My December 31, 2012 social media post drew a lot of likes and one great question.
Here is the post: We shouldn’t fear getting old. We should fear becoming disconnected, unaware, and irrelevant.
The response from friends, fans, and followers was great because of the age span represented. I heard from people in their twenties and people in their sixties.
Here’s the great question I received: How do you change your mindset to keep from becoming disconnected, unaware, and irrelevant?
Here are three ideas for staying connected, aware, and relevant:
1. Avoid becoming mentally root bound.
You wouldn’t confuse me with being a big gardener, but I do know that potted plants occasionally become root bound. And when that happens, you have to replant your plant in a larger pot and loosen the dirt so that it has room to resume growth. If you don’t, the plant will stop growing and, eventually, it will suffocate and die.
People do the same thing when they live their life in a mental pot that stifles any opportunity for developing new ideas. The symptoms of becoming mentally root bound include reliance on other people to tell you what to think; fear or reluctance to step into unfamiliar territory; and only listening to one point of view.
Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity are never going to be confused with being philosophically in sync. I’m not a huge fan of either, and I occasionally watch both. Doing so forces me to question my beliefs and prevents me from brainwashed by any particular ideology.
2. Develop a sense of perpetual curiosity and dissatisfaction.
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, wrote a book titled, Only the Paranoid Survive. That may be true, but I’m looking for a little more than survival. How about you?
I want to have a perpetual sense of curiosity about what is possible and a perpetual dissatisfaction with the status quo. That comes from asking questions. How can this work better? Why did this happen that way? What could we do differently to solve this problem or take advantage of this opportunity?
The quality of the answers we receive in life are in direct proportion to the quality of the questions we ask.
Ask better questions, and ask them often.
3. Hang out with people who challenge your thinking.
Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things, the books you read and the people you meet.”
What are you reading? Is it only material that confirms what you already believe or never challenges your thinking?
Who do you talk to who challenges you to up your game? I have a group of friends who force me to stay current and aware. We discuss everything from movies to politics to business to music. They are smart, and they challenge me to think. For the past 22 years, I’ve worked with MBA students in the Cox Business Leadership Center at Southern Methodist University. This is not a tenured job by any means. You get invited back by being relevant to each class of some of the brightest minds around. Hopefully, the students are challenged by hanging around with me. I know that I am by hanging around with them.
Henry Ford said this about success in business: “Business men go down with their businesses because they like their old way so well that they cannot bring themselves to change.”
Don’t’ ever like your old ways so much that you refuse to change. Be perpetually curious and a little dissatisfied, and hang out with people (and authors) who challenge you.
We shouldn’t fear getting old. We should fear becoming disconnected, unaware, and irrelevant.
Happy New Year!