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“You’re only as old as you allow yourself to feel”; “age is a mindset”; “you’ll remain young, if you’re young at heart”.

There are numerous expressions about aging; a few of them are noted above.

I found myself thinking about this topic recently. A youth sports organization I help out with has recently brought on a new coach, who is in his late sixties. He regularly uses the expression, “...well, I am older…”, or “...I’m old, you know…”. On one such occasion I instinctively replied, “ suggestion is that you erase the word ‘old’ from your vocabulary…”. He smiled, and the others around us nodded, most of them being in their late 30s, early 40s or early 50s.

Referring to yourself as old seems like throwing in the towel…admitting defeat, and I don't understand that.

As time goes on we may encounter physical limitations such as less flexibility, a decline in the speed of our movements or even some memory loss. These things are like any challenges in life we face. We adjust and adapt, and we continue moving forward. To refer to yourself as old signals a form of defeat and acceptance of a reduced existence. Why? Why would anyone want to be in that headspace? It seems like a sure path, or perhaps an accelerated path to decline or death. And, isn't there already enough ageism in the world today, both subtle and overt? So why lean into that way of thinking at all?

As an entrepreneur and a leader of organizations I have to maintain a positive mindset. Four out of five thoughts must be positive thoughts. We learn to absorb criticism, abuse, handle bad news, overcome hurdles, as we face them repeatedly each day in our journey in business and in life. Perhaps because of these years of training towards positivity, along with knowing that with persistence, perseverance and patience,good things will come, is a hard-coded frame of mind that aging will not stop me from accomplishing my goals.

Let’s use “experience” as a synonym for “old”.

Experience is a weapon, a tool for success and a way to outperform others. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. When my son played minor hockey, we organized a father vs. son touch football game. The boys were 15/16 years old; the dads were in the 40s. We kicked their asses. Why? They could run circles around us but they couldn’t figure out the plays we were running on offence or the coverages we used on defence. And, as we ran up the score on them, they started arguing…haha!

  2. In the entrepreneurial world we come across young “high energy” founders putting 15-18 hour days “working” on their business ideas. They are always busy because rightfully so, there are a million things to do when you are starting-up or scaling-up a business. But, how productive are they? What milestones have they hit; what accomplishments have they achieved that will propel the business forward? Are they spending their time on things that increase the value of the business? And, the ultimate test - are they growing product sales and revenue, and thus rapidly marching towards profitability and generating positive cash flow? Alternatively a founder/entrepreneur with years of experience and reference points may be equally dedicated towards a business venture, but works smarter, more efficiently and ultimately accomplishes more in a shorter time frame…and burns through less cash getting there.

Perhaps some of this is semantics, word games. My own aversion stems from how it seems to me like the world “old” has too many negative connotations. Limitations on capabilities, the end of a journey being in sight, not good enough anymore to contribute in business. I refuse to accept any such limitations. Partially because I don’t feel limited in any way. Also because I strongly believe in the importance of a positive mind set, a can-do attitude.

Speaking of word games - I suggest we use the word “old” as a frame of reference when comparing one thing to another. For example: 1) “this is the team’s old jersey, here’s the new one.”; “the old economic policy would have supported raising interest rates, the new policy has rates staying flat.”.

I suggest we stop identifying people by their age; in fact doing so may be a form of ageism and could get one into trouble.

Most importantly, whether you’re in your 30s, 40s, 70s…whatever…stop thinking of yourself as “old” and stop thinking you’re limited in what you do or what you can contribute, because of your age.

Thank you for investing time in reading this post. Questions and comments are always welcome.

Shail Paliwal

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