SARASOTA — I’m not what you would call a “mingler” at conferences like these. Oh, I’m happy to chat with a complete stranger if the complete stranger starts a conversation, but I don’t initiate. It might be because I’m an introvert (though I’m not really sure that I am) or it might be because I’m socially inept, which is more likely.
So it seems notable that I’ve enjoyed a few interesting conversations since I arrived here. And, after listening to Kathie Court this morning, I discovered that I might not be as socially inept as I think I am.
Court, a Fellow at the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University, led a group of us as we mapped out our “social portfolio.” This is a concept first coined by the late Gene Cohen in his book The Mature Mind. Your social portfolio consists of two types of activity — High-Energy/High Mobility and Low-Energy/Low Mobility — done in a group or by yourself. (Check out the specifics here.) This is an important exercise for geezers like me because it’s easy to fall into social behavior patterns that are unbalanced and can leave you isolated without a sense of community or so busy in community that you have no time for reflection. As Court put it, “We need to have an awareness of how we spend our time.”
Here’s what I learned when I began thinking about what I do:
High-Energy/High Mobility — Group
• Basketball with the old guys
• Tennis with The Baseline Machine
• Bicycling with My Lovely Wife
• Weekly yoga class
• Golf with my brothers
High-Energy/High Mobility — Individual
• Morning workouts
• Walking to work
• Strenuous home improvement projects
Low-Energy/Low Mobility — Group
• Poker nights with my pals
• Strat-O-Matic baseball with my other pals
• Scrabble nights with MLW
• Cooking with MLW
• Nonprofit board meetings
Low-Energy/Low Mobility — Individual
• Morning meditation
• Not-so-strenuous home improvement projects
As part of the exercise, Court asked us to compare notes with our neighbor, in my case a woman from California’s wine country who told me about her rich community of friends and peers, her love of reading and cooking, and the energy it takes to harvest pears from her orchard. She figured she needed more high-energy activities to balance her portfolio. Mine, she said, seemed to be in pretty good shape.
Later, at lunch, I ran into Court and complimented her on her presentation. I mentioned that I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a social portfolio I’d already accumulated. She congratulated me, noting that “men have to work harder at this than women.”
And she added that our definition of these activities may change over time (she used to swim laps in her younger years, but these days power-walks in the deep end of the pool). I don’t plan on curtailing my high-energy activities anytime soon, but I can envision a time when those basketball games at Anderson Gym, already slowing down, will be played at less than a high-energy pace. Maybe by that time I’ll be exercising more energetic mingling skills.