I think a lot about aging. Maybe it's because I'm 46 years old--heading quickly toward 50.
I don't think I've peaked yet in my effectiveness. I believe my best, most productive years are in front of me. But I also am very aware that when someone reaches their peak and begins to lose effectiveness--they are usually the last one to know. (Consider Roger Clemens, Brett Favre, Patrick Ewing and others).
I hopefully have another fifteen really productive, top-of-my-game, years left in me. But what then? What will my final chapter look like. Many people live two or three decades after they "retire." That is a long time.
There are several men and women I highly respect who are older than me by fifteen or twenty years. They don't know it, but I'm watching them with great interest and I'm taking notes. Some of them are really impressive and they have my highest respect. Here is what I've noticed about the ones who continue to have great influence and high impact well into their 60's and 70's and beyond...
- They don't have to be in charge.
- They are comfortable influencing people one at a time, without reward or recognition.
- They are aware of their social capital. That is, they know they have wisdom gained and networks established from decades of work--and they leverage all of it to better the world.
- They ask a ton of questions. They are voracious learners. They don't think of themselves as smarter or wiser than everyone else. They know they don't have all the answers.
- They come beside young leaders and pour everything they can into those men and women. They are more interested in the success of these young leaders than of their own success.
- They are secure in who they are. No one needs to know what they accomplished earlier in their life.
A friend of mine just turned 65-years old, and over drinks one afternoon he gave me some parenting perspective that I really needed at that moment. I later thanked him for taking the time to pour into me and let me know I wasn't crazy. He was honored, and said, "It would be a crime to let experience and wisdom go the grave. It has to be passed on."
As for me, that is my prayer.