was enjoying “a higher-level metaview of what’s going on. I have perspective, which, according to [computer visionary] Alan Kay, is worth 80 IQ points.”
“The self is highly important to people at old age,” said Davison. For him, this self-knowledge often took the form of “remembering something from 1973 that fits with 2008,” and over the years, his worldview has evolved into “a canvas on which I can play with pretty much anything I run into.” Setting his own schedule and working without pay, Davison advised a number of local nonprofits and businesses, in particular working with his son Mike on a business model for a group called Innovation Labs. “Whether it’s volunteer work or for pay,” he explained, “work has always been a platform or a venue for expressing yourself in the best possible way.”