10/9 – Review of The Third Act Workshop

Edward Kelly

Edward Kelley

ed kelly


 Over the past 2-3 years we have run a number of retreats on The Third Act in life. In April of this year we also ran a successful Third Act Conference. More recently we have been running Third Act workshops in which we have moved our attention to what work we can do and what organisational structure might be best suited to support that work. Here is a short update.


The Third Act is a creature of human longevity. Over the past 100 years we have added 25-30 years to our life expectancy, that’s the equivalent of a whole new adult lifetime. What was old age for our great-grandparents is now middle age for us. And it seems like we have reached a tipping point where adding these new years to our second act is not really working and adding them to our ‘old age’ doesn’t feel right either. We need a new container and what’s The Third Act is, a new lens or a new way of looking at this new gift of time.

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As we are not only looking at scoping out what The Third Act is, we are also coming to terms with what it means to be part of a self-organising, self-managing network of people interested in the work of The Third Act. This is a big challenge, both for me as the founder and chief steward and for others who have come into The Third Act Network (see Self-organising and self-managing is great in that it liberates people to take responsibility for the work they want to do, but there is a steep learning curve in appreciating how the underlying organisational purpose and shared values are the primary motivators and not me as the founder and chief stward. Key to this is creating what Charlie Munger calls “a seamless web of trust”. In my own mind, making the distinction between complicated and complex systems helps me to ‘trust’ the process and to remember that the ‘intelligence’ lies with the organisation and not anyone individual involved.

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We are making progress in the following areas, by which I mean we have created ‘self-organising’ groups to address these issues and report back to the wider network.

  1. Designing a Template for a Third Act Transitional Programme
  2. Creating a Network of Third Act Transitional Coaches
  3. Preparing for Next Year’s Conference (3rd/4th week in April)
  4. Scoping out what enterprise and purpose means in The Third Act
  5. Looking at Health and Welfare in The Third Act

The need for a Transitional Programme arises in part because ‘retirement’ as we know is redundant in The Third Act. The current way of preparing people for their Third Act is to send them on a Retirement Workshop, but that won’t prepare you for your Third Act. You don’t retire into 25 years, you transition into it. Once you realise this, any talk of retirement fades. As this understanding grows, so will the need for Third Act Development Coaches. It’s early days. Next year’s conference is also growing in our attention as we work out just what kind of event we might run? How long should it be for instance? Last year it was half a day. Next year’s could be at least a full day if not two days. Also, last year we turned people away once we reached 180 delegates. This next year could be larger, but maybe we should cap the numbers and focus on deepening the experience? So all these issues are being thrashed out. I am also getting enqueries from people in Dubai, the UK, Australia and America about bringing The Third Act there. We are keen to hook with others, so if this space is of interest to you please let us know.


Ed Kelly

About the Author

Dr. Edward Kelly  (56) is an entrepreneur, researcher and facilitator. In the past few years he has led over forty workshops in Intel, Accenture, Google, and others. He is a regular presenter on the MBA and Innovation programmes at University College Dublin (UCD) and has published articles on adult development in the ILR and JITP. More recently he has facilitated workshops, developed programmes and has run a conference on The new Third Act in life. He is currently writing a book on adult development and leadership. Prior to this, he ran a successful telecoms business which he founded in 1995 and before that organised and participated in ‘The Great London to Sydney Taxi Ride’ in 1988, which entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest most expensive taxi ride in history. He holds an ITC, BA, MBA and PhD. He can be contacted at:, on +353 86 810 2000 and at

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