21 Mar Is Your Age Holding You Back? (Too Old/ Too Young)
Everyone is worried about their age. You’re either too young, inexperienced and immature or you’re too old, past it and irrelevant. Except for the people that don’t give a fuck. The 25-year-old CEOs and the 75-year-old influencers that judge themselves on their accomplishments, not the number of times they’ve orbited the sun.
Our podcast talks about rebelling against the 9-5 and so we’ve been getting a lot of messages from people who are at least considering jacking in their day job and doing something more fun. A common problem our audience is facing over and over again is their worry of age. There’s no magic spot in the middle where everything comes together; where you’re neither too young nor too old and you know exactly which decisions are the right ones to make. All you can be is the person that you are right now, holding in your mind the vision of who you want to become.
I’ve split this post into two halves but read both. I think it will help you realise; age ain’t nothing but a number.
I’m too young
It is hard to be taken seriously when you haven’t ‘achieved’ anything (yet). Confidence comes either from blind faith or from doing something successfully, over and over again. So when you’re young, first starting out and you haven’t ‘been there’ and ‘done that’, it’s hard to cultivate confidence. The first thing to remember is that there’s not another you. For years I would read books and blogs that carried that sentiment and I found it hard to believe too. What could I *possibly* offer? Me? I had a very low view of what I’d be able to achieve. I certainly never thought I’d be where I am today. This is where self-awareness comes into play. I can tell you that your voice is unique, but you need to work out who you really are to actually believe it. The time you were born, the place you were born in and the family that raised you (or didn’t) have all shaped you and made you impossible to replicate.
On episode 8 of the podcast, we interviewed Shannie Mears. At 25, in a very senior position, she frequently finds herself as the youngest person in the room in some high profile meetings. Shannie exhibits incredible self-awareness; knowing she is there for her unique voice. Her experiences of being black and being female, of growing up in Birmingham and moving to London, everything she has experienced all combine to give her a unique voice. A voice that no one else, no matter how much life experience they have, can replicate. She has a creative mind and is challenging the standard way things are done. You can be creative at any age. You can offer new ideas and perspectives, in fact, when it comes to doing this, being young is an advantage.
It’s easy to see yourself as an underdog but most people will respect you, regardless of your age, if you are confident on what you can deliver and ready to learn what you don’t yet know. A long time ago I was given a valuable piece of advice; “people will treat you the way you allow them to”. I’ll add; “but some people are just dicks”. Some people won’t respect you at any age, don’t waste too much time on them. If someone older than you treats you in a way that you don’t feel is fair then speak to them. Keep your cool and explain how they are making you feel. Approach this in a mature and empathetic way and you will be amazed at the turnaround.
Social media makes you feel like you should be rich by your early 20’s but when you meet actual successful people, most of them will tell you that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing at your age. Everything is a journey, and you’re at the start, it’s all just practice. That pitch that seems like life or death, the first time you’re on stage in front of an audience, that client meeting, all just practice. And if it all goes wrong, learn and move on, you’ve got plenty of time to get it right 😉 Youth is a superpower because none of your habits are yet set in stone. A lot of older people think they know what works and what doesn’t. Your advantage is you’re not held back by that ‘knowledge’, as Mark Twain said; “They did not know it was impossible, so they did it”.
I’m too old
It’s hard to announce to your friends and family that you’re going to do something new. We put people in boxes and it’s super weird when they start behaving differently. Some people might give you a hard time, some people might tell you it’s a bad idea. Most think that there’s a certain way things are done and that’s it. If they resist your new path, meet them with empathy. They may be worried that they’re not doing what they want with their own life. Your change may shine a light on their own inadequacies. It’s much easier for them if things stay the same and they don’t have to confront their fears. Alternatively, they may not have an understanding of the world in 2019 and warn you, from a place of love, that you’re making a huge mistake because in their world, you get a job and you stay there. There’s a myth that you should know what you want to do by a certain age and once you’ve chosen a path you must stick with it. Not so.
The world is very different now than it was when you grew up and for some, this can be daunting. Things are moving fast and it’s difficult to keep up, especially with technology. Starting a new project means you’ll likely need a website, an SEO strategy and multiple social media accounts. With no experience using these technologies, it can be difficult to know where to start. So most people don’t. You’ve not grown up with Twitter and you’ve no idea what Instagram stories are. You didn’t grow up driving a car either, but you learnt. Realise that everything, literally any answer to any question you may have, is on the internet. You can learn anything, you just have to have the patience and desire.
People may tell you that it’s too late to try something new. It’s never too late and it’s my wish that I’m trying new things until the day I die. Sure, it won’t be easy. I’ll need to learn new skills, I’ll need to practice, I’ll need to push through the difficult and the boring (they always warn you about the difficult, never about the crushing boredom that comes with trying to master something new!) Progression begets happiness and if it makes you happy it will be worth it, there is nothing more important in life. You may be worried that you have commitments, mortgages, kids and other people to consider. This is where patience comes into play. Plan your exit, prepare financially and use your time wisely to start small and build.
Hollywood portrays everyone successful as ‘young’, but Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 and Stan Lee didn’t write his first successful comic until 40. Vera Wang started at 40 and Ray Kroc franchised the first McDonalds at 52. You have miles on the clock, experience and confidence which are all huge assets so the only person holding you back, is you. If you deliver value to the people that you serve, they won’t care if you’re 30 or 300. Gary Vaynerchuk has a legion of fans, from teenagers to pensioners. They don’t care what he looks like, that he’s 42 years old, or that he swears like a sailor. They care that he helps them. Someone on the internet might make a comment about the bags under your eyes or your wrinkles, they might. I hope that isn’t enough to keep you from chasing your dreams, because your happiness cannot be predicated on what an anonymous troll thinks. Your purpose is bigger than that. Don’t let fear hold you back.