Cliff Hakim, 70
Cliff is a writer and mentor based in Boston. He recently joined Leap, a San Francisco-based tech start-up which has just released a conversation app, set to transform the way people socialise online.
“My first words were a question. I think I said, ‘who are you?’ or ‘where am I?’ or something along those lines. I’m a curious guy so I guess it makes sense! As a child I often got asked why I had so many questions and felt judged, so for a while I shut myself down. As I got older, though, I realised the most intuitive and joyful way for me to connect with others and make a living was by asking questions and listening to people’s stories.
Likely that’s one of the reasons an old friend of mine introduced me to Leap. When I connected with Caroline, the co-founder, I was immediately struck by her idea to create a new kind of social network that was driven by questions and curiosity. Getting involved in a bigger way was like the building of a custom pair of shoes – before I knew it, they just began to fit and I started to walk in them.
My friends and family aren’t surprised that I’m starting a new project at this age. They just say, ‘there you go again Cliff, climbing another mountain.’ They cheer me on. Some people view retirement in a very traditional way – but I don’t view any of life like that. Life is there to be lived. If you have the spirit in you to contribute, then you should do it. Working with Leap doesn’t feel like work for me anyway. The river that runs through me is all about ideas, innovation, and creativity. One of my resistances to the internet as it stands today is that it’s become such a vehicle for manipulation and judgement. Inventions are created by those willing to take side streets and side steps.
I’m very inspired by younger people. In fact, I have very few friends that are my own age. Even my wife is ten years younger than me. I didn’t see her age, I just saw her at a party and wanted to find out more about who she was. I called and asked her to lunch and somehow when we met, there was a knowing in both of us that we were going to be together. We’re about to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. The secret to a marriage with longevity? Listen. Try to see things from your spouse’s point of view. And don’t get picky about the little things – let them go.
I feel good about getting older. I am more excited about my work than I ever have been. I am in a good place in my relationship, I live where I want to live – there are a lot of very fortunate things in my life. The biggest psychological shift for me was when I recently got a diagnosis of lymphoma. The weird thing for me is that I feel exactly the same as before, so it’s this strange knowing that something might happen in my future. A client once said to me ‘we all have genetics and we all have ‘something’ – the question is how are you going to manage your something?’ I now feel I have to manage my something. That has been a transition for me. But I have so much fortune in my life. It’s about living fully with this new ‘something’ within me. It all goes back to attitude. I am truly blessed to have this day.
My life motto? Be grateful and be generous.
Download the free Leap app here and join Cliff’s chat, Be Kinder, every Wednesday.