When Do You Get Old?
I met with an entrepreneur the other day who felt old at age 30 because a local gym club refused to give him a youth discount. He walked out.
If you ever have the bad luck to see the Amber Heard 2013 film, Syrup (I managed to squirm through about ½ of it), you will witness the callousness of a culture that has zealously skewed young. Shallow, talentless, good-looking 6 (Amber’s name in the film), Scat and Sneaky Pete stab each other in the back while launching useless products with cynical, manipulative marketing campaigns tied like a vast storm anchor tied to your neck taking you straight to the sea bottom.
I see a huge number of over-50s starting startups as large corporations delete anyone approaching 55. George Lois reports in his mini-book Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!), Phaidon Press, 2012, that there is hope for elders based on the fact that Darwin was 50 when he wrote On the Origin of Species, Ray Kroc 52 when he started growing Mickey Ds, and Colonel Sanders started KFC in his 60s… You can be creative at any age. This is part of retaining your edge because innovation and creativity have always been important to human civilizations and survival, always.
I believe that you get old the day you decide you know everything.
I know old 30-year-olds and young 84-year-olds. The difference? The young 84-year-olds are still open to learning new things.
Here’s an example. I had to pay a bill at a major national bank for one of their oddball services. It’s an annual invoice I get. I have no other dealing with that bank. I called them.
“Can I pay this online?” I politely ask.
“No,” they say.
“Can I pay it with a credit card over the phone?”
“No, but you can send us a check.”
“I haven’t written a check in more than two years.”
“Can I e-transfer the funds to the bank?”
“But you can go into any branch and pay it in cash.”
So the next day I went off to a local branch.
“I’m here to pay this bill,” I said presenting a paper copy of the invoice to the young teller.
“Oh, you can’t pay this here. You have to go to the branch that issued this invoice.”
“Uh, huh. I see except I called the bank yesterday and they told me I could pay it at any branch. Isn’t this branch part of the _ _ _ _?”
“Yes it is, but you will still have to go to the main branch…,” she said.
Their main branch is inconveniently located downtown; it costs $14 to park nearby and will add 90 minutes to my work day. Moreover, that branch is only open during bankers’ hours (10 am to 3 pm) so going there is a total pain.
“I’m not leaving until you take my money,” I said.
“Please wait here, sir.”
After two more young tellers are brought into the matter, and 30 minutes have passed, they finally go into the back of the bank and (almost) wheel out an old, old lady who says, “No problem. We just have to complete an intra-bank form and then code it like this… But why don’t we take Mr Firestone’s money first, in fact right now, provide him with a receipt and fill in the form and complete the coding after he has left so he can get on with his day,” she added with a nice smile.
Major institutions, corporations and organizations are getting rid of anyone over 55. In the process, they are also losing their corporate history, people who know things… folks who have the ability to teach younger staff how to get stuff done.
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