Interview: Roger Fishman, Author of What I Know

Even if they’re not always recognized for it, children and senior citizens are some of the wisest people you’ll meet. Children still have a fresh perspective on life, and seniors have seen it all and tend to give sound advice.

Author Roger Fishman decided to collect the wisdom from both sides of the age spectrum, interviewing 10-year-olds and 100-year-olds from around the country, for a book called What I Know. He wrote down their thoughts on the universal aspects of life, such as change, integrity, and longevity. The small gift book was released online and in stores just last month.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Roger, who is authentic, inspiring, and passionate about life. The book, he says, is about “The importance of human relationships, the importance of human connection, and leading an authentic life with yourself and with others.”

I’m publishing our interview here because What I Know shares so many themes with Reschool Yourself. Roger recognizes the wisdom inherent in children and believes in an education that helps them become who they want to be. He understands that true happiness in life is not about how much you achieve, or how much money you have, but about choosing experiences that fuel your fire, and being with the people you love. I highly recommend the book, and you can trust that no one paid me to say that or to feature it.

Roger is the founder of the ZiZo Group (short for Zoom In, Zoom Out), a creative multimedia company. He is married to actress Courtney Thorne-Smith, with whom he has a 21-month-year-old son, Jack, and lives in Los Angeles, CA.

I’ll post the second segment of the two-part interview tomorrow.

How long ago did you start your own business?

A little over four years ago, after working for Creative Artists Agency, the talent agency. Before that, I used to work for News Corp., Rupert Murdoch’s company, and before that I did a lot of different things. I realized that it was really time for me to go try what I think was true to me: to have my own business and take what I thought at that time was a risk.

Then I realized that the risk is not taking one. If you don’t take a risk in life, you’ll never know if you could have. Part of your success in life is in trying. It’s not necessarily in achieving, but in trying to achieve something that’s important to you.

I’m really struck by how the people who follow their passions, and have purpose behind what they’re doing, tend to lead the most fulfilled lives. As I went around the country and talked to primarily the 100-year-olds in this regard, what was most important to them was the things that mattered most in life: their relationships, and leading a life that’s worth living, making sure that it’s substantive, and that it’s deep, and lasting. For me, the book and my life’s work came together.

What inspired your idea for the book?

It was three things. One, that I was really in love with my grandfather. He was just the warmest, sweetest man. He would talk to anybody and everybody. Wherever he went, he took the time to listen to people, to understand their story, and to genuinely care. So I always had this (tendency) sort of in me.

Then, when my father died when I was 13, I thought, “Well, where am I going to learn from? Who’s my male role model?”

And then my son was born, and I thought, “There’s so much wisdom in the world, and there’s so much I learned from my granddad. I want to make sure I can share it with my son.” And then that was sort of the genesis of, “Where do you find some of the best pieces of wisdom and truth?” That stimulated the whole notion of the book What I Know.

Did you choose the categories in the book—like Believing in Yourself, Integrity, etc.—based on what you think is the recipe for a successful life?

That’s actually a really interesting way to think about it. Yes, I would say that when you add those together, those components, those are the core tenets or foundation points that can lead to your having a wonderful life.

If I have one wish for the book, it’s that people get inspired by it and reconnect. I hope that when people hear the story, they’ll say, “I remember that person in fourth grade.” Or “I remember that religious leader,” or “I remember that coach,” because I think when you have those little moments, you start to realize how fortunate and blessed we all are. It’s the little things that make all the difference.

During your interviews, what surprised you about the 100-year-olds? About the 10-year-olds?

What amazed me about the 100-year-olds was the energy they had, and the great sense of humor. I thought, “Wow, 100 years ago. No Federal Express. No wireless phones. No computers. No McDonald’s. They’ve seen planes, trains, and automobiles. They’ve seen world wars. You also see the strength and resilience of humanity to successfully adapt. And with the people I met, not only to adapt, but to find optimism in the future.

I think what really impressed me about the 10-year-olds was the importance of what we, as adults, do and say and how much they take it all in. And that what we do and say counts, because they trust us. They expect us to be their fathers, their mothers, their uncles or aunts or teachers, their coaches. What we do should have their best interests at heart. What we do matters to them and counts to them, and it shapes them.

Did the centenarians comment on how the world had changed, and what they thought of those changes?

Everyone talked about it, and they saw change as a positive thing. It’s inevitable. And they saw that change is in our hands to make it good. That’s where the good of humanity, in their perspective, was such a core aspect of what the future will look like. They believed that people were good overall, and when things are not good, people have the ability to overcome it.

It’s the notion of looking and living in the present, but also thinking and acting on a long-term basis. Live both ways: Appreciate the here and now because it exists, but live with an eye toward the future. And I thought it was a really beautiful balance that they talked about.

Did you pass on the advice that other people had given?

Absolutely. We would share where we’d been and where we were going. We’d try to connect them through that dimension. I found that everybody was very interested, primarily because they realized that at the end of the day, we’re all connected directly or indirectly, and it’s the connections that count in life. That was a very strong theme from not only the 100-year-olds, but also the 10-year-olds. You find that people want to be safe, they want to be loved, they want to be supported for their dreams, and they want to be in a healthy environment and relationships. Those are common things whether you’re 10 or 100.

Read the rest of the interview tomorrow. What I Know is available through Amazon and in stores.

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What have you learned from the children and the seniors in your life?

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