How Old Is Too Old?

A resume client recently said to me, “Yeah, but I’m too old.”

I wanted to grab him by his lapels and shake some sense into him.

I’m here to tell you …

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do – but have been putting off – now would be a good time to do it.

A woman once walked up to well-known author and inspirational speaker Wally (Famous) Amos, after a seminar he had given and said, “If I go to law school at my age, I’ll be 55 when I graduate.” Amos asked her, “How old will you be if you don’t go?”

So let me ask you a question, “If not now, when?”

Too Old For What?

Just what is it we’re supposed to be too old for anyway?

People will tell you that advancing age results in lower energy levels and diminished capacity for getting things done.

Really? Consider the following, courtesy of the UC Berkley Wellness Letter:

Verdi composed his “Ave Maria” at age 85.

Harlan Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at the tender age of 65 and became a multi-millionaire.

Grandma Moses – the renowned American folk artist – didn’t start painting until she was in her 70s and didn’t achieve success until she was in her 80s.

Michelangelo was carving the Pieta when he was 89.

Martha Graham – one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance – performed until she was 75 and choreographed her 180th work at age 95.

Marion Hart, sportswoman and author, learned to fly at age 54 and made seven nonstop solo flights across the Atlantic, the last time in 1975 when she was 83.

John Kelley finished his sixtieth Boston Marathon at the age of 83.

Jack LaLanne, at age 62, swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater, against treacherous tides, towing a 2,000-pound boat. At age 65, he was swimming in Lake Ashinoko, Japan, handcuffed, shackled and towing sixty-five boats loaded with 6,500 pounds of Louisiana wood pulp! At age 70, once again handcuffed and shackled, and fighting blustery winds and currents, LaLanne hit the water and succeeded in pulling seventy boats and seventy people – one person per boat – an astonishing one and one-half miles.

The remarkable accomplishments of these people are not just personal triumphs; rather they are triumphs of the human spirit. They demonstrate that whether you start early or late in life, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Whatever you can conceive, you can achieve – regardless of age.

Forget Those Who Say You Can’t

I wonder why so few people feel their age is “just right.”

Being “too old” is just an excuse – an excuse that has closed the door of opportunity to thousands of individuals. They think they are the wrong age, so they don’t even try.

I hear all kinds of people saying you reach a point where starting over, or starting a new endeavor, just isn’t practical anymore.

Let me tell you something – people who know the least, know it the loudest.

The person who is fond of saying, “It can’t be done,” is invariably interrupted by the person who just did it.

When I was a corporate sales trainer, an older salesperson – who should have known better – told me that I didn’t understand the circumstances he was under.

I asked him, “The circumstances you’re under? What are you doing under there? Get out from under there! Who told you to go under there in the first place?”

There are no circumstances you can’t handle. There are only challenges to be met. Every challenge contains within it an opportunity for you to excel.

Start Where You Are

However old you are – you are. So look at your age positively.

A friend of mine, who just turned 70, confided to me that he hated the thought of getting old. I told him it was a lot better than the alternative. If you’re not getting older, you’re dead. I’ll take old over dead any day of the week.

Instead of thinking, “I’m already too old,” think, “I’m still young.” Look forward to new horizons and gain enthusiasm for new things.

Invest time in doing what you really want to do. Whether you’re 29 or 69, it’s never too late.

So stop thinking, “I should have started years ago.” You’re here now, so start now. Your best years are ahead of you.

Just ask our own Shelby Beckett. The newest addition to AWAI’s Wall of Fame, Shelby didn’t start copy writing until she was 71. In fact, if you check out the Wall of Fame, you’ll see a lot of gray hair there.

Think about how much productive time you have left.

If your life was an hourglass and you could see the sand passing through it, what would you do today?

The cemetery is full of unwritten books, unsung songs, great deeds left undone, and discoveries never made. Most people die with their dreams still in them. Don’t let the “too old” excuse keep you from living the life you’ve always wanted.

