Not too long ago, I was on the rowing machine in the gym, where I frequently sit and go nowhere fast, when I saw on the HD TV the image of Al Roker wishing someone a happy 100th birthday. Such a familiar morning television ritual for Americans! At that moment, thinking of all that I still have left to do, I realized that I, too, wanted to live to that ripe old age.
I don’t know if I can pull this off, but what are the implications of such a feat? What would it mean to live to be 100? What if I have another half-century of life?
To begin with, I subscribe to the idea that in the first half of life, we are in the business of acquisition, while in the second half, it’s about letting go. I need to be all about letting go of things that stake a claim on my time, things that drive me to distraction, things that make me a lesser person — just things in general. Mostly, I need to let go of anything that saps my mental and emotional energy. I need that for other tasks.
Next, I need to believe that I can grow in knowledge and become something more than I am. A little story: In 1961, John Wooden was in his 15th year of coaching, and was 51 years old. He had begun to think his UCLA team would never win a national championship and, by his own admission, felt like shoddy facilities would prevent them from reaching the next level. Then, to his own and everyone else’s surprise, the Bruins made the Final Four in 1962. This gave him pause. Maybe he was destined for more than he originally thought. He decided to quit focusing on what he didn’t have, and to re-evaluate every single detail of his program. What happened next was the stuff of legend: 10 championships in 13 years.
Here are are lessons I take from the Wizard of Westwood: 1) You are never too old to make changes for the better. 2) Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. 3) Every single detail matters.
Finally, we need to make sure we’re not in a Prevent Defense. Any football fan knows the agony of seeing his or her team start playing “not to lose” football in the fourth quarter. Even when the strategy is successful (and we’ve seen it fail plenty of times), it is not entertaining. Our lives cannot be about playing out the clock. When we find ourselves saying “I can’t wait for the weekend” or “I’ll just be glad when this day is over”, it should be a signal that we’re missing out on something very precious. None of us dreamed as children for the day when we’d spend our time waiting for something else.
The second half of life can be every bit as full of adventure as the first part. You have the self-awareness, resources, connections and wisdom to go far beyond where your journey has taken you to this point.
When Al Roker is wishing you a happy 100th birthday, I want you to be wearing a big smile in your picture!