I often write about the plight of the older worker. Unfortunately, we see how the very workforce they may have served well for decades often treats them like some turncoat and kicks them to the curb. Many were replaced by technology while others by someone half their age at half their salary.
What a shame.
In my opinion, companies, investors and society as a whole have been hurt by the practice. So here are some words of wisdom from a guy who will soon be 57 and who is happy to share his experience to any (and all) for the good of the tribe. Some of these are career lessons and others are simply prompted by life events.
1. People are Generally Good.
Don’t get caught in the headlines. News organizations put out the horrific terror stories because they make money. “Daughter gives kidney to father” stories are awesome and happen all the time. But they don’t sell. Most people want to help and will if they can. It is at the core of our DNA.
2. Finding Your Why For me, life is about creating experiences for others and consuming experiences of others. They go in tandem. I realize now what my life is about and what value I bring to mankind. I arrived at this conclusion over the past year. It is quite humbling.
3. The Journey with the Kids
We have three boys. Two are in college, one has graduated and is working. They made it through the teen years with a few scrapes and bruises but are on their way. We can see a future for them as ours slowly changes. It’s a big house.
4. Time is Precious and Fleeting It feels like yesterday that I turned 50. Seven years gone in a flash. I am certain it does not slow down from here. Make that bucket list and start ticking them off. We flew to California for Desert Trip because we wanted to and had a great time. We went to Alaska 5 years ago and talk about the trip frequently. I decided to start writing at 54. In 2018, I will publish my first book
5. I Have Uncertainty About What Happens When You Die I have seen and experienced so much but am not confident anything happens when it’s all over. I do hope I am wrong on this one.
6. The Best Days are Ahead for Human Kind I am optimistic for the future. Even with all the issues facing humankind. Hatred, poverty, sickness, terrorism, wars current and expected and everything else I believe we will thrive. The issues of today will make us better as we will work through them and be better for it.
7. Your Career Work Becomes Easier This is because you have experience, are very confident and sure of yourself. The reality of how you are perceived in the workplace though is dire. People are generally mean and disrespectful to aging workers. I saw this at a place I worked once. The CEO actually said in a senior management meeting. “There are too many old people working here.” I was floored and counted myself as one of those “old people.”
It is during my fifties when I reworked my network and connections. Kind of like a hurricanes eye wall replacement cycle. I have done this (meaning I have dropped some and added others). Like a storm, I am certain my network is stronger now after making the changes. I highly recommend you constantly reassess the value you are receiving from the people you surrounded yourself with. This is important in your fifties, as your network will catapult you through your career in your sixties. See my article The Core of Your Network and Why it’s Important.
I believe I am at my absolute best right now.
Further, I know I will continue to improve over the next years and decades. I’ll be sure to keep the lessons learned flowing to my network and followers. For now, good luck creating experiences for others and be sure to share your results to continue to learn and evolve. It is how we grow.
Do you think of our your life as having a purpose? Can you reason that you are here to contribute something for others to consume? Over the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that my WHY is really quite simple. In fact, it is so simple it can be fully described in five words.
Over the past few years I have figured out my “Why.” I spent real time thinking about what made me, me. I didn’t set out to answer the Why question until it was suggested to me by my friend, Sarah Elkins. Last year she invited me to the first No Longer Virtual session in Atlanta. Two days of workshops to meet, to learn, and to connect face to face with some super-talented people. I jumped at the opportunity. I went, participated, learned and made a couple of handfuls of new friends who shared a common love of communicating.
I take great pride in the teams I have built and led over the years. At the risk of sounding discriminatory, I have found that I have tried to hire morally good people. I often say in the workplace that “I hire people who are good out there and in here too.” I have high integrity, and I expect it from the people I lead. I have been fired for refusing to lower my integrity quotient. I have quit for the same reason. There are some things I am unwilling to do for money. I am a Marketing and Sales executive. There are ample situations where bending the truth or over stating something present themselves.
Pumping my head with someone else’s words helps me form my own. It’s that simple.
I read a lot and listen to music all the time particularly when I read. Even in the office. I have had a boom box under my desk for many years. I am respectful to others and will ask if it is ok if I play it during conversations. I have never had someone tell me no. I turn it off for conference calls and more formal meetings.
My beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen, passed eight years ago. This is a difficult time for me. Spring is here, my favorite season. Another year has passed into eternity for her. And another year gone in the countdown that began for me in 1960.
