When your 50th birthday celebrations start with a weekend in London- beautiful wife and smashing kids for company- and finish in Glasgow with the whole family in a spoffy restaurant, you have nothing to worry about. (Though I am concerned that the itinerary for the trip to New York in June- my proper present- includes dinner in the restaurant at Grand Central Station, the best space on the planet.)
When your gifts are thoughtful and personal and you now have a handsome brown leather briefcase and elegant limited edition sculpture, you are doing just fine.
When your loving parents and devoted children and siblings and nieces and nephews all turn up and have a ball, having put their shoulder to the wheel for your big day, what's not to like?
Nothing, there's nothing not to like. You are one of the luckiest people on the planet.
But it's easy not to think so; it's easy to believe things are not quite right. (Are things ever quite right? I can list for you half a dozen big personal challenges, some on the near horizon, others up close and personal.) The photos on the big screen at dinner and the ones in the personal picture-book next to me map a life- from snottery bairn outside the byre in the farmhouse at Darnley to middle-aged man strolling around Rome just a month ago- that is speeding towards a third phase. A phase my once young, indestructible, entrepreneurial dad is in now.
The sentiment at these gatherings interests me but mostly bounces off. The future is all; the moment is all. I'm not sure why this is, but there you have it. Reflection is not something I do much: photos are not put in albums and pored over; past sucesses and failures are forensically analysed, boxed and put away; sliding doors syndrome is not a big issue. If my granny had baws she'd be my grandpa could be on my gravestone, if I intended having one.
Not everyone thinks like this, I know. But be more in the moment, I say, seize the day and all that.
What struck me over extended birthday celebrations, and is a recurring theme over the years teaching emotional intelligence traits to professionals, is what matters is self-actualisation. You'll know it's the top of Maslow's hierarchy; being in the right place, happy in and with your lot.
I'm not going to say that being able to spend lots of time and money on my birthday celebrations is irrelevant. But I can tell you that many of the people I work with earn more than me. And that the first few years in Kissing With Confidence were amongst the happiest, though in that time I earned two balloons and a goldfish.
Here is what self actualisation is for me: finding something I loved to do, working hard at it, and turning it into a business. No matter where I am working- it started late last century in Coatbridge teaching the local butcher, baker and hairdresser how to walk and chew gum at the same time and in recent years has been Barcelona, Budapest, Dublin, Las Vegas, London, New York and Zurich to name a few- the high point is always the gig. Whether it's a dozen delegates for a day or 200 for a few hours, there's always a buzz. Even a decade down the line I love it every time. Socrates said, "find something you love and never work a day in your life". He was spot-on.
So while we are all different in how our feelings and emotions affect how we view the past, present and future, we can all be similar when it comes to looking at what we choose to do and how we choose to do it. If you are in middle-age, know that the next decade should be your best: even if things are not going the way you hoped or planned, you are right at the top of your game. If you are Generation Y, go out there and get busy and know that Baz Luhrman's Sunscreen Song can tell you all you need to know:
"Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh never mind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you
When I look back 20 years one thing I sometimes dwell on is that I never started my business earlier and wonder where it might be now if I had. And those fifty shades of grey? I like them: they give me fifty shades of gravitas.
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about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.