Mickey in black T-shirt in foreground with de-aged self on back left and aged self on back right.

When are you too old?

Getting older sucks, but it sure beats the alternative.

Funny thing about getting older: It’s one thing that you absolutely must earn.

Oh my god, I’m old! (Old!) Is it too late for me to do something new?!

Funny thing about age: There’s always someone even older looking at you worrying and they’re laughing, “Oh, sweet child. You’re not old, yet. Not by far.”

“Oh my god, I’m TWENTY-FIVE!”

Every other adult is biting their tongue, because they sorely want to tell you that you haven’t even STARTED—only, they remember what it was like, so they’re being kind. Definitely absolutely not too late. Not even close.

“Oh my god, I’m FORTY!”

Middle-aged is maximum capability! Not too late…well, maybe to be an Olympic gymnast.

  • Charles Darwin was 50 when he publish On the Origin of the Species.
  • Ray Kroc: First McDonald’s franchise was at age 52
  • Julia Child published her first cookbook at age 50
  • Stan Lee got his first break at age 40 with The Fantastic Four
  • Martha Stewart was 41 when she published her first book, Entertaining, and 48 when she started Martha Stewart Living (beforehand: Wall Street and owned a culinary business)
  • Rodney Dangerfield was 46 when he got his first break

“Oh my god, I’m SEVENTY!”

Setting up your body for health is key, even if you had to slow down a step here and there. The experience and earned wisdom you can bring to bear, on the other hand, is formidable.

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (”Little House on the Prairie”) published her first book at age 64.
  • Estelle Getty
  • Ben Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence at age 70.
  • Nelson Mandella was 75 when he was elected president of South Africa.
  • Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) was 76 when she began painting—because her hands had gotten too arthritic for embroidery! She painted 1,000 pieces by her death at 101 in 1961 to be renowned by President John F. Kennedy.

“Oh my god, I’m dead!” (OK, now you can legitimately admit that’s it’s too late. In fact, you’re now “the” late.)

“Oh my god, I’m sixteen! Am I too young?”

  • First off, no.
  • Secondly, why are you watching a video about being too old? Hoping to reinforce your fears that you have nothing to over yet?
  • Most importantly: Every age is the best age for learning, and starting young means more opportunities to learn more things!
  • By the time I was twenty, I knew how to:
    • Till a garden
    • Fix a fence
    • Milk a cow
    • Cook a meal
    • Drive a car
    • Drive a fork lift
    • Clean a fish
    • Clean a deer
    • Program a computer
    • Juggle
    • And write obsessively long journal entries about how I couldn’t do anything useful
  • You know more than you think you know, and you have more resources to learn than any prior generation. Rejoice!

I started a business with three partners in right after the DotCom bust of the early 2000s. Tough time to start a business, to be sure, but I faced an unexpected challenge: I was too young.

I was at times working 100-hour weeks, creating useful, cutting-edge web-based training software. We had a couple of big clients, such as Merck Pharmaceuticals, but we had some trouble attracting new clients or investors. They wanted to see someone with wrinkles and gray hair. The needed it—to make them feel more secure.

I had learned to setup a T1, installed and set up own mail server running then-untried software, and designed and primarily built—from scratch—a multi-tier Software-as-a-Service web-based application with multiple clients. But the thing that gave potential clients and investors pause was: that they had trouble trusting a twenty-something with that kind of responsibility.

Never mind that I sometimes left my own paychecks in my desk drawer, facing eviction from my own apartment to ensure that our employees are paid, or that I worked nearly round the clock to make sure our existing customers were happy. One of their biggest issues was my youth!

And let’s be honest, their desire was not merely cosmetic: Take heart, my wise brethren! We are more than our wrinkles!

It’s the weighty coin of responsibility, patience, and personal investment. While it’s possible for a youth to know the worth of traditions, the value of property and wealth, and the importance of people, it’s something you can almost count upon an older person knowing—often through the unshakable wisdom of lived experience.

When we older people learn new skills—and we most certainly do—we can constantly apply them to the many problems we’ve ever experienced in our lives, targeting our growth in a direction influenced and focused by our life lessons.

For most things, though, don’t stop to learn: Learn as you go. Fix your goal in your head, visualize it, then take concrete action toward it. You will encounter a myriad of barriers, and most of those will require knowledge or skills you don’t yet possess—but rarely the ones you predicted. A determined course throws obstacles that you never planned on, and no amount of pre-knowledge is more effective than determination paired with ingenuity.

I want you to do something, but first: Let go of your worries about how old you are. It does not matter. At all. It means nothing. Whatever your age, you possess advantages that no one else does: Youth has resilience, age has experience; and all the stages between a mixture. You have all the time you need to visualize your goal and take the next step.

Because here’s the biggest and most important secret: The journey is the destination.

We must strive toward something. That is what makes us human, that it is what fulfills us, that is what makes us happy. Forget about whether you will make it or how much time you have.

Believe that you will achieve it, and take the next action necessary to get there.

Now, do this—and I mean, right now:

  1. Articulate what you want to do. Write. It. Down.
    1. I will learn to play piano. I will sail a ship. I will publish a novel. I will house the homeless.
  2. Determine the next thing you must to do get there—that you can actually do. Write. It. Down.
    1. I will search for instructors on Craigslist. I will search for sailing classes on Facebook. I will write a synopsis in my notebook. I will look up the cost of housing to create a budget.
  3. Do that thing. Not tomorrow: Now.

You’re not too old—or too young. But time’s passing. And it’s time to start.

Watch the video:

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