A few thoughts on age

1. The concept of age is largely a mental construct. Yes, our body does change over time . However, we often exaggerate changes to suit societal norms.

2. Societies  (especially more hierarchical ones) often attach many expectations to age. There are certain expectations on how to behave and how to live. The reason for this is that age is a great tool for enforcing mindless hierarchy. “I am older than you. So, I know better.”

3. The truth, however, is that respecting someone because they are old is completely arbitrary. It assumes wisdom and that’s a flawed assumption. Wisdom doesn’t come with age. It comes with maturity, openness and self awareness. While the probability that an older person may possess these are higher, I’m not sure it is much higher because openness tends to decrease with age. A friend of mine feels respect is one of the most misused words in the English language – I can see why.

4. For illustration of the above ideas – think of five 80+ year olds you know. I’m sure you can name a couple who act and move about like they’ve reached the end of their lives while there are others who still possess extraordinary youthful exuberance (a certain Warren Buffett comes to mind). Think also about a few more older folk you know – would you consider all of them mature, open, self-aware, and wise?

5. Ageing has a lot to do with mental inactivity. I’ve sadly learnt this from seeing this with my grandfather. Until 10 years ago, my grandfather was known to be a 68 year old man with tremendous energy and youth. However, after his decision to stop working, we’ve watched him age at 3 mental years to the rate of 1 physical year. The difference is profound.

6. Television plays a very negative role in an older person’s ageing process. You can almost always be sure that their mental age is linked to the amount of television they watch as the television encourages a permanently vegetative state. Video games are better – perhaps theirs an opportunity in having older folk play video games?

7. If age is largely a mental construct, should we bother about the right age to do this and that? Only to a point. There are some things that make more sense at some ages – like university degrees while we’re young so we’re not a burden to our parents and becoming parents while being relatively young for biological clock reasons. But, beyond that, there is no right age for anything. It is all about being ready. So, the next time you hear about something making sense because you are at the “right age,” question it.

8. The biggest mistake adults make is they forget what it is to be kids (hat tip to J K Rowling). The toughest part about growing up is making sure we mature enough to not be childish but continue to be childlike. This means retaining an insatiable curiosity and a willingness to be open to any possibility that might present itself to us.

9. Age, wisdom and happiness are a wonderful combination. But, as Prof Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, they don’t come as guarantees on our birth certificate. We need to keep learning, we need to keep working hard, and we need to be persistent in the face of our attempts failing. None of this gets easier with age. In fact, I’d even argue it only gets tougher. So, it is up to us to ensure we stay mentally young while growing wiser through increased reflection and self awareness at the same time. It is hard work. But, hopefully, we’ve learnt by now that embracing hard work is the only way forward.

10. The best part? If we work hard enough on it – we don’t just get older, we get much better. Think of what a small daily improvement will mean 25,000 mornings later..

Study groups and learning – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea thanks to TheBuildNetwork.com and our RealLeaders.tv interview with Mark Suster.

In 1986, the Harvard university president wanted to know if there was a way to predict whether a particular student would succeed or fail in college. What was different about kids who succeeded as undergrads?

The subsequent study revealed the single best predictor of college success – it’s all about with whom rather than how you learn, i.e., it wasn’t GPA or SAT scores or a number of any kind. It was a student’s ability to either create or join a study group. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.

Venture capitalist Mark Suster applied this in his own career by creating peer learning groups of fellow CEO’s when he ran his own start-up and of venture capitalists when he started his career in venture capital in Los Angeles.

Perhaps it is time for us to create our own peer learning group.

Study-groups-and-learning

Source and thanks to: www.EBSketchin.com

‘I felt that when I was being open and willing to talk to other people about what my issues were and then tried to solicit from them, that the table actually discussed things. You can do that. Anyone can do that.’ | Mark Suster

Learning and digging gold

An inefficient gold digger needs many good mines to extract a good harvest of gold. An effective gold digger, on the other hand, needs only one.

Learning is similar. You don’t need to have 20 years of experience to have sufficient learning. You can extract 20 years worth of learning from 1 year if you set your mind to it. Growing old is not an option but growing up by making the most of the experiences life throws at you definitely is.

So, while “am I learning” is an interesting question to ask in a situation, it isn’t terribly useful. Yes, you are learning something most of the time. But, asking yourself “am I extracting maximum learning out of this?” changes the game.

Just one trait about effective gold diggers – they don’t stop when they get one mine right. They keep working and widen that gulf. Learning is not different. Ask those who take time regularly to read, for example, and they’ll remind you that there is no difference between the ones who don’t read and the ones who can’t. Learning, like any other skill, needs work – perfecting it requires constant deliberate practice.

Making the world better

Atrocities happen every day of the week on this planet. This was one of those that had me swearing out loud. A man felt it went against his family’s honor for his pregnant daughter to marry someone against his wishes but felt it was perfectly okay to murder her with his son and a few goons.

There is a lot wrong with the world. There is no doubt about that. There is a lot right too that goes unmentioned. It feels, as a result, that we have two principal duties to help make the world better. Focus on the right in our lives and do more of it. This is the only way to keep our spirits up without getting bogged down by everything that is wrong with the world.

At the same time, we must work hard on changing what is wrong. A lot of what is wrong with our attitude towards other races and women can be made much better. It starts within. We have to pledge to be open to differences ourselves and hopefully change the culture of our families and friends to reflect that. Change occurs in ripples. It begins with changing ourselves or, at the very least, teaching ourselves to think. There is a real dearth of people who can do that. Atrocities like the one above are typically committed by men (yes, it is always men) who are unthinkingly following some norm or order.

The world will never be perfect but it can become better, much better. In making ourselves better, we make it a bit better and I think that’s as worthwhile a cause as any.