I recently posted up a quote from C.S. Lewis about never being “too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”, something I genuinely believe – and practice. I don’t want to be that person who reaches the end of her life and says, ‘I wish I’d done that’.
I’m sure people think I’m either crazy or brave, or perhaps a little of both because of all the weird and wonderful projects and careers I’ve embarked upon (and have done since I was a teenager), but it got me to thinking about unpacking what really happens when you set out to achieve a goal when you’re “middle aged” like me.
Is It Worth It?
Many of us who hold new dreams and goals ask ourselves if it’s worth it. At this age it’s very easy to hold ourselves back, telling ourselves we’re “too old for failure”; but would it really be failure – or just feedback?
Here’s just a few choice excuses not to start that would-be entrepreneurs have all thought at some point:
- It will hurt my hip pocket
- People will judge me (hi there, ego!)
- I lack expertise in this endeavour
- My family won’t support me
- I’ve tried before and just gave up. Why is this any different?
- My reputation is at stake (Sigh. You again ego.)
- I don’t have enough time to make it happen. Yeah, well no. Here’s a list of pretty awesome 40+ people to help you realise this simply isn’t true.
- Colonel Sanders – over 60 years old when he kicked off Kentucky Fried Chicken
- Samuel L. Jackson – 46 years old when he became famous in Pulp Fiction. Struggled with drug addiction prior to that
- Henry Ford – 40 years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company
- Charles Darwin – 50 years old when he published his eponymous ‘On the Origin of Species’
- Morgan Freeman – 50 years when he scored an Oscar nomination for Street Smart, in 1987, his first major breakout role.
- I’ll be embarrassed if I fail. Hmmm. Ask yourself. What’s worse, embarrassment or regret? If the answer is genuinely embarrassment but you can’t let go of that goal or dream… then suck it up buttercup, there’s a risk taker in you somewhere, so embrace it.
And so on and so forth. We’ve all made those excuses why we can’t, shouldn’t, pursue our goals because of those ‘reasons’. In fact there’s every reason why we SHOULD, despite your “I want to keep you safe” conscious voice telling you loudly and clearly not to move forward with your dream.
It’s not me that’s the problem, it’s my [insert owner of negative voice(s) here]
This can be a tough one. Your partner, children, colleagues, or whoever is in your ear telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t go for it when you have that dream or goal can be a dream killer. This is where you really need to ask yourself what the cost to them will be. If it’s nothing at all (could be a colleague is jealous and they’re framing it as concern for your welfare), then they really don’t have a say in it, do they? If it means uprooting your entire family so that you can study snowy egrets in Argentina, it may be something you need to put on hold until the time is right. Never, ever give up your goal or dream though. Where there is a will there’s a way!
You’ re never too old to make your own luck
So many successful people started without having all the answers. They learned on the fly, kept an open mind, kept an eye out for opportunities and learned how to say “yes” more often. It was Ernest Hemmingway who said ‘you make your own luck’ and I believe him.
Chances are at this age you’re still working. There’s no reason for you to chuck that all in to pursue your dream of earning money as an artist or musician (for example), and you know it. Side hustles can end up being BIG earners, but if not – you’re still having fun, right?
Don’t underestimate yourself
You’ve been alive a while now and you mostly likely have the facial creases to prove it. You’ve had plenty of life experiences, with bumps, bruises, successes, joy, heartache and failure along the way. Whether you like it or not, if you have half a brain, you’ve learned from these experiences and have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, developed a high EQ and a now have wisdom befitting your time here on earth. In other words, YOU’RE AWESOME! Don’t underestimate yourself!
Okay I’ll go for it! Now what?
So you’ve bitten the bullet, taken the plunge, jumped in feet first, gone out on a limb…you get the picture. You’ve decided to GO FOR IT – aaaand now what happens?
