Are We (Boomers) Really In The Middle Of Middle Age – As Diana Nyad Says? If So, Then What Next?

Diana Nyad -- training for the big challenge

News item:
Diana Nyad is out to swim from Cuba to Key West– in one 60 hour swim.  At the age of 61.
There is ego involved, of course. But her swim has helped her turn a corner, she said, adding that she hopes it will empower others her age.
“I hope a couple will say, ‘I want to live life like that at this age,’” Ms. Nyad said. “I want the candle to burn bright. We have changed a lot. Our parents’ generation, at 60, they considered that old age. I’m in the middle of middle age.”
Read about it in this article from the New York Times: Ready to Swim 103 Miles With the Sharks


I recently presented a synopsis of the book The Big Shift:  Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife by Marc Freedman.  It is a terrific “find your new path” book for people who are in that range of years that make up the “new” middle-age years.  (In other words, my age!)

As I presented it, I made this observation – it is written primarily for the people with means:  financial means, intellectual means, social skills means.  Or, if you want the shorthand version, the “winners.”  Those who can land on their feet and start again – and again, and again.

I hope I am that kind of person.

But, the more I read, the more I worry just a little.  I have been presenting synopses of business books for well over a decade.  I’ve read many, many good books.

But I’m bothered.  Most of these business books are written with such people — people with means — in mind.  But in the different arenas of my life, I spend a lot of time with these “winners” that I described, but also a lot of time around the people without such means.  People who work, many of them quite hard, in everyday jobs, utterly dependent on the leaders of the company or organization to make the right choices about the future.  Their jobs really do depend on the wisdom of the people in charge.

(I remember hearing an interview with an auto-worker many years ago.  His plant had just been shuttered.  This man was a shift supervisor – he had shown up at work every day, been promoted, and always done a good job.  He seemed shell-shocked, and perplexed.  He said something along these lines:  “I did everything I was ever asked to do.  What did I do wrong?”)

I teach at the community college level, and guest lecture at the SMU Cox School of Business to their MBA students.    The gap between these two groups of students is massive.  I am convinced that the average SMU MBA student is living on a different planet, with significant advantages in the resources department (those resources I mentioned earlier:  financial means, intellectual means, social skills means), than the average student at the community college where I teach.

And I think of a specific person at the Borders book store in Old Town.  You know, the Borders which has just announced that they are closing all of their remaining stores.  If I described him, and you shopped there yourself, you might recognize him.  I have called there so very many times, asking “do you have this book in stock?”  He would find it, put it behind the counter for me.  Always knowledgeable, always friendly.  He was good at his job.  I think he enjoyed his job.  And now, through no fault of his own, his job is gone.  Gone.  What will he, and so many others, do?

I suspect that we need to help each other, and all the folks in today’s society – regardless of one’s capacity, one’s resources – get a lot better at “finding your new path.”  Because I’m simply not sure what the future holds for any of us.  And, I suspect, whatever the future holds, it will not be the old path that awaits, but a new path, for so very many of us.

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