I mentioned before that we’ve been helping people to find purpose in, and enjoy, their ‘unretirement’.
A few weeks ago, one of our clients talked about having left corporate life and becoming a consultant. Just three years later, he is starting to feel out of touch with current language, trends, law and more. He specifically mentioned two things that were referenced in a workshop he ran – one was a new buzzword, jargon if you like. The other was a piece of legislation that is pretty critical but had passed him by.
They weren’t a big deal, but he was conscious that when you don’t have a corporate structure around you or endless emails warning and briefing you, or those water cooler moments with colleagues, you can start feeling disconnected. Who would have thought you might long for emails on the latest legislation?!
All this can lead to a lack of confidence in using your skills – from helping charities to getting paid roles, whatever they are.
So it set me thinking. How can you stay young in mind, up-to-date and relevant once you have left full-time working life? While I am looking at this as an ‘unretirement’ issue for people wanting to use their skills, frankly it is something we all need to consider if we want to stay in tune with our children, grandchildren and society generally.
Just look at these dates of when various tech platforms started – they each became everyday language well within five years of starting:
Can you believe Google is only 20 years old?
The pace of change is on an exponential curve. This Forbes article, Rapid technological change is the biggest threat to global business looks at the challenge for business to stay abreast of technology – but I think there is just as big a threat to people and society if technology excludes them.
This weekend, I had a pub lunch with my husband, by a roaring fire, and we came up with a list of what our generation needs to do to stay young. Here is our list but we’d love to hear your ideas.
1. Don’t ask others to sort your tech problems
There was a brilliant article last year about the things that teenagers say REALLY annoy them about their mothers. This particular point stayed with me. Joe Lawrence, 17, said of his mother Sue, “I don’t find it annoying that you’re utterly clueless when it comes to downloading a film onto the TV or configuring a new mobile phone, it’s the fact you won’t even try to learn. You’re not stupid, but you deliberately act like you are just so I will do it for you. Gushing ‘what a clever lad’ I am doesn’t make it any better.”
First tip then, make an effort to learn how to use technology yourself.
2. When something annoys you – ask, is this a young way of thinking?
I regularly travel to London on Virgin Trains. In the WC, there is writing across the mirror saying ‘Go on, give us a smile’. Often the floor is wet, the train isn’t brilliantly clean and the dryer doesn’t work. This notice really irritates me and I conclude that it has been done by a bunch of young people working in marketing, thinking, ‘how can we make the journey really cool?’.
And this is the point. As we get older, we have so much experience to draw on and we tend to get critical when things miss the mark. But these youngsters were trying to make our journey fun. So now when I use these facilities, I try and imagine these cool kids in a cool office, starting on their own journey of understanding what works. And doesn’t.
3. Spend time with younger people
One of the challenges of leaving working life is that you probably need to build new networks. Make sure some of these are with young people. You could go into schools, mentor troubled young people, mentor start-up businesses and more.
4. Get out of your comfort zone
Years ago, I heard Tim Smit of the Eden Project (amazing contemporary gardens and eco projects in Cornwall) give his tips on creating an innovative and motivated workforce. One of his rules was that once a year, all his managers had to go to some kind of cultural event outside their comfort zone – and write a great review.
I wrote a blog years ago about keeping an open mind and what you get out of it – doing the unexpected can really surprise you as well as keep you young.
5. Read the Saturday FT magazine
I know this is very specific, but I think the FT’s Saturday magazine is just brilliant. They recently did a survey and asked what we wanted more of – my response was I love the way it constantly surprises and engages me on things I would never expect to enjoy reading.
They are particularly good at making technology easy to understand from wide perspectives. As just a few examples
– This weekend was a spring food and drink special, but they included a piece on food tech disruption, “Just, a food-tech start-up launched in 2011, created a software program to scour more than 350,000 plants for proteins, nutrients and properties that make them good to cook and eat. After four years, it discovered how to make eggless scrambled eggs from mung beans.”
– How every aspect of football matches are now being recorded and data analysed
– A great piece on Putin, Skripal and modern-day spying
You will have to subscribe for these articles, but honestly it is worth every cent or penny!
6. Start on social media
You will probably gather by now that I reckon if you are not active in social media, you have to start. It is not going away and the longer you leave it, the more disconnected you are becoming.
I interviewed Dorthy Miller, one of the founders of Primewomen who started the business in her 60s. She said, “I have to say I wasn’t very active in social media when I started this business, and I assumed that other women weren’t either! Of course, I hadn’t made the link between social media and being found on Google searches – in the meantime social media, especially Facebook, has really taken off for this older, more professional generation.”
7. Build a community online
This was my husband’s suggestion and I love it. He thought building a community online would be great to reconnect and build new networks – it could be old university or college friends or even getting in touch with distant relatives. You never know what might happen, but you will definitely learn new skills by doing this!
8. Whatever you fear, do it
I am mostly thinking about tech here, but it probably applies much wider. If you are fearing something, just do it. People are even sky-diving at 90 years old these days. If we want to stay young, we are going to have to address our fears. Though I would rather not sky-dive.
I had a few more things on my list, but they tended to come back to staying in touch with tech.
I am thinking of creating a weekly email for our clients which would have short, snappy one-liners around
– A trend
– An app or new business
– A new buzzword or jargon everyone is using
– A new law we should know about
– What’s trending (not necessarily the same as ‘a trend’)
What else would you include on this list – please do let us know and also what ways to stay young and relevant.