Middle Age and the Power of Midlife Reinvention
My working life began when I was eight, so that's 40 years, now – as long as some people's entire career.
In those early days, making, collecting and selling things were about all I could do. But I remember how good it felt to be my own boss.
I'd toil away in my dad's shed 'til midnight, making letter openers from 6-inch nails. On weekends, I'd tread the boundary fence at the local golf course, looking for stray balls to sell.
These activities served me well for years, and while other kids badgered their parents for money, I funded all my interests with money to spare.
At fourteen, however, I decided it was time to give traditional employment a shot. All my mates did paper rounds or stacked shelves at the local supermarket but I wanted something different. So I called up the local health club, hoping to snare a part-time job. My first attempt was greeted with ambivalence. Back then, no one paid attention to 14-year-olds. So I called every day for two weeks until the owner relented and invited me to come see him.
His office was positioned between the two change-room doors (curiously propped open) and fitted with one-way glass. He shuffled a few papers, sat back in his chair and then turned his attention to me. “Janet tells me you've been trying to see me every day for the last two weeks. She says you want a job.”
“Yes,” I burped.
“Well, kid, I don't know what you're going to do here, but if you're that determined to work here, I guess I have no choice. I have to hire you”
And in an instant, I had my first job. A real job!
I cleaned toilets, mowed lawns, repaired the driveway and groomed tennis courts. I set up gym equipment, scrubbed the pool and repaired dicky windows. I even caught a few couples having sex in the spa.
From my earliest days in dad's shed, to my time at the fitness club, and later, writing and shooting freelance, I learned many great lessons:
- How to prevail despite my limitations (age and experience)
- How to handle rejection (not everyone wanted a hand-carved letter opener)
- How to pacify an angry prospect (golfers would claim I'd found ‘their' ball and wanted it returned for free)
- How to play the long game (it took 18 months of solid grinding at $3 an hour to buy my first new motorcycle)
- How to swim against the tide (walking out mid-class in year 11 to pursue my dreams took some balls)
- How to behave like I believed in myself, even when I didn't (landing a full-time gig with Australia's top motoring magazines at the age of eighteen)
All wonderful experiences.
But a few years ago, a thought struck me like a four-by-two across the ear. I'd been hustling for so long I'd lost track of time.
I'd reached the halfway mark!
This concerned me because I still wasn't sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I'd already been divorced twice and broke at least three.
But then something good happened.
While mired in the self-pity of my midlife crisis, I turned to some old and trusted friends – writing and photography.
I started in the magazine business when I was just eighteen. The seven years that followed were the most thrilling and engaging I've had all my life. I actually couldn't wait for Mondays!
So when I picked up my camera and notepad again, something started to change. In a matter of days, I knew I was home again. This was where I belonged.
I started to read again, too. I pulled out classics like As a Man Thinketh and Man's Search for Meaning, and The Power of Now. I looked for leaders, I followed podcasts and I discovered some amazing new people.
The other day, I wrote to Steven. I told him a little about what I was doing and how his interview with James had had such an impact on me. To my surprise, he wrote right back.
He assured me that I still had plenty of time to pursue my dreams; that in fact, I had a least two lifetimes yet to live. Two of my greatest mentors have also assured me of the same on more than one occasion. But coming from a luminary like Steven who had failed so many times before making it; those words were like a cool glass of water to a dying man in the desert.
And the truth is, he was right.
In our on-demand society, it's easy to be impatient. We're conditioned to want everything now. But when you examine the lives of your heroes, you realise they each had to pay their dues. Nothing worthwhile comes easily or quickly.
So I've come to an understanding with myself.
Whether it takes two years or twenty, I'm going to keep swinging. Not because the goal warrants it. But because the journey does.
Once you understand that the only finish line is death, you embrace the grind, no matter how long it takes. Because the adventure, the thrill of the journey and the fulfilment of becoming the authentic version of you are what count.
That's where the magic is. That's the real goal.
Tools and resources for entrepreneurs that I use myself.
Books for Entrepreneurs in the New Economy
Choose Yourself – James Altucher
James's unique perspective on life, wealth, business and employment is an eye-opener. A brilliant mind.
Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way – Steven Pressfield
Steven forces us to face a simple truth: it's not about better ideas, but rather, actually doing the work.
The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris
Tim's book is responsible for fuelling much of today's solopreneur phenomenon. A must-read.
Tools of Titans
Tim Ferris's tome covering many of the best lessons gleaned from billionaires, icons, and peak performers.
The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau
Chris debunks the old myth, “It takes money to make money,” with plenty of examples to relate to.
Purple Cow – Seth Godin
Seth is a pioneer from the earliest days of the Internet and a trailblazer in today's ‘connection economy'. Read everything he writes. Seriously.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary V is loud, rant-prone and tends to swear a lot. But no one knows social media better. Read and learn.
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – by Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken is a remarkable thinker in the areas of education and nurturing one's innate talents. His TED talk is incredible and has been watched almost 43 million times.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit.
Disclaimer & Disclosure: I'm not a psychologist and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but rather a collection of personal opinions, based on my own experiences. Some of the links on my site are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I provide links to services or products I have used and liked or researched and recommend. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you believe they will be beneficial to you.
Also published on Medium.