So, Now What?

How to Think Intentionally About Your Stage in Life

As I reflect on the anniversary of each decade in my life, I only remember a couple of “stop and think” moments. When I hit thirty, I realized I was going to die one day. I thought it was a ridiculous thought until it was validated by Steve Jobs who had the same thought at the same age. In fairness, he realized this insight first.

The next self-reflective moment came at forty. After being on a focused growth track for twenty years, crazy events started to occur. I lost my job as a CEO and lost my interest in running companies at the same time. I had a newborn two weeks before my 40th birthday and was five months sober in AA. I came to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, and a college buddy invited me to escape and go on a motorcycle ride to Key West. At forty, I still had a fire in my belly to make a mark, build a legacy and build wealth.

Through another unique set of events, I became an angel investor. I embraced a new goal of “Invest in twenty startups over the next twenty years.” Off I went. Investing. Networking. Volunteering to help build the community. Advising entrepreneurs. Helping make my investments and the people in them successful. Shuttering companies and selling companies. The last twenty years were a whirl.

This got me thinking. I wonder if there is a purpose to each decade. Here is what I came up with as I thought about my life and the lives of the people I know.

20’s Purpose: Establish Your Value in Society

The twenties is the scariest decade. You enter it by saying goodbye to all you knew for the last twenty years—education, childhood and play friends. You wade into the life your parents lived. This includes marriage, kids and career.

But you have to make money, and it has to be meaningful and enjoyable. These are tough criteria to meet, but meet them you must.

30’s Purpose: Farm Your Value in Society

You are now recognized by your occupation. Lawyer, doctor, business person, whatever. You are now an expert at what you do, your career. The thirties is the wealth, houses, cars, kids accumulation decade.

40’s Purpose: Leverage Your Value in Society

This decade is where leverage kicks in. You are no longer doing what you do to make the money. You now have others who are in their twenties and thirties making the money for you. You’re the boss.

50’s Purpose: Ride the Wave of Your Value in Society

The fifties rarely show any change in behavior. You are now in a great position to ride out the position you carved out in your career. You earned it, so ride it. The kids are off to college. You and your spouse are empty nesters. Life is good.

60’s Purpose: Give Away Your Value to Society

Every other decade was about building value. The sixties is very different. It is about finishing strong by giving away the value you built all your life. You become a teacher, mentor and encourager. Wisdom, money and time is your value and not the work of your hands.

I will be sixty-three in a couple of months. Now what? I need to get on with my purpose. I need to stay engaged to accomplish this new purpose. Society tells me to retreat into retirement. “You’ve earned it,” they say. But if I retire, then whatever value I built is retired with me.

I have expressed purpose in a timeline of decades of life. If life goes according to plan, this neat chronological package holds true. But life doesn’t always go according to plan. Illness, family circumstances, failures, addictions and divorces can easily disrupt our decade purpose. For instance, a wrong career choice could have you redoing your twenties purpose while in your thirties. This impacts each succeeding decade of life.

What’s important is to recognize the purpose you should be living now, and live it. Life rarely happens when we expect it. But establishing value and mining it with purpose brings success at any age.

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4 thoughts on “So, Now What?

  1. As I hit my 50’s and 60’s I felt the increased urgency to mentor. Why would I want the younger generations to suffer, go astray, waste time, or be off track from their purpose in life? Scripture admonishes older people to teach the younger members in our lives.

    My husband is so impressed with my dedication to mentoring that he spent 40 hours on the application nominating me for the Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Award. This award is given to female mentor’s in the business world. I was one of three finalists. The greatest benefit from all of his work – was what he heard from my clients, staff, and friends. He was – “blown away.”

    In the 90’s, the military learned a powerful lesson with the debacle of Desert Storm – we failed – because just months prior to initiating the military surge – a considerable number of higher military echelon retired – leaving few mentors to advise younger troops. Based on that lesson – a law was added to ascertain that a specific percentage of the military must contain senior personnel.

    The US transient population means few people are living with or near aunts, uncles, and grandparents. This dearth of support leads to each generation reinventing the wheel. Our culture is bereft of even a concept of mentoring. When I ask individuals of 80+ years in my church to mentor me, give me advice, or offer suggestions – 90% say, “Oh, I have nothing to offer of any value.” How did we allow our culture to so devalue the powerful wisdom of its elders? I am blessed to have an 80 year old extremely wise mentor with whom I meet every other week on Skype. I have always hung out with older people – they’ve been “through it.” They sit at the feet of God.

    • Thanks for sharing your mentoring story. I attribute much of my success in having mentors at each decade of my life. However, I find the 60’s difficult. When I ask people in their 70’s if they mentor people they have all said no. All for the same reason. “I really don’t have much to offer. You are doing well. Keep doing what you are doing.” I don’t believe it is because they feel less valued, I believe they don’t want to engage. Let’s see where we are in our 70’s.

  2. Colonel Sanders opened his first KFC franchise store in 1952, when he was 62. He spent the next decade building the company and sold it (for $2 mil) in 1964, when he was 74!

    Another Sanders (Bernie) is making his first run for President. He’s 74….

    • Like I said. Some people are late starters!

      I do believe, but I can not prove through experience, that this stage of giving away value (the 60’s) will create more value than I ever had in the first place. If the Biblical maxim of “We reap what we sow.” is true than it should be an amazing decade.