We Will All Become Old Men

When we are young we will:

  • Think we can own the world
  • Want to destroy institutions
  • Fall in love with love
  • Join radical movements

But when we grow old, we will change.

  • We will talk about what’s been lost
  • Enjoy convenience
  • Want things a certain way
  • Protect what we have built

Are all of these things inevitable? I don’t know. But the shock rockers of old world have become the reality television stars of the new, the hippies have become oligarchs, and the champions of the many have become the advocates of the few. Things change.

In every one of us there is a part that wants every one of the above. One side is always stronger, but we can sometimes feel the other breaking through. We feel it when we clutch our purse in the subway or when we feel outrage at what a government is doing. Open and closed are opposite trends but neither will ever die.

Every day we get to choose a side. Every day we embrace the new, we get younger. Every day we aren’t willing to abandon what came before, we get older.

Somewhere in the middle, I’m guessing there’s a sweet spot. Right?







13 responses to “We Will All Become Old Men”

  1. Colleen Clifford Avatar

    When you are young you have very little to lose; risks are easier to take because you don’t have that far to fall. As you get older you accumulate more stuff, money, prestige; risks become riskier because you have more at stake. The kicker (that most people don’t realize) is that trying to hold onto everything you currently have without moving forward makes it oh-so-easy for others to pass you by. And as others get farther ahead of you, it’s more likely that their risks will earn them the rewards you thought were your given right. You lose the race by not running it.

    I’m with you on this one. I’m betting finding a good compromise in the middle (not too risky yet still embracing change) is the way to go.

  2. Eric Pratum Avatar

    Many of us recall that guy (or gal) from high school, college, or some other time when we were younger that was just a little less passionate than we were. We said, “This is the best thing ever.” He said, “Well, not ever. It’s good, but there have been better.” We said, “Our generation will change everything.” He said, “Things will change, but that change will be no more spectacular than what has come before.” And so on. We all hated that guy.

    Now that we’re older, we might say, “I don’t want the government taxing me so much to pay for universities. I already got my education.” He says, “Wait a minute. Taxes paid for your education. Why shouldn’t kids today get that same right?” We say, “Things were simpler 20 years ago.” He says, “No. They were just different.” And so on.

    We might still hate that guy, but I’m guessing he’s closer to that sweet spot than we are. But even if he is, would we want to trade places with him? Sure, we might avoid a lot of disappoint, arguments, and other controversy, but would we wish to live a life less passionate than what we currently have?

    1. Julien Avatar

      @Eric– I like your thinking. I remember that kid and I was usually on the other side of that argument (“This is the best ever,” etc.).

      On Twitter yesterday I wrote the following: “Trust the future.” That might need to be a post, because I think people who take up the mantle tomorrow may make mistakes, but they will also do great things, more than what we expected of them. Maybe tomorrow’s enthusiastic kids will be the world’s heroes.

  3. Eric Pratum Avatar

    @Julien Thank you very much. I agree that “Trust the future” could make a good post. I look forward to reading your take on it.

  4. Steve Brogan Avatar
    Steve Brogan

    I hope that I never reach the point when I become an old man. Yes, I do like things a certain way. Don’t move my bed or my favorite chair. But when I stop thinking new thoughts or start rejecting new ideas, that is when I become an old man. But until then I intend to continue learning and growing. Julien, as always, great post!

  5. Alex Greenwood Avatar

    I had my first child two years ago when I turned 40, and have meditated on this very thing often. Many dreams left by the wayside, few regrets, but plenty of false starts. Finally found the best things in life: a partner who stands by me, a child to adore and taking control of my career by starting my own company. That said, I’m resisting the urge to call it “all good” and build a bunker to protect it all. I’m out on the firing line every day, and that won’t–cannot–change. Keeping your head down means you miss what’s running past.

  6. SusanE Avatar

    My grandparents raised my dad. Worked to have a nice home, enjoyed their life, complained about taxes and high prices, bought music lessons for their 2 kids, and owned a car, and complained about the young generation. (Great depression) Grandpa worked hard. They never became “old” peole.

