elder


The way we act may not be an indication of who we are.” – J. Durant

Throughout the course of our lifetime we will struggle with our identity.  While we may profess that our search has been reached it becomes more of a defensive response than one of deep and committed reflection.

For the last decade the world has rapidly slipped into a contentious state.  The blame cannot rest upon the social media vehicles that carry the message but in the acts of those who feel compelled to express their beliefs.   So who are you anyways?

Retrospective

A healthy part of life is to reflect on who we are.  It isn’t about what we have accomplished, since these are simply momentary acclaims that will carry us forward for a brief bit of time.  If sustained it must be done so in a very purposeful and responsible fashion.  This is where ego can easily take over and responsibility becomes a view of obligation and not one of respectful conduct.  All too many people have fallen out of favor because the legion of minions have moved forward leaving you standing alone on the battlefield that you have played a major role in creating.   Sustained success must remain true to those early ideals set as the reason for making a difference and not get caught up the frey created around us.

I think back in time when engineering was honestly pragmatic and devoid of superficial engagement in debates which diminished our credibility.  It was also a time where pragmatism was constantly assaulted by business decisions that were contextually intuitive and lacked structure.  With the advent of agility we created a framework that offered flexibility, but at the same time this power of capability gave way to some very strong opinions.  At first it was all about the level of agile purity that should be exercised.  Those early days created hard fought turf and as a result we unknowing lost flexibility and created evangelists.

When I look back at myself one of my hardened character traits involves the pursuit of purity and rightness, and this came from my early years as a technology auditor.  Things were looked as right or wrong, compliant or not, and when to the contrary working with the affected parties to gain agreement and create a suitable solution.  Unfortunately, if left unattended this vocation driven trait easily became one that endangered my personal life.   During a recent conversation a person shared with me the unfortunate bullying that some businesses owners were experiencing from customers using their social media clout.   Our emotions take over, professional stature builds momentum and we become irresponsible by acting through our readily available social platforms without considering some degree of professional decorum.   We overlook the need for respect and responsible behavior.  Don’t think for one moment that I have not been out of control and have throw caution to the wind.  Despite that momentary loss of sanity and the momentary euphoria it was soon followed by remorse.  The remorse wasn’t just about the loss of control but the possible damage it may have caused (directly and indirectly).

Change The World

For more than a century we have been ingrained with the ability to change the world.  We subconsciously believe that we will make a difference.  What we don’t realize is that a difference isn’t always a positive one but can be damaging and counteracted by others responses to their drive to make change.  These points of contention can be as simple as a difference of opinion on approach, a twist of outcome based on perspective, cultural vantage point or simply a discord relating directly to you sole based on you.  The later is the most difficult to overcome but consideration to the use of both ‘blind’ and ‘surrogate’ alternatives when the goal is something of significance.

It goes without saying that we will have have a contribution to the world simply by existing.  The next level is when we contribute as a part of a private closed framework, such as the case with organizations, as a member, or working as an employee for a business.  This is the juncture when we have to start tempering our personal beliefs with those of others.  Tempering is not conceding but adapting to conditions.  We face the challenge of authenticating our belief systems while processing what other beliefs we become expose to.  Baring in mind that these beliefs may be just as fragile as the ones we have been closely guarding during the course of our lifetime.  Its at this point we need to shape our personalities and our behaviors in such a way that it reflects who we are.  It becomes a contradiction of sorts when we say we are our own person when we chose to lead, follow, meld or decent into the pact.   Going back to our school days there was always a person or two that we would consider to be the bully.  In those formative years it was usually based on size, age or some urban myth of their bullying abilities.  Later on we discover that these things, while risk factors, had a fairly low probability of reliability or occurrence potential.

But have we advance from being in the shadows of fear of the bully on the playground to now the bully in life (or in business or in the profession we are associated with)?

Professional Bullies

There is a saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing (A. Pope)”.  It isn’t just about the knowledge we have or the moment of notoriety we have achieved, but its the way we responsibly use it.  If you look back on contacts that you have made you may hold certain people in high adoration because of this trait.  You may also feel a bit misused by being a minion to that ‘one hit wonder’ who is loud and self righteous, but has absolutely no respect for anyone.   It is also likely they don’t have self-respect because they have not taken the time to look within, hear around, consider the obvious and ignore the potential of their harmful and destructive patterns.

Today disrespectful contention (aka bullying) abounds.  Contention between generational groups, social and leadership debates and the ongoing riff over religion.  Where has it taken us?  To wars with no winners, the loss of cooperation and the abundance of hate.   So if we want to make a change we need to start with understanding the difference we are making that is possibly not a constructive one that can also be self damaging.