Karen’s soul had no presence. Except when it was gone. And it feels stronger as the days pass. Her death being a transference from something as inconsequential as life to an existence that has no substance. A state that is far more meaningful once it can’t be touched or experienced. A paradox of beauty, wonder and mystery that lasts forever.
Post originally posted on The Good Men Project, September 12, 2016
The heroic actions taken by so many to help, save and comfort others. Our collective loss. Describing the events of that day is difficult and emotional. I remember it was a beautiful day with bright blue skies and not a cloud for as far as the eye can see.
I spent some time thinking about the day after 9/11, what I remember and what we experienced. We had every TV in the house turned on. I can still see the video in my head of the Towers falling, the Pentagon, and the field in Shanksville, PA. It was here where Todd Beamer and the men and women on United Flight 93 would end their heroic fight with the bad guys. They saved many lives.
The company I was working for at the time was not doing well. We were due to close a deal for a much-needed investment on 9/11 but the events of the day postponed it.
I didn’t go to work that day like so many others. The lot where people parked to commute by train to NYC was still full of cars. I reasoned on this day that it was because so many hadn’t come home the night before. On this day, I would start to pick up our local papers. I did this for several weeks, to read about the people who lost their lives. I would find the names of a dozen people I knew in some way, shape or form. These included a friend and brother from my college fraternity. The American Red Cross parking lot near my house was full of vehicles. Cars were also parked all over the grass in front of the building. These were the cars of local citizens donating blood. I remember driving through town, everyone you saw had pain in their eyes. People stopped to let you pass; everyone held doors open for one another. I saw many people hugging each other, embracing and supporting.
The company I was working for at the time was not doing well. We were due to close a deal for a much-needed investment on 9/11 but the events of the day postponed it. We figured we would go out of business.
On 9/12 we started to see the first of what would become frequent interviews with Howard Lutnick. He is the CEO of the NYC-based brokerage, Cantor Fitzgerald. His business had lost many people including two of my friends. He helped many families and kept the firm alive.
Our three young boys became fixated on the TV. We tried to describe what had happened but no amount of explaining made any sense to them, or us. We had the family over to our house and spent time with close friends sharing stories. The TV continued to show the jagged piece of metal which was all that remained of the place where I once worked. I thought about the people inside the buildings a lot. I remember what it was like going down 72 flights of stairs on 2/26/1993. This is the date of the first World Trade Center attack. I couldn’t get my head around it then and still cannot to this day.
It’s been 15 years, in our yard the flag will fly at half-mast for the month of September. We respect and honor those who have fallen.
On this day and for weeks many people were interviewed on TV describing what they saw or experienced. They were looking for lost friends or family members. They described what they looked like and repeated their names. You could see the hope in their eyes that someone watching had seen them. People started to post pictures around the WTC site. In a few days, they would show up at the train station near where I live. The unclaimed cars of the victims remained. Everyone hoped and prayed their loved one would come home, alive.
On 9/12/2001 we started to learn about the fearless leadership of the firefighters and police officers. These stories would continue for years. We came to know the personalities of these heroes and the actions they had taken to help others. The collective response of these men and women was limitless and without boundaries of any kind.
It’s been 15 years, in our yard the flag will fly at half-mast for the month of September. We respect and honor those who have fallen. Despite such a tragic event, I firmly believe people are kind and genuine in heart. Soon October will approach and remind me to raise the flag. I will cry once again knowing I will have to find the strength to raise it.
I have worked in many places. Big companies, small companies, some thriving and some failing. Start-ups, turnarounds and places on cruise control. Years ago I worked in a business where my predecessors had gone on to commit career suicide, their graves scattered across the corporate minefield that is technology. Driving a company and millions of dollars into the ground does have benefits, though: millions more investment dollars. Others walked the plank, a sword in their back, fell, and drowned. When you work around and enable Wall Street, you are another hole in the same pincushion. Good luck trying to be different. I have scars on my back from doing that, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are the tattoos I never got, but admired on others at the beach. My own tramp stamp.
We all have that “atta boy” or “atta girl” folder in our minds of past successes. I actually have a manila folder from back in the day with some career highlights in it. One is from my first real job in the early ’80s. There’s a deli napkin with the following words written on it: “Effective in September, your new base salary will be $32,000. Keep the fires burning.” This amounted to a $5,000 pay raise for me. While the inflation at the time was high, this was my biggest accomplishment in my young career. I also became an officer of the bank where I was working. Did I know what I was doing? No. I got by because I was enthusiastic and showed up each day. It is funny what can set you apart from the competition sometimes.
