Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thoughts at 55 (Besides: "Whoa, I'm Old")

Back five years ago when I was a very young man, I wrote this post. It closed by saying that if you could double your age and still see yourself alive, you were ok.  

I was ok then, mostly.  Needless to say, this is now going to take some imagination.

To my list of 29 takeaways from five years ago, I add the following bits, a few earned honestly: 
  1. Stay away from any and every procedure in a hospital with the suffix “ectomy” in it.
  2. Hope that nobody in your household decides to write a memoir that book reviewers will one day refer to as “unflinching.”
  3. No offense, but I liked your emails and texts better when there wasn’t the threat they were being composed from your bathroom.  
  4. There are lots of things that are better to read on the iPad than on paper.  The Sunday New York Times is not one of them, however.
  5.  The first set of five-year company projections I ever did ended in 1984.  That sounds weird even to me, and I was there.  The numbers were done by hand on a long sheet of accounting paper.  Changing the interest rate for debt was a 10-minute, manual revision.  I am pleased to report that they were not done on an abacus, however.
  6.  It’s a shame that we have a world with more and more data, and it’s almost impossible to convince anyone of anything with it.
  7.  I do not want to take a survey after I visit your website.  I do not want to rate your app.  I do not want you to call me after I have my car serviced, or bug me for a rating after I shop on Amazon.  Stop.  Performing my civic duty as a consumer is work enough.
  8. Our home phone, once the center of all important communications, is now reserved for robopolitics, begging and "Not Available" calls.  All real business is transacted on mobile devices.
  9. There are two types of people in life: those who sit directly in front of me in a movie theater, and those who go out of their way to make sure they don’t block my view.  The second kind make for good friends.  The first are trying to reach me on our home phone.
  10. And, it turns out that there are two great states of being: Maintaining and Creating.  Maintaining is emptying the dishwasher and putting out the trash.  Enough time for Creating is the root of all affluence.
  11. The day we had to dress in spandex to ride a bike was a step back for civilization.  Changing the bicycle seat from big and comfortable to small and hard seemed like devolution, too.
  12. As soon as I like something and get comfortable with it, someone feels compelled to “improve it.”   Without my permission, even though I "own" it.  Soon after that, what I loved is no longer “supported.”  I call this the “Quicken Syndrome.”
  13.  The older I get, the more I appreciate other people’s ideas. Take, for example, Ebay, acupuncture, and the clam boil--three things the world would not have if it depended upon me to invent them.  People want to buy other people’s junk on-line?  Really?  If I stick a small needle in the back of your hand, your headache will go away?  Really?  And how hungry did the first person have to be to open a clam and think it would be good to eat?  Really.
  14. And, speaking of things I would never think to do, what genius thought it was a good idea to put an erectile dysfunction commercial on during prime time Monday Night Football?  (Yes, yes; I'm sure the target market is 55-year-old men.  You don't have to send me that email.)  In a sneak attack, the argument that “the TV has an off button” isn’t really all that compelling.
  15.  Here are the central flows in my lifetime, some faster and further along than others:  Male to Female.  US to Asia.  East Coast to West Coast.   English to Spanish.  One to many.  Exclusive to inclusive.  Inflation to deficit.  Hardware to software.  Offline to online.  Christmas carols to holiday tunes.  Baseball to football.  CEO to Entrepreneur.  Suits to jeans.  Big to Innovative.  Relationships to connections.  Dive to skim.  Purpose to repurpose.  Large screen to small screens.   Civil to boorish.   Novel to list.  Complete and ready to "we'll fix it in the next version."  And warmer--definitely warmer.
  16. In fact, we are not only comfortable with constant change, but we have even grown comfortable with endless Copernican Moments:  We’ve gone from one solar system to many, one galaxy to many, one universe to many, and quite possibly one Big Bang to many, repeating over and over.  We now believe there are hundreds, thousands, perhaps billions of planets out there that could support life.  If aliens landed tomorrow we’d send a picture of them to our friends on Instagram and get back to our day jobs disrupting the world. 
  17.  I’m looking out the kitchen window at the spot on the lawn where the swing set stood for many years.  Many great memories, too.  It’s gone now.  The ground has healed.  The grass has grown.  There are only a few people around who know there was once a swing set there.  And someday, after we move, a new family with little kids will look at the spot and think, “What a great place to put a swing set.  I wonder why nobody ever thought of that before.”  I can tell you with some degree of certainty that that's how business works.  
I'm pretty sure that's how it all works.  Onward to 60, with a smile.

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