Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Boomers Relinquish Riches to Become "New Radicals"

By Shannon Proudfoot, CanWest News Service Published: Monday, December 31, 2007

At a dinner party overflowing with accomplished professionals, someone leaned across the table to ask Julia Moulden what she'd been up to.When she replied that she was reinventing herself and everyone within earshot tuned in, she knew she'd hit a nerve.

"All these doctors and executives and professors -- everybody stopped talking and leaned in," Moulden recalls. "And I went, 'Okay, if it's that interesting to these people then there's something going on inside a lot of people, it's not just happening inside of me.'"

The result of that epiphany is We are the New Radicals, a book chronicling the mid-life transformation of baby boomers trading ordinary careers for a chance to change the world.
Due for release in February, it's partly a collective biography and partly a how-to manual for those who want to join the ranks.

Moulden, 51, hopes it will become a rallying point in 2008 and beyond for the millions of boomers she believes are searching for more fulfilment.

She divides New Radicals into three categories: activists who serve others firsthand, entrepreneurs who start news businesses in which making a difference is part of the plan and innovators who work to change their fields from within.

Overwhelmingly, she found this transformation happens around age 50.

Moulden counts herself among the New Radicals, having parlayed experience at the helm of her own communications company and as a speech writer into a more recent role as an executive coach guiding mid-life career changes.

"The boomers take a lot of slack for being yuppies and for having done nothing more than create a market for SUVs and non-fat tall chai lattes, but in fact the boomers have been responsible for driving change already," she says, citing gay rights, the women's movement and the cementing of civil rights as examples.

Moulden points to survey results that reveal three-quarters of baby boomers intend to keep working and earning in retirement, and more than 60 per cent want to do good works right now.

She maintains that becoming a New Radical can run the gamut "from mild to wild." Moulden also emphasizes that people don't need deep pockets to bankroll good deeds.
"This is about how you make a living being the way to give back," she says.

Canadian chef Jamie Kennedy provides an example of this, she says, with his escalating efforts to use seasonal and locally sourced ingredients in his restaurants.

At "the wild end of the spectrum" and also profiled in the book is Nicole Pageau. The former non-profit worker from Edmonton sold all her belongings and moved to Rwanda in her 60s, Moulden says, after a speech by a genocide survivor compelled her to help widows and orphans firsthand.

New Radicals are driven by the activist spirit of the 1960s, Moulden says, but they've adopted vision and hope as their tactics in place of the more confrontational strategies of their Flower Power predecessors.

"The boomers are the most powerful generation the world's ever known, but eventually we're going to be a note in the history books," she says.

Their larger legacy may come after they've passed through their New Radical years, she says, because many people in their 20s and 30s are now determined to do fulfilling work from the very start of their careers. "This idea is seeping through the culture, and although it may have been kicked off by the boomers, it's really being echoed in our children," Moulden says. "I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg."

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