A funny thing has happened on the way to the forum recently, more than once in the last few weeks different people in different walks of life have either asked me for advice or looked to me like an elder who was able to offer teachable moments or impart some form of advice. Now, if you know me at all you know that I look damn good on the outside but on the inside I’m a hot mess that only approaches success because of my wife. That being said, I look respectable, am of a certain age and know a little about a lot.
I’m pretty sure I missed the switch. I was never a contemporary of colleagues. After college I was always the youngest guy, wherever I worked I was the youngest guy. At some of those jobs I actually could offer advice or a little knowledge about something but no one wanted to hear it from the young guy. Like most people in my generation I changed jobs a couple of times, nothing absurd, only a few times but that prevented me from ever being the senior tenured employee, I was always the new guy, thus my advice was never sought or encouraged. I grew OK with that. Why stretch my neck out right, if the whole shit house went up in flames I was able to shrug my shoulders and say “hey, I would offer some words of wisdom but I’m just the new guy.” Pretty cool defense mechanism right.
You can imagine my surprise then when I met a college professor on the street a few weeks ago. This was a man who taught me about my chosen profession, a man who I thought, given his vaulted position, would always know more than me, at least about this tiny part of the world. Turns out he began asking questions not in a college professor sort of way instead in a probing, really trying to wrap his head around something I understand more of or differently than he did. What a change!
Let’s pause here for the briefest of moments. At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself, what’s wrong with this guy, he’s 40 this year! He has a kid! He has to be able to explain to his son why the sun is orange, or how you spell sun and son or what makes cars go or…well you get the point. I’m not talking about this sort of situation though. When you have a kid it’s instantaneous, you know they’re going to look to you to answer their questions, they’ll need you to pull them from fire and to explain why it’s important not to jump off the stairs. At some point they’re going to ask bigger questions and the two of you have sort of grown into this situation together. OK, back to our regularly scheduled message.
Just the other day I was at a business meeting. Until recently it always seemed that I was meeting with people older than me. It made sense, people who owned businesses, people who made decisions or employed other people were older than me. They had to be. No one my age could (or should) be responsible for any of these kind of things. Lately though the people I’m meeting are my age or even younger. That’s right younger. People in positions of power are now younger than me! Something about that doesn’t sit right. I guess it boils down if they’re in a position of power why aren’t I?! On the other hand these people are actively soliciting my advice. They have a particular problem and feel I can help them through it and therefore are interested in my opinion. Take it from me, I’m not supposed to be put in that position yet, or rather, I am given the amount of grey hair I could have if I didn’t shave it but I don’ t feel like I’m supposed to be in that position yet.
So, a few people I know younger than me are thinking about striking out on a business venture. They asked me to meet with them to offer some advice and to give them some information. I agreed and we’ll be meeting soon. But again, I’m shocked people are seeking my advice. Is it my age? Does our advice become desirable automatically after a date or age that we can’t see but others know? How does it change the balance of the world now that I’m being asked my opinion and people are listening? You’re reading this, you’re my age, are people asking you your advice? What do you think? There’s a real chance that this is just more of the anxiety I suffer from but these are the type of things I think about. I welcome your thoughts.