Grateful Dead Guitarist Bob Weir’s Lessons for Making the Most of Your Time

If you love what you do and others find it valuable, I see no reason why you would want to retire. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how long you will be physically able to continue enjoying the benefits of a career that makes you and your stakeholders happy. But there are things you can do to prolong a productive career.

One person doing this is legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, who at 74 is finding new ways to do what he loves while delighting his audience. According to the wall street journalWeir “is busier now than he’s ever been, juggling multiple projects including a memoir, an opera, and a musical about Negro League baseball icon Satchel Paige.”

If you want to extend what you love to do beyond normal retirement age, Weir offers three lessons.

1. Overcome your fears.

When working, fear is almost inevitable. People rely on you to do what you promise and you may not always feel up to the challenge. If you have doubts, the resulting fear makes it harder to push through and do what you must.

I was surprised to learn that Weir has terrible fear every time he prepares to go on stage. As he told the Journal, although he’s performed thousands of shows in front of millions since 1965, when he co-founded the Grateful Dead, he’s always had “horrible stage fright. Those last few steps on stage are like walking into a torture chamber. Every time.”

Weir has what seems to me a unique way of overcoming stage fright. He imagines himself embodying characters whose stories he feels compelled to tell to the public. As he said, “I give my body to these characters to tell their stories. The more I give myself to them, the less I’m there to experience stage fright, and it goes away.”

The takeaway for business leaders is clear: make sure your business has an emotionally compelling purpose that engages you and your employees. A mission that takes you out of yourself can motivate you to overcome your fears and do your best.

2. Keep your mind sharp and your body fit.

If you’re lucky enough to have found a job you love and others enjoy, you can’t keep doing it if your mind and body aren’t up to it.

Weir has a daily routine that keeps him performing. A former high school football player and mountain biker at his home in Marin, Calif., he keeps himself “fit and fit with daily workouts and meditation,” the Journal noted. As a result, he still has “gas in the tank” after three hours of play.

He works because “the work demands it”. And he employs people who post his daily workout routines on social media. If you want to be able to continue serving what you consider your purpose, you could do worse than follow what Weir is doing to stay in shape.

3. Take on new challenges.

While Weir’s first two lessons strike me as crucial, I resonate most with the third – applying your skills to new challenges. Simply put, I get bored easily and need new challenges to feel engaged and relevant to what’s going on in the world.

Weir’s unique strength is rhythm playing “based on counterpoint and riffs…rather than using consistent, repetitive chords to create a groove”, noted the Journal. He applied this passion for improvisation to writing songs, learning new Indian music time signatures, and using Photoshop to “paint” on his computer.

He is tackling a new challenge that will begin in October 2022. That’s when he and his band Wolf Brothers will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Along with the National Symphony Orchestra, his band will perform Grateful Dead songs with “full classical orchestration.”

Weir is savoring the new opportunities available to him that he says “make life worth living, so I have to go. Retiring is not an option,” the Journal wrote.

It reminds me of what the late President John F. Kennedy told a journalist three weeks before his assassination. When asked if he liked being president, JFK replied: “I have already given the Greek definition of happiness – the use of your powers in the direction of excellence. I discovered that the presidency therefore brings happiness.”

If you want to maximize your happiness in the remaining time, follow Weir’s Three Principles.

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