Let’s pretend for a moment you and I are taking a road trip. The luggage is secured, snacks are within reach, the GPS is plugged in and the gas tank is filled. You lean over to me and ask, “Are you ready?” I respond, “No” and proceed to get out of the car, select the screwdriver from my Swiss army knife and remove the side mirrors. I reenter the cabin and you yell, “Are you crazy?” to which I unaffectedly respond with, “Oops, forgot this one” and remove the inside rearview mirror as well. You have now deemed me certifiably crazy as well as a significant safety hazard. I account for my actions with, “We’re not here to look back and see where we’ve been but rather to experience where we’re going” and I toss the GPS out the window.
Life has a way of programming us to map out our lives from our early years with a big yellow highlighter that’s not erasable. In our 20s we’re supposed to adapt to our culture and societal norms, land our first job and find a suitable mate. Our 30s are communicated by significant adults as what should be the time of our lives, raising kids and planning for the future. Unless we’re assaulted by a midlife crisis (not that we’re all guaranteed to live to be 80), in our 40s we are informed that we should have cemented the constraints of our work, family structure, and social environment. We are then expected to accept the biological decline of our 50s and feel no shame in stocking our medicine cabinet with Cialis and Viagra as well as applied for our AARP membership. Society has deemed our 60s as the expected retirement age which, if we aren’t in the career pasture, there’s something inherently wrong with us. The apex of our 70s comes with the prediction of decreased mobility and age spots while the horizon of our 80s beckons assisted living. And, if you’ve made it to your 90s, father time will come bearing the gifts of digestive problems, cardiovascular problems, mobility problems, or immune system problems on any given day.
Society has even come up with fancy names for the decades of our life to disguise the trap doors:
Vicenarian: Someone in his or her twenties
Tricenarian: Someone in his or her thirties
Quadragenarian: Someone in his or her forties
Quinquagenarian: Someone in his or her fifties
Sexagenarian: Someone in his or her sixties
Septuagenarian: Someone in his or her seventies
Octogenarian: Someone in his or her eighties
Nonagenarian: Someone in his or her nineties
Talk about a hamster on a wheel. What bullshit! The one thing that should define every decade of our life is passionate living. And, passion isn’t a destination. It’s a life long starting point. Expecting persons to know in their 20s what they’re going to do the rest of their lives is ludicrous. All you’re left with is looking in the read view mirror of your life at the sacrifice of exploring new twists and turns and discovering experiences that define those special life moments. The saddest people I know are those who spent their 20s and 30s driving to the finish line only to discover that they lost an entirely different race; the one of perpetual self-discovery. Richard Karlgaard, in his wonderful book, Late Bloomers, encourages “Let’s question the basic premise that early blooming is necessary for lifelong success and fulfillment. Frankly, I don’t see the evidence. In fact, I see plenty of evidence going the other way.”
I quit college at 21 to take a job with industry giant London Records. My Vicenarian decade enabled me to fully express and experience my love of music as a talent scout, producer and engineer while completing my Bachelors and earning my Masters. Some would say my future was now in stone (yes, the Rolling Stones were on our label, but I digress). No one saw the British Wave of music receding and a tsunami of record industry confusion about “What next?” leading to the sale of London Records to Polygram and a trench of furloughed employees. Looking in the rearview mirror was useless. My Tricenarian 30s became a time of reinvention as I turned corporate, joining the entry level ranks of divestiture bad boy MCI Telecommunications that broke the monopolistic hold of AT&T on long-distance calling and opened up the industry to competition. I rose through the ranks to become a senior executive and transferred those skills to Grand Circe Travel as Vice-President, DSL as General Manager of Sales and Director for Cablevision. I abandoned the singular, no exit route of career declaration in favor of perpetually exploring what I was capable of doing and becoming; not what was behind me.
I am a firm believer in being in perpetual forward motion with a purpose, not a plan. And, my purpose has always been to use the skills that I am most passionate about without deference to societal expectations or how others define success. And, age is bullshit:
At 25, I produced legendary jazz pianist Erroll Garner for London Records.
At 28, I completed my Bachelor’s degree while working full-time.
At 32, I completed my Masters while working full-time.
At 46, I learned television production and hosted the TV talk show, “Out of Your Comfort Zone,” on Cablevision with an audience of 100,000+ viewers/subscribers and was nominated for Creativity Award by the Association for Experiential Education at its International Conference.
At 47, I was featured on ESPN2’s “Extreme Magazine” television program for taking business owners on an experiential leadership training expedition in the White Mountains incorporating winter camping, dogsledding and cross-country skiing.
At 50, I attempted a climb of Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level for which I was commended by the Governor of Connecticut.
At 57, I motorcycled across Egypt as a journalist and the trip was featured in a two-part series in New York Rider magazine.
At 59, I hosted and produced the groundbreaking reality TV show DINERS for Connecticut Public Television (CPTV), an exploration by motorcycle of those nostalgic neon and chrome eateries, with an audience of 21 million viewers in 6 states and 1.8 million global podcast listens for which I was featured in the MotoStars: Celebrities + Motorcycles exhibit and book with Brad Pitt, Carlos Mencia, Keith Urban, Peter Fonda and other celebrities and bands including Journey, Rush and Foreigner.
At 61, I hosted and produced the Summit Your Life radio talk show on WSTC/WNLK interviewing renowned guests and garnering 50,000+ listeners as well as being featured in the internationally-promoted Pepsi Refresh Project.
At 63, I hosted and produced the TV documentary, Comic on a Half Shell, chronicling my learning to become a standup comedian and appearing at NYC’s iconic Gotham Comedy Club which was aired on multiple networks.
At 64, I wrote the book DINERS based up motorcycling the twenty thousand miles of highways and main streets that crisscross the state of Connecticut to bring readers the stories of tragedy, triumph, sanctuary, comfort and community that celebrate the classic and historic diners of the Nutmeg State.
At 68, I hosted and produced the Backtrack America TV pilot, a cross-country motorcycle odyssey to find the people and places that shaped American culture in the 50s and 60s. That same year I became a Certified Professional Career Coach so I could help others navigate their own purposeful careers.
To celebrate turning 70, I presented “Audacious at Any Age” at the Palace Theater sharing with the audience how to be audacious at any age. I followed with a book by the same name.
At 71, I was engaged by Amazon as a Business Coach.
Richard Karlgaard put it best: “What late bloomers have to do is get off the conveyor belt and find a new path of discovery.”