banishing the missed-opportunity mentality

Monday, November 13, 2017

One time when inspiration always finds me: while traveling. Here, in Seward, Alaska, this past summer.
If you were the type of person who paid attention to the overwhelming amount of advertisements aimed at consumers (we're exposed to up to 4,000 ads per day, studies claim), you might begin to believe that we live in a world that worships youth. Oh, wait. We do live in a world that worships youth ... whether it's fast, electric cars or overpriced beauty products, the "face" of Consumer Carly is typically unblemished, unlined and unstressed. Marketing is a tricky mind game.

Yet, more and more, I see this notion that youth is the spring that feeds opportunity make appearances outside the realm of marketing. Among smart, savvy people (like myself, thank you very much) that should know better. 

In moments when I question the progress made against my goals - personal and professional - it's all too easy to look toward the people who have made significant achievements years, maybe even decades, before we pin-pointed what our goal might be. Not only is youth an underlying and pervasive message in nearly every ad that's placed in front of us, it's also the focus of magazine headlines and morning news shows. Young billionaire entrepreneurs seem to be spreading like a bad cold. Good God, where are they all coming from?! 

Even within the walls of the Financial Independence community, we've placed an unrealistic expectation on what stage of life is ideal to begin plotting investment strategies and an early retirement plan, potentially leaving a large majority of people feeling as if they may have missed their chance before they've even begun. I've come to think of this as the missed-opportunity mentality. It's a dangerous train of thought. 

While investing a large portion of your income as early as your 20s gains you early access to the magic of compounding interest, it hardly leaves the rest of us (like me, in my mid 30s) out in the cold. 

In that same vein, the concept of starting a side hustle that will generate additional income, is another financial life hack that's often aimed at younger folks, but undoubtedly applies to all ages. For that matter, if you've stumbled on something that you love doing that can also make you money, there is no wrong time to start, stop or transition into a new career. 

Life is simply too short to allow excuses like age to hold you back, but many of us have undoubtedly wondered:

- I don't have a creative bone in my body; is there really a side hustle that I can be successful at?
- Will I ever be able to catch up if I'm just starting to invest in my 40s?
- Is it possible to be an entrepreneur at 30, 50 or 65? 
- I've carved out a pretty decent life; shouldn't I just be happy with what I have?

Well, if everyone thought that way, we'd have missed out on some pretty impressive talent. (How's that for a segue?)

  • Patricia Field - of Sex and the City styling fame - met Sarah Jessica Parker at age 54, launching her career into new territory and eventually five Emmy nominations and six Costume Designer Guild Awards.
  • Julia Childs didn't publish her first cookbook until the age of 39 (or later, according to differing accounts). And it wasn't until her 50s that she made her first television appearance.
  • Designer Vera Wang was a figure skater and then a journalist, before entering the fashion industry in her 40s and becoming widely known for her chic apparel.
  • Ray Krok (have you seen the movie, The Founder?) was in his 50s when he bought his first McDonald's franchise.
  • Tim and Nina Zagat - of the restaurant rating guide that bears their name - left their careers as attorneys in their 40s to turn a passion for dining into the company that it is today.

One of the greatest gifts that we have as a human species (again, taking leaps and bounds with my theorizing here) is our ability to inspire and be inspired. Call it a trait; call it a learned behavior. But dig deep to find it the source of it within yourself. 

Because no matter your age, your education, or your career history (or lack thereof), all you require is inspiration to find - and then take - your next step.

In short, let's make a little pledge, shall we? Let's banish the missed-opportunity mentality and instead, put our efforts toward believing in and building one another up. 

Naysayers are a dime a dozen and they're all too easy to find, especially those who gave up on their own "crazy ideas" long ago. 

But people who dream big, lofty goals and take steps - even baby steps - to work toward them, who encourage others and choose to believe that a wealth of opportunities are available to all (rather than success as a selective and rare achievement) ... now THAT is the person I want to be and THOSE are the folks I want to clink a glass with. 

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