Paul Butler: Young at heart

“You are as old as you feel.” I always thought that was a strange phrase. I’m older now than when I typed the first words of this article. “Young at heart” is another one that confuses me. I understand the sentiment but you’re as old as your birth certificate.

Three recent occurrences in my working world reminded me that time marches on and waits for no one.

Even though we have our own business, I teach college on Mondays. Recently, I was in a faculty meeting discussing ways to better engage and relate to students. This is a four-year college, and, so, most of our students are between the ages of 18 and 22. The subject of social media and the use of short video clips came up for discussion and one of the faculty members fervently trashed the ideas.

His mindset was that all social media and video is inane, trivial and superficial. I can see the pros and cons of using such media in teaching, but, to be blunt, this elderly gentleman probably should have retired about 15 years earlier based on how old I think he is. I know some people like to work beyond normal retirement age, because they enjoy their work so much. Work can give people a sense of purpose, and they can, indeed, make a significant contribution due to their wisdom and life experience.

This person, however, is a miserable man who always seems to be grumbling. I assume he still needs to work out of financial necessity. Unfortunately, his attitude and general demeanor don’t serve his students or colleagues very well.

I was an observer in another meeting recently, and the leader of this work group, by my calculation, also should have retired at least 15 years earlier. He’s a nice enough guy but I’ve noticed he doesn’t let other people speak. He is the boss of this work group. I assume he thinks the best way to retain his job is to keep talking and hope the “youngsters” (as he calls them), are still listening.

During this meeting, he was explaining a major strategic shift within the organization. I assume his role was to explain to the work group what was happening and how they should prepare. Instead, he bad-mouthed the employer and concluded the agenda item with: “Maybe I’m getting old, but I really don’t care what they decide to do or not do.” And, with that, the meeting ended.

Again, I don’t know the reason why this person still works, but I think they’ve gone way past their use-by date and the legacy they’re choosing to leave is not one to aspire to.

The third occurrence is a lady whose frame of reference is always in the past. I often think it’s a telltale sign you need to hang up your timecard when you seem to always speak in the past tense. It’s as if this person is walking backwards. Her language, examples and suggestions are always based on the way things used to be. I can see her younger colleagues glaze over, pretending to listen out of reverence for her age as she waxes on about DOS, WordPerfect and the “good old days before the internet.”

I’m probably about 15 years away from wanting to sell our business and stop teaching college. I really do enjoy the business of business. I’ve learned so much from Mark, who runs our office in Florida, and he’s much younger than me. I really do enjoy teaching — see, as I get older my students on the bachelor’s program come in at the same age. I find their verve and zest for life puts a spring in my step.

Yes, there’s nothing new under the sun, but each day does bring fresh challenges, new opportunities and exciting technologies to better work and serve others. So, although age is a biological progression, maybe our mindset is something we can choose, so we can continue to add value to those we work with, especially in our sunset years.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]

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