Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Old Is Too Old? by Tom Kavala

A resume client recently said to me, “Yeah, but I’m too old.”

I wanted to grab him by his lapels and shake some sense into him.

I’m here to tell you …

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do – but have been putting off – now would be a good time to do it.

A woman once walked up to well-known author and inspirational speaker Wally (Famous) Amos, after a seminar he had given and said, “If I go to law school at my age, I’ll be 55 when I graduate.” Amos asked her, “How old will you be if you don’t go?”

So let me ask you a question, “If not now, when?”

Too Old For What?

Just what is it we’re supposed to be too old for anyway?

People will tell you that advancing age results in lower energy levels and diminished capacity for getting things done.

Really? Consider the following, courtesy of the UC Berkley Wellness Letter:

Verdi composed his “Ave Maria” at age 85.

Harlan Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at the tender age of 65 and became a multi-millionaire.

Grandma Moses – the renowned American folk artist – didn’t start painting until she was in her 70s and didn’t achieve success until she was in her 80s.

Michelangelo was carving the Pieta when he was 89.

Martha Graham – one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance – performed until she was 75 and choreographed her 180th work at age 95.

Marion Hart, sportswoman and author, learned to fly at age 54 and made seven nonstop solo flights across the Atlantic, the last time in 1975 when she was 83.

John Kelley finished his sixtieth Boston Marathon at the age of 83.

Jack LaLanne, at age 62, swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater, against treacherous tides, towing a 2,000-pound boat. At age 65, he was swimming in Lake Ashinoko, Japan, handcuffed, shackled and towing sixty-five boats loaded with 6,500 pounds of Louisiana wood pulp! At age 70, once again handcuffed and shackled, and fighting blustery winds and currents, LaLanne hit the water and succeeded in pulling seventy boats and seventy people – one person per boat – an astonishing one and one-half miles.

The remarkable accomplishments of these people are not just personal triumphs; rather they are triumphs of the human spirit. They demonstrate that whether you start early or late in life, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Whatever you can conceive, you can achieve – regardless of age.

Forget Those Who Say You Can’t

I wonder why so few people feel their age is “just right.”

Being “too old” is just an excuse – an excuse that has closed the door of opportunity to thousands of individuals. They think they are the wrong age, so they don’t even try.

I hear all kinds of people saying you reach a point where starting over, or starting a new endeavor, just isn’t practical anymore.

Let me tell you something – people who know the least, know it the loudest.

The person who is fond of saying, “It can’t be done,” is invariably interrupted by the person who just did it.

When I was a corporate sales trainer, an older salesperson – who should have known better – told me that I didn’t understand the circumstances he was under.

I asked him, “The circumstances you’re under? What are you doing under there? Get out from under there! Who told you to go under there in the first place?”

There are no circumstances you can’t handle. There are only challenges to be met. Every challenge contains within it an opportunity for you to excel.

Start Where You Are

However old you are – you are. So look at your age positively.

A friend of mine, who just turned 70, confided to me that he hated the thought of getting old. I told him it was a lot better than the alternative. If you’re not getting older, you’re dead. I’ll take old over dead any day of the week.

Instead of thinking, “I’m already too old,” think, “I’m still young.” Look forward to new horizons and gain enthusiasm for new things.

Invest time in doing what you really want to do. Whether you’re 29 or 69, it’s never too late. So stop thinking, “I should have started years ago.” You’re here now, so start now. Your best years are ahead of you.

Just ask our own Shelby Beckett. The newest addition to AWAI’s Wall of Fame, Shelby didn’t start copy writing until she was 71. In fact, if you check out the Wall of Fame, you’ll see a lot of gray hair there.

Think about how much productive time you have left.

If your life was an hourglass and you could see the sand passing through it, what would you do today?

The cemetery is full of unwritten books, unsung songs, great deeds left undone, and discoveries never made. Most people die with their dreams still in them. Don’t let the “too old” excuse keep you from living the life you’ve always wanted.

"For of all sad words, of tongues or pen, the saddest are these: I might have been . . ."

This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) Spare_Time Biz Success, a free newsletter that gives you information on the hottest work_at_home opportunities that allow you to make extra money in your spare time and enjoy the financial benefits of a full_time career. For a complimentary subscription, visit


Khadija speaking: This article is for the "grown folks" in the house who are feeling the "melancholy setting sun." You know, the feeling that sets in when you figure that you've got more life behind you than left ahead of you. And that you've already squandered whatever opportunities were available to you in your youth.

I'm saying: So what? At this point, what does it really matter what came before? As the essay author said, "You're here now." I believe that this is all that actually matters NOW. You're blessed to be here now. There are a lot of folks who aren't here now. They're already dead. I know people my age who are already dead. I'm sure you also have some peers who are dead. Dead is dead. I have no interest in being dead before I'm officially dead.

