After a successful career as a pharmaceutical executive and entrepreneur. Mehbs Remtulla loathed the idea of becoming a “restless retiree.” So, in 2018, he founded What’s neXT?!—a community and digital ecosystem that helps “transitioners” build networks, find paid and volunteer opportunities, and engage in lifelong learning.
YouAreUNLTD spoke to Remtulla about his labour of love building the What’s neXT?! Community.
At a virtual What’s neXT?! event Chip Conley (the Modern Elder Academy) said midlife can be a crisis or a calling. How did What’s neXT?! become your calling?
The darkest months of my life were after I sold my global healthcare communications agency. I had a good marriage, wonderful kids, financial independence, good health. What was bugging me? I needed to feel useful. People around you cannot give you a purpose. You need to find a purpose yourself. At the time, I thought either I’m a total weirdo or this happens to other people too. I needed a community to say: “Mehbs, everybody goes through a transition, calm down.” I honestly feel that if I had been exposed to a community of this type, I would have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. What’s neXT?! was created not by design but by default. Once I believe in something, I find creative ways to make it happen.
What’s neXT?! was created not by design but by default. Once I believe in something, I find creative ways to make it happen.
What is special about your community?
There are so many communities out there. We try not to regurgitate what already exists. That’s madness. So our events are well thought out. Like the idea of small breakout rooms during our Zoom coffee chat with Carl Honore (author of Bolder and other best-selling books on aging). We created an intimate coffee shop experience in an online environment. The people in our community have a high EQ, who share their knowledge, wisdom, and experiences. A friend said something that I relate to: People spend too much time trying to be interesting versus being interested. If you’re genuinely interested in people and issues, you listen more than you talk because there’s so much learning to be done.
How is What’s neXT?! making a difference?
The mission is to dismantle the bias against age, a goal which we share with many other collaborators like the Stanford Centre on Longevity, the National Institute for Aging, CARP, and others. We want to be part of this movement. The other part is being a catalyst to help people find opportunities by providing tools such as a digital platform (in development) to connect individuals with the right opportunities. We don’t want to be transactional; rather we want to be a connector based on someone’s unique profile and how they want to give back.
Older people want to continue to contribute but most face ageism. What’s the case to be made?
We’re living longer and we’re living healthier and there is a labour shortage already. The number of millennials coming into the workplace is nowhere near the number of people getting out of the workforce. During the COVID crisis, governments pleaded with retired healthcare professionals to come and help. My question is: Was this just a flash in the pan or a tipping point where society is realizing the value that modern elders bring?
Organizations like Ryerson University and Volunteer Canada are keen to partner with What’s neXT?! to curate educational and volunteer opportunities for transitioners—but collaborating with employers for paid employment is more of an uphill battle. You just completed a pilot project that matched transitioners with young, early-stage entrepreneurs. What did you learn?
The need for intergenerational collaboration is very strong. Young entrepreneurs typically have DQ (digital intelligence) but they need the emotional intelligence elders to bring to be successful. These young, growing companies have immediate needs for experienced professionals at below-market rates and we found they were more interested in hiring transitioners than larger corporations are.
What’s neXT?! sounds like a labour of love!
So many people helped me be successful in various ventures and in life—including this one. This is the time in my life where I can actually help others be engaged and lead purposeful lives. If I can do that, that would be a bronze medal if this were the Olympic games. The gold medal would be to have more solutions to the issue of ageism.
Interested in learning more about What’s neXT?! click here.