Welcome back to a new episode of Punk Rock HR! We are talking about middle age and your career for today’s episode. Society has taught us that middle age is a super-tricky place to be in life. At this point, you have the experience and a dash of wisdom, but there is a downside to this.
You have limited energy and patience for the politics and shenanigans that led you to this phase in your life. The icing on the cake is that you’re now working with late-stage career-switchers and younger generations who bring a newfound enthusiasm and passion for work. That’s great and not a bad thing, but the problem is it no longer suits you as a human being.
Life is even more complicated for middle-aged people because they all know one important thing — money wins. If you don’t keep playing the game at some level, you can’t provide for yourself and your family today or plan for the next iteration of your life tomorrow.
So let’s dive in and focus on how anyone middle-aged can be a career-focused individual and stay on the good side of management while maintaining their dignity and fueling their soul.
Engage in the Art of Professional Detachment
Listen, when you’re over 40, you recognize that professional workers only put in about 22 hours of work a week. The rest of the time, you’re just there, so it’s important to figure out how to show up for work to give a great experience to your colleagues, peers, customers, clients and, most importantly, for yourself.
Where do you begin? Start with calendaring. According to Michael Hyatt, a famous author, consultant and big-time guru, “What gets scheduled, gets done.” Become the ruthless CEO of your own life and organize the crap out of your day. Schedule your meals, time to mess around on TikTok or Instagram (if that’s your jam), and create breaks to do the things you need to do.
It’s time to run your life like a small business because it is! Schedule the hell out of yourself, just like a CEO, and put in an incredible 22 hours. After that, get a hobby or catch up on your real life.
Learn Something New
I’ve repeatedly told you to learn something new on this show and my blog. However, now I want you to put it in the context of being a middle-aged worker. You can’t compete for anything if you’re not learning and not growing.
You can be known as an expert in sales, marketing, human resources, etc., but if you aren’t staying in touch with what’s happening in your industry, you are going to be middle-aged and dead in the water. These middle-aged experts need to humbly accept their role as forever students in their lives.
One thing that you can do is follow the lead of my friend Gerry Crispin. He was the first person ever to tell me, “I’m a lifelong student.” I can honestly say at first, I said, “What? What do you mean you’re a lifelong student? That’s weird.” But now that I’ve experienced new things in my career and I’m middle-aged, I finally get it. People do not learn in a vacuum. Prioritize learning for what it can bring you.
Be a Better Risk-Taker
If you are middle-aged, not only have you survived some of the horrific events that have happened in America, but you also survived the family dramas, breakups and the unfair deaths of the people you love.
You’ve had arguments at work, but you haven’t been fired — or have you and you’ve learned a lesson that I write about in Chapter 8 of my book? In this chapter, Jennifer McClure advises us that “everybody good gets fired once.” Many of you have survived the breakups, raising a child (if you chose to do so) and so much more, yet you are afraid of change.
Middle-aged can feel like everything is balancing on a knife’s edge, but how do celebrities, tech giants and other people have their cake and eat it, too? It’s called pre-mortem. This is the exercise where people try to flash forward and predict how they’ll fail before they do something, thus helping them do it better. Anyone can pre-mortem anything and see the potential failure points. Make it a game, challenge or an item on a to-do list. Make a list of everything you need to do, and then tackle it.
You are a middle-aged adult who doesn’t ask for permission in any other area of your life. So why are you waiting for permission to do extraordinary things in your career?
- Check out the second edition of my book, “Betting On You,” coming out in paperback on Jan. 4, 2022. No matter where you’re at in life right now, pick up a copy to help you decide how to make the most of your career and yourself.
Hey everybody. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. Welcome back to Punk Rock HR. I’m here today talking about middle age and your career.
Middle age is a super-tricky place to be. You have experience, with the dash of wisdom, but you also have a limited amount of energy and patience for the politics and shenanigans that brought you to this phase of your life.
On top of that, you’re working with late-stage career-switchers and younger generations of employees who really bring a newfound enthusiasm and passion for work. And it’s cute, but it no longer suits you as a human being.
And life is even more because middle-aged people know one important thing — money wins. And if you don’t keep playing the game at some level, you can’t provide for yourself and your family today and plan for the next iteration of your life tomorrow.
So, we’re here today to talk about how you can be a middle-aged, career-focused individual and stay on the good side of management but retain your dignity and fuel your soul.
My first thought is I want you to engage in the art of professional detachment. That just means being a slacker. When you’re over 40, you know that professional workers only put in about 22 hours of work a week. The rest is just bullshit, so I want you to figure out how to show up for work and give a great experience to your colleagues, your peers, your customers, your clients, and then show up for yourself.
