This is a guest post from Colin Wright of Exile Lifestyle. Colin is currently in the process of moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina where he intends to run his design business via a location independent lifestyle.
I’ve never really hung out with people my age. This might stem from my early days of employment, back when I was 14 and spending all my time with the 20-something ladies that were my coworkers at this indy bookstore down the street from my school.
Regardless of why I did it, being more or less constantly around an older crowd has given me a handful of distinct advantages over those who hang out with only people their age or younger.
One really beneficial result is that I’ve been able to learn from other people’s mistakes. It’s true that everyone has something to teach you, and the older the person you’re talking to, the more they have to teach. Think of all the things you’ve learned and mistakes you’ve made in just the past year. If you could help someone younger than you bypass all those bad situations by telling them the lesson ahead of time, wouldn’t you? In my experience, most people will.
I’ve found that spending time with people who are older can also help you relate to a completely different audience. Without a doubt you can already communicate fairly clearly with people in your own age group, but how well can you keep a conversation going with people your parent’s age? Older? Silly things like knowledge of old music and pop culture have helped me significantly in learning more and making allies while doing business (because let’s be honest: most industries are still dominated by middle-aged folk, not twenty- and thirty-somethings).
Probably the biggest advantage that I’ve acquired by spending time with people older than myself is my sense of what’s possible and where I should be. When you’re 14, the business world looks kind of bleak and unattainable…you can look at it through the glass, but the glass is dirty and thick so what’s on the other side doesn’t make much sense or seem terribly important.
When your friends obsess over their careers (previous, current and future) and talk to you, their young friend, about how work is going and where they plan on being in a few years, you can’t help but pick up on the some of the urgency and try to take advantage of any headstarts that are available.
I personally started planning my college career a while before I was in college simply because I had known so many people who got almost no value out of their expensive tryst with higher education. ‘What a shame!’ I thought. ‘Perhaps, having seen the possible future, I can do better!’ So I did.
The really strange thing is that after a while, you stop subtly comparing yourself with other people your age, because you’ve been ‘competing’ with people who are older for so long. At a certain point, there ceases to be much competition left in your own age group because the standards are so much lower there than you are accustomed to.
At this point you may be thinking ‘Well thanks for telling me this now. I’m already in high school / in college / graduated / married with 4 kids / a triple-divorcee with no prospects…it’s a little late for me to take advantage of this idea.’
Nay! Wherever you’re at in life is the perfect time to make a change. There will always be someone who is older and wiser and who can help you champion your way through life by using theirs as a yardstick by which to measure you own achievements.
So take the time to call up your parents, your aunt or uncle, an old friend you met at the coffee shop or a professor that you respect and see if you can take them out for a drink (coffee, juice, artisanal beer, whatever seems appropriate). Talk to them about what they think is important – just let them go wild without a whole lot of guidance on your part. Any advice they have will come spilling out.
On some level, we as humans – a tribal species – can’t help but feel that passing on knowledge is like bearing a child. By contributing to the future of our kind, we leave something behind after we die that can be just as important (or more important) as bringing a child into the world.
Just be sure that when you’re old and cranky you still take the time to pass on the stories and knowledge that you’ve accumulated to the next generation. You could do much worse than to have hundreds of members of the next generation forever influenced by your storytelling and advice.
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