When I first started my business career 42 years ago I was 24 years old and I was always the youngest person in the room. And over that timeframe I’ve moved from being the youngest person too often being the oldest person or on my way to being the oldest person… And that’s what today’s video is about. How do you stay relevant in a society where youth is valued and wisdom not so much?
When I first started my business career 42 years ago I was 24 years old and I was always the youngest person in the room. And over that timeframe I’ve moved from being the youngest person to often being the oldest person or on my way to being the oldest person.
Frankly, it was a lot more fun being the youngest person. My life was all in front of me and I was a sponge to learn from older people in my industry. I was in the food service and vending business at that time. And a few of these people adopted me and took me under their wing, Taught me the stuff that I should know, what I should be focusing on, and how to create a great business. It was something that I really enjoyed and something I really value, even to this day.
Today I’m facing the fact that older means I need to change what I do to stay relevant in the business community. If you’re over 60, you’re probably facing this also. And that’s what today’s video is about. How do you stay relevant in a society where youth is valued and wisdom not so much.
Hi, I’m Josh Patrick the founder of Stage 2 Planning Partners and the Sustainable Business. I’m also the one who’s responsible for putting together our Cracking the Cash Flow Code Program and I’m the author of Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business.
Let’s jump in.
The language of younger business people often feels foreign.
Recently I’ve been seeing this term woke a lot. And I say what the heck is a woke? Now the truth is, I needed to make myself feel a little bit dumb and be a little bit vulnerable and ask, what’s this thing about woke? I got the explanation, I think I understand it. It sort of makes some sense to me but every generation has it’s language and if you want to be relevant with folks who are younger than you in your business, you need to be able to speak their language.
- You gotta be willing to look stupid and ask if you don’t know what it means. That’s what I did with the term woke. And what that really means is you’re becoming vulnerable. If you’re not make yourself vulnerable you’re gonna look like an old guy who thinks they know everything about what there is to do and you’re not really interested in learning what’s important to younger people who you’re working with.
- You have to ask questions that you know what you talk about and what you don’t know. I’ve found over the years if I ask a really good question people are gonna say hey, this guy really, really knows what he’s talking about. Now if I ask dumb questions they’re gonna write me off or if I don’t ask any questions at all. In my experience, helping people discover that you’re an expert at what you’re talking about by asking questions is far better than telling people what they should be doing.
The other thing I want you to be doing, I want you to lean into being older and having wisdom to share.
Now I’m gonna tell you one thing. A 30 year old in business might be really smart, have great coding skills, be able to do stuff that I can never do, but what they haven’t had is the experience I’ve had of having things go well, having things go badly, having to fix it, doing it all over again, having things go poorly, having to fix it, having to do that. So I want you to lean into your age and the wisdom that you can share.
- You’re gonna see some ageism and that’s just the way it is. Ageism means you’re being discriminated against because of your age but you’re not gonna see it from everybody. And those you don’t see it from are the ones you wanna hang out with. The ones that do have it, you have to just kind of ignore them because that’s just the way it is.
- You wanna lean into the folks that are interested in what you have to say.
But at the same time, I want you not to talk down or be a know it all.
- One of the things that I hear from Millennials is that my parents or my boss, who’s a baby boomer, or even a Gen Xer, they think they know everything about everything and this is a problem that I often have. I know a lot of stuff and I really wanna get it out there, I want people to know but I come across as kinda being an arrogant jerk a lot of the times because I’m telling and not asking.
- I’m not staying curious. I’m not admitting there are plenty of things that I don’t know. And that’s something that you need to be doing if you’re not gonna be talking down to everyone.
You have to make an effort to stay involved.
- It’s just too easy to let things pass. I know that there are lots of times where I know I should be doing things that I just don’t feel like getting around to doing it and I let it pass. The more you do that, the more you fall out of the loop, the less the phone is gonna ring, the less you seem relevant to other people that you’re working with.
- You wanna find places where your wisdom is appreciated also. I think it’s a really big deal. If you don’t actively work at finding places where your wisdom is appreciated it’s pretty easy to figure out or to have the opinion that nobody wants to have what I hear, woe is me, poor me, I’m just like an Eeyore. I just am unhappy about my place. Others pick that up. But if you’re really interested in finding where your wisdom will be valued you’re gonna have a much, much better life as you get 60, 70 and even 80 years old. One of my favorite people is in his 80’s. He still is as relevant in his 80’s as he probably was in his 40’s. It’s really a good thing to do is to find places where your wisdom is appreciated. Here’s something that’s really important for you.
Stop complaining about the younger generation.
I am so sick of people telling me, Millennials are horrible, they don’t wanna work hard, they’re entitled. That’s true for some, but I could say the same thing about baby boomers. We came up, we said the same thing about Gen X when they came, we’re saying the same thing about Millennials today. It’s not true.
- Millennials are not horrible, they’re not all entitled, they’re just different in how they view the world. You need to learn to know how they view the world, join their world, not always expect them to join your world.
- And let’s not bunch all people together. They all have their own personalities, their own motivations. It’s our job to find that.
Here’s the truth for me at least. Nobody wants to get old. But you don’t really think about that when you’re young. It only becomes apparent as you start getting into your 50’s or moving toward your 60’s and then your 70’s. I’m not wild about getting old but it’s a fact, it’s something that’s happening and I really want to stay relevant in the business community for as long as I possibly can. And the way I do that is by paying attention to the things I talked about earlier in this video. As my uncle likes to say, getting old is not for the faint of heart. And that includes aging in a place in the business world.
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Hey, this is Josh Patrick. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.