A client had a problem with one of their teams.  They felt that the team was not functioning as a team and that there were certain members that we in fact not contributing in a positive fashion.   While the customer felt that training was the best opinion there were open to suggestion.   After careful observation and bit of stealth listening there were several discoveries.

  1. The chief compliant about non-team minded members proved to be the case that it was those complaining were the problem.  Further examination revealed that they were under performing and needed the support of the others who they were complaining about.
  2. Much of the work that was being done did not require a ‘team’ approach.  A simple blueprint for connectivity was all that was needed.
  3. The concept of self-empowered created an atmosphere of righteous indignation towards their fellow teammate.
  4. The team was undersized and over managed.  While we can’t always get the resources we need the solution became more managing our of fear of failing.  Re-scoping what could be delivered and to what extent became a more durable and mutually agreed to decision.
  5. Management viewed the turmoil within the team as a failure of the team.  Thus confidence was lost even though it was recovered with a few simple adjustments.

The biggest takeaway was that a plan is only achievable if one understands the transitional changes necessary to retain focus.

Responsibility

Nothing succeeds without people, not as a resource or a talent, but in attitude.  As I was told the other day that you develop an impression of a person but its not until you have social interaction that you really understand who they are.   “You can’t just a book by it’s cover” is apropos in this case.  So what kind of revealing characteristic do you want for ‘you’?   Is it a good cover with horrible content, is it a suitable cover but with sincerity and respectful guidance, or is a book with no cover and the content is still awaiting a first draft?    During the course of a lifetime we are in search of this answer.  There is no rule that prescribes that a certain trait should occur at a point of time in your life.  Lessons and change occurs based on the progression of life and it affects us based on our span of openness.  This span may simple be in a small hamlet or on the world stage.  With each span of openness our responsibilities increase.

Thinking can be a good thing but sometimes it can also create amazing gut wrenching conflict.  In preparing to write these thoughts I went through a moment of retrospective as to who I am.   A narrow path of this reflection involved the question, “am I a conservative or a liberal”.  I resorted to looking at the definitions of these two opposing ends of the belief system and came to realize that I am neither.  In fact I have become balanced (purely coincidental and not by design) having beliefs in both domain.  How did this happen since I always considered myself a conservative?  What I have discovered is that while my regional/social upbringing created the starting point that life presented to me opportunities to change.  Not always willfully, sometimes out of necessity and at other times the result of a massive exposure to different things.  These things involved people, places, technologies, viewpoints, awareness, research, self-discovery, marriage and children.  In short, life experiences.  The things I avoided were the result of restraint and respectful responsibility.  The things I didn’t avoid created lessons and also a sense of accomplishment.  But with these achievements came a massive responsibility to not be a bully but be a guide.  It’s a privilege that commands self-restraint and a willingness to avoid false pontification.   The label we carry is not one bestowed by the masses but the gift we give to ourselves.  We share this with others for the advancement of civilization and not the destruction of hard work.

 


 

For some nations this is without question a violation of law and for others its an unwritten reality masked by smartly crafted employment criteria.  The fact is there are ways to avoid the onslaught of white haired seniors and to keep them from providing a value contribution to business and society.  It is quite ironic that when it comes to gainful employment that this resource is overlooked, while it is sought after if involves a volunteer role.

Up until the 1990s senior members of organizations were a prized and valued asset.  They weren’t looked upon as over-the-hill, a soon to retire dead wood or even a non-contributor.  What they were viewed as was a invested asset, one in which experience and skills became a tool and not a liability.  A changing of the guard and the search for greater profits put seniors in the cross hairs of business downsizing.  After all, they had earned a wage that was superior to the juniors and with each passing moment the cost of retirement and medical were rapidly becoming a concern.  To avoid these costs, the value elements was cast aside in favor of a pure money savings viewpoint.  In order to easy minds further the senior became a token, used to legitimize the need for earnings for growing families and up and coming talent.

Wise is this SO Wrong?

In business one has to constantly look at cost, and for public companies this is further stressed by the earning demands of shareholders.  We see the recognition of people giving way to such sterile titles as human resource and human capital.  This all to the credit of creativity but unfortunately ignoring that this commodity is in fact dealing with humans.  The fall out, which I prefer to call rubble, is a loss of self-esteem and a sense of having no purpose.  Those fortunate to harvest a nice retirement nest egg could move on, even if they weren’t ready.  But by-and-large most that were put out to pasture we not ready, and it damaged people (possibly your parents or elder relatives).  In desperation they sought purpose but faced a massive challenge to find anything close to what they had.  Relegated to low wage jobs they pushed forward.  What you see is a strong work ethic and commitment despite the devastating loss of self-esteem.  You would hear people further justify their role as ‘having nothing better to do’ or ‘they only need to earn a little to subsidize their retirement’.