Well, that all comes down to you and your goal, but no matter who you are or what the goal, you must be open to trying different things and find solutions to the inevitable problems that will crop up. When I researched how to get my product out there, noticed, and SOLD, I was inundated with information to the point where I responded instinctively. You know about fight, flight or freeze when faced with a challenge, right? Well I froze when faced with multiple ‘marketing experts’ all offering free advice and strategies, using terminologies I’d never heard of before (SEO, CRM, B2B, B2C, funnels. Damned funnels…). I ended up doing absolutely nothing at all because I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. But I wasn’t ready to quit.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
We tried different tactics and companies, but all failed to deliver, and I reached out a marketing specialist friend of mine who sat me down and started me with some marketing basics. It was enough for me to grasp and after many baby steps, I was on my way.
Don’t be afraid of feedback on the road to achieving your goals
When I initially showed her my product packaging, she smiled politely and had a slightly confused look on my face. I’m no fool. I knew she didn’t like it; it was written all over her face. Later she would tell me that she expected more from my product. The thing was, I wasn’t really a fan of the packaging either because it was thin and flimsy, but I still thought it looked pretty. And we had designed it ourselves dammit!!
We had many passionate debates about the packaging until she decided to pull out the big guns to settle the debate once and for all and introduced us to a branding who suggested we go for a packaging design that was more consistent with the actual product inside it. Eureka! Everyone was happy and she went on her merry way and created beautiful designs for us in sturdier packaging that we had chosen. We were back on track!!
Don’t be afraid of setbacks
After much consultation with our box supplier, we chose a style of box for our beautiful new designs and placed an order online (the only overseas component of our product). We ticked all the boxes of what thickness and style we would like, paid the money and waited excitedly for our stock to arrive. When it arrived, we were sickened to find that the lids didn’t close properly. They looked cheap and tacky. When we approached our supplier about the issue they tried again and took photos of the ‘new and improved’ boxes. They took great care to avoid capturing where the lid joined I might add. They sent two new samples to us. Nothing at all had changed; the boxes still didn’t close properly. When we queried the supplier again, they told us it was simply the thickness of the box that was the problem.
When we asked why that thickness option was available for the style we wanted on the website, they couldn’t answer us, and they wouldn’t refund our money either. We were over $1500 down the gurgler, and although it stung, we learned from our mistakes. Yes it was a setback, but we pressed forward with an even better type of packaging that we now use. A new packaging company delivered what they promised and again we were back on track. Setbacks are going to happen. Business is messy. This fabulous image of what you think success looks like compared to what it really is speaks volumes.
Where did all this money come from?
Cute story. The money I received from a voluntary redundancy that I used to create my company was long gone. We were getting by, but money was very, very tight. I was driving one day thinking to myself “$10,000. $10,000 would give us enough to sort the packaging out, update the website, help me BREATHE…” Two days later when I checked our account balance, there was exactly an extra $10,000 in it. I called my bookkeeper, convinced that this money was a mistake. After she’d done some quick checking, she called me back happy to advise that it wasn’t.
The Australian government provided large stimulus packages for businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were registered as a business and met all the financial stimulus requirements, and it landed in our account after my previous reporting period. Valerie then ensured that our company got every bit of stimulus money it was entitled to. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that money and ESPECIALLY without our bookkeeper.
The process of realising your dream is like learning to ice skate
Realising your dream is a lot like learning to ice skate. I came to this conclusion after taking up ice skating again after about a 25-year hiatus. When I fell over, arms and legs flailing wildly, hands slapping loudly on the ice upon impact, as an ‘oooft’ escaped me, the analogy wasn’t lost on me.
This is what realising your dream is like. It takes focus, mistakes and hurt pride. It all feels fatal too, but it really isn’t. The satisfaction and joy you feel in staying upright as you improve over time is totally worth it. Yes, there will always be younger, better, prettier, more talented….whatever. You do YOU. Don’t suffer what my awesome business calls “comparisonitis”. It’s a dream killer. Despite what you might read or hear about, not every business makes over a billion dollars in their first year, or even a million. They’re called ‘unicorn companies’ for a reason. It takes the rest of us time. Repeat after me. It…takes…time.