It starts with calendaring. Michael Hyatt is a famous author and also a consultant and also just a big-time guru, and he famously said, “What gets scheduled gets done.” So be rigorous. Be a ruthless CEO of your own life and organize the crap out of your day. I mean, calendar your meals, your bathroom breaks. Even schedule time to fuck around on TikTok or Instagram, if that’s your jam. Create breaks to do the things you need to do; dry cleaning, organizing your basement, putting away holiday decorations, whatever.
And know this: You are allowed to decline meetings as long as you suggest alternative ways to communicate, whether that’s a quick phone call, a message on Slack, just a quick break in the day to get up and go to somebody’s desk and talk to them if you’re back in the office. You don’t have to say yes to a 30-minute meeting when you can solve a problem quickly.
You know what else? You’re allowed to get a bunch of one-on-ones on your boss’s calendar, on the books proactively, so that you can do a better job of getting what you need from leadership in advance to be more effective in your role.
Run your life like a small business. Schedule the hell out of yourself, just like a CEO and give an incredible 22 hours. Then, get a hobby or catch up on your real life. Everybody I know with a so-called full-time job over the age of 40 has a sore back, so maybe get to work on your well-being. That’s the new version of being a slacker, and that’s going to pay dividends as you age and mature in your career.
The second idea I have for you today is to learn something new. On this show, I’ve repeatedly told you to learn something new, but I want you to put it in the context of being a middle-aged worker. You can’t compete for anything if you’re not learning and you’re not growing. You may think you’re an expert in sales or marketing or even human resources, whatever you do. But if you’re not staying in touch with what’s happening in your industry and humbly accepting your role as a student, you’re dead in the water — and middle age, well, it’s going to be hard for you.
So here’s an idea. Here’s one thing you can do. You can follow the lead of my friend, Gerry Crispin. Find him on LinkedIn. Connect. He was the first person ever to tell me, “I’m a lifelong student.” At first I was like, “What? What do you mean your lifelong student? That’s kind of weird.” But now that I’m middle-aged, I totally get it.
People don’t learn in a vacuum. Learning keeps your brain pliable, your connections firing and your relationships sticky. So you can attend a conference, make friends with a thought leader in your industry or find someone significantly younger than you who is killing it, and befriend them, learn from them and get to work seeing your industry and your job with a fresh set of eyes. Prioritize learning for what it can bring to you: more opportunities to do what you want, when you want, on-demand and without apology.
Finally, be a better risk-taker. If you’re middle-aged, it means you’ve survived terrorist attacks and wars and guns at school, especially here in America. You’ve survived family drama, relationship breakups and the random and unfair deaths of the people you love. And you’ve been exposed to drugs and alcohol, but you’re not on the street corner asking for money. You’ve had arguments at work, but you haven’t been fired. Or you have, and you’ve learned a lesson that I write about in Chapter 8 of my book, where Jennifer McClure advises us that “everybody good gets fired once.” You may have children who are growing and maturing and doing cool things and, guess what? You haven’t killed them yet.
You’ve accomplished all these things to be here today, and yet many of you are afraid of change. You’re terrified and you can’t ask for what you want because you lack the courage to even dream about what a better, brighter, more exciting future can look like.
Middle-aged can feel like everything is balancing on a knife’s edge. I feel that myself in my own life. But how did these celebrities, these famous people, these tech giants, these assholes, have their cake and eat it, too? Why not us? Well, I think they do the pre-mortem.
If you’re a long-time listener of the podcast, you know what the pre-mortem is, but if you’re new, it’s this exercise where people try to flash forward and predict how they’ll fail before they do something. So if you want a new job, let’s try to predict how your interview process will fail so that you can avoid the same old mistakes.
Want to invest your money differently? Yeah, it’s easy to predict how the future can go wrong. You can go on the internet and invest in NFTs and cryptos and do your research on Facebook and not know what you’re doing. It could mess everything up you work for, and it could make you have a precarious entry into middle age.
So, that’s the beauty of the pre-mortem. You can pre-mortem the shit out of anything and see potential failure for what it is: a game, a challenge, an item on a to-do list to be attacked. And then, once you make a list of things you need to do to avoid failure, you tackle it. You’re a middle-aged adult and you don’t ask for permission in any other areas of your life, so why are you waiting for permission to do extraordinary things in your career?
If you want something different, I’ve given you a few ideas for this really tricky place you find yourself in over the age of 40. I would like you to be a slacker and demonstrate professional detachment, learn something new and take better risks using the premortem.
If you do all of that, not only will your career flourish in these later years, so will your life. And that’s what this is all about.
Punk Rock HR is produced and edited by Rep Cap with special help from Michael Thibodeaux and Devon McGrath. For more information and show notes and links to my books and LinkedIn courses, head on over to punkrockhr.com.
Now that’s all for today, and I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll catch you next time on Punk Rock HR.