100 years

It’s important to remember that not everything has to be accomplished while you’re young. Many forces in society would have us believe that our 20s, 30s, and 40s are the only decades for securing a dream job, starting a business, writing a book, or growing a nest egg large enough in our sixties to replace our income so we can retire.

As I believe Seth Godin once said, it’s beneficial to view your life as a 100 year span. For adults, each decade will be used to build something. If this means the career must take a backseat in your 20s, 30s, and 40s due to starting a family, that’s OK. During those early decades the “building” will be focused on investing in children and a partner. Kids need just as much time and effort as a demanding job–probably more. Same with a spouse. To focus on advancement in the workforce when time could be better spent with the ones you love is worth considering. Clarification: You can have a great career and raise a family at the same time; however, in some cases scaling back might be necessary to spend the time you feel is sufficient with your children.

This means that real “career” productivity and success will come later than the Silicon Valley startup stories would have us believe. Maybe your business won’t begin until your mid-50s. If you’re assuming life will last 100 years, and you’ve made the decision to consistently contribute to your local and global community, then there’s no reason to believe you’ll ever slow down. With this perspective, you build a family (if you want) and then build a career that you can pour yourself into once the kids are independent.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, which is why I was impressed by Liza Mundy’s recent article about Janet Yellen [HT: The Dish]. Yellen will be 67 when she assumes the role as first female chair of the Federal Reserve. From the article:

It’s a liberating notion, really, to think that you don’t have to accomplish everything in your life – or “have it all” – simultaneously; that leaning back during one life stage doesn’t preclude leaning in later. Along these same lines, any number of workplace experts and career gurus are urging women to think of their career not as a “ladder” but as a lattice, or a jungle gym: Horizontal moves are followed by upward ones, followed by horizontal ones, etc. It may take longer to get to the top, but it doesn’t mean you won’t reach it eventually.

I love the lattice analogy. “It may take longer to get to the top, but it doesn’t mean you won’t reach it eventually.” What great advice. Moving horizontally and vertically to take care of those you love and build a career that helps others is a beautify way to live. Notice how retirement doesn’t come into play. Even if you have a proper retirement, learning, growing, creating, building, and loving never stop.

There are seasons in life–times where certain plots are tended and others lay fallow. Wisdom is knowing what to pour yourself into for 100 years.

Assume red lights

At work, it seems the happiest and most productive people are the ones who expect the unexpected. Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s undeniably true. (I could have also said, “Assume the worst.”) There are too many factors at the workplace to believe things will go a certain way. Most of our frustration derives from thinking x should have gone this way, but instead, x went that way. Why not walk through the front door realizing the grand plan has not been bestowed upon us and never will be?

Of course, this applies to all areas of life. Understand that people are not understandable, and then they’re way easier to love. It’s when we create a paradigm that others should act within that we encounter unfairness issues in our heads.

It could be my Seneca-saturated mind, but instead of assuming the best case scenario, try assuming the worst. “But that’s so pessimistic!” No, I don’t think so. Imagine this: In lieu of assuming you’ll make all the green lights on the way to the grocery store, assume you’ll catch all the red ones. You’ll be pleasantly surprise when the lights are green, instead of brooding over the unfairness of life.

At work, assume that coworker will act the way he always acts, or that client will always suck up too much of your time, or that computer will freeze if you use it, or the manager will edit your copy–even if it doesn’t need to be edited.

This is proactive positivity. You’re meeting these challenges head on. And if the dice happens to roll in your favor, then you’ve been given jet fuel to propel you through the uncertainty that will surely come up ahead, just around the bend.