by Jim Cathcart
I grew up in the automobile era. As a baby boomer I remember that everything cool was about cars (or motorcycles). If you had a good car, you just had to customize it to express your own personality. My first car (in 1963) was a 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe four door. It’s factory color was tan and it had a 97 horsepower flat-head six-cylinder engine with a standard shift on the steering column. As a teenager I was thrilled to have my own car but disgusted with how un-cool it looked.
To make matters worse the floorboards were rusted through and the driver’s door had been heavily dented in a collision. But it was mine! I spent weeks on end in the driveway with Dad replacing the old parts and renewing the car. We painted it “midnight metallic blue”, reupholstered the interior in “Naugahyde” (leather-like vinyl) and put cool hubcaps on it. I got a Corvette shift knob to put onto the column shift lever and added a boastful warning sign to the dashboard: “Do not exceed speeds of over 100 miles per hour for more than four hours under normal conditions.” (Remember now, I was a teenager and had no idea how dumb that seemed.) I named the car “The Heap” and painted a 3 inch square cartoon of a wrecked car just under “The Heap” on my left front fender. (Again, you’ve got to remember, this was a time when we thought it was cool to roll up your T-shirt sleeves, grease your hair, roll up your jeans to show off your white socks and hang a cigarette cynically out of your mouth.)
The engine was very old technology and it had barely enough horsepower to ascend all the hilly streets in western Little Rock, Arkansas. It burned about as much oil as gas too. I’d almost always have to add a quart of oil with each fill up. Luckily prices were comparatively low.
Now for the important part: its speed from a standing start up to sixty miles per hour “zero to sixty”.
That was the prime measure of a car’s power and competitive potential. “Take Off” was where the power was measured. Above 60mph is considered “Cruising Speed” and is much more efficient and enjoyable, but take off is where the noise is made, tires are worn out and fuel gets burned up fast. Those were the days of drag racing. (See the James Dean movie “Rebel without a Cause” for details. Or read old copies of the #1 auto magazine of the day “Hot Rod”.) Well, my old heap would barely do sixty on the same day that the race started so it didn’t see much competitive action. But it looked cool to me!
Now, are you ready for the big segue? Stay with me. Here it comes.
In the 1960s cars that could cover a quarter mile in under 20 seconds and could go zero to sixty in under 10 seconds were considered fast. One of my buddies had a car that would do 0 to 60 in 6 seconds and I remember dragsters that did a quarter mile in 9 seconds from a standing start! Today those numbers are considered mild. If you wanted to impress someone you’d spin your tires and race through the gears up to about sixty miles per hour. But there is another category where the 0 to 60 measure applied with equal levels of prejudice, (Here comes the transition…..) Age.
People who were between zero and sixty years old were considered mainstream and those over sixty were “old.” Nobody took 61+ people’s advice or considered them to be in touch with the real world. Remember the hippie slogan “Never trust anyone over thirty”? But today those 78 million Baby Boomers are turning 60+ at the rate of tens of thousands every single day! I’m currently 61. I was born on the first year of the boom, 1946, and graduated high school in its last year, 1964.
Along with this demographic shift there is a corresponding economic shift. We have seen the youth of the baby boom become the leaders of the world. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and I were all born in 1946. Paul McCartney is just a bit older than me. Bill Gates is younger. John McCain is older. Hillary is about my age and Barack Obama is younger. But the vast majority of our nation’s wealth and power is vested in people who are no longer between zero and sixty.
Today the reframing of life to include 60 to 100 is an important consideration. If you reach “retirement” age and still have 30+ years of viable life ahead, you start looking for your next career. No more do we simply seek a part time job to supplement our pension. Today people are seeking bold new challenges and reasons to stay active and involved. You will see tens of thousands of former retirees re-entering the workforce with vigor in the coming years.
The one thing that keeps life and health intact is Purpose. We all need a challenge that is bigger than we are so that we can keep on growing. We need a sense of purpose in what we do. We must find meaning in our life and feel that we are truly necessary. This is much greater than just getting a secondary job.
It is also important to recognize that once you’ve traveled the career path once you don’t have the same patience during the second trip. Spending energy and time on things that don’t hold much value is seen as a waste and we quickly get bored and curious about new challenges. What we put up with in order to “pay our dues” the first time, we find to be depressingly meaningless on the second trip. So we want our efforts to matter and we want our voice to be heard.
I’ll write more on this later but make a note that challenge, contribution and meaning will be the vital factors in 60-100 careers. And there will be lots of job-hopping experimentation. We’ll be trying on second careers like new coats. If the fit isn’t near perfect, then we start searching again. But these 60-100 workers are great assets. They have experience, maturity, wisdom, patience and insight that you would never find in their younger counterparts. They can truly advance your business and serve your community as well. They insist on having meaningful and fulfilling lives with plenty of extra time for the grandkids and their latest adventures.
So, don’t let the lure of GenX, GenY or Millenials occupy all of your attention. There is a sea of talent out there seeking to recommit to productivity. Let’s all put on our thinking caps and restructure our working world to make room for the Cruiser Class.
Stay tuned to this Blog for more ideas and resources.