I’m just back from the gym. It’s a cold morning. As I defrosted the car I realised that Winter is finally here. The sky was clear, I could see the stars, and the sun was just starting to rise. It was breathtakingly beautiful and I felt blessed to be healthy, to be alive. On my early morning visits to the gym I often ask myself ‘am I crazy?” So many people are still tucked up warm and cosy at home in bed. What the heck am I doing on the road to the gym at 6.30 in the morning?
Now I know I’m not alone asking myself this question. And I’m sure that you too have experienced the same in your life when you’re doing something that the majority of people don’t, or won’t, do. Whether that’s leading a transformation project in your organisation and others think you’re mad; developing a new business while others are questioning you & thinking you’re crazy; or spending your evenings bringing your kids to their activities and standing on the side line when so many others simply ‘drop & go’. Whatever it is for you can I take this opportunity to honour & salute you. You are not alone. In fact it reminds me of a recent interview I saw with Jeff Bezos of Amazon. At the age of 30 he went into his then boss and told him he was leaving to sell books on the internet, and his boss replied that it was a great idea, except not for someone who had such a good job & great career prospects. Well, as they say, the rest is history.
Without the right mindset it’s impossible to achieve anything. If I turned up at the gym with the mindset that I was too old to get strong & healthy; or my arms were too small to lift those ridiculously heavy weights, then I probably wouldn’t even start. When we know we want to achieve a particular goal, whether that’s to get fit or change career direction or rise to the next level, we’ll find the motivation to get started. But often the challenge is this: how do we sustain it ? How do we block out the naysayers around us as well as the negative chatter in our own heads? What can we do to help ourselves keep pushing when it gets tough, to keep going when others say we’re crazy, to believe in ourselves again when all we feel like doing is giving up?
If I can share with you, I know how this feels. Through so many periods in my life when I knew I wanted something different from those around me and I was going against the tide, I found it a very lonely place to be. Whether it was setting up my first business, consciously rearing my kids in a way that was at odds with what others thought was ‘best’, or supporting my partners radical career change from finance to medicine when others thought he was mad. Sometimes you’ve just got to trust & believe. Regardless of what others say or what your negative ‘gremlins’ in your head keep telling you. Trust. Believe. Pray.
I’ve come to realise that there are certain areas in my life where I need external support from someone wiser & more experienced than me. Someone who challenges my mindset and helps me to see what’s possible. To help me believe that my goals are achievable. My trainers in my local gym do this for me. It’s a small & personalised approach to fitness, and it works for me. They keep me on track, they push me to lift the weights that I don’t want to life nor thought I ever could. They have shown me what’s possible. I am stronger than I’ve ever been before in my life. Only last week I met their oldest client, who must be in his 80’s. Yes, his 80’s. He’s a gorgeous, polite & humble gentleman who recently joined. Can you believe it? Now that impressed me. Here is someone who no doubt had people question his judgement joining a gym ‘at his age’. And yet here he was working out amongst the rest of us ‘young’ 40-50 year olds. He wasn’t letting his age, nor his mindset, hold him back.
Now the reason I share this with you is that I see far too many executives struggle with their mindset. As a career strategist the majority of my clients are between 40-55 years of age. But I have been shocked by the number of executives in their 50’s who have been told, yes ‘told’ by recruiters & headhunters that they shouldn’t even look for a new role. ‘Stay where you are, no one hires at your age’, they’re advised. ‘Forget it! There are no opportunities at your age so don’t even try’. When I hear this it makes my blood boil. Are we seriously saying to executives who have vast amounts of professional & life experience that when you hit you’re 50’s you’re no longer wanted nor valued? What is this doing to their mindset? If we hear something enough times we start to believe that it’s the truth. But let me take this opportunity to remind you that this is only ‘their’ perspective. It doesn’t mean it’s correct and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the truth.
My perspective is different. I firmly believe that you’re never too old and it’s never too late. We all know the story of Colonel Sanders who set up KFC aged 62. Jack Canfield co-wrote his first book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ at 49. The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins was appointed back in 2011 at the age of 70. Now these are just some examples. And while I acknowledge it can be challenging in a corporate career if you decide to ‘cruise’ for the last 15 years of your career then guess what? Don’t cruise. You will make yourself irrelevant. You’ve got to keep yourself motivated, well read, highly skilled, deeply passionate & truly inspiring.
If you’ve lost your way the last few years, that’s ok, but please make a conscious decision to make a change & get back on track. Invest in your health again. Read books that educate & stimulate you. Listen to podcasts & watch Youtube videos from thought leaders who inspire and reignite your passion. Some examples: Brendon Buchard, Simon Sinek, Tim Ferris & Jack Canfield. If you don’t believe you’re of value then you’ll struggle to convince others. Get your mindset right and you’ll achieve greater career success. Take back control. If you want to achieve greatness sometimes you need someone to help you see what’s possible. When we see it we can believe it. And you too, with a renewed sense of belief and a changed mindset, will achieve things you never thought possible.
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