    My parents worked, to own their own home, raise us 2 kids and give us security, we had a car and lived in a neighborhood, and complained about my generation. (60’s) Dad worked hard. They never became “old” people.

    We worked to have a nice home, drive a car, educate our 2 kids, enjoyed life and paid high taxes, complained about our kids generation. (drugs) My husband worked hard. So far so good, we’re not dead yet.

    Our kids work, to have homes, drive a car, enjoy their life and pay taxes. They work hard. They don’t complain about anything. Yet.

    HEY!! Nothing has changed since 1907 when my grandparents married. You can still make a living if you work hard, pay your taxes and do the right thing.

    All through time the previous generation thought the newer generation was radical. Each ‘radical’ new generation thought they were unique and individual. They weren’t. They thought they could change the world but they didn’t even have a vague plan in mind. They didn’t change the world, they couldn’t manage their small towns communities or neighborhoods. Fantasyland.

    Has nothing to do with getting old, or being young. We all were once young and immature, we grow and make our life worthwhile, then those people learn to collect some wisdom, and we age as gracefully as we want to age. By this time out grandkids are young and immature and so on and so on.

  7. Whitney Avatar

    It’s the constant tug between the two, balanced by experience, where the exciting things happen. Resisting comfort in the name of challenge. Making sure you look at the upside a well as the risk involved in change. Avoiding the seductiveness of nostalgia for the harsh light of the present, with an eye towards the next speed bump ahead.

    Looking forward to your “trust the future” post

  8. Ryan G Avatar

    Wow Colleen what you stated about “the kicker” is profound. I can relate to that. People come to me with ideas all the time and my normal reaction is that I don’t need more ideas, but solutions. Generating income on ideas is like chasing a rainbow. When you look at some of the greater success stories, it’s not the original idea that made it successful but the solution from which the idea was borne that did. The iPad is a good example. Look at old sci-fi movies and shows. The iPad has been around for more than 50 years (on TV), but only today is it contributing to the economy b\c it is a real solution.

  9. Rob Metras Avatar

    Just turned 60 Julien and trying to follow the stars of the new media and marketing scene. They were brought up by my generation. I am pleased that the words change, and the formats of transmission change but the basic humanity and personalities do not.

    I just finished reading Trust Agents for the second time and my faith keeps constantly restored in the good guys.You and Chris Brogan are good examples. You are smart biz guys who catch the art of relationship marketing and the sharing of ideas. You want to share more so all boats will float higher. You do it because it is right, and good for business. The parallel is the greening movement, where the individual and the corporation are doing it because it is right for now and it is good business in the eyes of of the younger generations who will be the new markets in the future, and good in the ninds of the idealists of my generation who knocked up against the powers that be.

    Since 2005 the power of the individual in society has grown in contrast to the power of the corporations and monopolists. This is a good thing because now all the good, bad and ugly ideas are floating up and out and no longer stay in the business and political elites.

    I feel younger everyday in lifelong learning and adapting to the change by absorbing the likes of the Brogans,Smiths,Kawasakis, Joels and the Vaynerchuks and applying their learnings which are so readily shared today.

  10. John McLachlan Avatar

    Julien: I hang on your advice and words about this whole social world we’re living and working in because you approach it all freshly and in a unique way but when it comes to age I have about 20 years on you and so have an “experience” perspective you don’t have yet.

    The very fact that you wrote this post is a sign of the first little inklings of middle age that will come to you in few years. Congratulations. 🙂 The very fact you asking the final question of your post shows you that the transition is about to begin.

    Oh, and the answer is “Yes.”

  11. sandy mackay Avatar

    This is a great verse,
    a wellspun vers libre lyric
    “working for the clampdown” 30 years on
    set to music, last line as refrain

    I appreciate the image of the “sweet spot”,
    finding balance between
    radicalism and security,
    asshole and iconoclast

  12. claudio alegre Avatar

    I think there’s a middle ground, if by middle you mean degrees of position … a middle ground must exist in your mind. But out here in the world as you well know, you have to take a position, just not an absolute one …

    Good thought there!

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