Age is Just a Number.

February 24, 2011

First fact: I’m 33. I like being 33. I don’t feel old; I don’t feel young. I found my first gray hair last week. My closest friends are 56, 33, 42, 61 and 26.  With these friends, we never talk about age. We appreciate each other for who we are and what we have experienced. And we celebrate EVERY birthday with champagne and cake!

I have a handful of friends that insist on mentioning their age. They are too old. They are so much older than me. I am so much younger than them.  In the last few weeks I have had a handful of people say to me, “you’re young, why are you rushing to do so much.” Me? I’m not in a rush. I’m just taking full advantage of life and the opportunities that are presented to me. I feel like I am right on track. (I wonder if they would ask 26 year-old, Facebook founder  Mark Zuckerberg if he is in a rush too, he’s only worth $6.9 billion)

Maybe these people feel that they haven’t accomplished enough in their lives and it’s easier to push me down then to look at their own lives closer. We are not all on the same path and we all have the power to change things.

I’m pretty sure that if I met Ida Keeling that she would agree.  She’s 95 years old and just ran the 60-meter dash in 29 seconds.  Oh and she didn’t start competing until she was 67!

Okay, Jessica, so you’ve picked on older people for their comments, what about younger people? Well, that one is easy. It doesn’t matter how old you are if you have a good idea. The important thing to remember is that no one knows everything (even if you feel like you do).  Regardless of age, try and learn something new every day and try to learn from someone else every day.  Each day that we are alive, we gain unique experience and we never know what someone else has experienced until we speak to them. Sure, a sense of wisdom comes with experience and experience comes with age so it’s important to tap into people that you respect. For me, I can’t listen to the people that say “I know better because I’m older.” For me, I learn from the people that demonstrate wisdom and good judgment on a daily basis. I was never one to accept “because I said so.” I think that people need to know the reasons behind decisions so that they can learn and grow. “Because I said so” doesn’t tell the full story and doesn’t help people develop their own potential.

Okay, so how does this relate to business? Most of us have to deal with people in our work life. Here are some thoughts on how to see people for who they are, not the date on their birth certificate.

  • Never assume anything about someone when you meet them. Get to know them and then feel free to form an opinion.
  • Know that the decision maker might be the “old-guy” in the room, but the younger person might be a key influencer.
  • Get a lot of different perspectives if you have a new idea. Old, young, male, female. Talk to people that you wouldn’t normally talk to. Getting outside of your comfort zone might lead you to a path of an idea that you never be expected.
  • Don’t put someone down to make yourself feel better.
  • Teach someone something every day.
  • Get two mentors, one older and one younger.
  • If you are a manager and have to tell someone no, help them to understand why you are making the decision that you are making.
  • Remember that not all young people love technology and not all mature people fear it.
  • Stop thinking about age and start thinking about skill sets.
  • Remind me to read this post in 5 years and see if I still agree with my own comments.

I welcome your comments, thoughts and challenges.