Age is Just a Number: Older is Not Wiser, Younger is Not More Youthful
I was thinking about this as I turned 48 this year. I decided to spend it in Hawaii because why not? You do the regular things like lots of beach and ocean time, shopping and plenty of good eating. But the best thing is the people watching. Hawaii, just like Las Vegas, is an incredible microcosm of the entire population of America who come to paradise to vacation. You see people of all different races, ages, socioeconomic situations and also physiques.
It struck me that age is a relative thing. I saw 20 somethings who looked and moved like 60 year olds and 60 year olds who moved, looked and acted like 30 or 40 year olds. How many of you have seen men or women aged 40 who look like they are 60 years old. Beaten down by life. A bad diet and lifestyle. Prematurely aged. I am sure we have all met people like this who live a sedentary, aimless and frankly poor lifestyle.
This is in contrast to a professor I met in Hawaii, named Dr. J who created a program called Philosophy for Children at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He must have been in his early 70s but what a dynamo! With the energy level of a 16 year old teen.
Some of this is due to DNA and genetics, a lot due to lifestyle and diet. The old argument of nature versus nurture. But a big part of this, I think, is due to their mindset and having a bigger driving purpose. Ikigai as the Japanese call it.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ikigai as “a motivating force; something or someone that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living”. More generally it may refer to something that brings pleasure or fulfillment.
This man, Dr. J, has a powerful and infectious energy because he loves what he is doing and is able to spend his life doing it. He was a great reminder to me of why I do what I do.
I look back in my 20s and 30s and think about how hard I grinded, working 100+ hour work weeks. I did it because I was scared of poverty, searching for money and wanting to learn and excel in my career. A big part was when you don’t know anything, you just have to “brute force” it by working hard. You have to do this to learn and go up the learning curve.
I did this also because I just did not know any better. As a clueless dummy who did not understand how the world truly worked. I made a lot of money but I also spent a lot of money. Growing up without much money, I wanted to experience the lifestyle I thought I was supposed to. The typical middle class curse & stupidity of keeping up with Jones by keeping up a high cost structure and struggling paycheck to paycheck. The more money you make, the more expensive your lifestyle grows. You get caught up in this crazy treadmill like a brain dead hamster.
Uggh, I can’t believe I did this stupidly for over 24 years. Although in my defense, in society, especially in the United States we are taught to be “consumers” not “producers.” It takes some time and experiencing not a little bit of pain for ignoramuses like me to learn this and break through this mental block.
Thankfully I did make that breakthrough. And I can honestly say as a 48 year old, I’m more energized than ever before. I get up excited about the day in ways I have never been before. As stated before, it’s because I have a clear mission, I do work I enjoy and get to work with people I genuinely like and respect. Ie. people I choose to work with. But I also value my health and time so much more. I sleep more and nap a lot. I exercise every day & get as much sun as I can, even in foggy San Francisco.
I certainly eat healthier than I ever have. It’s almost criminal how unhealthy and terrible our diets were even just 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. And it helps that in my work, I get to spend time with so many young and brilliant people. These amazing startupers and technologists from across the world. I feel like a vampire absorbing their energy, enthusiasm and brilliance. The difference at this stage of my life, I hope I am a little bit wiser and know a little bit more. As they say, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
Age is relative and a state of mind. I hope when people see or meet me they see someone who looks and has the energy of someone 20–30 years younger than my actual age. My aim and hope is that I can show and pass this energy to everyone I meet and interact with along the way. And I hope to combine this with all the experience I’ve learned the hard way.
If this old dog can do this, so can you! Sending my Aloha spirit to you.