You know what’s scary? Knowing you’re on the downhill slide of life.
I’m 43–soon to be 44. Average life expectancy for a male in the U.S.: 78. That means, technically, I peaked at 39–it’s all downhill from here folks (but, it’s going to be a helluva ride!).
That also means I’m definitely in the midst of the back half of my career. Truth be told, my wife and I have designs on retiring early–real early (different blog post for a different day).
I suddenly find myself on the other side of my career arc.
And that’s kinda scary, for a lot of reasons:
1–The struggle to stay hip is real. I work a lot in digital marketing. Believe what you want, but that’s primarily a young person’s game. I don’t see a lot of uber-successful consultants in the digital marketing sector over the age of 45. I need to find new ways to stay fresh, hip and relevant. Or, I’m out of a job. And, I kinda want a job for the next 10 years.
2–Opportunities are more limited over a “certain age.” Once you reach a certain age (we’ll say 45 for sake of this post), opportunities are a bit more sparse. Why? Because at that age you’re probably looking for a director-level job or above. There just aren’t that many of those. And, people tend to stay in those jobs longer than specialist to manager-level jobs.
3–Health concerns start to become a risk. I’m healthy now (knock on wood), but once you cross the 40 barrier things start breaking in your body. Kinda like a car when you cross the 75,000 mile mark. And, I also have health concerns of others to worry about–my wife, my parents, my in-laws. I’m responsible (or partly responsible) for all those people in my life. And, they’re all getting older. And, if I or they get sick or hurt, that all takes away from time on the job.
Clearly, there are reasons to worry. And, I’m sure they’re the same reasons others consider who might be in my boat.
But, there are so many other reasons to be excited, too. It’s not all doom-and-gloom once you hit the 40 mark. There are numerous reasons to embrace this period of your professional life–and this is what I’m choosing to focus on for the next 10-15 years:
1–Working with people I enjoy working with. Michael Kraabel wrote a great post recently about this exact topic. And, I’ve been embracing it whole-heartedly for the last seven years. And, for the next 10 it will become even more important. I don’t plan to waste my time working with and for people I don’t enjoy. Even if it means making less money.
2–Seeking to LEARN from my younger counterparts. I’ve spent a lot of time the last 10+ years giving back to the younger generation. I road trip frequently to my alma mater in Winona to speak to classes. Do the same thing at the University of Minnesota (and for years, did at the University of St. Thomas, too). And, I really have enjoyed that work. But, I plan to flip that focus a bit in the next 10-15 years. Now is the time I need to learn from these younger people–because, let’s face it, there’s a lot I can pick up here. Not exactly sure how I’m going to do this just yet–thinking of a couple reverse mentor opportunities I’ve been kicking around. But, I’m looking forward to the challenge!
3–Evolve. Evolve. Evolve. If there’s one business mantra we all know to be true it’s this: Change is not optional. Translation: Adapt, or be left in the dust. This couldn’t be more true for a solo consultant. If you start treading water, you’re already 10 steps behind your competition. I’m constantly looking for ways to evolve and adapt to the constantly changing marketing environment–and I think I’ll be focusing even more time on that in the next 5-7 years. And, more often than not, it’s fun to evolve and challenge myself.