Dave Stamm, 69: Charting a New Path

Flying high in his 45-year-old plane, and with a new perspective on life, he left his serial tech career for something completely different — all because he attended a Burning Man at age 65 and his view of what was possible got way bigger.

Dave Stamm is a surprisingly unexpected life explorer — not the man you would think he would be at first glance. A longtime tech guy, engineer at heart, he has now embarked on a whole new path. When he was working in tech, he spent time living and working in Turkey and Russia which was perhaps the first clue that Dave was willing to go outside his comfort zone. It was his attending Burning Man at 65, though, that really changed things for him, expanding his impression of what was possible. Next, he left big tech and flew his very low-tech 45-year-old plane cross country so that he could see the whole thing from 5000ft up. And then there is the poker thing.

Like many of us, things are fine until they aren’t and we need to make life changes to accommodate our new reality. Dave’s life was going along a certain linear path, working at big companies, then starting and running big companies, continually moving forward as one does in that world. Then, just to see what it was like, 5 years ago Dave went to Burning Man and the world changed for him. What many people would think of as a young people’s bacchanal in the dust of a remote desert is not a usual vacation for an advanced career tech CEO. Pebble Beach, yes; Palm Springs, sure; but Burning Man? Interesting choice, but why? To maybe expand his imagination of what was possible. As we often say, our greatest limitation is not one of capacity but of imagination.

Surprisingly frequently, we see people this age begin to see the world, and themselves, in a radically different way, and start to explore paths that stray far from the expected. Is it a normal life phase the result of decades of experience, or is it some outside inspiration? Who knows. But becoming a late-in-life champion poker player? To hear Dave explain it, this is just another version of the very soft-spoken Dave.

How old are you?
Almost 70.

What are some of the companies you have worked at, or founded?
Early days of microprocessors at Intel, founded companies that went public in electronic design automation and customer relationship management.

What sort of work were you doing?
I was CEO and founder of Clarify, one of the first CRM companies. I also play poker at the highest levels and take it very seriously.

What was it like working in Russia?
I worked in Russia half time for 10 years. Almost everything you read in the US about Russia is dead wrong. Russia has been politicized by our political parties, which I find a shame. Saint Petersburg is a beautiful and very cultural city. I really loved the city itself and the vibrancy there. Unfortunately, corruption is widespread and the younger people who worked for me hated that aspect of the culture, but all you could do as a Russian millennial was to work through those challenges as best you could. 

When did you retire?
6 months ago.

How are you feeling about retired life?
It’s allowed me to focus much more on my health and on family. 

Beating Pros at Poker

Could you tell us more about your poker playing? When did you start, who do you play against, do you have a strategy and is it related to your previous tech work in the way you approach the game?
I hired a poker coach about 8 years ago. About 4 years ago, new software tools with names like PioSolver, MonkerSolver, and PokerSnowie were released. Using these tools plus a lot of discipline and hard work I was able to shortcut all the years of experience it previously took to become a top player. A few years ago, I won the Venetian main event for $325,000. The final table consisted of me — an unknown — and 8 top pros. I was wearing headphones and, jokingly, they were certain I must be getting advice from someone via my headphones as I played so well. It felt great to beat these young guys at 65.

“I developed a deep inner peace [at Burning Man] that has stayed with me”

Could you describe what happened to you at Burning Man?
There is no place on earth like Burning Man. Unless you have been, I can guarantee it’s not at all what you think. It’s not about sex, drugs, or even music —but you can certainly find that. It’s impossible to describe. I intend to go every year I’m able. It was life changing for me. I was 65 when I attended my first.

Age 65 seems older than what I would expect people to be at Burning Man. Are there many others your age there?
1 out of every 15 people is over 60. 

How did Burning Man change you? What surprised you most about it?
I developed a deep inner peace that has stayed with me. No matter what comes my way, even death, I know it will all be OK. It’s helped me accept retirement. I could never have expected that type of life-changing event from what is thought of as a festival for young people. 

Passion for Flying

When did you start flying, and why?
My Dad took me to a local airport when I was 13 and I was hooked after an introductory flight. I had my pilot’s license by 21 and now have over 4,000 flight hours. 

What is the feeling you get from flying?
It’s exhilarating and I’ve always loved heights. 

Do you use the plane for transportation or for recreation?
Both. I recently flew across the country and back — one of the first things I did after retirement. We live in such an immense and varied country especially as seen from the air at 5,000 feet. It took 25 hours of flying each way and I made lots of stops to see friends and visit national parks. 

What kind of plane is it, and why did you choose it?
I bought a Cessna 172 trainer brand new when I was 24 from my stock option at Intel. I’ve owned much larger planes but that 4-seater 172 has been my loyal companion for 45 years. 

What are the 3 non-negotiables in your life today?
Finding joy, especially in family, musical experiences — playing, singing, composing, listening, healthy living. 

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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