As I grow older I am more mindful of an important rule: don’t let your age define who you are, what you look like, or how you act. An old friend said, it is mind over matter – don’t act your age, don’t walk your age, and don’t eat your age.
At the other end of the spectrum, while 50 and 60 may be the “new 40”, there is another important rule to follow – it is not the new 30. Do not make a fool out of yourself.
Back to the first point – the mind over matter rule. A couple of years ago I sat for corporate photographs for my new company. At first, we took the cheap approach and we got exactly what we paid for. I looked like a disinterested mature man who, in a couple of photos, was grasping for the younger me. Then I hired a real pro, Holly Kuyper, who made me realize that the age number was all in my mind. It didn’t matter how many birthdays I had celebrated. It was my posture, my smile, my energy, my attire and, most of all, my attitude. Nancy Swain, a great friend and valued strategic partner kindly reminded me, “your clients are now mostly younger than you and they are at the peak of their game”. Alas, so true. They want to retain consultants and hire employees who can show, with vim and vigor, as a former President liked to say, that they can get the job done better than anyone expected.
That is a fact that has been burned into my brain, especially after spending more than 90% of the last 87 days out of the office traveling on business. I have been thinking about what I can do — what all of us “seasoned” road warriors can do — to sustain the stamina, the energy and the image of the “new 40” versus the worn out gray haired man who might need help finding his seat on an airplane or opening a package of cookies.
Exercise – I have found that exercise is an energy-builder. The challenge is to make yourself do it. When in Dallas, I have taken to working out at lunch. There are fewer young men and women in the gym at that time so, with ego in check, there is no temptation to prove that I can still perform like a thirty-something.
Diet – OK, this is still a work in progress. I can truthfully say that there is more hard work to be done here. On the road, restaurant menus can be health hazards. Some hotels add diet conscious menu selections, but not all that many. Most are loaded with dietary temptations. On the third night of a stay, you have probably had all the healthy food they have to offer and that juicy lamb burger with fries is looking mighty tasty. Not to mention the single malt scotch. At home, I struggle with another challenge — portion control. I am a better than average cook but I can over produce the size of a routine salad. Too much of any good thing is not such a good thing, my waist line tells me. Besides, it is also expensive. My friend and a trusted and knowledgeable clothier, Albert Ballas, at the Neiman Marcus flagship store next door, always seems unhappy when he remarks, “Gee, have you lost weight?” I guess not being healthy means a new suit in a larger size. No, Albert, I would prefer a new suit at the same or smaller size, but that ball is in my court, not yours.
Pace Yourself – My search practice has been very good to me. I am busier than I have ever been. No complaints, but the workload and travel schedule can be daunting even for the actual 30 or 40 something. I have finally discovered a lesson that my wife has been lecturing me about for years: working longer does not mean working better. All of the platitudes related to working hard to get ahead are just that, platitudes. Being a “gentleman of a certain age” has a ton of advantages and a few limitations, to wit: you are not a “new” anything.” Pace yourself.
You are what you are. Just don’t act like it.
© 2021 John Gregory Self