The removal of the senior workforce created a much larger problem and that being the transitioning of work.  Many if not all downsizing efforts resulted in retrenchment of staff into roles that were either not in their skill area or simply they weren’t ready.  Masked by titles and faux responsibilities the train left the station.  The successes were far and few between, we see the advent of formal CSM (Customer Service Management) come into being as a result of these changes.  Further hidden from view was the masking of this problem in the form of further downsizing efforts where by the failures could be simply hidden within.  This misplace souls, along with the previous senior community saw a blooming of independent business occur.  Many in the form of consultancies and unfortunately a deterioration of quality service delivery from these temporary enterprises.  Many consultancies became a stop over in unemployment that permitted chances to seek permanency via consulting engagements.

What to DO?

Unless you are in the top 10% of those looking for a C-Level or Board position your chance of employment remains a challenge.  I worry when I see people 10 or 20 years my junior jumping positions for reasons that may or may not be under their control.  My concerns is that verbalized legitimacy is not a pretense for value based selling, its simply an excuse that helps you contend with the real reasons.  As a senior still ready-willing-able truthful examine yourself.  Most are unable to do this objectively and therefore you need to be coached as to what image you have.  Secondly, you need to show present aptitude and ability.  Seniors ARE NOT easy to manage.  Why?   Experience while valuable also poses a challenge to ideas and missions that may have flaws.  The value of experience is also a challenge (almost always in a positive way but for those in control it is often viewed as an affront on authority).  Likewise, is the challenge of socialization in terms of fitting in.  In my early business career fitting is was more about getting along and not about whether someone was older or different than us. Today socialization has become a matter of like kind and not ‘right kind’.  This situation disrupts elements of a company and creates more often than not negativism that becomes legitimized based on age and not the attitude that makes age as the convenient excuse.

Is There Remaining Value?

This is a questions that management companies need to ask.  I would also submit that this abundant resource should not be used for the mainstream day-to-day operational elements but as a knowledge pool that helps to support both operational and future reaching ambitions.  The span of time, creating experience, helps to see ahead without lingering on the past.  Looking ahead embraces innovative thinking at the C-Levels in business which up to now has very little support network to legitimize and test the possibilities that are contrived.    This knowledge pool can be deployed on one of two ways.  The first utilizing a hand selected consultancy pool but organized under a single point of leadership (either within or external to the company).  The second way is to form a group whereby experience and skill requirements are the criteria.  In this last form the company can entertain those with exceptional values even if they aren’t seniors in the context of age.

Conclusion

One should not view age as the factor but rather the loss of value and the pressing present need for correction that only can be achieved through the test of time which creates experience.  There is remaining work that needs to be done to overcome skill and aptitude gaps caused by the rash financially based staffing decisions that have been made.

I stated a few days ago in a social post that “if you stay in your profession long enough you will see a recurrence of discussions and battles from past times”.   Most rational thinkers would prefer a veteran from a prior war than a fresh enlistment who hasn’t seen the pressures of combat.  Its time to rethink the resources and the needs that our companies exist and stop searching for something that may or may not even exist.

Like an awakening from a dream old age sets upon us in a definitive fashion.  The rapid passage of your 30s, 40s and 50s give way to an abrupt realization that time has passed and now the model of our remaining life has changed.  Our plans and aspirations realized or not require a re-visitation with the distinct possibility that we will require adjustments. Despite a crusty hard headed obstinance acquired by time and experience an admission that conditions are such that we are no longer in charge.  Does it mean that we must give way or is their some sort of ritualistic passing of the torch that needs to occur?

As I look about at myself and my fellow ‘seniors’ there are many different variations.  Some are quite content in a casual routine, surrounded by loved ones and living out their lives in relative tranquility.  Others are bewildered and a bit down trodden by a world that is unfamiliar, leaving trust in respect without the realization that it could very well be a means of avoidance by the community at large.  This leaves me to gaze into the mirror with a hard fast stare, trying not to turn away from the past but not relying on that past as a means to plot a path today.  It would be ever so easy to simply regress to a dark corner and disconnect as much as is possible.  To silently walk the path with as little human contact as possible.  My deep down desire is to not rely upon the closet full of trophies and plaques, the miles traveled, the damage done and the sacrifices made but to make use of these things for what value they might have.  Like a car, its never worth the value that we spend but if we treasure our investment we will give care as best we can, thus my reason for not turning my back and adopting a convenient paradigm.

