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Robert Emmons Making the Most of His Sunrises with New Book

Six Thousand Sunrises challenges fellow seniors to choose a path of reinvention and engagement instead of sitting life out

Author and Santa Barbara civic leader Robert Emmons Ph.D. poses a challenge to fellow senior citizens in his new, inspirational self-help book, Six Thousand Sunrises: Don’t stop living.

The average 65-year-old can look forward to 6,000 sunrises before reaching 83, the age of life expectancy, Emmons writes.

An avid art collector and flourishing artist, Emmons lived in Florence, Italy, for three months earlier this year so he could pursue an interest in sculpting. He took daily lessons at the Florence Academy of Art, where he produced two bronze sculptures.

“I have always been very curious, which has led me down interesting roads,” he told Noozhawk.

The former CEO of several leading publicly traded companies — among them Smart & Final and United Rentals — said self-reinvention through a willingness to take risks is necessary to live a fulfilling and expanded life.

“I have been very blessed,” he said. “I’ve reinvented myself half a dozen times.”

The poet, artist, sailor and former entrepreneur has also served as a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business. Last year, he was honored as Santa Barbara’s Man of the Year.

Emmons said he started writing Six Thousand Sunrises a year ago, after coming across people who weren’t making the most of their lives.

“I saw too many people sitting on the sidelines who were not participating in life,” Emmons said. “They allowed their lives to become smaller instead of seeing opportunities to make their lives larger.”

In his book, Emmons advises seniors to embrace the next chapter of their lives with a combination of optimism, courage, openness and engagement.

“I might have been fearful (of studying and living in Florence), but I still did it,” he said.

Emmons said the message of the book is that readers can’t use fear as an excuse for inaction. He advises readers to start with trying something different, like a short trip to San Francisco.

“If all you do is explore the city, your life will be expanded in that experience,” he explained.

Emmons includes exercises in the book, among them “Vision Planning,” which asks readers to plan where they see themselves 10 years into the future. He emphasizes pursuing creative interests and being involved in community as inherent to a “well-lived senior life.” As a trustee of many local nonprofit organizations — such as the Community Arts & Music Association, the Mosher Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation — Emmons has been an active part of local giving for several years.

He credits his youthful perspective to the birth of his youngest son, Ryan, when he was age 58. Emmons said being involved in his son’s life — through participating on school boards at Marymount of Santa Barbara and Laguna Blanca School and being around young people — was an enriching part of his life.

“Stay involved,” Emmons said. “Don’t run from life because you’ve added a few years.”

Six Thousand Sunrises is now available at Chaucer’s Bookstore, 3321 State St., and Tecolote Book Shop, 470 East Valley Road, Suite 52, in Montecito.

The book is not Emmons’ first venture into publishing. He is the author of six books of poetry, including Love and Other Minor Tragedies, Love Shadows, Other Places, Other Times, The Road to Paradise, Seafarers, Poems of the Sea and The Wanderer.

Noozhawk intern Nikki Chan can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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