Updated: Jul 20, 2021
I came across this great article by Arianna Huffington. As she celebrates her 71st birthday, Huffington writes about how we often feel this pressure to achieve success by the time we are a certain age, how we need to reach professional and personal milestones by the time we are 21, 25, 35, 40. Those "30 under 30" and "40 under 40" lists don't help. Yet, when she was 55, Huffington launched The Huffington Post. Ten years later, she started her second business, Thrive Global, which has recently received $80 million in Series C funding. She is nowhere near retiring. After all, she has built her current career around wellbeing and frankly, working well, as opposed to the outdated and unhealthy practice of working hard. And wasn't it Mark Twain who said, 'Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.'?
I’ve often felt a race against myself when it comes to achieving goals. I have felt it for as long as I can remember. But if I was to take my own personal life as any indication, I never did play by any rules. I didn’t meet cultural expectations for when I should have gotten married, neither for when I was "supposed to" have a family of my own. It wasn't a conscious rebellion. It was just the way life unfolded for me. In fact, those two things happened way past my supposed “expiry date” and yet, when I look at my kid I am reminded that everything happens at the right time. For me.
I am learning to understand my wealth and to see it increasing each year. What I mean by wealth, I mean wealth of experience, wealth of knowledge, wealth of understanding, and wealth of perspective--all of which are so important in any line of work, in any facet of life. It's as one of my favourite actresses Frances McDormand said, “You are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.” This isn't to say people who are younger aren't as emotionally well-equipped. Far from it. It's just that so much emphasis is, and always has been, placed on youth; how there is only a small window of time where we are a) hireable, b) marketable c) attractive, and even d) worthwhile of any attention. Professionally, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. And while at times I feel frustrated, especially when I fall into the traps of the “shoulds and coulds”, or the incessant "anti-ageing" rhetoric, it’s articles like Huffington's that remind me I’m not ready to be put out to pasture just yet. I’ve still got a lot I want to experience, achieve, and offer. Sometimes, those reminders help switch us out of neutral mentality and into drive. The thing is, I would not want to go back to being 20, 30, or even my early 40s. Would I do things differently if I could? Sure. But then in that same vein I know I wouldn't change a thing because all my experiences, my mistakes, my choices have brought me to where I am today. So, no, I would not go back. The list I actually value and am starting to compile, is a list of all the things I still want to do, all the things I still want to accomplish. Learning how to surf, how to speak Italian, visit Japan, and the list goes on. All of it, while it doesn't sound like climbing a professional ladder, add to that wealth that I spoke of before. I never used to think that way. In my 20s, I had a one track mind when it came to my professional goals. I was focused on one thing as opposed to being willing to try new things. Now I believe that life's bounty is one of opportunities and experiences, if we choose to see it that way. My list isn't one of all the things I want to do before I die. It's simply a list acknowledging that I'm here now, happy for all that I've done and learned, and excited for what's to come. And I'm in no rush.
Oh, and I especially liked this line from Arianna Huffington's article: “There are endless lists of the high-achieving “20 under 20” or “30 Under 30.” I’m surprised we haven’t yet had “5 Under 5” (“Though still in pull-ups, this tech visionary is taking the toddler-VC crowd by storm…”).”