Is the realization for change mean that we should cast aside aspirations, or should I be more aggressive to accelerate rather decelerate?  Only I can answer that question but for sure with any forward reaching ambitions I cannot simply reply on my stripes of experience but have to better understand the world as it is today.  Full of virtues that are clearly not what I grew up with or believe, but these are conditions that my children have created for a world they want and for the children that they have.  To some very weird sense we must accept the destiny of today because it is of our seed that it becomes the plant of our offspring.  Have we done wrong because their world is different or should we revel with great pleasure that they have walked boldly forward, created conditions that they appreciate and unwittingly be sitting here, were I sit now as an elder wondering what is next and all of the other conflicts of an aged reality?  Is it poetic justice, no… this my friend is life as it always has been.  We say that technology is creating things faster but even in years gone past a similar lament could be heard, “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” could be heard (1930s).  Throughout time change has confronted us like a slap in the face.  We face adapting, utilizing, considering and understanding.  To believe that we can simply exist without change is to misunderstand that WE change, and that impacts not just us but everyone around us.

So as we close out 2016 let us mature members of society get our legs underneath us, we ask for others to give some understanding to our plight but also the value we bring to the table.  Someday you too will be a member of these group. #JED2016

Thinking is a horrible thing, it forces us to look at our present realities and make decisions.  Most would probably prefer to take each day as it comes, others may retreat into an even more passive reality and there are those that take action.  Some may even question why action at your age when ‘you should’ be taking the time to enjoy life.  My retort, since I’m in that group is that I have always enjoyed life.  For me, at least, my life has been fully committed to allot of different things, not the least of which has to improve on the lives we have.  It was point out recently that I act bold and critical, to which I agree.  But those that would agree with this assessment are dealing superficially and without giving thought as to why.  Early in my working career I was an auditor, and as auditors our apparent role is to find fault with things.  When this eludes us we don’t feel elated but become a bit cynical and believe that things can’t be so right.  As we often discover there is a much bigger issue that exists than the jubilation which we are seeking to have.  This forces us into a mindset of ‘happy path thinking’ and not the realities of the all so common ‘sad path of life’.   When I think of my recent critic I see ‘happy path’, the ‘popular’ and the one that others will gravitate to as a result of position, stature and physical attractiveness.  What I also wonder is when these present day virtues will play out, because they will.  Society is not so kind as to allow a forgiving heart whether even when strongly defended by results provided over a course of years.  I wonder at that point where they will go, will they accept realities, slide into despair or stand solidly to defend their position as a member of the elder community.

PASSING THE TORCH

Every cinematic production always has the leader passing the privilege of  leadership to someone else.  Usually this is passed as a result of impending death and the readiness of the replacement to accept the responsibility.  They aren’t always ready but what they show are the virtues of leadership and committed boldness.  But this is all in movies with a smartly crafted story line that permits for a sequel to be played.  This is our human thinking that there will always be the next chapter and that next chapter will go to illustrate that main characters ability to achieve and overcome.  Subordinate to this the question of doubt that goes unfulfilled from the closing episode as to whether they can make it a reality.  The reality is that had the main character (the replacement) had not been there that the elder leader would have least given comfort a continued stable state.  What seldom gets illustrated in these chronicles is the uncertainty that exists or the fool hearty thinking that exists in every new leader.

Stepping forward into reality 2016 version, society as a whole seeks leaders.  Anyone or anything that society deeps a success in the present day reaches a level of leadership recognition.  It might be a technological accomplishment, commanding an uprising, award received or a contest won.  Are these leaders or are they simply points in time.  What comes to mind is a term that occurs in the music industry called a ‘one hit wonder’.  The person has all of the traits and all of the abilities but is unable to deliver continuity.  There are far more one hit wonders than the emergence of leaders.  The outcome isn’t always pretty, some fall into the abyss of drugs and substance abuse, some will disappear into obscurity while others will continue their craft using what little bit of notarity they have been able to  accumulate.  The elders are allot like the one hit wonder but on a much larger scale.  Their one hit wonder may be the 20, 30 or even 40 years of commitment to their profession and their society.  Is society willing to simply accept this contribution and push them to pasture, allow them to fade into the past (even the most popular will fall into that state) or is there a reason to continue involving them in ‘the today’?  It is a personal choice for the elder but it is also a responsibility of society to determine how it wishes to react.  The East has a long standing respect for its elders but I would also say that the outcome remains the same as with the West.  Both East and West do not have a commitment to engagement of the elder community.  As a result, the resource is not utilized and as a result society continues to create mistake on mistake that could have been avoided or resolved using the best of minds crafted on years of applied experience.

