The two common lies holding us back are:
1. I’m too young.
2. I’m too old.
I’m too young
When you’re young, it’s obvious experience is an essential commodity for life and art. You don’t know what you don’t know. Some things will be harder than expected, like marriage and parenting. Other things will go surprisingly smooth.
In your teens and twenties, the playbook of life, and the things you want to make, and the relationships you hope to have, are built on dreams, ideas, and fantasy. A reality yet to exist.
After life beats you up and you try a few things and fall on your face. You adjust and make corrections of expectations for life and art. Failure is a skilled teacher, but when you’re young, it feels like a death.
But our youthful angst also lies to us. How can I write a book about my life when I’m so young? Who will hire me with no job experience on the resume? Can I marry my partner despite having no money and few prospects?
These are things worth considering and can have a thread of truth in them. But actually have nothing to do with your ability, talent, or the potential of supporting a spouse. These are lies we tell ourselves when we’re young.
Here’s some advice: you’ll never have enough money, and timing is an illusion.
I started a nonprofit in the middle of an economic crash when all the voices said you’re crazy.
Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976 at twenty-one. No business experience on his resume and little software engineering experience to show for. But he and Wozniak started a multibillion dollar company and have affected millions of users of Apple products. All in their early twenties and a legacy that stretches way beyond these early days of hopes and dreams.
Age is not the primary determining factor of success and impact.
One gift of being young is you don’t know any better. We’re naïve. Experience and older age often trick us into playing it safe. Once you’ve built something and have the pressure of keeping it going, you stop taking risks.
You shift from a bold entrepreneurial spirt to maintenance mode. Instead of innovation, we do what the market demands. We can even believe our best work is behind us.
I’m Too Old
But getting older doesn’t matter either. You can use the same logic in the other direction. Because you have some experience and have failed multiple times, the risks don’t feel as weighty. You can navigate false starts.
I get it when we get older, we think about things like health and retirement. Will I have the energy to build this thing? Do I have the mental capacity I did when I was younger? Not necessarily. But older age is irrelevant.
Our current President Joe Biden is seventy-eight years old. He runs one of the most powerful countries in the world. Colonel Sanders, after his famous fried chicken restaurant closed its doors. At the age of 65, he determined to franchise KFC. It became a 27 billion dollar business.
It’s never too late to pursue a dream. Age is just a number.
This doesn’t suggest inexperience in our younger years isn’t a hurdle. Or health and opportunity in our older years aren’t real challenges. But sometimes I wonder if the narrative we hear from our culture and well intended friends and family is unfounded.
Nothing says a kid in his teens can’t make something or do something important in the world. We have a kid at our church who plays piano for the band and is ten. Teens play in the NBA and get drafted to play baseball and soccer all the time. Many Olympians are under twenty.
Anne Frank wrote her famous diary at fifteen. S.E. Hinton wrote Outsiders in high school. You get my point. Age is just a number.
The age excuse is bathed in fear and resistance. Our fear does not know how old we are. And what we’re capable of.
Nobody is stopping you from starting that book or business or ministry. If you have breath in your lungs and capacity to think and move your limbs, you can make something great with your life.
A few years back, I started this podcast for writers. One of my greatest joys was getting emails from 70, 80, and even a 90-year-old who were finally working on their first book. They finally learned to dance with the age excuse. They just needed a little encouragement to get going.
I’m certain someone reading this is a young kid who has big dreams of doing something great with their lives and they’ve been told they’re too young.
A person on the backend of their lives is dreaming about a piece of art or something they want to build but every voice says: life has passed you by.
Don’t believe the lies. Age is just a number. It does not determine what you make with your life and art. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
*Originally published on Medium.com.