Aaaand now it’s too hard
You were well on your way to achieving your goal, but for some reason, now it’s too hard. It’s those three little words right there that will set you on the path to stopping. If it really is feeling too hard, you need to ask yourself some tough questions about your endeavour – and be brutally honest with yourself when the first answer comes to mind; if you overthink it, your answer will be muddier than a pig in the proverbial.
- Is it adversely affecting my health? Yes/No
- Is it hurting my loved ones? Yes/No
- Is it for the betterment of my family? Yes/No
- What does it look like to quit for me? Better/worse?
- What does it FEEL like to quit for me? Better/worse?
- What does it look like for my loved ones if I quit? Better/worse?
- Can I just take a breather and come back to it? Yes/No
I started a film and TV course when I was a single parent and my children were in primary school. I loved it and I aced the lot, with distinctions and high distinctions for every assignment, both written and practical.
My children, bless their little hearts, were proud of their mummy, but she was exhausted. THEY were exhausted, being in before school care at 6 am, at school, then in after school care until 6 in the evening, me showing up breathlessly to get there on time after battling late lectures and traffic. After that it was more travel to home, then the kids’ homework while I made dinner, and then their bath and bedtime. I read to them – it was the only quality time I had with them all day – then it was time for MY homework.
After about 6 months of this, I was exhausted and stressed out to the max, but determined not to quit, until a parent teacher interview changed everything. My grade 2 son’s teacher showed me a little book he’d put together about a little boy who dreamed of sleeping in and not having to get up early every day. It was a simple little book, with my son’s sweet little pictures, but it screamed at me. My goal was hurting me and hurting them – not to mention my finances. After really thinking about what it would look and feel like for me if I quit, it was a WHEW – sheer relief, for me, for them, for the family finances – our overall wellbeing.
The point of this is that I gave it a go and my kids weren’t irreparably scarred. I learned a LOT and was proud of what I achieved in the short time that I studied. Thirteen years later, I have a TV project on the boil that might just come to something yet. Even if nothing ends up coming from it, the joy I’ve had in the journey has been totally worth it – and I mean that.
That is something to seriously consider too. Does your goal have to be successful per se, or is the joy simply in your journey?
To quit or not to quit – that is the question
Fast forward to 2020 and my beautiful Dad asks me how my business sales are going. “Not selling much at all”, I tell him. “Do you think it’s time to give up?”, he asks. My automatic response? “No way!” I reply. “There’s no way I’m quitting on my toddler!” “Okay love!” he laughs. And here I am a year on, still here, sales have increased, and I’ve taken a job to supplement my income while I grow my business after hours. My new job is one that I’ve done before. I love it. It’s low stress and I don’t take it home with me. Wearing the work-stress hat home is something I personally AM too old for. So I haven’t given up. I’ve just pivoted.
Would you quit on your baby because it’s not feeding or sleeping properly? Or quit on your toddler because it’s not walking talking yet? Of course not, you’re going to find solutions that work for you. And that’s the key…that work for YOU.
Your Heist Team
I honestly forget who coined the phrase ‘heist team’ when he talked about having a team of people behind him. Perhaps it was on a Mind Valley podcast, but anyway, I believe it and I’d be lost without mine! I have my creatives, my techies, my money specialists, my strategists, mentors, friends… When you think about it, it’s pretty much impossible to achieve anything completely alone, especially if you have a humdinger of a goal, which I consider being a first-time business owner to be! I need to add that I didn’t have ANYONE when I first started; I met each and every one of them along the way.
Yeah Okay, I get it. I’m not too old to realise a new goal and I really want to do this… but I just… can’t
If you really want to pursue your goal but are too scared to step up, there are ways that you can navigate around that, as Human Behaviour Expert, Rhiannon Rees, explains here.
The upshot of her article is, if you have a goal or a dream, you need to be open to learning how to create new neural pathways to tell your protective ego-self that you CAN DO THIS.
Too old to start a new goal or dream a new dream? Never!
Founder BathCalm Pty Ltd
53 years young, and proud!