Until I reached my sixties, I was always a pretty good basketball player. My greatest asset was my jump shot, the result of countless hours spent alone shooting hoops on nearby playgrounds and imagining I played for the Boston Celtics (Denver didn’t have an NBA team yet). I can still remember the drills I conducted; dribble, sprint, stop, jump, raise the ball above my head, launch it with a soft arch towards the rim and……swish! Then repeat; to the left, the right, down the middle…..swish, swish, swish! Every made shot always eliciting a roar from my imaginary crowd.
But as the years passed by, my sprint became a jog, my jump a short hop and my shot release not so quick any more. My opponents got younger and faster, which served as a constant reminder of my eroding basketball skills. Eventually, I got discouraged by my inability to keep up and stopped playing altogether.
Up to this point in my life, my self-image had been bound to my athletic skill. I had just turned sixty-two years old when I quit, but I felt primordial and closer to death because I was no longer able to excel at something I had done well before. I broodingly concluded that my best days were now behind me.
But, after a brief period of mourning, I realized things were not so bad. Yes, I was in my sixties and I wasn’t as good in basketball anymore, but I wasn’t dead yet. Surely there were still many things for me to accomplish or learn to master; my best days were not behind me at all.
I raised my children with the idea they could be anything they desired. Never once did I restrict my advice to some arbitrary time limit, yet here I was ignoring my own counsel, for I was using my age to restrict my ability to become what I wanted. It was then I realized I had fallen victim to the arbitrary perception of age assigned by our society. This is wrong, it is never too late to achieve what we want and we should feel encouraged to do so no matter our age. Our human potential is unbounded.
It is often the old who promote the mistaken idea that beauty, effervescence, creativity, and vigor belong only to the young. Here in Florida, where I now live, hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear one of my retired friends affirm that their greatest accomplishments are behind them and they are now coasting in a life of leisure playing golf and taking cruises. They are living the well-promoted American Dream of retirement. But this life style is BULLSHIT! It encourages an unnatural and torturous decay towards death by placing a lid on the infinite opportunity to evolve as long as we are still breathing.
If you look around, you find many examples of people who are making their later years times of great accomplishments. Some climb mountains while others run marathons. Astronaut/Senator John Glenn became the oldest person to travel in space at age seventy-seven. Jimmy Carter, The 39th President of the United States, emerged from his time in office to become one of the world’s greatest champions for democracy and human rights.
While it is true that young people have the advantage of more youthful minds and bodies. They are spending most of their time focused on raising families and establishing their career. They are preoccupied chasing goals based on worldly things, like making their first million, getting the corner office, buying luxury cars or homes, finding a wife or husband, getting their kids to college. None of these things are bad on their own, but a life based on just achieving material goals can be a hollow and limited one. This is why the description of a “rat race” for this kind of life is so apropos. This is a culture where the younger rats are encouraged to push the older rats from their place in society and out to pasture. The older rats, after decades of amassing wealth and meeting goals, believe it is their reward to retire into a life of relaxation only to find themselves bored and unfulfilled.
I have lived most of my years with little deviation from those goals, so I cannot be too critical. I am not alone, for many of us have lived like this and believed retirement was the end of the chase. But allowing your chronological age to determine your potential for growth will make you root bound in a routine and changeless life. This will cut your life short.
I am happy to report that my life continues to go on just fine. Although my basketball playing days are behind me, I am still young, full of passion and energy in many other areas of my life. After a thirty-six-year career in serving the public, culminating with my tenure as Denver’s 44th Mayor, I am now an author, a speaker and a mentor. By sharing the life lessons I learned, I try to teach people—if they are willing to do the work—that a mid-life crisis, divorce, bankruptcy, job loss or other personal conditions behind a life change can offer the opportunity to rejuvenate their spirit and lead to the fulfillment of their greatest dreams. A new life chapter, no matter your age, can set you free to move in a direction unbound by old traditions, definitions or roles you once played. Your spirit can be reborn and become free to soar in a youthful exuberance never experienced before.
As a newbie in any profession, I am learning and expanding my skills and experience every day. This has opened the door to accomplish many new things. My potential seems unlimited and I greet the sun daily with an eagerness and curiosity I have never experienced before. I am infused with the boundless energy of life. This can happen for you as well.
Incidentally, growing older doesn’t mean you have to stop being athletic. I play a lot of tennis now and I am getting better all the time. I hit the gym daily and my strength and fitness are better than ever, so you can do it too. I must confess, however, that I really, really, really suck at golf. That effort is hopeless.
Rejoice in the knowledge that youthfulness is your spirit’s natural state of being. It does not need the status of your body to fulfill its desires. Dream big, live with boundless curiosity, become a sponge that soaks in knowledge and new experiences, discover the fountain of love for all within you, embrace creativity and feel passion for who you are and what you do every moment of your life.
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We are all immigrants! Whether we left a country for a fresh start in another, or whether an unforeseen life change has sent us on an unexpected path, this cycle of death and rebirth is at the center of our human evolution and can alter us in ways we don’t fully understand. If you are going through such a period, I can help. If your organization is going through a challenging phase or serves people whose lives are in flux, like immigrants, seniors, or communities that are unappreciated, I can help as well. The combination of years and experiences have molded me into a messenger uniquely qualified to write, speak and mentor on the subject of discovering the inner resource that will convert difficult transitions into positive triumphs. Check out my website for the services I offer, and to subscribe to my weekly blog. You can also request a free one-half hour consultation to get your questions answers.