Midlife Now vs Then – Our One Big Advantage
When I turned forty, I remember thinking about my parents' midlife experience and envying them for it. It seemed their life was much simpler than mine back then. They each knew their place and what was expected of them.
Mum was a housewife and dad was the breadwinner. Mum's job was to nurture the family and dad's was to put food on the table. They stayed in their lanes and they were good in their roles.
The only sign of a midlife crisis was dad buying a motorbike. Then mum.
Mum also taught me the practice of daily gratitude, and dad showed me what hard work and adventure were all about. To any casual observer, they were the perfect team.
In 2008, I'd just emerged from a marriage breakdown, and my life felt altogether pointless. Had it not been for my two little girls, I'd have probably taken a final blast up the Black Spur and directed my car into one of its massive Victorian Ashes. I began drinking too much. I worked late, and I lamented all those years of hard labour for exactly nought. It was an awful time to turn 40.
While my parents had the certainty of a simpler, more scripted life (which does offer some level of comfort) my midlife came along after the rule books were all gone. I lived in a world where the script was changing every day, and it was thanks to one thing – the Internet.
Knowledge was everywhere, and most of it was free. Geographical limits had collapsed, and each of us could now fashion a life of our own choosing. Reinvention was rife.
It no longer mattered who you knew, or who your parents were, because anyone with an Internet connection could now reach the world.
Writers, artists and candlestick makers could build a community of loyal customers, and pursue their passion without the traditional limits. If you hated your career, you could invent a new one.
But exciting as this was, the principals of value, service and consistency still mattered. Today, they matter more than ever. People are learning that unless you're a Kardashian, you must still deliver honest value if you're going to prosper and grow.
The point I'm leading to is this. If you're an honest person who's been around the block a few times, you have a real shot at the kind of reinvention our folks could only dream about. Back in the early '80s, it was a huge gamble to change careers or worse, to start a business.
If you're stuck on a path where the scenery is no longer enjoyable; if you find yourself asking, “Is this it…?”, it's time you did something about it.
You need to grasp how lucky you are to be alive right now – in this century, with this technology at your fingertips.
Think less. Do.
Look at what I'm doing right here. I went through a midlife crisis, so I decided to write about it. My marriage fell to pieces, I learned a few lessons, and so I wrote about them. At one point I had over $140,000 in useless consumer debt. I paid it all off and then wrote a book about it.
None of these were terribly easy, but that's the whole point. By discovering how to do them, I learned a tonne of new skills and I grew as a result. I reinvented myself. And now I have readers all over the world learning from my mistakes. How amazing is that?
Now I'm onto my next big thing.
As someone who's worked from home (and lots of lakeside park tables) for 15 years, I'm now creating a course and a website to teach others to do the same. And it's huge fun. Yes, it's also a sh*tload of work, but again, that's the point. I'm growing and I'm reinventing myself a little every day.
So my question is, what have you done? What has your life experience taught you that you could share with others? What unique perspective, skill or talent can you teach? Don't concern yourself with how. Think instead of the what and the who. What have you learned or what are you really into, and who could you share it with? Who might benefit from your insights?
These are the questions that lead to a more exciting midlife. They're at the root of personal reinvention.
For me today, midlife is a mass of possibilities. It's a road with a hundred forks in it, all leading to exciting adventures. Some will be right for me; some won't. Fortunately, it's easy these days to try something for a while, then if it's not right, move on to something else.
The rules have changed, and it means there's never been a better time to be a mid-lifer. Our parents might have had it simpler, but I don't believe they had it better.
Thanks to this new reality that you and I live in, I didn't drive into that tree, and I didn't remain Penfolds' largest benefactor.
Start something today. Start small, take it slowly, but start.
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