What do you think your ultimate contribution to the human condition will be? Statistically that contribution will likely come early in your life but it does not have to be that way. Many people just give up on the opportunity to apply their considerable wisdom to the problems of the world. Which of those problems will you work on?
Charles Darwin made his seminal contributions to the human race as a relatively young man. As a middle aged man he lost the creative spark and faded away into a depressed and despondent oblivion. The inventor of the theory of evolution missed the opportunity to evolve.
"Your professional decline is coming (much) sooner than you think." The Darwinian decline is part of a convincing argument by Arthur Brooks that our fluid innovative thinking peaks in our youth and cedes to more crystalized thinking as an inevitable consequence of experience and wisdom. This does not mean that a lifetime of contribution is necessarily over, but just as it's wise to save for our later years, whether we plan to retire or not, it's wise to plan for major career shifts as we age.
This past November I hosted the inaugural meeting of what I decided to call the "shadow forum". Over the years I've had the good fortune to meet and coach some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in Canada. As these elder baby boomers have been transitioning from very lucrative and high profile business careers, they've all been looking for opportunities to maintain or even expand their relevance and impact on the world around them.
Interestingly, the people I tend to attract have political leanings that are neither left nor right but a hybrid of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism. The more innovators I meet the more convinced I am that this central tendency is a kind of entrepreneurial libertarianism.
My community of people are impact entrepreneurs: they are interested in using business as a platform for social and environmental activism and wealth creation for themselves and their organization. This group, pretty much by definition, would never organize politically, but across the country they make up the class of people who are responsible for job creation and a healthy tax base.
Impact ventures are a platform for social change and wealth generation.
The people who have joined my movement (and it's obviously not just my movement) have achieved a level of success and profile. They could just fade away and live on their financial wealth, but none of them is that interested in that old vision. Instead they are looking for ways to expand their base of contribution beyond that and beyond the traditional notion of post-success philanthropy. There is a bigger conversation to be had and we are having it. Entrepreneurial activism, national competitiveness, strong communities, wild nature, personal growth, good health, happy families. This is the new wealth and new vitality for people as they age.
Relevance is a conscious choice.
The architect Frank Lloyd Wright made his seminal contributions to the human race as a relatively old man. Charles Darwin and Frank Lloyd Wright were both celebrated well after their own deaths but the later stages of their lives were quite different. The difference may well come down to differences in vision and imagination of what's possible.
From Architectural Digest
My mentor and the best selling author, the late Jay Conrad Levinson said to me that the way he wanted to go out, was on a beach after having written a particularly good sentence. Never give up the fight.