Staying In Front Of The Hearse

Ageless Insights from Men Who've Walked the Walk.

Once upon a time, I was in a men’s discussion group.

Here's a story about how it reframed the way I looked at career change and getting older.

I was about 35 at the time, and all the other members were anywhere from 10 to 40 years older than me.

All the members had interesting backgrounds and came from all walks of life.

Two doctors, a university professor, two dentists, a chemist, a lawyer, a newspaper editor who spoke multiple languages, a couple of larger business owners, etc. (Being a lower-rung draftsman, I felt WAY out of my league at first.)

It was a valuable, eye-opening experience.

This group of men gave me a whole new perspective on how old I thought I was and how I could live the rest of my life.

Here’s what I learned.

New Perspectives

Up until that point, I was just going through the paces. 35 is about the time when activities like playing softball and bowling start to hurt a little more than they used to.

You start to feel age setting in and start feeling depressed about it.

And I started giving in to the idea that I’d missed my window of opportunity and my life was pretty much set until this retirement.

But that all changed.

Being around these men taught me some of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.

They were…

I wasn’t old. 

One of the group's older members told me, “You don’t even know how young you are.”

When an 84-year-old tells you that you are young, you believe him (more on him later).

It wasn’t too late.

A few members changed careers in my 40s.

One went from pottery maker to financial advisor. Another went from being a banker to going back to college to major in social work (if I remember right).

It blew my mind at the time. A couple of successful men in their forties with families and perfectly good careers, just up and deciding to switch careers.

It kind of gave me permission to rethink my future and it lit a spark in me.

And finally…

Stay In Front Of The Hearse

At one meeting, one of the youngest members, Dan (about 45 at the time) was giving one of the oldest members, Don (84), a little shit.

Dan: “Hey Don, saw you walking ‘round the bike path with your girlfriend. New exercise program?”

Then Don, looks at Dan with a slight shit-eating grin and says…

Don: “Well Dan, you gotta stay in front of the hearse.”

First I was thinking, “Don has a girlfriend? Can you still have those at 84?… Cool!”

Then the metaphor really started to sink in

“Stay in front of the hearse.”

I love it as a metaphor for getting older, but over time I realized it is a great way for us to think about how we should approach our careers.

Here’s what I mean.

Feeling Secure In Your Career

Ultimately, you don’t have control over death, but there are things you can do to put it off and enjoy the ride a little more before it comes.

The same goes for your career.

There’s so much uncertainty around our careers.

  • Companies are laying off and eliminating jobs in favor of younger, cheaper employees.

  • Some younger-than-you boss being an ageist asshole saying we’re not tech savvy.

  • New tech like AI and automation, are taking over our roles.

And if we only have one source of income, that hearse is nipping at our heels.

We need more than one income source to not only stay in front of the hearse but jump out way ahead of it.

If we’re not learning, trying new things, and constantly looking for ways to be less dependent on one source of income, then we’ll get run over.

The good thing is that income streams are everywhere these days.

You just need to know where to look (like here).

Tall City Blues

This song brings me right back to the cubicle every time I hear it.

The first verse says it all.

Check out the song, and then go find yourself another income stream.

Stay in front of the hearse.

Have a good one,

Corey

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