Sunday, May 5, 2019

I'm Not That Old

“Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Satchel Paige

I had a very chatty Uber driver a couple weeks ago.

On the way from my hotel to the airport, Mohammed (“Ned”) asked what brought me to St. Louis. I told him that I was there to teach some classes and help out at an industry event, coaching other business owners to help them succeed. He was intrigued, so he asked me more questions: why St. Louis, where the conference was, and how long I’ve been doing this.

I told Ned that I’ve been helping to facilitate these events for about a decade, spent five years on the board of directors of the non-profit that runs them, and now still travel to help out when I can. Then I told him that I’ve owned my own business for nearly eight years, but have been involved in my industry off and on (mostly on) for over 20 years (nearly 28 to be exact, as I was 12 when my parents opened their first business and I would “help out”).

“Twenty years!?,” he exclaimed. “You don’t look like you’re old enough for that!”

I told Ned that I’d be 40 in a few weeks. He stared at me in the rearview mirror with a slightly confused look in his eyes, then flattered me and told me that he would have guessed my age much younger.

Ned proceeded to tell me that he himself was 41 … and then it was my turn to look slightly confused. I held my tongue and refrained from telling him that I would have guessed his age much older.

I liked Ned. His eyes told me that his life hasn’t always been easy, but his positive attitude and cheerfulness told me that he has a bright future; he’s just getting started.

I remember when my parents each turned 40. I was quite young then, but still remember the over-the-hill signs, black balloons, age-insulting greeting cards, jokes, and general state of pall that we tried our best to instill in the air. It was funny for us. But, looking back, my parents were still so young then! They were just getting started.

A few months ago, I had to get my first pair of readers. I joked at the time that I was “prepping for the middle ages.” But then someone corrected me and said that “40 isn’t middle aged!” And I got curious. So, I Wikipediaed it. Indeed, the U.S. census defines “middle age” as 45-64. Other sources define it as starting as early as 35, which seems entirely too young to me. But 40 seems to be the most commonly accepted number.

While I was doing research, I also wanted to definitively find out when a person is “over the hill.” I thought for sure it was also 40, but then some hokey recently corrected me on that as well. So, I turned to Google and—surprise, surprise—I was correct on that too. By and large, “over the hill” is defined as starting at 40.

So, with all that settled, I can confidently say that I’ll soon officially be “over the hill” and “middle aged"intimidating phrases, indeed!

For the past year, I’ve seen post after post as nearly everyone else in my graduating class has hit 40. (I was one of the younger ones in my class, so I’ll be one of the last to hit the mark.) Most of them look great! Some are settled in, raising families, with growing/grown kids (and some with grandkids); some are starting new chapters and off on fantastical adventures; some seem very successful while others may have had a rough go of it for a while. But, more often than not, my peers are looking young, feeling young, and still acting young. They’re just getting started.

I returned to my research to see what celebrities were born in 1979 who also turn 40 this year and was surprised by some of the notables: Kate Hudson, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Love Hewitt, John Krazinski, Adam Levine, Rosario Dawson, Claire Danes, Jason Momoa, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and Pink. I would have thought some of these people to be younger than I am (and a few I would have thought to be older but holding up well.) But, no, they’re all my age! Some have had long careers, some are starting their second act, and some are just getting started.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. I see a lot of my clients’ IDs and It amazes me how wrong I often am in trying to pin someone’s age down by looks and attitude alone. We’re all a product of our genetics, lifestyle, health, habits, past experiences, activity level, self-care (or lack thereof), stress level, responsibilities, surroundings, and flat out dumb luck.

As the old saying goes, “You’re only as young as you feel.” I feel incredibly lucky to feel young, and apparently look young. Yes, if you look closely you’ll find plenty of grey hairs. And, as would be expected after four decades of wear and tear, I have plenty of weird aches and pains … but they’re manageable. I’m definitely not 18 anymore, but just when I may be feeling a little “over the hill,” someone like Ned comes along and makes me feel incredibly young again.

Indeed, I’ve been very lucky. And I’m very grateful for the advantages I’ve been given. But attitude trumps luck, and it’s our attitude that can make all the difference in how old we act and how old we feel.

I’m just getting started.

Marty Johnson is an entrepreneur, writer, and business coach. He serves as ex officio Director of Communication for AMBC, Editor of MBC Today, and is the owner of Uncle Marty's Shipping Office in Ithaca, NY, where he's also Co-Founder of the Collegetown Small Business Alliance. Please visit him at #AskUncleMarty