What Hillary Clinton teaches me about carrots.

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Popular Culture et al, Science
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Clinton makes an ill-advised pitch for the youth vote.

Clinton makes an ill-advised pitch for the youth vote.

 

Hillary Clinton inspires me. But not for the reasons you might think. No, not because I’m a bit of an ironed-on old leftie and she’s the likely small-l liberal winner in 2016. No. In point of fact, Hillary’s probably a bit right wing for my taste. I’d prefer Bernie Sanders (who despite his populist appeal is not going to beat her), or perhaps Elizabeth Warren, who chose, sadly in our view, to keep her powder dry this time round.

No, she inspires me because the very likely next President of America is 68 today.

As we all live longer – and not just longer, but more healthily, too – the cult of youth that has pre-occupied the Western world since the youth revolution of the later 1950s and 60s appears increasingly silly and unwise.

Other sixty plus leaders still doing the rounds include the impressively successful Angela Merkel at 61, the forceful Vladimir Putin, who is 63, and Tunisia’s first freely-elected President Beji Caid Essebsi really leads the way, being just a month from 89.

And at the eye of the perfect storm, Mahmoud Abbas is still the President of Palestine – juggling one of the most difficult jobs in the world – at nearly 81.

And with age does come a certain perspective. As Clinton herself has said: “I think that if you live long enough, you realise that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control. That’s what I try to remember.”

Which is why it is more ludicrous than ever that businesses often discard employees in their fifties and sixties, or don’t employ job-seekers in that age group.

It could be argued, one supposes, that younger employees have more energy or ambition than older ones, but with those traits can also come impulsiveness, foolishness, or simple lack of knowledge. They may also have more distractions, one supposes.

So whilst I would dearly love not to have a sore shoulder – gardening, grrrr – and a bung knee – too much sport as a kid, I fear – and I do not always take the counsel of my own body gracefully – I am not so curmudgeonly as not to recognise that I am, despite myself, improving as a person. Late in the day, mayhap, but unmistakeably.

At 58, I am not the same cantankerous person I was twenty years ago, when I thought I probably knew everything. Or even ten years ago, when I was sure I did.

And largely, the late changes in my character have been improvements that make me much more useful organisationally.

I am slower to anger. Later in life, I discover that anger is always exhausting, and rarely useful. So I look for alternatives.

I also have less need to always be “right”. (It’s now honestly more important to me that the group is right.)

I now find it easier to see other people’s point of view, whilst still maintaining my own politely if I think it’s justified. I can discuss, more often, and more easily, rather than argue.

I have also found dealing with inter-personal conflict easier in recent years (which has always been a thorny area for me) as I have gradually realised that though it feels like personal conflict it is actually very rarely truly personal, in reality.

People turn conflicts personal because they are not taught how to resolve them less antagonistically. Once I realised this, it was easier to learn how to de-personalise conflicts and resolve them more easily.

I am not sure that was an option when my testosterone levels were at their tippty-top. Nowadays, my gradually but inexorably appearing pate is evidence that they are dropping, and as they reduce so I have definitely become more skilled at defusing grumpy colleagues or customers.

I have also given up the need – at least in part, I am trying, Dear Reader – to control every last feature of my life. Sometimes, letting go of overt control can reduce not just your blood pressure and anxiety levels but also increase your chance of resolving a problem successfully.

Not everything matters equally, and sometimes stepping back can let things meander their way to a good conclusion without one having to be personally involved. As you gradually reduce the sheer number of items you’re worrying about – and let someone else worry about them – you can do a better job of resolving the ones that really matter.

Additionally, everyone has problem-solving skills. If you try and control every solution all the time you unsurprisingly tend to get the same sort of solution all the time, when other answers may in fact be preferable, but other people will never use their problem-solving skills – that might be better or different to those you exhibit – because you’re always pre-emptively using yours. Dumb.

 

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And then there is always the point that we shouldn’t “sweat the small stuff”. It’s easy to say, and hard to do. But look: whether one has carrots or peas with that evening’s lamb chops doesn’t really matter, in the scheme of things. Does it? Really? Do you have to have an opinion? Do you have to dominate the planning?

You like both carrots and peas, yes? Or at the very least you can tolerate one or the other. Far better to focus instead on the things that we have to solve, because only we can solve them.

Just go with the flow. “Hey, it’s carrots tonight? Yay!”

Last but by no means least, when one is in one’s 20s or 30s, the sheer amount of time hopefully stretching ahead of one rather oddly creates an impatient and insistent pressure to “achieve”. With no apparent reason why we can’t do everything on our bucket list, ironically the extra time available just makes us anxious to make sure we “do it all”.

When one gets a little older, it’s obvious that one can’t do absolutely everything one could possibly imagine because one literally doesn’t have the time left, so one becomes more selective and thoughtful about what one does do with one’s life. And as one subtly becomes more “on purpose” with ones deepest needs and desires, one’s sense of well-being duly improves as well, and we become nicer – and more productive. We become better people.

This is not by any means an argument against younger leaders. Quite the opposite. Younger people have much to recommend them, including a mind less ossified by past experiences – Einstein remarked that he never had an original idea after 21 – and, of course, that ebullient energy mentioned earlier.

But it is an argument that we discard productive people to their metaphorical pipe and slippers far to quickly, and that we are very foolish to do so.

So thanks Hillary. We might run for Prime Minister yet.

And Happy Birthday.

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Comments
  1. underwriiter505 says:

    You would be a better Prime Minister than Tony Abbott. However, so would an entrenching tool. (You would be far better than an entrenching tool.)

    Many years ago as a Girl Scout leader I was working with kids from my troop and another troop forming a color guard for something or other. The other leader was close to apoplexy – no actual reason, the kids were fine, just general nervousness. Finally I said to her, “For God’s sake, Phyllis, in a hundred years who’s going to care?” It stopped her cold. She told me later I had changed her life. Hopefully your advice today on not sweating the small stuff can change a life or two.

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  2. The best advice I ever received was from a customer – whose name I have forgotten, much to my chagrin – when I was 28. My Lord, thirty years ago now.

    I had just endured a marriage split, I was in a job I hated, I had a mortgage round my neck, no money in my pocket despite my best efforts, and was generally rather down in the dumps. She said to me “What would you do if you had six months left to live?” I said, without hesitation, “I’d go to Australia and write a book of poetry.” She smiled at me and said “Well, now you’ve got 40 years. What are you going to do?” I left the UK (as it turns out for good) 6 weeks later. The book took another 20 years, but it did get started.

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  3. sabinaheggie says:

    I had a personal encounter with overt ageism a few years back when I was passed over for a an agency job that I was perfectly qualified for. When I asked the headhunter why I didn’t get the job, she said. “The creative director told me that, although he liked your resume, he has a young team, and you wouldn’t fit in.”
    There’s no answer to that really. Although if I was the litigious type, I guess a lawyer would have one!

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    • Pathetic. Should have sued!

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      • James Mahoney says:

        Many colleagues are running into the same, though not overtly expressed, mindset. I think it’s a fact of life, and not something that’s special to the “youth revolution” of the 50s and 60s. It was ever thus that those approaching or already in their prime generally dismiss the wisdom and value of the generations immediately ahead of them as being old hat and out of touch. I know I often did.

        It seems to me that one difference now is that a greater proportion of us boomers are healthy and vibrant at this stage of our lives than previous generations have been. Perhaps the answer is that those of us who still want to be in our particular game need to revolutionize this tail end of it with the same collective force that we thought was changing it in our youth.

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