I’m glad to be a turtle in the race of life. Slow and steady progress makes the wins sweeter and the journey more interesting.
Last week, I wrote about the value of age diversity in the workplace. This weekend, I read this amazing article about Dr. John Goodenough, a 94-year-old scientist who is on the verge of inventing a battery that could turn the way we power our world on its head in a good way. In the very best way. In a way that replaces fossil fuels, and drastically reduces the cost of energy to our wallets and to the environment.
The article goes on to talk about the successes that so many people, particularly patent-holders, find later in life. And by later, I don’t mean their 40s. I mean their 50s, 60s, and beyond. In an age where we find ourselves obsessed with 20-under-20 and 30-under-30 lists, I’m embracing all that is beginning to bloom in my life now and all of the blooming that’s destined to find all of us in the decades ahead. The data shows that the best is yet to come, and I believe in data.
“Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.” ~ Charles Schultz, Peanuts creator
My friend, John, shared an article in which he’s mentioned. Everyone of every age should read it. It’s about the value of older people in the workforce and that constant tug-of-war between young and not-so-young employees. At 41, I’m in that mid-zone. I call it the messy middle. Not quite young, but not quite old either. I would say my spirit, interests, and curiosity lean younger while my experience level and sensibilities lean older. Lately, I’ve been having this exact conversation about the messy middle with many friends of all ages.
One of the many great gifts in my career has been that in every job except for one, I’ve had co-workers that range from brand-new college grads to those on the doorstep of retirement and everything in-between. (And that one exception was a doozy that I’m glad to have in my rearview mirror! It stands as the shining example of what a lack of age- and experience-diversity does to a team—it makes it stagnant.) Nowhere was this age-diversity more prevalent than in professional theater. At 22, I had friends who were triple my age and then some. Their stories and experience taught me about life, work, and friendship in a way that I never could have learned if I was surrounded by other 22 year olds. And my youth at the time had something to offer, too—a new way of seeing and doing things that hadn’t been done before. These were my very first professional experiences and they have been the bedrock on which I’ve built the last 20 years of my career. That healthy, two-way respect between generations is a foundational element of not only my work, but my life. My friend group still reflects that diversity in age and experience, and I hope it always does.
My point in all of this is that everyone at every age has something to bring to the table that is different and valuable in its own way. We all have something to learn from each other but to make that learning possible, everyone on a team has to remain open to entirely different perspectives. Listen without waiting for our turn to talk. Ask questions. Walk in someone else’s shoes. Try to understand the other side of an argument even though it so directly contradicts our own. Ask for help. Offer help. Support one another. Cheer for one another. Celebrate every win and loss because each offers something we need at the exact moment we need it.
Let’s replace the tug-of-war between generations in the workplace and in life with a hug and smile. We can go further together.