Does grey matter
My friend Neeraj Sagar has founded a company whose mission statement is to “retire retirement”. I call it “making grey matter”.
What does it take to make one’s second career work?
Observing many in my professional networks and reflecting about my own journey, I have come to recognize a few home truths about making grey matter.
It is their world
If we have worked for 35 – 40 years, it is fair to say that we had our fair share of moments under the sun. If we want to continue doing something of value, it helps to recognize that we are now trying to find a place in their world – the world of the next generation. To feel grateful that we have the privilege to be a part of and contribute in their world really helps.
Your network may have retired too
Many in the professional field flourished, thanks to a wide network of friends, well-wishers, clients and service providers who respected you and even passed a good word around. Chances are, most of them have retired too. As a professional service provider, I often meet decision makers and influencers who may not know me and my past life. They may tell me that they have been in the field for ten years and have done some very complex work. That can be a humbling experience. If we can go past that and engage in a great conversation, it may be an opportunity to build a new network, a new reputation and that could be fun.
What problems are you solving lately?
What I did a decade or two ago is not relevant. The question that will be asked is this – are you solving problems that are current, important and big enough for someone of your stature. If I am, I will be sought after, in demand, valued.
The opportunity to be a role model
If we have come this far – worked over three or four decades, maintained our health and have stayed relevant, can solve today’s problems, are self-assured and have the energy to go on, well we are a role model, a source of inspiration for the younger generation. To feel proud without being modest is important.
I never tire of quoting what Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel refer to as selfless independence in their book Clients for Life. Their list of three dimensions of independence for breakthrough relationships with clients is especially important for grey to matter:
Intellectual Independence: Having the courage to hold differences in perspectives at this stage in life is important.
Emotional Independence: getting over the need to be “liked and approved of” is important in order to ad value.
Financial Independence: Acting in a way that they don’t need that money and will not let money come in the way of one’s values is key.
There is a place for us
Interestingly, the next generation is looking for people with wisdom who can listen well and be available to them in their lives provided we can do it in a way that works for them.