A guide to growing old

From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life

by Arthur C. Brooks, Portfolio, 2022

Arthur C. Brooks is a stripper. When he was young, he was such a good French trumpet player that he could make a living as a classical musician. He then obtained a Ph. and ran the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for a decade. He also became a fluent Catalan speaker, a columnist for New York Timesand a father.

But Brooks is also a seeker. Raised an ardent Protestant, he converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager and has since explored a wide range of religious traditions throughout his life of reading. He has made spiritual journeys to India and has cultivated a personal relationship with the Dalai Lama.

The combination of stripper and seeker makes Brooks an interesting guide to the subject of aging for overworked people who are likely reading this article. Getting older is something we all have to deal with sooner or later, if we’re lucky. But business leaders will likely have this problem long before they shut down, as aging societies and low birth rates mean executives around the world will have to get used to it. hiring and managing more older workers.

Executives preside over a graying workforce, and those in the gray, or those hoping to face the phenomenon gracefully and meaningfully, may be worse off than reference. idea From strength to strength, Brooks’ concise, serious, and pleasant book on the subject. As an old-timer, Brooks knows what you’re up against, and as a seeker, he offers helpful guidance for finding the way forward.

His insights are sometimes obvious, but you need to hear them anyway. The book’s most important message, although it may not be welcome, is that you are going to die. You say you know that already? Well, you don’t act like that. This doesn’t mean you should give up on your career and long-term plans. But as we age – as time shortens – we should allow a healthy perception of mortality to influence our professional and personal choices. And we should acknowledge what an obsessive focus on work can and can’t do for us.

Fortunately, a growing sense of impending doom can help us realize the foolishness of sacrificing everything in the pursuit of wealth and status. Besides, most people fortunate enough to have life choices could benefit from following the author’s advice to find one’s “deep purpose” and eliminate any Which does not serve that purpose. Imagine Marie Kondo ignored your calendar.

Business leaders who embrace the author’s perspective can use it in two ways: curbing their worst workaholic urges, and helping team members weight the right amount of work. Things outside of work contribute greatly to a meaningful life (an endeavor that can even enhance productivity).

Managers will also want to acknowledge the author’s comments on ability and age. Brooks argues that in a variety of ways, our powers begin to wane long before we are truly old. He experienced this when his skills started to decline in his 20s and then gradually declined to the point where he decided to find another job.

However, as we age, we also gain strength. Building on the work of British psychologist Raymond Cattell, who in 1971 suggested that people possess two types of combined intelligence that change with age, Brooks writes: “The first is psychic intelligence. active, which Cattell defines as the ability to reason, to think flexibly. , and solve new problems. That’s what we usually think of raw smart people…. “Innovators tend to have abundant flexible intelligence. Cattell notes that “it peaks relatively early in adulthood and declines rapidly starting in the thirties and forties.”

Cattell’s second type of intelligence is “crystallized intelligence,” or the ability to use one’s growing stock of knowledge. In other words, Brooks writes, “when you’re young, you have rudimentary intelligence; Only when you are old will you have wisdom.” Crystallized intelligence seems to develop with age and tends to make older people better historians and teachers. Brooks argues that high achievers sooner or later have to give up roles that are primarily analytical or depend on quick thinking in order to move into roles that exploit their superior abilities in business. gathering and applying what they know — and that helps young people.

People have long known this; The author quotes the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero, who believed that although the elderly should “reduce their physical labor,” at the same time, “their mental activities should indeed be increased go up. They should also strive with their practical advice and wisdom to serve as much as possible to their friends and to young people, and above all to the state. “

The secret for mature achievers like Brooks is to develop these new strengths while letting go of the forces that depend on youth. On his own advice, he stepped down as director of AEI in the mid-50s and now teaches at Harvard. However, he said, “I do not encourage you to hate and reject the world; Live like a hermit in a Himalayan cave. There is nothing ugly or shameful about the material abundance of the world, and we have a right to enjoy it.”

An aging society and low birth rate imply that executives worldwide will have to get used to hiring and managing older workers.

Instead of picking a list, he decided that he would teach, lessening his needs, and focusing on the people. Like many people who write about happiness, Brooks is a strong advocate of investing in human relationships — potentially an area of ​​great potential for business leaders who have It is easy to form shallow, transactional friendships but not the deeper ones, which take time and can arise in the workplace if one is not the boss. The author says, friendship is a must, and I agree. It’s surprising how few people seem interested in doing so.

Brooks is candid about his Roman Catholicism, which I find refreshing even if he cites a few religious figures too much for my taste. He practices his faith every day, but From strength to strength reflects a healthy spiritual ecumenism by including other religions and practices, including Buddhism and Hinduism. Few comparable books address the human tendency to become more interested in spiritual matters as we age, and fewer books still offer encouragement.

Brooks is an enthusiastic instructor, but he’s asking a lot: that, as you get older, you live a tested life, that you accept your new-found powers instead of rage. before the wobble of your old ones, and that you skip the crazy faucet. dance that you hope will earn the world’s admiration — if only because the applause will sooner or later stop. To make things easier, he reduced his philosophy to just seven words:

Use things.
Love people.
Divine worship.

Good advice, and better yet, he leaves it to each of us to make our own spiritual decisions. As an atheist, I approve. Everyone can have a deep purpose, with or without religion, and getting older can help you focus on it.

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