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chris block, 54, CEO

ageist EDITORS | november 12, 2015

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The Next 30 Years

Chris Block has lived a life that is accomplished by any measure. As a developer, he built low-income housing for families that needed it, and rounded out his professional life by serving as CEO at the American Leadership Forum, network for leaders.

But none of that is of much interest to him at this point. “If I have a whole other lifetime ahead of me, I don’t want to repeat the life I’ve lived,” says Block. “What I set out to accomplish at 25, I’ve already done. Once I made that realization, it no longer held my interest.”

So the 54-year-old San Franciscan finds himself at a juncture…where many of the people I talk to also seem to find themselves. It’s an existential reflection point. The difference is how he both articulates and approaches it. A deeply spiritual man, we met at a juncture where he had taken a break from work to make the brain space to examine where he is going next. “I’m embarking on this journey to see what I’m essentially good at,” he says. 

When he left the ALF earlier this year, Block had the beginnings of separation anxiety. As the type of guy who spent a career making clever moves from one gig to the next, he faced the prospect of no gig at all for the first time in his life. 

“People are so completely defined by what we do … but there seems to be a fundamental difference between the doing and the being,” he says. “It’s the understanding of both of those, and comprehending the intersection between them. That, to me, becomes the interesting challenge. And I hope I have the wisdom to do that in my 50s, what I wasn’t able to do in my 20s.”

A longtime fan of meditation — something I’m hearing from several members of the Ageist tribe — the practice enables him to explore the idea of making decisions based on where you are versus acting in reaction to others’ expectations. When I think about it, it is really only after 50 years or so of experience that this becomes an option. I know when I was younger, I was either trying to please others and their expectations or rebel against them; in other words, always in reaction. 

“A lot of my life has been in reaction to things, and I don’t need to consume in reaction to anything,” says Block. “I just take away whatever is the cause of that reaction.”