I am a little old lady.
Yes, I know I’ve always been 5 feet, 9 inches tall, but at my last medical check-up I found out that I’ve lost half an inch. That makes me littler than I’ve ever been in my adult life.
I am also old. When I tell people I’m old, they say no you’re not, to try to make me feel better. But I’ll be 71 in less than two months; that hardly qualifies me as an ingénue. At this point I think little old lady suits me perfectly.
Here’s why you should listen to me. First of all, someday you’re going to be old, and you’ll want to spout off about how you feel and the way things used to be. So it’s only fair that you indulge me because this is my time in the old person’s catbird seat.
Second, I can spare you a lot of headaches because I’ve been down your path. For instance: Worried about your career? Don’t be. You worry way too much.
I’ve had a number of careers, and they’ve served me well. I was an advertising copywriter, a television broadcaster, I owned my own film and video production company, I taught at two university graduate schools of business, and I was once dubbed by The New York Times “the most heard voice in America”. (More about that later.)
The point is, there are a zillion careers out there. If the one you’re in isn’t working out, you can always try something else. I did, and I never finished college.
If I had one piece of advice for younger people, it would be to dream more and worry less. What excites you? What would make you want to get up every morning, eager to go to work? We’re talking a lot of years in the work force. How do you want to spend them? Need I remind you that life is finite? No one understands this better than an older person. That’s why little old ladies are so good at helping you look at the big picture so you can figure out what’s valuable in your life, and what isn’t.
If you’re not sure which career speaks to you yet, try out your options. Believe me, when you’re 71 you’re not going to be wishing you’d spent another 5 years in that job you found tedious and stressful. You’re going to be wondering why you didn’t take the leap and start your own business.
Making money is not as important as you think. The one job I took only because the money was good turned out to be my least favorite. I left after two years.
It’s true you have to support yourself and put funds away for retirement. But making money to acquire more things is something that seems almost laughable to a 71-year-old. I had a few careers that were lucrative; I had some that barely paid the rent. But I learned from and enjoyed almost all of them. You have to trust in your skills and your ability to work hard. And you should expect some good luck along the way.
As luck would have it, when I was an advertising copywriter, I auditioned for the voice of a then-revolutionary system called automated voice response. The company that produced the software for this fledgling computer application was looking for a female voice that was mid-range, clear and without an accent. I got the job. This little side-hustle led me to become the voice of directory assistance for most of the country. Back when people still called directory assistance. Hence, The New York Times article.
See? You never know what’s going to come your way. You simply have to put yourself out there, take a chance and wish yourself good fortune. I viewed my audition for the automated voice system as an experiment. The part-time job sounded fun, and I wanted to see if I could do it. If I hadn’t had the right voice I would have lost nothing.
How many opportunities, big or small, have passed you by because you were afraid to give them a whirl? The first time I was on live television I was terrified. I got through it by simply doing it. Every day I got better at it.
Even the most accomplished people in their fields had to start out some time.
Don’t be afraid. Take it from a little old lady who can see the long view: You have nothing to lose, and only self-knowledge, mastery and adventure to gain.
To recap: Dream, take risks. Fear will lessen as you go along. Don’t make a big income your top priority. Expect good things. Stop worrying, be happy.
Next week my blog will impart more encouraging and unsolicited advice to the young and middle-aged out there. Since most of you were brought up to be nice to older people, remember to be polite and read it.