The Plan

As an elder I’ve been sitting here for the last couple of weeks considering ‘the next’.  When we are young we look at things in terms of the journey traveled and when you become an elder you start trying to figure out how much forward history remains.  Many decide to take it slow, although slow sometimes seems quite fast, clinging on to each and every second.  Others fade in the discourse of society’s use of their talents and abilities, to which this becomes a painful torturous process.  And then there is the remaining few, the “me’s” that want to grow more.  For me, its found in the development of my 20 year plan.  I started off thinking 10 years but then realized that if it was too short that I would have to add to it.  Now in the concept of sprint planning (an agility terms used in software development) we are more than happy to add more because it provides the stakeholder with added perceived value.  But I’m not doing this for the benefit of anyone else, but for self and knowing that I was stretching small would be a personal letdown on myself… so I’m going to stretch big and  anticipate that this won’t be my last plan during the course of my life legacy gifted to me by my parents and the natural course of creation.  For those that think that I should hang it up, sorry to disappoint you but go on with your lives as though I don’t exist (they have been doing a pretty good job at that… so be it).  For those that think I should slow down, I am in slow mode (haha, I bet you thought it was all out, sorry… I live the life of a race car).  But more importantly for those are sitting at that same cross road as I did, and still haven’t got the answer I want you to consider building your next plan.  A plan not based on a goal but one crafted on a basis of service to society and your own mental well being.

This plan is like to other, its a plan based on enjoyment.  It reaches deep into our past and becomes a testimony to sharing.  Some of you may have seen my tidbits of thinking (I like to think of it as wisdom but I’m sure that would be up for debate) posted in my social media outlet Facebook.  They are shown with hashtag #JEDyear, since I started doing this in 2015 and have continued on this track into 2016 they are prefixed by those two years.  I did this for two purposes; the first was to leave something behind for my child to have as a guide (since most were driven on real life situations that have happened) and the second reason was to serve as a yard stick on my continued mental well being (in other words not losing my sanity but if I was to determine the extent of loss…. thus far so good, I think).  Our elder plan should be made up of both personal and professional goals.  Each of these categories made up of a series of explicit objectives.  Its sort of the elder’s form of bucket list, probably perceived by many as a ‘Leaky Bucket List’.  The items should not be about the how, otherwise you will never get started, but the what.  Once you have defined the what then they ‘why’ and in this case its okay to be a bit selfish and have some reasons that are purely for you and no one else.  Mental health and sanity are important because as elders time has a way of eroding away sanity even when the physical is entirely healthy.  With this in hand we can then start to craft how we are going to go about doing it.  The one wonderful thing about elder planning is that we know the sense of urgency, in our youth we would prefer to procrastinate and let life lead us where it may.  Oh my goodness, I wish that life had left me alone on more than one occasion and forced me into having a better road map.  But alas, this is history and the time is now.

My Plan

As I said its for ‘me’ not for you or for society.  No, you won’t have to call up the FBI or other law enforcement agency to come and retrieve me.  My plan is about building the next.  Its not about the internet of things, its not about innovation or some other present day catch phrase its about torch building.  Where you don’t come, I will come, and where I come I will show and guide.  I have done this for a good part of my life, often in the shadows of the ones who today are either dead or struggle by the loss of their appeal.  They are a small part of what they once were and their mental state although statesman like is inside a frail vulnerable being.  So for me let me at least outline what my plan is (and you can decide for yourself as to whether I’m sane or not).

Personal

  • Stabilize Friendship and Connection Base
    • Purge where you must, repair where you can, build what you need
  • Next Generation Preparation to Accept the Torch
  • Achieve New Avenues for Enjoyment
  • Recognize All Wrongs without Justification

Professional

  • Complete Existing Projects
  • Form One New (or Renewed) Startup Enterprise
  • Capture Life Experiences and Seek to Fill Gaps of Opportunity
  • Continue Reading, Research and Study
  • Abandon Contacts who Involve Effort Exertion

Unlike most plans I believe this has to be examine and adjusted regularly, possibly as frequently as monthly.  I am also planning to share this with some other fellows (men and women) who should be or are in the midst of a similar exercise.  Although many are not in the mode of writing it down but living it, like they did in their youth its important to share in order to get a sanity check as well as to build psychological strength.  You might think you have all the answers after 20 years but you don’t even have it at 30 or even 40.  Life isn’t about an ending but about a beginning.