“Moving from Success to Significance” is the sub-title of one of our favorite books here at The Joseph Group; Bob Buford’s “Half Time.” We give this book to many of our clients entering retirement with the thought that at age 50+ they still have half of their productive life to go. Why not discover a passion and pursue it for that final half?
The website Next For Me connects and inspires post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution. Their most recent newsletter focuses on Perseverance and Determination. We think no matter your age you will find this focus enlightening and inspiring:
Julia Child launched The French Chef on TV at 50, a year after publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Ray Kroc began franchising McDonald’s at 52. Estelle Getty landed her breakout role on Broadway at age 58, then racked up seven back-to-back Emmy nominations for The Golden Girls. These are all exceptional “third acts”, but even if you aim for something more modest, you’re likelier to get there if you understand how the formula for achievement shifts as you age.
Psychologists have long known that success is fueled by grit, passion, and a growth mindset – a deep-seated conviction that you can excel at a new pursuit. Norwegian psychologist Hermundur Sigmundsson says that passion is by far the most important psychological factor, but it peaks early. “You lose the thinking that maybe you can do this”. But grit – a combination of perseverance and determination – rises through middle age and peaks in your 70s, as do a number of other intellectual traits. Though short-term memory declines after age 35, the mind’s accumulation of facts and knowledge peaks around retirement age. In many ways that’s when your mind is best suited to dominate on the job.
You’ll still need to overcome your flagging passion and growth mindset. A surplus of grit can help, says Anne Boden, 60, founder and chief executive officer of Starling Bank, a consumer focused online financial house. Boden had never lacked for ambition, holding roles at various financial companies. Along the way she frequently felt banks don’t really put customers front and center. So, as she passed the five-decade mark, she decided she should do it herself. “The first time I uttered the words ‘I’m going to start a bank,’ I couldn’t believe they came out of my mouth,” she says. But by the saying it over and over, she grew more comfortable with the idea.
HOW TO STOKE THE FIRE
- Make It Meaningful: Once you pass the half century mark, avoid work you don’t find compelling. The pandemic provides the perfect occasion to ditch – or be fired from – a position that doesn’t do much beyond keeping the lights on and the fridge full. “When you lose that “just OK” job, you have the opportunity to take a big risk,” says Boden. “Take all the good from your past ventures and throw them into the future.
- Move Your Body: “Physical activity is very important to keep the gray and white matter in your brain more functional” says Sigmundsson. His studies show that successful older people are all physically active. Anything that gets your heart pumping, such as walking, swimming, yoga, biking, or weights, will do the trick.
- Fight Weakness: Which is lowest: your grit, passion or growth mindset? Help nurture your weakest trait by surrounding yourself with people and deadlines that bolster it. If your entrepreneurial passion is fading, find an enthusiastic business partner and join an incubator program. If you fear you won’t be able to write that novel you keep seeing in your dreams, join a weekly writing group.
- Beyond work: Bonus points for learning completely new skills, which can improve cognitive function. The more novel and mentally demanding, the better – try, say, learning a new language or musical instrument. After a lifetime of playing percussion Sigmundsson picked up the bass guitar at age 50. “My band needed a bass player,” he says “Now I’m 55, and I’m quite good,”
We get excited as we see clients and friends living their “second acts” with purpose and passion. From success to true significance. Find your passion, your purpose and go for it. We’re here to make sure your financial plan and your portfolio are designed to support it!
Helping our clients live great lives….one story at a time. What’s your story?!
This article was written by Mark Palmer, Cofounder and Chairman