Chip Conley Helps Guide Modern Elders


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Nearly seven years ago, Chip Conley was approached by the founders of Airbnb to help turn their tech startup into a global hospitality brand, taking on the role of head of global hospitality and strategy. As the founder and CEO of Joie De Vivre Hospitality for 24 years, Conley had plenty of hospitality experience under his belt.

“I thought I was there to mentor them,” Conley said. “What I realized within a week or two is that I was there to be the intern as much as the mentor, because I’d never worked in a tech company before.”

Taking on such a different role in his 50s was initially so overwhelming that Conley considered quitting. Instead, he stayed on to help shape Airbnb into the behemoth it is today — he now serves as the company’s strategic advisor for hospitality and leadership — and founded Modern Elder Academy, a “midlife wisdom school” for older individuals feeling similarly uncomfortable about career and life transitions. More than 500 people have participated in the one- or two-week program, held at a campus in Mexico, since it was created in 2018.

“Society has done a great job of helping people through stages of life that are often known for transitions: puberty, commencement of adulthood, marriage, etc.,” Conley, author of the book Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, told Convene earlier this year. “We haven’t similarly ritualized midlife or career transitions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start creating a celebration of when a midlifer changes their career or we take a gap year (or any substantial period) to reflect on what we want next in our life.”

Learn more about Modern Elder Academy at modernelderacademy.com.

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