How Old Is Too Old?

CaptureI turned fifty in March.

I am doing lots of new business stuff that is hard, distracts from the core and may take a good few years to come good but may never come good.

In a moment of weakness recently I got frightened.

I got a really strong feeling that I was doing the wrong thing; that I was too old to do this, it was just too left field and I should stick to something less risky, like this coaching lark. Time is hurtling past me and if this new thing goes wrong I’ll soon be…

Fifty five and finished…

I wonder if I am a dreamer? Reckless? Delusional?

Around birthday time, I get this feeling of dread quite a few times. I should just go back to corporate life. Keep my head down. Settle down in a quiet little town and forget about everything…  

Too late for that I think…

And then somewhere out of the daily horror show of Manchester United’s first season without Ferguson I hear that he arrived at Man U when he was 46 and didn’t win anything for three years. FA Cup. Aged 49.

Then I am reading about Bernie Madoff and the fact that he never got going until 55 and kept on going until he was 75 before the weight of the guilt crushed him. During this 20 year period he brought in $150 billion of client funds. BILLION!! Now I know he was a crook and his lies will have helped to part people from their money but bloody hell most people on the planet couldn’t rake in $150 BILLION in a million years if they were flogging the Elixir of Life in 2 litre bottles.

There’s more of this old person stuff…

Stan Lee – creator of Spider Man and millions of others characters (who is a hero to the comic-book-mad geek characters in The Big Bang Theory) didn’t start drawing until he was 43.

Harlan Sanders (as in Colonel Sanders) – didn’t start to build his empire until he was 66.

Ray Kroc had a dreary career as a travelling salesman selling paper cups and then milkshake machines before he asks for permission to franchise a customer’s business. He doesn’t let his diabetes, arthritis or 52 years get in his way. He ends up owning the company. Yup – McDonalds.

Roget did the Thesaurus at 73! Amazing. Stunning. Awesome. Marvelous. Incredible.

Just the other day, Diana Hyad (pictured) finally manages to swim from Florida to Cuba without a shark cage. She’s 64! And clearly off her head.

Katheryn Bigelow – Oscar for Best Director for Zero Dark Thirty, aged 61.

I am hugely inspired by these people. Most of them are public figures and the nature of that is that they are outliers (super-successful) because that is the media fixation but that’s OK as I don’t need to be an outlier to achieve what I want to achieve.

So, 50 or not, I shall continue with my plan. I won’t be reckless. I will not be a dreamer. If this puppy starts to drag me down, I’ll shoot it. Don’t tilt your head to one side and whimper…

Those who have come before us have left us with a world where more people than ever have more opportunity than ever. It would be a crying shame not to grab it with both hands and that’s what I’m doing. It would be rude not to.  

13 Responses to How Old Is Too Old?

  1. Robert Sloss May 13, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    A couple of politicians to give you strength. Two of Britains Greatest leaders Gladstone and Churchill. Gladstone first became Prime Minister at 59 (older than me!) and served 4 times for a total of 15 years including his final spell when he was 86.Churchill was 66 when he became Prime Minister in 1940 and he didn’t do too bad a job having been in the political wilderness for years. Then there is Mandela.I am planning to do my bbest work after I finish working for a living.
    Outside politics, although Bill Gates is famous for being young when he founded Microsoft who is to say his best work is not still to come through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!

    • Mark Nugent May 13, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      I am sure you will do your best work after you retire (or at least stop working for a salary). Difficult to know how any of us could do it before!

  2. Maria May 13, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Thanks Mark – very inspiring. One of my patterns is to think that ‘it’s too late’. I’m 56. But I’ve been saying it for many years. I was crewing at a property seminar on Sunday and spoke to a man who wanted to start earning income from property, even though he was still working, because he and his wife want to travel the world. He was 78!

  3. Robert Sloss May 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    Loads of examples of old people’s achievements. I play tennis with a 77 year old who throws himself around the court. He also still runs his own business, cycles, wind surfs, plays in a Rock Band, is perpetually doing up his house, keeps and maintains a vintage sports car and is writing a business book. His partner, at least 10 years younger lives in a separate house as she finds him exhausting.
    I also sadly know of many underachieving 20 somethings who live to regret it, my old school friends

  4. Lily Newman May 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    Hi Mark, great blog. It reminds me of a client I met when I ran my first business (a small equestrian centre in Somerset when I was 21). Edward was my oldest client, 76 years old with chronic emphysema and arthritis, annoyed with himself that he’d left learning to ride until so late in life. We both threw the health and safety rule book out of the window and I agreed to teach him. Within 3 months we’d worked out how to regulate his breathing and he could canter across Exmoor on my best school master horse. In his head, he was still 19 and never stopped looking for opportunities to try things he’d never done before. He was trying to find someone to teach him paragliding when he died of a heart attack (at home I might add) the age of 79.

    A great quote from TT Racer (and certifiable, ground breaking fruitcake) Guy Martin, that I heard this week was, “just because you’re breathing, doesn’t mean you’re living!” It truly doesn’t matter what your birth date says (age is just a social construct anyhow!), you have the opportunity this year, to do something that can change the world. Let’s get it in perspective. In terms of Charlie Chaplin, Stan Lee, Harlan Sanders et al, you’re just getting started my friend. May this be your best year yet!

    • Mark Nugent May 15, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks Lily. A great example and a good quote.
      I was at Oulton Park the other day watching a load of old boys race around the track in their classic cars…no sign of giving up there at all. Exemplary.

  5. Keith Plumb May 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Mark, my father stopped working for a living at 84 after a career of 70 years. He still does a bit of technical work to keep his hand in and his is now 91. So you are not old but perhaps at the midpoint of the second stage of you career.

    • Mark Nugent May 16, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      Midpoint of the second stage of my career…

      I’ll take that. Thanks.

  6. Heather Osborne May 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    One of the advantages of working in my organisation is that I constantly get called young lady at the age of 54!! Its all relative, hair dye helps too! We have many volunteers in my organisation who are in their 90s and going strong and many of them are quite inspirational and do amazing things like our 92 year old day centre treasurer.

    50 is the new 30 so you have years to reach those goals yet, and plenty of time to change tack a couple of times too if you want to. You only get old if you let yourself.

    Have a good weekend.

    • Mark Nugent May 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks – reading this is a great way to end the week.

  7. Helen Bennett May 18, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Mark, a super article and I think Diana Hyad is amazing – did you see her first Ted Talk? So gracious and inspiring event though she’d faced deafeat at that time. What a woman!

    Here are a few more for you
    I loved the fact that one lady I saw interviewed on a BBC broadcast who was in her nineties said ‘I can’t wait to get into the over 95 category so I can start being one of the young ones again! She held many track and field Gold Medals!

    Wishing you a bright and sunny week ahead.

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