Enthusiasm alone isn’t enough to sustain a long career or to bring you to new heights of success, though. I would learn that over time. Define it however you want: money, titles, free time and giving back are all measures of being successful. Having an impact, a lasting one, is important to me. I want to leave some corporate graffiti behind that is my version of “Kilroy was here.” It will be for others to experience or have a laugh at. Either is fine with me.
So you build on your experiences over time, over decades. You become an encyclopedia of business knowledge. These are the situations you have worked in, handled, or failed at. If a typical career is thirty-five to fifty-five years, one day you will close the book.
And be forgotten?
That sucks. If that is how it is ends for you, I refuse. I am going out in a blaze of glory on the back of wherever I am employed. I had never planned on working forever, but over the past five-plus years I have determined that is what I want to do. I tried not working for a long period, and it was a waste of my time. I wish I could have the time back. It won’t return for me.
So I am thirty-plus years into a career. I have done the math, and figure I will live an average man’s lifetime. Thinking I have another twenty-five years or so to go, I imagine what I can do with the time I have left.
My best opportunity to date arrived when I was thirty-nine. I would imagine there is quite a lot left to do. Believe me, I still want to travel and relax. Seeing the pyramids is on my list. I don’t want to go now for fear of not returning for whatever I am going to do next. I believe they will still be there when I am ready.
I also know I will continue to add critical skills to my repertoire. I am not done learning. Believe in a lifetime of knowledge and experiences. Your final goodbye will be the last one, in my way of thinking.
I have passed through my career with strong relationships, a posse of men and women I have counted on over the years. They are at the core of my network. As I sit and ponder my next move to growing a business vs. turning one around from failure, I have some questions. How will my team change? Who are the new people who will teach me things I never knew? Who will be with me as we discover new experiences together? Will they pass them on to others following in our footsteps? Who will emerge as a beacon, a leader I will follow in my next chapter? That’s one of the true rewards of a body of work well done. Who you teach. What they learn. If they can change you from leader to follower. I am open to it. What will they pass on for the greater good, and will their followers have the guts to do the same?
Advancing life happens throughout a career. If you are performing meaningful work, that is where the reward comes from. The key is to be part of an organization that is more a movement than a business. Revenues and profits are important, and most important when they create an energy that feeds on itself for a reason other than numbers on a page. Want to make money? Be a trader; you create nothing formidable or real only money for yourself. Want to have an impact on society? Make something useful and teach others how to do it. The rewards? The impact you have on all who follow.
Popular now is the saying “There is no there there.” According to Stackexchange: The original is from Gertrude Stein in a quote about her birthplace, Oakland CA. The meaning of the entire sentence is that she didn’t find a sense of place, a center, or anything substantial or important enough to warrant calling the town of Oakland some place by even a name. This statement got me thinking about a simple twist on the same word as it relates to a job choice.
If you accept a new opportunity, you must be able to answer the question. Is there a here here? If you can, then you might have something. The answer takes the form: Here is the here here.
The first here is a point in time
It’s now, 2017. You are at a stage in your life where you have made a decision to explore a new opportunity. People leave their current job six months to a year before they make the move. You’ve made the decision so the clock has started and the countdown has begun. Good luck because it will be a bumpy road. Navigating the job market and working your network to find that gem which gets you excited is hard work. Oh, and remember you have to hold down the fort at your current gig, so you don’t get shown the door. You have several balls to juggle but taking care how you manage your move is paramount.
The second here is identifying the opportunity
It is the most important of the three here’s. It’s the opportunity. The reason you get up in the morning. You join a company to do something or perform a function. The opportunity drives you and is what gets you thinking. Your thinking drives your activities, which in turn has an impact on the business. Is it a turn-around opportunity? A growth opportunity? A chance to build a function? I have done all three and prefer building and growth over scaling back for a turn-around. When a company has poor performance, and you are a senior leader, it can be scary. You’re sitting in the cockpit and staring at the ground as it accelerates toward you. Pull on the yoke and close your eyes. Growth and building something are like the arrival of spring. Longer days, warmer weather make us all feel good and being in a growing business does too. Rapid growth is so much fun you may often forget about many things that are important to you. I remember my wife saying to me once “even when you’re home, you’re not here.” That hurt but she was right. I was having a ball at my job at a small technology company. It was around the time that we closed two, multi-million dollar deals, on the same day. We had changed the trajectory of the business. I knew I would have a stream of commission dollars coming my way. I also understood that we had increased the valuation of the VC-backed company. It was the goal I had hoped for and worked so hard to meet. I realized the second here.
