Marc Freedman, author of Encore, wrote a provocative, timely post about Steve Jobs’s advice to baby boomers. Read his post here. Like so many leaders today, Steve Jobs sounds more like a life coach than seasoned business executive.
Job said: “…[F]or the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
“Time matters at 50 or 55 or 60 in a way that it doesn’t when you are sitting at college commencement assuming an endless expanse ahead, even if some wise person is telling you otherwise. There’s no more dress rehearsal. You’re on.”
“[The] longevity tables tell us [life] is likely to go on for quite a while, for a period that could easily approximate or exceed midlife. This simultaneous expansion and compression of time is a unique feature of the new stage of life opening up between the middle years and anything resembling old age.”
So far, so good. Freedman goes on to propose a mantra “as we prepare to storm the barricades of age: mortality, longevity, urgency. Add demography and we might be poised to witness something transformative, the emergence of an entirely new stage of life and a new segment of the population, neither young nor old. 60 is neither the new 30 or the old 80. It is the new 60.”
That’s also very good advice. but it’s a lot more problematic than Freedman suggests here. Longevity and urgency seem to be contradictory and the challenge of mid-life is to deal with this contradiction. When you are 50 and you’re enjoying good health, chances are you’ll still be around in 10 years, able to continue what you are doing now. But when you are 60 and in good health, there’s a long tail to the probability curve. The *average* 60-something will still be enjoying life. More will be experiencing health problems, some for the first time, and some will be enjoying an even higher quality of life as they shed their careers and enjoy retirement.
The truth is: Life coaching gets harder as your life gets longer.
Traditional wisdom doesn’t apply. How do you plan for the post-60 life? If you live each day as though you’ve got a year to live, you won’t defer gratification to work so you can preserve your nest egg and life style. But if you bet wrong and the clock ticks more slowly, you’re in trouble.
In the best of both worlds, you have a career you enjoy so you don’t have an either/or decision. That’s usually possible – but requires some creativity, planning and a large amount of luck.
Reading over Jobs’s commencement address on the day of his obituary, there’s no denying the sadness that Jobs himself won’t be around to help blaze this new territory himself. He was just beginning to navigate the terrain between ages 55 and 75 – an age was once a wasteland, yet has all the ingredients to be the new crown of life.
Life coaching calls for a life design with built-in breaks along a much longer trajectory, that is fitted to the new lifespans of the 21st century. You can’t run a marathon the way you run a spring. We’re going to need to coach ourselves or get coached to this new view of life. Half the children born since 2000 in the developed world are projected to see their 100th birthdays. Let’s pass on to them a life trajectory that’s sustaining and sustainable, that pays off on the promise of the longevity revolution, for now and for generations to come.
As a life coach, Steve Jobs wasn’t bad. Life just gets harder to coach with every year.