Updated: Apr 2, 2019
If you didn’t do this, what would you do do? (I said do do.)
I still remember the day a media director broke my heart.
In Washington, DC where the very first question after learning someone’s name was, “What do you do?” I like to be irreverent and ask about the path not taken. As a young advertising manager with TIME Magazine, I found myself lunching with a very senior and well-respected, albeit it incredibly serious industry executive. He had just worked on that year’s biggest advertising campaign including the much buzzed about Super Bowl ad, when I asked him, “if you didn’t spend your career in advertising, what would you do?” He stared straight at me for what seemed like an eternity before sighing and looking away. Then said, “I always wanted to open my own restaurant.” I was in my late 20s. He was in his early 40s. The look of loss on his face hurt my heart. I gently pushed ahead, asking, “Why didn’t you?”
He told me a story of working in a restaurant in his teens and loving the chaos, the people and most of all the food. Listening to him talk about cheesesteaks made me wish I was still living a quick drive to Philadelphia. My mouth was watering. In my mind, I saw him lighter -- happily shouting orders, waiving a spatula and covered in kitchen. Then his story changed to college, first jobs and now with a family to support, he was stuck. The restaurant would always be what might have been. Suddenly his slightly “droopy dog” demeanor made sense. He was living the wrong life.
It was around that time I embraced my motto, “Life’s short and so am I.”
For the past twenty-something years, it is still my favorite question to ask when getting to know someone. Yet, in all those years; and all those stories only one time has the response been, “I would do exactly what I’m doing.”
It feels like this is changing.
The much-maligned Millennial generation criticized for receiving a trophy at every turn has embraced the truth that life is short. Instead of hating on our younger workforce, we can learn something from them.
Life is short.
If you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing.
You must shake things up every couple of years to keep from getting stale.
If you don’t try, you won’t succeed.
Impostor syndrome is real.
Fake it till you make it.
Your experience here will make things even better there.
If you really hate this, do something else. Everyone will thank you.
Change is the only constant. Embrace the ride.
It will be ok.
I like to tell clients, “I might be wrong, but I’m usually not.” It instills confidence. I know that I’m not wrong about this. We are living and working longer. People are retiring from one job and launching Plan B and C careers. In fact, if you Google “new careers over 40” you’ll find 1.1 billion results.
Consider some of the most famous late bloomers:
Vera Wang entered fashion at age 40
Sam Walton founded the first WalMart when he was 44
At 48, Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen
Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first book until she was 65
Celebrity Chef Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50
Nina & Tim Zagat were both 51 when they started publishing their first restaurant reviews
Ray Kroc didn’t buy McDonald’s until he was 52
What do these celebrities have that you don’t? They were brave or dumb enough to try and do that thing they always wanted to do.
A few years ago, Bridget Jones Diary author, Helen Fielding wrote another book called Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination. In it, Olivia Joules writes her “Rules for Living.” They’re brilliant. Look them up. Read them and embrace the life that you want to live. And remember, whenever you start doing the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” regrets, stop. Refocus on what you want to do and make that change today. It's a brand new year. What have you got to lose?
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