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ATD Blog

High Achievement at Any Age

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Suppose you thought of departing your current organization to start your own practice. Or, you want to develop some new skills, but it will take considerable time and effort to do so. In case you've already passed a certain age and are thinking, "I have this big dream, but I'm too old," take heart: Whether you're in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, mile-high achievement could still be in store for you!

Across the board, on average career professionals are living longer than their counterparts of just one generation ago. In particular, you are likely to live longer than you think you will. There's no telling what you're capable of two, three, or four decades hence. The legendary Grandma Moses became famous as a painter in her 70s and 80s, and was still creating notable works of art past age 100.

When Ronald Reagan was re-elected as U.S. president in 1984, he was already 73 years old, and he left office when he was 77. Reagan spent 25 years in the motion picture and entertainment business before entering politics. Challengers frequently belabored his show biz background; yet because of his longevity, his political career was often longer and more distinguished than that of his challengers. He had simply lived more years, and hence, had done more things.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, another example, now 85, is a beacon of senior service to America, and hailed as a hero in many sectors of society. We could all cite many others.

And, for My Second Career

Perhaps you'll remain within the profession or, perhaps, end up in some new venture that is largely unrelated. In Age Wave, Dr.Ken Dychtwald explains that it's likely you'll have several careers within a lifetime—for you, this could be in and out of talent development—with some careers totally unrelated to each other. After all, if you graduate college at age 22, you can work for 15 or 18 years in one industry, not even hit your 40s, work 25 years in another industry, even get your pension, still work another 12 to 15 in another profession, and only be in your 70s!


As average life spans extend beyond 80 and 90, and the health and well-being of the typical career professional continues on at an advanced age, it's not unrealistic to assume that you might achieve some spectacular goal in some arena of your life that is not even on your radar at this moment.

The Seeds Have Been Planted

Many people believe that the seeds of what you might be doing 20, 30, and 40 years from now are already in formation, if only at the cellular level. When I took the course "Technologies for Creating," designed by author of The Path of Least Resistance Robert Fritz, I encountered one of the most powerful affirmations of my life to this point. Imagine, Fritz encourages, that everything you've ever done is preparation for what's coming next. All the successes, all the failures, all the things that went well, all the things that went up in flames, and all of your experiences and learning might well be applied, or at least drawn upon, for the highest good, for what is coming in your life.


With that perspective, you've incurred no down time. Whatever roles you've taken on in the firm, whatever clients you've handled—all of it adds up to no wasted efforts. Your career up until now and your life has been a laboratory of sorts, helping you to prepare for some grand good the likes of which might still not be clear to you.

As the philosophers say, the pattern of the universe (or, more specifically for your purposes, the pattern of your career and life) is right there, visible in everything you do. You have only to recognize how to work with your strengths and limitations, aptitudes and blind spots to transcend yourself.

You can boldly go where you've never gone before and eventually set and reach goals that in an earlier time might have seemed beyond your essence, yet on some level, perhaps were within you all along.

Exploration 101

Here are suggestions for things you can do in anticipation of a longer life and a more diverse career path:

  • Undertake some exploratory reading via books, magazines, and online articles about the path and the field of endeavor that has lingered in the back of your mind. You're merely exploring, so there is no right or wrong direction. What you learn is all grist for a future mill.
  • Talk to people in alternative fields to gain firsthand accounts of what it's like to be a beekeeper, bank loan officer, forest ranger, or what have you. Nothing like hearing from those in the know.
  • Take a sabbatical if your current employment position allows for it, and actually spend time in the potential job, trade, or endeavor you’re interested in. You might decide that you don't like it, or affirm that it's worth keeping in mind for the future.
  • Talk to your spouse or partner about your potential aspirations. Who knows? Maybe you'll garner strong support!
About the Author

Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC (aka "The Work-life Balance Expert"®) offers keynote presentations and workshops on a creating work-life balance, managing the pace with grace, and thriving in a hyper-accelerated world. He has spoken to Fortune 50 companies, such as Lockheed and IBM, as well as American Express, Westinghouse, America Online, and Wells Fargo. Jeff also is the author of Simpler Living, Breathing Space, and Dial it Down, Live it Up. His books have been published in 19 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Turkish, and Russian. For more information visit

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