~ by Steve Throckmorton
I know what you are thinking when you read the title to this chapter. After the previous five chapters telling you about how to capitalize on your age and experience, now I come up with “Think Younger” theme. Let’s be honest, youth is not all bad. It does have certain advantages to which I could illiterate all day but for the sake of my reading audience I will stick with only the business related advantages. You’ve heard the adage “If you can’t beat them then join them” and that is the idea behind this chapter.
Have you noticed that new upstart corporations are nearly always started by young people? Have you also noticed that many of these entrepreneurs are college drop outs? A notable example is Bill Gates of Microsoft who dropped out of college in his youth to start the computer software company that has grown to rival IBM. Another is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who practically invented the concept of social networking. So what traits do Mr. Gates and Mr. Zuckerberg have that the rest of us may be lacking? You may say youthful energy and enthusiasm. I agree but that applies to nearly every teen or early twenty something. Beyond the energy I feel the fact that both dropped out of college to pursue their dream also holds significance. Please don’t accuse me of suggesting that we would all do better by dropping out of school because that is not my message. I will say that successful entrepreneurs think differently than most people think. They march to their own drum beat, they think outside the box – there are numerous ways to describe it but basically they are not encumbered by the voices around them that said it could not be done or it’s never been done that way. When problems arise they think of an unconventional approach that often catches their competition off guard. Although I am not condoning the dropping out of school, I will say that schooling often fixates minds. The lesson here is to do whatever you can to prevent your thinking to set in concrete. Our thinking should be more like wet cement. Like hard concrete, wet cement contains all the necessary ingredients to build a structure but the cement is still pliable allowing it to be formed into any shape. You might say that the cement has potential but the concrete will not change. It is what it is and will always be exactly what it is, unless you get out a chisel and hammer and destroy enough of it to shape it. I think you will agree that pliability is better than chiseling, unless you are a sculptor. You just don’t want to be the one who is being sculpted.
So how do we keep our thinking flexible and pliable so that it doesn’t harden into concrete? I would suggest some of the following ways. Hold onto your seat belts because some of these may be rather unconventional. Exercise your imagination. This can be done in numerous ways but I warn you that they may not sound very “adult”
- Do you remember the cartoons that you watched as a kid? I loved the Road Runner. In every new episode Wylie Coyote constructed a new ACME device to capture the super speeding road runner. These were often rocket powered, spring powered or explosive powered contraptions that always ended in Wylie falling off a cliff, smashing into a rock face or being run over by a semi-truck. Wylie always came back for another try no matter how impossible his recovery. Were these in any way realistic? Of course not but they fired the imagination and I remember getting out a pencil and paper after watching some of these episodes to draw up designs for my own ACME devices. What is the lesson? Let your imagination wander. What interests you? What problems do you need to solve. Force yourself to think in unconventional ways and create new approaches in your mind that may sound ridiculous on the surface. Don’t worry about what others think of your ideas, these are for you, not anyone else. And if you have time, watch a few episodes of the Road Runner.
- This is not for everyone but I find that Science Fiction or Sci-Fi is a great catalyst for the imagination. If you don’t think so watch a few episodes of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry the creator of the series came up with some of the most imaginative ideas ever conceived to solve problems for the crew of the Enterprise. A few examples are the transporter (a device that moved people from a platform on the ship in space to a point on the ground on the planet the ship was orbiting), phasers (basically guns with light as bullets) and communicators (devices that crew members used to hold conversations between the ship in space and the ground). Of these three devices just mentioned only one remains technologically infeasible with 21st century technology, the transporter. The communicator is basically a cell phone that we have today and the phaser is a laser like device. As a caveat I will admit that even though we have laser technology we have not developed a power source suitable to operate such a device. However the technological infeasibility of the device is not the point. The point is that Roddenberry used his imagination to conceive of devices that would solve the problems that he needed solved to produce the series. I love Sci-Fi and I believe it has kept my thinking youthful in the sense that it stretches my thinking and my imagination to bend corners that I would not otherwise be able to negotiate. I think of Sci-Fi as stretching exercises for the brain.
Okay if you are too embarrassed to watch cartoons and you can’t stomach Sci-Fi try a few other approaches. Try problem solving puzzles or murder mysteries. If you like realities, as opposed to fiction then subscribe to a publication like Scientific American or if you are less technical try Popular Mechanics. These magazines are based in reality but they do stretch the imagination in ways you might not typically find yourself challenged in the daily work world.
In part 7 we will move into the topic of “looking” youthful.
Also make sure you see Tony’s post entitled “Ager-getic” https://findingemploymentafter50.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/ager-getic/