Not too long ago an old buddy of mine, we’ll call him Sam, and I had breakfast. One of the best times of my week is when I’m meeting colleagues and friends for an early morning breakfast. It’s an opportunity to share insight and listen. I find this time invaluable.
Sam and I went to breakfast and he told me he wanted to begin a new nonprofit. However, he was getting pushback from his wife and others. He was a successful business owner whose children were grown. None of the adult kids wanted to run the business. They’d moved on to other careers in banking and medicine. And, although Sam enjoyed real estate, he always wanted to do social good.
A New Path
When Sam and his wife met, he was an idealistic young man. But, they both decided that idealism wasn’t going to pay their bills. Sam went into real estate and his wife became a successful designer. They built the American dream: successful careers, a beautiful house, children, two cars and a few dogs along the way. Life was good to them.
In recent years, Sam started talking about social good. His children grew up and his wife was humming along in her own work. He wanted to go back to the vision he had when he was young of creating a nonprofit focusing on youth development. Growing up he had a friend who had not had as good and privileged a life as Sam. In fact, his childhood friend was always struggling and getting into trouble. Sam was convinced with excellent youth development, his old friend (whom he lost touch with) would have had it easier or better.
With his own children grown and a thriving business that he could sell, he thought the time was right to go back to the dream.
And so I asked him, “What’s holding you back?”
Apparently it was his age. His wife, friends and others around him thought he was “crazy” to give up a successful real estate business to start a new nonprofit–no matter how noble the cause. His wife pushed back against the loss of income, even though that was unfounded because they had plenty of money and investments to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, even if they never worked another day.
His friends asked him why he would ever want to spend the energy required for building something new. Instead, they suggested, he should spend his days traveling and playing golf. Sam had earned the right, they reasoned, to “take it easy.”
Here’s the problem with all of this. No one was taking Sam, his thoughts and feelings into account. And, in today’s day and age, who’s thinking of dialing it down at 50? Many people–the almighty Baby Boomers–believe that live begins at 50. It’s time to get even more done.
You Should Dream More, Not Less After 50
When you hit 50, there’s a lot of good stuff that makes you an excellent candidate for striking out and building a dream into reality. You have experience. I know that the world is obsessed with Millennials and they seem to own the world because of it, but no matter how tech savvy they are, they have one thing missing that can only be developed with time: experience. Life teaches you things and that can only be learned with experience and time.
Beyond the age of 50, your kids are probably grown, which means you’re freer to do the things that matter more to you. That freedom can be incredible. I know plenty of people who are over 50 and decided to leave their old lives behind and start something new in another place and in different surroundings.
Another critical thing that I would hope you have by the time you’re 50 are relationships and resources. Sure, investors are probably looking to invest in the shiny, new “it” generation, but you’ve got smarts and your own contacts. By the time you’re 50 you’ve built deep relationships and have been around the block more than a couple of times. You’ve been through the ups and downs of life with people who’ve been there when you lost someone close, got a divorce, gained or lost money or had the absolute best day of your life. These things count for a lot. They make you smarter and wiser. By the time you’re 50, you know how to influence people and get the job you need to complete done. You know what it takes and you’re not afraid to go looking for it, even if some doors will close along the way.
That morning at breakfast I asked Sam one last question as he considered his dream. I asked him if he held firm, sold the business and started his nonprofit if he thought his wife would file for divorce. He didn’t miss a beat. He replied that his wife and he had been through enough together in life that they were truly partners. She might be frustrated, but in the end, he said she was his greatest champion.
“Well then, I think you know what you need to do, Sam, get going on the new dream.”
Author of “Get Off the Couch: Grip & Rip and Break the Barriers Holding You Back in Life” (Free Digital Download)
© 2016 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.