I’m turning 45 next week and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. For some reason this seems like a more significant birthday to me than 30 or 40 was. I know some of my thoughts are a result of a few colleagues dying recently (in their 50′s and 60′s), me completely wearing myself out this fall, and spending about half the year struggling with a back injury, but I think something deeper is going on.
At my core, I’m profoundly happy with my existence on this planet. I’m married to an amazing person who I’ve been involved with for 20 years. My direct family is healthy and very functional. I have three superb partners who I get to work with on deeply satisfying activities. I’ve structured my life so that I get to spend most of my time on really interesting things. I get to work with fascinating entrepreneurs on long term projects that I care about almost as much as they do. Finally, I live in what I think is the best town in the world (Boulder) and spend plenty of time in several great cities in the US (New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston.)
When Amy and I talk about turning 45 the phrase “mid-life” comes up. Both of us want to live a long time but are realistic that living until 90 based on our family histories is a long shot, the singularity notwithstanding. So I think we’ve accepted that this is the pivot point where we can start viewing our lives as “at least half way finished.”
Reflecting back on the last 45 years, I’m really pleased with how I’ve lived my life. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t have any regrets. Of course, I’d be dead, so that’s kind of an odd phrase. I believe when it’s over, it’s over, but my inner editor refuses to change the sentence.
In some way, that liberates me to think about the next 45 years with a freshness that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I love my work and my daily life so I don’t feel like I’m in need of any fundamental changes. But there are plenty of tweaks, especially when I look back at the last year of injury, illness, and fatigue. For example, I got an email from a blog reader a few days ago in response to my Death and Dying post with the following key paragraph:
“So, what do I do differently now that I’m zooming towards 50? While the work load peak-to-average (crest factor) will always be high in our businesses, I now try for a healthy mix of work, exercise, eating right and relationship building on a 2-7 day window instead of the 30-90 day window. The “week off the grid” model seemed to work in my 20′s and 30′s, but the swings from low and high (energy, mental acuity, happiness, etc.) would be unsustainable today.”
My engine has always run hot – I work and play hard until I run out of gas, and then I crash for a while. I’ve solved this for the past decade by taking a quarterly week of the grid to recharge and spend focused time with Amy, but I’m starting to feel like the 90 day tempo isn’t working as it’s too much physically and emotionally. The idea that I should shift to a weekly or some better defined monthly rhythm is appealing.
There are plenty of other things, both physical and mental, that I’ve struggled to change such as trying to lose 25 pounds for several years, learning a new programming language like Python, trying to stop using the telephone except for family, partners, and CEOs, and trying to back off of being completely scheduled from Monday to Friday.
Fortunately, next week is one of my quarterly weeks off the grid (although I have several things going on that will keep me a little engaged) so I’ll have plenty of time to ponder this. But, for any of you out there that have read this far and are willing, I’m interested in the suggestions, ideas, and tweaks you might have for me as I turn 45.