I feel that this entire essay needs to be posted on a lot of folks' refrigerators and doors, but I especially liked the point the author made about "the circumstances that we're under." He's right: If you're operating under some circumstances that are hindering your attainment of abundant life, then you need to get OUT from under those circumstances! It will definitely take effort, and it might take longer than you want, but you need to get OUT from under there!

I don't know about you, but I would prefer to have Col. Sanders' wealth when I'm elderly as opposed to not having it. When I'm elderly, I would prefer to be as fit as Jack LaLanne is.

I would prefer to enjoy my very own "New World" of abundant life for however many years I have left. Wouldn't you?


Anonymous said...

Thanks K. I totally agree.
I know you wrote this post just for me. LOL...What an ego I have.


DeStouet said...

I am starting to notice more "lurkers" starting to de-lurk and speak on how moving and inspiring your essays have been for them.

That really is GREAT news, and something that I find myself rejoicing in whenever they decide to share with us.


Pamela said...

BTW Jack LaLaine is still alive unless he died a few months ago. He is I believe 95 years old and was doing 2-hour workouts the last time I saw him interviewed live. His wife is 10 years younger and keeps up with him physically. I remember him decades ago as a little girl. He had a exercise TV program. I had no idea at the time he was in his 50s.

Growing older does not have to mean dying on the vine (which happens at any age sad to say). I will be like him when I grow up. I have lost 1/3 of my former self and intend to die having lived the best life possible. That is a lot easier when you are in good shape.

Khadija said...


You're welcome! And a healthy ego is a good thing to have. LOL!


Yes, I'm also delighted when lurkers decide to de-lurk and contribute to the conversations.


Thanks for the info. I had just assumed that he had to be dead by now. Silly me. From Wikipedia: "At the age of 94, Jack LaLanne continues to work out every morning for two hours, spending 1 ½ hours in the weight room and ½ hour swimming or walking."

I also remember his tv show from childhood. I had no idea that he had been performing all these feats of strength. I also didn't know that he had started the chain of gyms that ultimately became Bally's. [Who knew?]

I also want to be like him when I grow up! LOL! My Power 90/P90X adventures from earlier this year got me closer to "tight and right" status. I'm still working on that.

Onward and forward.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

LaJane Galt said...

This is great. I've taken up Brazilian percussion at 33! There are all sort of women in the band who are 50 or 60+.

No, my folks wouldn't buy me a drumkit as a kid (surprise, surprise lol). I purchased my own snare a couple of months ago and recently upgraded the wire to get a sound I like (thanks youtube). I bought a dvd by a well-known drummer and just take it one step at a time. I won't pick up the fundamentals like a kid, but I AM picking them up.

As for Grandma Moses, I'm not a painter, but I like paint. We'll see.

lormarie said...

My mother completed her BA and her MA in her 50's. I wouldn't mind getting a PhD but money is an issue for me. My biggest dream is to publish full-length books. Once I accomplish that, I'll be satisfied. I want to be able to look over my life and feel that I've fulfilled my missions/dreams.

joyousnerd said...

YES! I am so excited to read these last two posts, that I am officially de-lurking!

I have been feeling very tired and bitter these last few weeks... I just turned 30 and I've been feeling like my life is basically ruined and going nowhere fast. A tiny sliver of hope is still buried inside, but I feel so exhausted to uncover and nourish it.

When I feel hopeless and bitter I try to tell myself that at the very least I won't still be in this predicament 10 years hence... unless I let the despair stop me from grabbing onto my dreams and making them come try.

Hooray Khadija, Hooray Me, Hooray for ALL of us! (Can you tell I'm inspired, lol)

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Thanks for sharing this. Healing balm for the soul to quiet the nagging doubts.....

Khadija said...


It sounds like you're on your way to being the next Sheila E! Good for you!


As you know, there's LOTS of information online about self-publishing and self-marketing books. As well as information about getting an agent, etc. in terms of fiction writers.

It seems that the road to becoming a published author varies based upon what type of books you're interested in writing (non-fiction, fiction, information products). Whatever type of writing one wants to do, there are many aspects of this that a person can take into their own hands. [Such as entering writing contests for fiction writers, investigating self-publishing for non-fiction writers, and learning about online and viral marketing for all writers.]


I'm happy you decided to de-lurk. LOL! Welcome aboard.

I'ts VITAL that you do everything you can to nourish that little sliver of hope! I know how difficult that can be. In the EXTREME youth culture that surrounds us all, there are practically NO encouraging messages to anybody who's not a kid.

