Last week the South China Morning Post published this glowing piece about me and the creation of AGEIST. Let’s get a few things straight: my life as seen from my seat has not been nearly as glamorous as it may seem from the outside. It has been fun, and I am so very grateful for all the lucky breaks I have caught, but it was a ton of work and struggle, and oftentimes I failed rather dramatically.
When we started AGEIST, we knew nothing other than the way people who were our age — I was 56 at the time — were being portrayed out in the world was degrading. Our mission was to change that by showing people like us to be aspirational, vital, and vividly forward-looking. That was the part we felt sure we knew how to do.
Imagine sending someone who has never cooked into a kitchen to bake their first cake
What I didn’t know was everything else. And I mean everything: Google docs, PowerPoint, how to write, how to speak in front of groups, social media, financial accounting. Having come from a successful career that was almost entirely visual, and never having worked for a company, all these skills had to be learned. How did it go? It was pretty messy. Imagine sending someone who has never cooked into a kitchen to bake their first cake. It was like that every day, until it wasn’t.
There are a number of you who have joined us from Asia from having read the SCMP article. Welcome! It’s great to have you with us. But since you are new to us, and you have not been around for the messy toddler years of AGEIST’s growth, it was not all as smooth sailing as you may have thought.
I created an entirely new career…I just dug in and learned
The reason I bring this up is to make clear a few things. The first is that I am not a particularly gifted person — even my photography, which I am very good at, is because I have worked at it daily for over 40 years. If anyone applies themselves to most anything over that period of time they will acquire some pretty impressive skills. The second is that I took all this on at the advanced age of 56. I created an entirely new career, and entirely new way of seeing and understanding people like myself. The way I did that was I just dug in and learned. It was messy and humiliating and filled with embarrassment and missteps. The main advantage I had was that I was ok with all that. It did not feel particularly nice to go from being known as one of the best in the world at something to becoming the virtual intern in my own company.
I am using me as an example, but there are thousands of people who have done things very similar. One career goes away and we adapt, we learn, and we get good at something new. The field that I came from prepared me only to the extent that being freelance is not that different a mindset than being an entrepreneur. In both cases the food on the table is only there for today, and only because of something concrete that you did. But in today’s employment environment, is that really much different than having a not-so-secure corporate job? Maybe not.
Openness, curiosity, and a strong dose of resilience will go a long way for anyone. Lastly, that jet-set work style thing is highly over-rated — it may seem glam, but the reality is much less so. Oh, and about Andy Warhol — I met him twice, each for about 5 seconds.