John Tarnoff is a Baby Boomer with a can-do, no BS attitude. He’s a super-motivating career coach, but his ideas are applicable to life in general. Lucky for us, he put them into a book.
Like so many of us, John Tarnoff found a new calling in the second half of life. A former movie studio executive, he’s got real-world experience. He is an in-demand speaker, career coach, and author. I reviewed his wonderful book, Boomer Reinvention, here.
John believes in personal authenticity. One section of his book is called Stay Weird, encouraging us to be who we really are, since by now we should know who that is!
Here are his tips, as I understood them. Quotes are excerpts from the book.
1. Rise above it. Whether you get smacked with ageism or failure or health difficulties or any kind of setback, dust yourself off and keep going. Find a way around it and keep moving. Use your energy to move forward.
2. Start small. In the process of reinvention, we might get overwhelmed and distracted by thinking too globally. “Take care of yourself first; then devote time and energy to larger projects from the overflow that remains from your own success.”
3. On Failure. Most of us have spent our careers trying to figure out how to be successful and avoid failure. But in the best startups, failure is revered as the only way to ultimately succeed. “Past failures don’t reflect who you are. They reflect what you did.”
4. Form Follows Thought. “If you consistently align your thinking in a certain direction, positive or negative, you stand a very good chance of creating a matching result….By setting an intention and using behavioral tools to reinforce that intention, you can slowly but surely redirect your entire being toward your goal.”
5. Have a Vision for Your Life. In keeping with the idea that form follows thought, it’s important to have a vision of what you hope and expect your future to look like. Keep this idea in your head and revisit it frequently. Visualize where you are going.
6. Gratitude with a Caveat. John reminds us to have gratitude, but his recommendation sounds a little ironic. He says maturity is the place where we have learned to be grateful, even if it isn’t what we expected or wanted.
7a. Working with Younger People, Part 1. Rather than try to educate younger people about the folly of ageism, ignore any bias you encounter. Instead, show by your attitude and behavior that you have no problems dealing with younger people. “Remember that you are not there to teach them a lesson, you’re not there to tell them war stories about how things were when you were their age, and you’re not there to impress them with how much you’ve learned and grown over the years. Instead, you’re there to be of service and of value.”
7b. Working with Younger People, Part 2. John warns against the self certainty that older people sometimes get, thinking that we already know it all, we’ve done it all, we’ve seen it all. “We choose to hear what we think is relevant and dismiss what we think is irrelevant,” he says, which can be a gift of age (efficiency) but also a barrier. In conversation, we put a premium on getting our points across instead of listening. “Don’t fall into that trap. This kind of mental arrogance actually closes you off and will prevent you from learning what you need to know.”
8. Older People are Powerful. Your life experience gives you a tremendous advantage over younger entrepreneurs. You know so much. You are battle-tested. There is research sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation which found that older entrepreneurs are twice as likely to be successful in their ventures as younger.
9. The older brain is a marvel. “Science is discovering a lot of new and positive things about the aging process…we are capable of…change all the way through life. Understanding that the brain…can change and grow over time is pretty amazing and definitely encouraging.” Also, “Neurologists also report that older people tend to have a gift for what they call gist thinking– the ability to quickly get to the heart of a subject. (LMS: this is pattern recognition). Additionally, as we get older, we naturally develop a greater capacity for empathy…coupled with gist thinking, this empathic ability makes us ideal candidates for mentoring and problem-solving…”
10. Carl Jung’s sundial. “In the morning as the sun rises, you cast a long shadow in one direction. As the morning continues, your shadow gets shorter and shorter, until at noon, you cast no shadow at all, with the sun being directly overhead. What Jung meant by this is that by midlife we completely lose the sense of who we are. Because we are trying so hard to be what everybody else needs us to be. We have doubt and struggle and are tested. But in the afternoon of life, according to Jung, something new happens. We begin to cast a shadow again. The key difference is that the shadow is lengthening away from us in a different completely opposite direction from the one it took earlier.” John says that we can follow that shadow as it extends out into new territory, redefining us in a new way, expanding from zero in a constantly greater, longer, perhaps more profound direction. “By the time the sun sets, and we cease to cast a shadow and merge into the night, we have extended ourselves fully, creating a complete life that reflects our transformation from learner and experimenter into explorer and discoverer.”
One of the things I most enjoyed about John’s viewpoint is that he’s realistic. He doesn’t paint a fake rosy picture of life in the second half, but he isn’t scared by it, either. Sure, he’s been rattled by the things that’ve happened to him, but he’s upbeat. I found his book uplifting. I hope you find this post uplifting, too. Is there any point that particularly resonates? Let me know in the comments.