September 17, 2011

LIFE LESSONS FROM A 50 YEAR OLD

Last month, Dad turned 75. This week, I'm 50 and finally feel I understand my purpose in life.

So much has happened since 1961. Man landed on the moon. The Berlin Wall fell. Compact discs replaced vinyl records and cassette tapes. Computers became personal and affordable. Air conditioning changed from a luxury to a necessity. GPS navigation reduced arguments on family road trips. Phones became mobile and smart. What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time to be alive.

The greatest marvel is the Internet, which was born in 1957. We now have instant access to nearly anything and anyone from almost anywhere. Often free. What a liberator!

Childhood

As a child, I had a lingering fear of nuclear war between the Americans and Russians. What if annihilation started by accident? We’d be just as dead. I wasn't terrified to the point of losing sleep but I was concerned. The 1985 song Russians by Sting was reassuring but I wish I heard it in the 1960s. If you were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, you may not understand the Cold War era and might be more worried about terrorism.

Overall, childhood was great. I walked to school and played with friends outdoors. We didn't worry about knives or guns at school but we played with toy weapons. I read the Hardy Boy mysteries. My favourite TV show was the police drama Hawaii-Five-O which aired Friday nights at 10 PM. I was in agony when the schedule briefly changed to Thursdays because there was no way my parents would let me stay up that late with school the next day.

There were so many marvels. Life kept getting better. I excelled at my studies and looked forward to a rosy future despite the rocky economy.

Family

Someone who'll help me see things in a different light.
All the things I detest I will almost like
--- Depeche Mode,
Somebody (1984) 

I grew up in London, Ontario where my parents gave me an excellent foundation. I didn't want to live alone but didn't know if I'd ever find someone who could understand me. Sharmila did. We've been married since 1988. Having an anchor and companion makes life rewarding.

Our son, Jeevan, was born in 1994. Parenthood brings challenges but mostly rewards. He goes to university next year and might leave home for the first time. That would be an emotional experience.

40 in Sept 2001

Turning 40 is meant to be a milestone. My birthday was mere days after 9/11 and the end of innocence. I didn't feel like celebrating during that numbing time.

I was focused on my career since life at home was running smoothly. For security, I especially wanted skills which were
  • portable: useful in other companies (e.g., communication, management, leadership)
  • complementary: not overlapping what others did
That's still a great strategy.

I was Actuary, Individual Insurance at National Life, insurer for the wealthy. I reported to the company's sole Senior Vice President, Rene Trudeau. I also had dotted line responsibilities to General Manager, Individual Division, Prem Agrawal. Both listened to me and helped me grow. They reported to the President, Vince Tonna. I had considerable leeway, 10 staff, and a corner office (a childhood dream) with an excellent view towards Queen's Park.
The Wrong Wall
My boss was going to retire and I figured I'd get a portion of his role, a company car (another childhood dream), and live happily ever after.

In 2004, the parent company started dismantling my company. My 10 staff were gone and I was reporting to an assistant vice president in Quebec City.

What a boot to the head!

To paraphrase Stephen Covey, I was climbing the ladder of success only to find it leaning on the wrong building. I realized there was no security in the corporate world. Your future depends on the whims of upper management and investors. How do you build a solid future on a shaky foundation?

Security comes from bringing in revenue. I switched to helping top advisors with advanced marketing until I got booted out in November 2009. By then I built the skills to help you directly.

50 CANDLES

Turning 50 is a big but pleasant transition. I now feel I understand why I'm here on this planet.

The corporate world teaches well but stifles change. Even if you make the decisions, you face compromises in quality and timelines. The advisor world is disappointing because of the conflict between what's right and what's lucrative. That leads problems in deciding who you can trust. Among the wealthy — the best served segment — 33% lack confidence in their advisors. That creates a tremendous opportunity.

Since childhood, I've wondered how I could make the world better in my own small lost-in-the-rounding way. I knew I had more to offer but didn't access to the right tools.

New Tools

Nowadays, we can do so much with so little. We don't need to own factories, maintain web servers, rent offices or hire permanent staff. What do you need beyond what you already have: your computer, your mobile phone and Internet access?

That's so empowering. With social media, we can even beat much larger organizations because we can make personal connections with real people. The gap between thinking and doing is minuscule. What we don't know, we can learn online just-in-time or outsource.

I’ve written assorted posts about careers to help you see the immense possibilities if you seize opportunity. You don’t need talent or permission. You need to start and keep going. If you need a boot to the head, read Linchpin by Seth Godin with an open mind.

Next 50 years

There are no free rides.No one said it'd be easy.
The old man told me this, my son.I'm telling it to you.
— John Mellencamp,
Minutes to Memories (1985)
I've seen too many people — especially in the corporate world — who start coasting when they reach their 50s (sometimes earlier). They feel entitled to slow down. They aren't embarrassed to say their smartphone is "too hard" to learn. These sages know what won't work because they've "seen it all before". They look rolly polly and drink a little too much (when on an expense account). They need help with the same things month after month. They're wary of LinkedIn and still don't understand Twitter. They start dying little by little, piece by piece.

I plan to keep doing what I’m doing: learning, caring and sharing. You’re invited to the party.

Links

Podcast 135 (9:02)


direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS When's your next milestone birthday?

3 comments:

Paul Nazareth said...

Congratulations on celebrating this milestone Promod!

Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts and lessons learned. You continue to be a guiding light on so many levels - family, loss, life and most of all, business.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn from you, enjoy this milestone and continue to share!

Promod Sharma said...

Thanks for your kind words, Paul. Maybe I'm getting older and wiser :)

Christina A. said...

Thanks for the invite to the party and happy (belated) birthday.

Reading and re-reading some of your posts tonight and really appreciating what you've shared here both from your personal and business perspectives.

Christina