Serene Ambition is about what we can do, and more importantly, who we can be as we grow older.
In 1979, I was designing a marketing seminar targeted to ‘seniors’.
I believed that everyone at every age is basically afraid of dying and
was working within that assumption. I interviewed a number of people,
mostly in their 70s and 80s, and began to see that, after a certain
point, they weren’t afraid of dying at all. They were, however, afraid
of dying without having left a legacy of some kind or without having made a difference.
Since then, I have asked a few thousand people if they could be really
be any age they wanted, how old would they be—and with very few
exceptions, almost no one says they would choose the age they are if
they had a choice. Most of my sample under twenty want to be a bit
older and most over 40 want to be younger. Only a select few want to be
the age they are and choose to embrace it with vitality and enthusiasm.
I realized that everyone was in the same conversation about age,
what it means, what they could/could not and should/should not do at
particular ages. Everyone saw age as a fact of life that is anchored in
each of us as individuals, a ‘condition’ somewhat akin to having the
flu. Aging is seen as a process of decline. While we may influence the
rate of decline with pharmaceuticals, special diets, surgery and
healthy lifestyles, the fact is that most of us do not look forward to
It’s as if our ‘age paradigm’ is a pond and we, as individuals, are
fish in the pond. The problem is that we treat people as they age as if
they are ‘sick fish’, rather than observing that the pond itself is
I suggest we need to deeply examine who we are in relation to age
and rethink our interpretation of the world and how we choose to relate
What age ‘means’ isn’t about biology or the passage of time. It is
true that our bodies will change and we will die someday. But the
meaning of age is dictated by our culture, our consciousness and our
experience, and by how other people relate to us and how we relate to
other people. The meaning we attach to it is purely an interpretation
and, therefore, subject to being changed. It is simply an historically
determined point-of-view of reality that is neither true nor false. It
need not determine what happens in the future—unless we give our power
to it. If we do, the past becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I am committed to creating a new interpretation or paradigm for the
second half of life. Aristotle once said, “Life is a likely story.” So
what is the story we want for our future as we enter what Sam Snead
once called the ‘back nine’ of life? If we are the authors of this
story, I propose we write a love story that begins with discovering who
we are and that ends happily with each of us having as much possibility
on the last day of our lives as we had on the first day.
NOTE: Wisdom doesn’t count for anything without action. I’d like to challenge everyone to share some
bit of wisdom, something you believe can open possibilities for action for others that you’ve learned along the way. Submit it as a story by clicking on "Send a Story" in the left sidebar. Please keep it to a few
paragraphs, and I’ll publish it.
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