The third here is the company where the opportunity resides
Is it Snapchat, Betterment or a start-up (insert name). It might be Microsoft. You have identified the industry, sector and narrowed it down to the particular company. You have also determined the role, title, and your compensation. Here I am, Senior Vice President of Business Development at YouNameIt technology company. My compensation is X dollars, and my office is in Boston with global responsibilities. It is the place you have decided to hang your hat. You have agreed to become part of the company’s prevailing culture. It is super important you understand this. It will be a part of you and your personal brand for the rest of your career. We are all judged to some degree by where we work, so be careful. Think of the reputations ruined as a result of the financial crisis for those who worked on Wall Street. How about working for Volkswagen right now or Kmart? Strap in and welcome aboard.
Before you set out on your journey to find that next great opportunity, spend some time building a plan. You’ll want to understand where you are in your life and the conditions around you. It’s the point in time and your relation to those things which are vital to you. Next, work hard to identify that great opportunity which gets your blood flowing. Think about it and don’t settle. How many great opportunities are not realized by not sticking to it and accepting a lessor role? Join a reputable firm which has a solid culture and reputation in the marketplace. Work with people who are good at their jobs and who are good people when they aren’t working. This way you will be able to explain to someone else: Here is the here here.
We recently had to put our beloved pet, Dash, down. It was the most difficult decision we have made as a family. It has been several weeks, and none of us feel all that much better. We all have a deep feeling of longing for our canine companion for the past twelve years.
I have taken the time to think this through, and I know why this is so painful for our family.
When you bring a dog into your home, it’s like having a new baby in your family. It is dependent on you for everything. Food, shelter, play, doing business, love, pain, and learning. Those first few years are very much a parent/child relationship. The puppy looks to you for everything, and we are oh so delighted to show them the way. We had so much fun together as a family. The five of us laughing and running around. Chasing the ball that is life.
Dash was aging at a rate about seven times ours. By the end of the next few years, we were at the same stage of life, middle age. We did this together. I felt there was a mutual respect between us. We disagreed about where to poop now and then and didn’t talk for a while, but that was about it. When I went to work in the morning, he would race me to the corner as I drove to the stop sign. Regardless of the weather, it became our daily routine. I would lower the window and say “you can’t beat me.” He won every time, for a long time.
I am not sure if he just did something bad or was about to but we caught him either way.
Dash helped us raise our kids and became a father figure to them. He kept the house in balance, something we wouldn’t realize existed for several more years when it became shattered. Dash knew who was hurting and allied himself with us until the pain passed. He sat by my side for a long time after my beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen, died in 2009. Her canine pet, Windsor, is Dash’s brother. He is a year older but still thriving.
Over time, Dash became older than I am. He had a huge following in the neighborhood. Everyone knew him. We put a stone out near the corner bus stop and painted “Dash’s Corner” on it. Each day Dash would escort kids to the bus. In the afternoon, he would greet the children from the neighborhood when they returned from school. They looked forward to it; he looked forward to it.
We walked and talked together. Not every day but often during the past few years. Dash looked forward to his walk, and he liked it when I spoke to him. Sometimes I would receive a call on my cell phone. He would slow down, or stop. Dash would stare at me with a look that said, “what the F are you doing?” He knew I had directed my attention elsewhere. He was right. I would end the call, and off we would go. These were precious times for me. I hope they were for him.
Over time Dash didn’t want to hike all the way out to the corner. So he did what any living, aging being would do. He found another spot, but still kept his duty. Our deck is above ground in the back of our home. There are steps to reach it. He perched himself at the top of them and had perfect sight to the corner. All day. Every day. We have an outdoor fireplace. In the colder months, we lighted it for him to stay warm. If I worked from home, we had lunch together. When noontime came, I would drive to the deli and get a sandwich. The cycle took about twenty minutes. Dash would arrive at the back door as I entered the house. I could hear his paw tap the glass before I set my bag of lunch on the counter. He knew he would get a bite or two from me. When I had soup, he liked to clean the bowl, no matter what kind it was.
Dash passed peacefully during a raging Nor’easter on January 23rd of this year. He was in his spot, with the fireplace to warm him.
For me, Dash’s purpose was peace. He had it and made it at the same time. And never by saying a word.
And that is what is so painful for me. I have lost the best friend I ever had, the one who made peace. The one who lighted my way and who never forgot me. He had more love than our family and neighborhood could consume. And he never asked for anything in return. Not once.