“For of all sad words, of tongues or pen, the saddest are these: I might have been …”

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Average: 4.8
Published: August 25, 2009

11 Responses to “How Old Is Too Old?”

  1. Thank you for this great article Tom. I needed it today! As I listen to the news I notice that people in my age bracket (70s) are considered "elderly". Well, I surely don't consider myself to be even old. But I have to admit that sometimes those thoughts enter my mind: you're too old, what are you thinking trying to do the writing business.
    Now it's full speed ahead for me. The heck with the age thing.

    barbarjoAugust 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

  2. I am striving my best to live the dream you write about in today's piece. I used to think that, once I completed (any sort of) training at an advanced age, there wouldn't be enough time left in my life to pursue whatever I'd trained to do. Now I realize that 1) the journey IS the reward, and 2) even if I only get to do [that thing] for a single day before I die, it will have been enough.

    Thanks for the reinforcement.

    Ed in MinnesotaAugust 25, 2009 at 9:27 am

  3. Excellent - thank you.

    JulesAugust 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

  4. The article reiterated what I have always felt. You're never too old! As my 7/8th grade social studies teacher said, "Never stop learning". The best advice I ever recieved.

    Lois in Las VegasAugust 25, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  5. Right on, Tom! Just today I heard from an "old" college friend who wondered where I find my energy and motivation to try new things. We are both 65. In her e/m she condiders some of her life issues as "depressing" & difficult. There it is right there - we can look at issues as problems, or turn them into learnings & be grateful. I have a 75 yr old friend who regularly runs 5K & a 76 yr old who is learning blog/web. I'm jumping into travel writing - it's all in the approach and attitude.

    Ann Jordan-MillsAugust 25, 2009 at 6:45 pm

  6. This article ROCKS! :)

    DRSBAugust 25, 2009 at 9:37 pm

  7. Thanks for the comments on "old age."

    At age 68, I have a very simple philosophy, "I will try."And if that does work, I will try again.

    Certainly, at age 68 I know my body doesn't work as well as it did when I was 20. But, my body does still work, and so does my mind, as well as my spirit.

    As long as my body still works, my mind still works, and my spirit still works, why should I stop living as best as I can.

    The greatest power we have is the power of choice, and when something doesn't work right it is best to review the prior choices, identify the wrong choices and change the mind, with a new choice or choices.

    Our greatest choice reduces to making the best of life, or letting life get the best of ourselves.

    My mother at age 85 is still gardening, raising many beautiful vegetables and canning about everything she can. So far, this 2009 summer she has canned 160 quarts of tomatoes, green beans and sauerkraut, and the summer isn't over yet.


    hobe-001 August 25, 2009 at 11:02 pm

  8. I am very touched when I read this article as the title is the question always come to my mind which obstruct me to try many things or on study. Although, I'm just 32 years old and many peoples I met when I travelled in different countries had told me to try different things as much as you when you are still young. However, I still stucking in this question for such a long time. But after read this article, it really gives me more power to chase my dream now, most importantly it reminds me never to give up before u did not even try it.

    MaggieAugust 26, 2009 at 2:02 am

  9. I'm 61. I took up doing voice-overs 5 years ago. That led to a stint as a radio journalist. The poor quality of advertising copy that I was given to record has now led me to start AWAI's Accelerated Copywriting course ... life goes on :)

    Chris the VoiceAugust 26, 2009 at 3:00 am

  10. Sweet article! This inspiration can NEVER be shared TOO often.

    Jerry BuresAugust 26, 2009 at 11:37 am

  11. Great post! I just used it in my blog, complete with resource box, at Coach4LifeChange Recently a client told me that she would be 46 when she finished a degree. I pointed out that she was going to be 46 anyway, and wouldn't it be better to be 46 with a degree than without one?

    janeteOctober 22, 2009 at 11:33 am

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