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If you’ve been lurking here for a while, you’ll know I’m on the other side of 50. You’ll also know that I fervently believe the years between 40 to 65 are the best years of our lives.
When I was young, dumb and full of hormones, I was like a puppy let off his leash in a park full of sprinklers. I had a million ideas but zero experience in execution. It didn’t matter, though – I tried dozens of them and failed at just about all of them. I pursued some for well over a year, but others I quit almost as soon as I began. I wasn’t fazed because I knew I had plenty of time.
Now that I’m 52, I know I don’t have forever, so I’m a lot more selective about what gets my attention. It’s not just an aversion to financial risk, but the impost on my precious time that keeps me wary.
And yet despite possibly having fewer tomorrows than yesterdays, I believe right now is the best time to be alive. Much like Buffett’s hockey-stick wealth chart, I feel like I’m just getting into my stride.
One reason is I now have a collection of guiding principles to filter ideas as they flow through my Shiraz-addled brain. Typically, for any idea to warrant my attention, it must offer some kind of purpose beyond making a buck or impressing others. And if they take me away from the people and practices that matter most to me, they don’t even get a look in.
Recently, I watched an interview with Tim Ferriss and my son’s favourite comedian, Kevin Hart. When asked how he handles saying no to people, opportunities or obligations, he revealed that the older he gets, the less inclined he is to explain himself.
I reached a similar position when I hit 40. If I didn’t want to do something, I wouldn’t. Period. And that’s how I continue to operate today.
This brings us to the first reason why I’m convinced that if you’re over 40, it isn’t too late to change your life. Matter of fact now is the best time to do it.
You know who you’re NOT.
Spend any time at all on the Web and particularly, social media, and you’ll witness the spectacle of people faking it till they make it. You’ll see them claiming to be successful at something, and for just $997, they’ll share all their glorious secrets with you.
Likes and follows are the new currency. But you and I know that followers do not make your life better. In most cases, they don’t equal a business, either. They’re vanity metrics, and they only bear a loose connection, at best, to the quality of real work you produce.
Personally, I’m not in a rush. Rushing is expensive. Rushing gave me a heart attack, it sent me broke, and it probably fuelled the demise of my last marriage. I’m someone who’s failed at many things and is now building a life that has purpose, meaning and pleasure. Some of that requires money, yes, but it’s only a by-product of the service I deliver. If I’m good, I eat well. If I’m not, I have to be happy living on beans and rice. I’m OK with that. Like I said, there’s no rush.
Knowing who you refuse to be is a real advantage, and places you ahead of the young pups who’ll jab at anything for a quick buck or a boost to their social following.
Take your time – most things grow exponentially.
You have experience.
In the old days, having experience meant something. And it still does. It’s just become clouded by the concept of celebrity, where you can become known for just being…known.
But when you have experience in something, no matter what that thing is, there’s always someone ready to learn it from you. And because your audience is virtually everywhere (thanks to the Internet), your unique experience can find an audience of like minds on the four corners of the globe. I have readers and listeners from 161 countries. That wasn’t possible 25 years ago.
The other important element, here: it’s YOUR experience. That means it’s coloured with your unique perspective; including the scars, successes and failures. These are valuable commodities, and they bring authenticity and humanity to whatever you share with the world. No one can replicate it.
That’s why it’s possible to enter a crowded field and still be successful. It’s because your voice and your unique take on things will resonate with certain people, where other people won’t.
Bottom line: there’s room for you.
Skills are easy to acquire.
My dad is 83. He was a builder his whole life, and on every single structure he built, he hammered in the nails by hand. He was old-school, and he was a true master. It would have been easy for him to shun new ideas. After all, he lives in the mountains surrounded by nature and his needs are few and simple.
Yet the old guy has embraced technology and continues to build his skill-set. He’s been retired for years, but he has a laptop, an iPhone and Wi-Fi in his mountain home. He knows that new skills and the knowledge required to develop them are just a few clicks away. And so he continues to learn.
And it’s the same with all of us. We’re no longer hampered by the old limitations. We don’t need a university degree or wealthy parents or even the right connections to have a go at something new. There are online training courses, free podcasts, ebooks, and online communities we can join that will have us skilled up and ready to tackle just about anything we can dream.
How do you think Elon Musk learned about space travel? He pulled up Google on his laptop and started reading, that’s how. Then he borrowed and devoured dozens of textbooks. Once he had a foundational level of knowledge, he sought out and learned from others in the aerospace industry.
Now I would swim across an ocean of thumbtacks just to be eclipsed by the long shadow cast by Elon’s accomplishments, but if I think about it, I’ve done similar things, too. When I wanted to be a photographer, I bought books and magazines on the craft, and I practised my arse off. Then I sought out the wisdom and expertise of others who were already successful photographers and practised some more. I was relentless. That approach got me through the door of one of Australia’s top magazine stables at the ripe old age of eighteen.
Nowadays, you hardly have to spend a cent. Make Google your friend and a world of knowledge will bow before you.
The Internet is the ultimate multiplier.
I once helped my dad with a fencing job. As a reward for my work, I received a beautiful vintage camera collection, which the grateful client gave to my father. From that day, my interest in photography began, and it’s something I’ve been passionate about since I picked up that first Voigtlander rangefinder in 1980 when I was twelve years old.
As a mad dirt bike rider, I immediately set about honing my skills at the local track. I’d photograph everyone, then attempt to sell them prints the following weekend. It was a good little earner. Later, my attention turned to real estate agents. Armed with a collection of Cokin filters, I tried to make a name for myself photographing houses for sale in a more artistically appealing fashion. I scored a few regulars, but it was hard work since I didn’t have a car back then.
Now contrast this with today’s opportunity. Thanks to the Internet, you can work for people all over the world. Email and file-sharing sites make this a doddle, while platforms like Freelancer, Upwork, Medium, Shopify and WordPress make it possible for you to start with little to no capital whatsoever. And you can do it from anywhere! We’ve never had it so good!
Nowadays, you can create something (tangible or otherwise) and send it out and into the world from your kitchen table. No generation before you has had that kind of opportunity.
You’ll probably live longer than you think.
One of my favourite sayings is, “Your biggest mistake is you think you have time.” Another is, “You’ll never be as young as you are today.” The spirit of these is simple. Time passes quickly. We put things off till tomorrow, only to grow old and crusty and wonder where all the time went.
But as valuable as these words might seem, we’re also living at a time where medical science and holistic practices are elevating us to new heights of good health and longevity.
Pursuing long-held dreams in latter years is more achievable than it was a generation ago. Moreover, immersing yourself in the pursuit of something worthwhile affords a longer, happier, more fulfilling life.
Being 45 or 65 or even 85 does not mean your ship has sailed. It’s still there, waiting for you to board. Your job is to swim out to it, hoist yourself aboard and set a course for the life you want. It needn’t be an ‘epic’ journey, it need only be yours.
Changing your life and becoming who you really are is easier than it’s ever been. So get busy, the world is waiting for you.
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