Sometimes I feel like I've stepped into an episode of the old sci-fi series Logan's Run where everybody disappears (is actually killed) once they reach the age of 30. Also, I know that for myself, it has taken me longer and longer to bounce back from setbacks the older I get. It can be difficult to feel encouraged---about anything at all---past 29...I get that.

Nevertheless, we press on!


You're welcome! We press on!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Reader Whose Comment I Just Rejected,

I'm NOT going to publish snarky comments that are dismissive of other readers' concerns. When you do things like that, you make yourself part of the problem. And somebody who will be unwelcome here if you persist in that behavior.

I know that a lot of colored girls DON'T know how to actually be supportive of anybody except men. I know that a lot of colored girls are programmed to use any opportunity to pull the flesh off of other BW.

That's NOT going on here. This blog is intended to be a safe space for BW to share their concerns. A safe space that I REFUSE to let anybody violate. This includes you. Consider this your first, last, and only warning.


JJ said...

Khadija said:
"Also, I know that for myself, it has taken me longer and longer to bounce back from setbacks the older I get. It can be difficult to feel encouraged---about anything at all---past 29...I get that."

Oh Yeah! I'm right there with you. I had so much to constantly bounce back from up til the age of 30, that my ability and desire to constantly be bouncin' was just about used up.

I believe God didn't intend us to constantly be drawing off of our resiliency reserves just to survive and exist. There comes a time when you need peace.

So I immersed myself in learning all I could about my community dynamics, family dynamics, human behaviour and the freedom in personal choice. Heck, I had choices all this time and was so indoctrinated I didn't even know how to use them!

My quest for this goes on. This is a big part of why I read this blog daily. Always a new revelation; a new prod (or swift kick!), a new challenge. And I love it.

I have accomplished more in this decade (30's) than I have in my whole life. I have removed MANY toxic barriers and don't compare myself to others who have done things at a younger age.

In fact, you couldn't pay me all the tea in China to re-live my 20's. The wisdom I have now is pure gold and enables me to capitalize on opportunities I would have bungled had they come to me earlier.

Something an elder told me: "Everyday there's breath in your body, you got another chance."

Amen to that.


Khadija said...


You said, "I believe God didn't intend us to constantly be drawing off of our resiliency reserves just to survive and exist. There comes a time when you need peace."

THANK YOU for making this extremely important point! This is something that I never hear brought up during all the Rocky-style "Eye of the Tiger" motivational presentations, etc. that I hear.

I believe that there's some SERIOUS discernment that's needed for this whole "knocked down twice, get up 3 times" idea. I think about the boxers who suffer permanent brain damage from getting up too soon, or getting up too many times while remaining in the SAME "boxing ring." Sometimes it might be better to crawl out of that particular "boxing ring" and into better surroundings before you get up again.

Again, thank you for raising this extremely important point.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

PioneerValleyWoman said...

As I thought of this essay and the one previous to it, I thought of that quote about "lives of quiet desperation..."

Lives of quiet desperation, when one is not living one's dreams, but has been beaten down and lost all hope.

I do not want to go there! I want resilience and dreams and plans and adventures!

Sherri said...

Thank you for posting this article. I have recently decided that after an 18 year hiatus, I will be returning to college. I have decided that I have allowed enough of my life to pass me by. I shared this decision with my husband. He is not supportive and was very vocal about why I should continue putting my life on hold. I had to point out the sacrifices I made for him to acheive his dreams. Being a country girl, I love the sound of crickets :-). Anyway, I will be 39 in December and decided it's either now or never. This posting was outside confirmation of what I already knew in my heart. I don't know what's going to happen regarding my marriage, but, now that I've decided to leave the box, I refuse to be put back in or go back willingly.

Khadija said...


You said, "Lives of quiet desperation, when one is not living one's dreams, but has been beaten down and lost all hope.

I do not want to go there! I want resilience and dreams and plans and adventures!"

I want the same things too. The AA collective is jam-packed with "Dream-Beat Down" artists---people who take great, malicious pleasure in stomping and pi**ing on other folks' hopes and aspirations.

It's not just confused, but sincerely worried folks who actively block dreams, we've got a LOT of "haters" among us who are on the lookout to snatch down any nearby crab that's trying to climb out of the barrel. Hmmph!


You're welcome! You said, "I shared this decision with my husband. He is not supportive and was very vocal about why I should continue putting my life on hold. I had to point out the sacrifices I made for him to acheive his dreams."

That's the sort of behavior that really angers me. A lof of folks are quick to collect whatever they can get out of a relationship, but slow to never in holding up their end of the relationship. Hmmmph.

Good luck and God bless.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Aphrodite said...

@ Sherri

You'd be surprised at how much company you'd be in in a college classroom. There were so many non traditional over 30 and 40 year old students in some of my classes in undergrad.

In grad school that age group seems to be the overwhelming majority in my classes.