The View from 60

Wooden hourglass 3This week I turn 60 and I thought it may be of some value to readers to share perspectives from the vantage point of 60, or at least my views from my experience at 60. So here they are—

I do not feel 60. I am not sure what I feel. I do not feel 20. In essence I have not “felt” different at any age really. It is just in the day to day living that one notices the effects of age. I am not as strong as I once was, not as agile, not as quick witted I suppose, not as much of a lot of things.

I am also more of a lot of things. I feel more satisfied with who and what I am. I seem to have gained some wisdom with 60 years on the planet, but fortunately I have enough wisdom to know that I do not know enough and am not wise often enough.

When I was young I knew, or thought I knew, exactly what I wanted to do. I decided on my career path while in high school. I never seriously wavered from that for decades. At 20 or 30 one has decades of life to live and there is not so much concern about using time to its fullest. At 60 I know that I am entering the final decades of my life. I do not know how many there are: One? Two? Three? Four? But I am less certain today on what I want to do with those final decades than I was when I was 20.

One reason for that uncertainty is that at 60 I see the possibilities and they are infinite. I can probably rule out being an Olympic contender or a ballerina, but there are so many things I could do. Choosing among this smorgasbord of options is difficult.

At 60 I know far more than I knew at 20 or 30 but I feel like I know far less. In youth it is much more difficult to comprehend how much we do not know. Age and maturity (they do not always go hand in hand) teaches us that there is so much more that we do not know and so little relatively speaking that we do know.

I do not have a lot of regrets about the first 60 years, but there are certainly things I would do differently had I known then what I know now. What I cannot know now is whether had I known then what I know now and acted as I now think I should have acted would my life be better? You may have to read that sentence twice.

I am less certain at 60. When I was young I knew things with absolute certainty, or at least much more certainty than I do today. I am not talking about self-doubt here but rather a humility that sets in as life goes on. There are so many things you thought you knew that you found with time you were wrong about. Or that you were partially wrong about.

I feel less anxiety at 60. Here is a paradox. At the time in my life when I often have less certainty about what I think I know I have less anxiety about it as well. I suppose that is because with age one learns that certainty is not needed, that it is most often a delusion, and that change is such a powerful and persistent element of life that there is no point in worrying about it. That is just the way it is. Enjoy the ride and don’t get all worked up about things.

Experience is a great teacher. When I was young I learned from what people taught me and what I read in books. After six decades of life I have learned a lot from others and a great deal from books for sure, but in the end I’ve learned most from experience.

Charlie Tremendous Jones used to say that in ten years you would be the same person you are today except for that people you meet and the books you read. He was half right. You are not the same person because of the people you meet, the books you read, and the experience you gain from life.

The glass remains half full. Growing up in the age of the nuclear bomb and the Cold War there was a lot to be pessimistic about if one were so inclined and I knew a lot of people who were so inclined. The interesting thing about all that pessimism is that it did not pay off – most of the horrible things that could have happened did not happen.

Today there is a new list and part of the old list of horrible things that may happen. War, pestilence, environmental degradation, poverty, political instability, and a host of other plagues remain upon us. It is too easy to buy into those who predict the end of the world or something just short of that but very bad indeed. Sixty years of life experience has taught me that the predictors of doom are rarely if ever right and that our ability to predict the future is poor at best.

Life is a happier experience when you see it optimistically. I do not mean viewing the world through rose colored glasses. I mean being optimistically realistic. Problems need solving and just when we think we have solved one problem it is replaced with two more. But life goes on. It is usually better than we fear it will be. The glass remains half full.

While the world is changing ever faster and more dramatically I remain confident that certain immutable principles continue to prevail. Success continues to be primarily the result of our doing the right things at the right time and maintaining a sense of balance about it all. We may not realize all our goals and aspirations, but we will realize many of them if we are dedicated, work hard, are persistent, honest and diligent. Those principles never guarantee an outcome but they lead to far more success than the alternatives.

For those of you who are far short of 60 I can tell you that the view from here is pretty good. I can assure you that while there are more aches and pains and health problems as you grow older, there are also a lot of good things that come about. Life is good. Life is full of suffering and challenge, but life is still good.

For those of you that are beyond 60 please do not burst my bubble. Let me continue to see the good in the world and in people. Let me enjoy my last decades and let me continue to see the glass half full. I like that. I prefer to live that way.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.