Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Coping with Decline

I still feel at the top of my game, yet few 62-year-old, intense 15-pounds-overweight men have much time before they become irrelevant and dead.

Of course, countless self-help books and motivational speakers spread happy talk about how 70 is the new 50 and other such exaggerations. 

This post offers my thoughts on how to live life's fourth quarter. (At this point at least.I'd welcome the game going into overtime)

Here are my thoughts:
  • Don't think about it. Whatever you gain in perspective is outweighed by increased worrying about the unsolvable. 
  • Make the most of each moment. Because those moments are getting ever more finite, let your fear of death fuel you to use each moment wisely . For example, do you really want to play golf or fly to your cousin's wedding, or would you rather mentor someone?
  • Worried about money? Consider downsizing your life, for example, by trading your home for an inexpensive small apartment. With a bit of an attitude adjustment, you could find the trade-off well worth it: You're less worried about running out of money and you have the freedom to choose what you want to do with your time with less regard to how much money it earns. One of my most popular posts is How I Could Live Decently on $20,000 a year
  • Act wise. As Neil Simon wrote, "Wisdom doesn't come with age; wisdom comes with wisdom." But perhaps you can instantly attain some by, in your moment to moment actions and utterances, invoking your wisest self.  No matter how old we are, all of us are sometimes immature, sometimes less so. I find it rewarding to usually try to behave as wisely as I can. That makes me feel I'm reaping a reward of getting older and I feel more consequential, more worthy.
  • Be less concerned with what society, friends, or family thinks. Sooner rather than later, you'll be dust. The time is now to do and think what you believe is consistent with the life well-led and what's right for the world. 
For example, common as we age, I'm growing more conservative, believing for example, that the world's trend toward additional redistributive "justice," is, in fact, injustice, a short-term feel-good that, long-term, will deeply hurt the world's people. So I've been coming out of the political closet and daring to assert such political incorrect views, willing to accept the consequences. Indeed, I have been fired from positions in the supposedly tolerant liberal media for daring to occasionally veer right of center. After a quarter century in the media, I truly know it is guilty of McCarthyism from the Left, ever swinging its censorship machete dare you question the orthodoxy that the world will be better by diverting  yet more resources to women, minorities, and the poor. 
  • Make the biggest difference you can. In choosing your Big Project, tackle something of benefit to society that few others would tackle. For example, I funded creation of an online continuing education course that helps teachers do a better job of educating intellectually gifted students in a mixed-ability class. But also make the biggest difference you can, moment to moment. Just one example: answer your emails, do it kindly and/or honestly. 
Without too much reductionism, it all comes down to two words: act wisely.
As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and disseminating this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or the now old-fashioned way: copying and pasting it into an email and sending it to people who might like to read it.


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Jeffrie said...

I'm not 62 yet, but I think this is good advice for people at any age. Many Americans will not live as long as they expect, so why wait to appreciate life & live it well?

One day I said to my best friend, "Whether through death, difference or indifference, one day we will not be in each other's lives anymore. And what I can do is appreciate any time I have with you while I still have it."

Right now I still have & appreciate my best friend, as well as all of the people who care about me. I appreciate the chances to do my favorite things. I appreciate the times I've helped somebody using my strengths (whatever those are). And the few times I've made a small, positive difference, I appreciate those, too.

I don't get to experience those things above every day, so I'm grateful when they do happen. Don't wait to act wise & live life well. Do it now.

Anita said...

I enjoy reading your articles. I, too, have grown more conservative with age. It puzzles me how easily I am 'put in a box' by friends and family for my conservative beliefs.
I find a lot of common sense in your ideas.

Maria Lopez said...

One has to be careful. A marginal neighborhood might leave you more vulnerable to crime.

I think many people do not realize that physical decline as they age might limit their options. For example a child suggested that when she was old she might move to a remote town in the mountains, I told her that distance to medical care and having to deal with winter snow might make living in a place like that very difficult.

Bill said...

I have been a long time reader of your site. I'm also a cal graduate, and a blogger. I have really enjoy your thoughtful writing and insights.

My question for you: why not start exercise and get healthy? You are an intense person. If you apply the intensity to fitness and health, I think you'll get good results.

This worlds need people like you who will live longer, produce more, and contribute more to the society.

I suggest you to read Evolutionary Fitness by Arthur De Vany, a UC Irvine economics professor who is in excellent physical condition in his 70's.


Marty Nemko said...

Thanks, Bill, I've been a vigorous exerciser my whole life. Now, I take a very vigorous three-mile (hilly) hike every day with my dog, and I go faster than 95% of the people who are doing it. I just have always had a hard time keeping weight off: my breakeven point is 1600 calories a day. Thanks again for caring.

Anonymous said...

My late-life strategy is to own up to things and to make peace with as many people as you can. Quit pretending no one will know what I've done if I just don't admit it. Everyone already knows, I found out. I was only fooling myself. I've quit pretending everyone else is to blame. I've forgiven myself and others and I've taken responsibility. I've talked to people who've wanted to talk to me about things that happened years ago, instead of blowing them off or convincing myself that it doesn't matter. It does matter. It has given them peace and opened my eyes. More than that, things are finally resolved. It's a clean feeling.


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