The Purpose Prize Proves It's Never Too Late for a Great Idea

The Purpose Prize awards people over 60 who are making a difference. These people are proof it's never too late for the "aha" moment to hit.

Sitting in a room filled with people over the age of 50, and listening to personal stories of transformation—how accumulated work and life experiences led to various 'aha' moments, when they realized they were uniquely qualified to begin ventures that have a positive impact on society—it’s impossible to not feel inspired. But something else was happening to me on a physiological level, like an enormous weight had been lifted from my chest, the breath flowing out of me in a sigh of relief leaving one realization: There is plenty of time to do great things.

I was attending the 7th annual Purpose Prize event, an award ceremony celebrating five social entrepreneurs over the age of 60 who are improving their communities and the world, each receiving $100,000 to further their efforts. This year nearly one thousand individuals were nominated, creating the need for a second tier of 35 “Encore Fellows” also being acknowledged for their contributions. The event is the brainchild of, the organization responsible for creating a new “encore” life stage in which traditional retirement is forgone in favor of pursuing work that combines purpose, passion and a paycheck—the latter being of primary importance given challenging economic times.
What struck me most about this year’s winners was their humility—each of them clearly motivated by a deep sense of purpose. Ron Cordes eloquently captured this truth when stating, “I spent the first half of my life trying to be the best in the world, and I’m spending the second half trying to do the best for the world.” It was also refreshing how the room of individuals celebrating the winners didn’t seem the least bit threatened by their achievements. And oh boy, were there some achievements (see videos here).
Bhagwati Agrawal is using his engineering experience to bring safe drinking water to thousands of villagers in his native India. Susan Burton is lifting female ex-offenders out of the darkness of addiction and emotional struggle, helping them to stay out of prison and rebuild their lives. Judy Cockerton is re-envisioning the way foster care works in our country, lowering the barriers to engagement by creating facilities where people can come to volunteer their time, connect with other foster parents, and experience intergenerational mentoring. Thomas Cox uncovered massive fraud among mortgage lenders, leading to a $25 billion (yes, you read that correctly) settlement that allowed those facing foreclosure to stay in their homes. Lorraine Decker created the “Game of Real Life” to help low-income teens and adults establish motivating goals while learning the financial and life skills to make reaching them possible.
Okay, so if I don’t have you interested yet (or thinking about how you want to send this article to your parents), the question asked by skeptics tends to be focused on the “how” piece. Experiencing this kind of “passion pivot”—a distinct point in time when you change your career, or life trajectory, to better align with personal passions—can feel overwhelming. Which is exactly why Marci Alboher, a leading authority on the changing face of work and a Vice President at, wrote “The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life.
One practical suggestion Alboher made during a recent panel discussion at the Milken Institute is to “start hanging out in the world you want to live in.” By this she means to be a visitor, introducing yourself to the people who inspire you and have what you want. Talk openly and frequently about what you’re trying to create in your life, as you never know where conversations may take you and what opportunities might arise. Alboher is also a big proponent of jumping into volunteer, or “pro-bono consulting” work—the latter being a suggested term that will more likely lead to compensation, and going back to receive training in a field that both interests you and where there is current job opportunity (e.g., healthcare, teaching, green jobs, etc.). One such example of this is Empowered, started by UCLA with the support of Sherry Lansing.
As I was driving back from the event and reflecting on the spirited conversations I had with individuals while buffet-dinner-mingling, it struck me that not once did I hear the response “busy,” when asking people how they are and probing to better understand their line of work. Is the wisdom gained through life experience a repellant to the “busy trap” so many people my age find themselves in? This getting older thing was starting to look pretty good.
The award ceremony closed with Marc Freedman, the founder and CEO of, honoring the late John Gardner, who was the co-founder of Experience Corps, a founding board member of, and one of America's greatest thinkers, reformers, and social entrepreneurs. The quote Freedman recited is one that makes clear big dreams need never end, and those transformative 'aha' moments can happen—if we’re open to receiving them—for the rest of our lives. Said Gardner, "What I want for those youngsters in their forties and fifties is several more decades of vital learning and growth. And I want something even broader and deeper. I don't know whether I can even put it into words. What I want for them is a long youthfulness of spirit …a long youthfulness of spirit. It doesn't seem much to ask, but it is everything.”
Idea image via Shutterstock\n
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less