It’s hard for me to believe, but on November 22nd, I turn 60 years old. I feel awkward even writing that down. I don’t feel 60. In my younger years, everyone I knew who was 60 seemed…well…old. Not anymore. 60 is the new 50, as far as I’m concerned. And while I don’t plan on stopping any time soon, I have slowed down my cadence from when I was 50. And in the midst of a more intentional pace, I am taking time to reflect on my life and what I believe really matters. Not just on the outside, but the inside as well. Am I living wisely and satisfactorily as I take the final laps of my life and my career?
In response to this question, I offer six suggestions to those younger than me. As you progress past midlife, I encourage you to pursue some of these goals I went after below.
1. Find and do what gives you energy.
By the time you reach midlife, I hope that you’ve found a career or routine that fits who you are, the way you’re gifted and what you’re genuinely interested in. As you move toward 60, I encourage you to locate and do what absolutely energizes you. Earlier in our careers, we had less authority to insist on this; we had to put in time and often do what needed to be done, even if it was outside our wheelhouse. Today, I still have essential tasks that don’t excite me, but the majority of my time—I invest in tasks and projects that not only fit my gift mix, but they wake me up in the morning and energize me. I’m writing more, speaking, crafting our vision and mentoring other leaders most of my time.
2. Identify the right measuring stick.
Too many senior leaders have admitted to me that they chose the wrong barometer with which to measure their life. They evaluated it by income, or a corner office, or 401K or some other raw number, and now wish they’d focused on their family, their children (who are now grown) their generosity or some other meaningful way of assessing value. They committed the proverbial “sin” of climbing the ladder only to find it was leaning against the wrong building. Too many people ask: “how much will I make?” all their life, when they should have been asking: “how much can I give back?” I believe our jobs are merely platforms for which we can accomplish our real “work.” This work may be a contribution that’s far greater than anything an employer asks us to do.
3. Say no to most opportunities.
As you progress toward age 60, you must master the art of saying “no.” This is difficult especially for some personalities—those who are people pleasers; those who hate to disappoint anyone. Saying “no,” however, is the secret to an effective second half. You move from saying “yes” to almost anything as you begin your career (to prove your credibility) to saying “no” most of the time because you’re so in touch with what you’re truly gifted and called to do with the remaining days of your life. Your ego is tamed; your need for accolades subsides; the desire for recognition is under control and you can settle in to focus on the few things that are worth your time and attention. Steve Jobs took no solace in the things he said “yes” to but in the many opportunities, he said “no” to in his career.
4. Win the respect of those closest to you.
Thanks to social media, millions of people have begun using a life “scorecard” of how many likes, shares, views and followers they have. We don’t even realize it, but we focus on winning over people we don’t even know. It’s ridiculously superficial. It has so affected social media users that Instagram is considering removing the ability to see who and how many people “liked” your post. Why? Too many are depressed and obsessed. I have a better target to hit. What if we focus our energy on winning the respect of our spouse, our kids as they age, our closest friends and colleagues—you know, the people who actually know us. It’s a far more accurate report card of a successful life. I have no greater reward than to hear my wife tell others that her husband actually practices what he preaches.
5. Decide what finishing well looks like.
My friend and colleague, Steve Moore, and I often talk about this topic: what does it look like to finish well? Too many of us have a highlight in our careers, but somehow, we drift as we age and fail to live by those same standards as seasoned veterans. We’re tired. We don’t care as much. We have aches and pains. Instead, why not be proactive about deciding what a “win” looks like as we close out our careers? I now have a clearer picture of how I want to end my career and life. I hope to equip 32 million young influencers who experience our Habitudes®, then get involved in projects that solve problems and serve people—before I pass the baton to others. It’s easier to hit a goal you can see.
6. Determine what you want people to thank you for.
For years, I have reminded myself of the “life sentence” I want to be remembered for; the single description others will say about me when I am gone. My friend Sandra Stanley has actually made this exercise more real: imagine what you want people to line up and thank you for when you’re in your final years of life. Those people may not have time to express thanks for a hundred valuable acts you performed; maybe just one or two. So, I believe it’s a healthy guide to choose what you want folks to express gratitude for right now and live by those ideals. This is one way to ensure those are the “thank you’s” you’ll actually get. It’s living with the end in mind. Think high road. Think big picture. Think long term.
I hope this simple list is helpful. Would you add anything to the list?
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