Reflections on aging through the lens of my birthday

This weekend I turned 48. If you’re 18, you probably think I’m pretty old.Old Dude

If you’re 48 like me, you probably feel pretty young—I suspect we always feel a recently-remembered age more than today’s. That’s why the mirror can be so surprising—it shows us the truth, not our comfortable personal biases.

If you’re 78, you probably think I’m very young, with half my adulthood still to come! (And if you’re 8, you probably think I have one foot AND three toes in the grave.)

As for me, I believe I’m at halftime. There was never a football halftime in my school, whether 21 up or 21 down, when coach didn’t come blasting into the locker room and say, “Boys, we have to focus! We have to look back at the first two quarters, figure out what we did right and wrong, and get back out there with twice the intensity for the second half! Do you think they want to lose to you?”

Respective to whether we were ahead or behind, he’d say, “You can still lose / win this game!” And you know what? To our shock and shame / exhilaration, we proved him right again and again and again. If we got cocky there was always a game changing fumble or injury waiting to turn the tide against us. If we went in confidently, applied our lessons learned and really left it all on the field, we often found ourselves turning the tide by sheer smarts, will and sacrifice.¬†

A lot of you know me as a high-energy guy who does a lot of stuff. That’s accurate–I may be speaking in LA, Orlando or Boston, directing Red Team security assessments at undisclosed locations, or deliberately relaxing with my family on a beach (got a nice little birthday sunburn yesterday).

But the reason I’m active is because I feel it’s necessary to be actively engaged with my destiny, in both work and play. I believe that while there’s breath, there’s hope, whether I’m stumbling into the end zone with a game-winning recovered fumble, or flat on my back wondering how a 280-pound lineman managed to step on my lips with his cleats (that really happened). I always believe that A) There’s definitely something unpredictable coming up Next and it could be really cool, and B) Today’s circumstances don’t necessarily indicate tomorrow’s outcomes.

Today’s CHOICES most definitely do affect tomorrow’s outcomes, though, so I continue to take the little steps I consider likeliest to yield the outcomes I want. And that is why I’m so excited to have recognized this halftime for what it is. During my first two quarters I gathered more valuable lessons than I care to admit—almost all of them resulted from stupid choices. I can clearly see the score in this Rob vs Bad Stuff winner-take-all, and I can still win this game according to my personal yardstick.

In fact, unlike in an ordinary football game, I can actually continually redefine what “win” means to me, as my perspective and capacity increase. You can, too. I don’t care whether you’re in your first quarter, your fourth, or walking in for halftime like me; while there’s breath, there’s hope.

And as to the obvious: I don’t run or jump or heal quite as well as I did at 18. To that I ask myself, “So what?” Thirty years ago I could run faster and jump higher…and to what end? Today I can reach SO many more good people and accomplish SO much more of what I want to see in the world we all serve. Besides, in this day and age I can stay as active and healthy as I choose to be. No excuses.

I see mid-life as a hilltop like many others, but interpret it differently. To me, being over the hill will mean having the priceless asset of gravity helping accelerate what I can do with all those hard-won lessons from the first half. Who knows? Maybe fifty years from now I’ll realize I’ve reached ANOTHER halftime!

Let’s get back out there.

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