Did I get your attention?
Good. Are you over 40? Even better. I can remember—it seems like decades ago, but it was really only six years ago—I was giving one of those “seen-one-seen-them-all” Powerpoint presentations for a Fortune 500 company.
In the middle of the presentation—around slide 26, I think—I suddenly felt dizzy and very strange.
Something was changing inside me
I looked at all the people in the audience and suddenly wondered, “Why am I doing this work?”
Who are all these people, anyway? After all, do they really care about me and what I care about? I went home and went to bed. I figured I had the flu and I was sure I would feel better in the morning. The next morning, I only got as far as my company parking lot. I could not find the strength to open my car door and I didn’t.
I never went back.
Is your work just right for you?
Does it make sense that you are the one to do this work? Is your work significant to you? Does your work make a difference?
These are the important questions to ask over 40
Organizational life is about revenue, productivity and efficiency. Organizational life is about speed. After 40, however, we crave the opposite. Like creating a fine wine, we need to take our time and go slowly. Though we seldom admit it, after 40 we crave coherence and meaning in what we do, and a sense of fulfillment in our work.
Dis-ease happens for a reason
Can your work make you sick? Can your work make you die? It can and will if you don’t do what you love. Sure, you may re-tire (get ready to be tired) and live on a golf course with other people who are similar. You’ll spend your days talking about the good old days. Like the frog in boiling water, you won’t realize it’s killing you until it’s too late.
Vocational Passion needs exercise
You can be different. You can start to do more of what you love. Ask yourself: “What kind of work could give me a sense of purpose and meaning?”
Look to combine your passions
A friend of mine—he’s a talented musician—hosts a weekly open mike show in the little community where I live. He decided he needed to align his talents (using his voice) with his passions and now he is doing voice-over’s for a gaming company.
How can you combine and align your talents and passions, too?
Sports and Food?
What if you loved sports and good food?
You could work in a sports bar; or you could be a food critic for the professional sports stadiums. If you loved old sports stadiums like I do, you could give tours during the day and sign on as a food vendor at night.
Don’t let pride get in the way of passion
I’m sure you’re thinking, “I couldn’t do that!” What would my family say? What would my friends think about my being over 40 and giving up my banking job in exchange for giving stadium tours and selling hot dogs?!
Does it make you happy?
That’s the most important question to ask. The rest is irrelevant. You have to figure out how to carry a lighter backpack, of course, and gather the support of loved ones. You may even have to cash in that “retirement” to start to live now!
The financial firms won’t be your best friends
You have suddenly realized that the banks’ sales pitches to save for your retirement are a fraud. You suddenly realize that they’re the ones making money while you wait to really be happy in your work.
Yes, you can be miserable in your 8-5 job for just 15 more years and then—thanks to them—you, too, can live at a local golf course sitting around waiting to………..?
Well, you get the idea.
The problem with the concept of retirement is that life gets in the way
The unexpected gets in the way. People die, crises happen. Emotions and relationships change. Waiting to one day do what you love is a no-win solution unless, of course, you are one of those financial firms making money off of your present dis-ease.
Start now in small ways
Express yourself, be yourself and start small.
Little steps lead to larger leaps. Talk to the person who gives those ballpark tours; talk to the hot dog vendor who gets to be a part of the action—find out how they make it all work. Maybe you’ll get a few ideas for pursuing your passions now. While this might not be the career path most often chosen after college; after 40 you realize it doesn’t matter because this is your path.
Sadly, we don’t learn in school how to find our path. We don’t learn what work is just right for each one of us.
Is your work killing you?
I wrote this article on a cozy winter Monday night in a local café in my neighborhood during open mike night. With quiet melodies from aspiring musicians playing in the background, I sipped a hot cup of chai, and I reflected to myself, “This is the life.”
When you do what you love, Monday is the best day of the week.
How about you?
You, too, can make your own music and I’ll be cheering you on each small step of the way.