I just read an excellent post by Julie Kantor entitled Men and the Midlife Job Search and thought she had some sage advice for the man who now finds himself out of his element, like a newly divorced guy. So much angst wrapped around the transition from a comfort place and into the unknown. Now imagine that same scenario except it’s ten years later. That angst is ratcheted up by a factor of hundred. Why? Because in our culture, it is about the economics of sustaining the older workforce.

Time Equals Experience

The idea is that experience evolves over time. It’s gained by trial and error, mentoring and just prudent decision-making. According to Malcolm Gladwell‘s book “Outliers; The Story of Success10,000-Hour Rule, you must practice whatever you are doing for ten thousand hours before you actually become good at the skill.That translates into a thousand hours a year for ten years. There are certain outside forces which may derail this notion like athletes who have a peak physical consideration, but the idea appears to hold true for work like sales, musical composition, coding, and teaching to name a few.

Having demonstrated an aptitude for a particular task or job, financial rewards typically follow. I am not talking obscenely paid scenarios but the natural order of moving through pay grades due to time and expertise. Nothing radical about that. It’s been our standard of business operation for decades. Except what happens when you have reached the pay end-of-the-line or, due to situations, your specific experience isn’t a valuable commodity any longer? Technology has caused monumental rifts in the work/experience cycle.

The Identity of Work

Today, our working culture is in a transition state. No longer do we work just to get to that retirement bundle. There seems to be a bigger story going on. Our personal satisfaction in what we produce appears to be a motivating factor. It matters that we have some self-realization in the process known as “our work”. There is a conscious identity attached to what we do. I am a lawyer, an accountant, a cashier, or an assistant. Our purpose and being meld. The economy isn’t the only gating factor for delayed retirement; it’s the realization that who we are has come to an end and then who will we become.

Options

There’s no undoing our 10,000 hours. The question is can that experience translate into parallel skills at points and then continue to the 10,000 hours plateau only to resurrect again and again? The work environment then becomes a constant state of experiential flux and not about age.  And, because the age factor has been replaced with the experiential model, the idea of retirement becomes irrelevant.

I have often noted that musicians, writers, and artists tend to work their “work” irrespective of time and age. Perhaps, they are on to something.

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