It was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung who first popularized the phrase “the two halves of life.” When we are young we have a different primary focus than when we are older. We change as we age.
The first half, maybe up through age 45, is where we are trying to be successful; we want others to admire us. We want to have money and health. We typically consider that a marker of “success.”
Young business owners often work incredibly hard to achieve this. They usually frame it as being for the well-being of the family and justify their workload accordingly. But now that I’m older I sometimes see it as just caving in to a competitive urge; to be like the bear that makes the highest mark on the tree.
In the process they sometimes harm the very people they profess to hold most dear: their families. Only later, after it’s too late, do they awaken from their stupefying labors to realize what they gave up. It can be sad, really. But oh, so impressive.
Not that youth is a waste. It isn’t. Great things are being accomplished, and that requires focus. It’s just a time where balance isn’t always possible, because the demands can be overwhelming.
So the second half of life introduces a different awareness. It might start by age 50, when we start feeling our mortality. There may be a midlife crisis. The children have started to leave the nest. We start to redefine what success actually means. We realize that we are no longer young, and we need true purpose and deeper meaning.
That was me. I built a fine business (Pleasant Wealth LLC) trying to be all things financial to all people. I was in the public eye and kept myself busy with layers of details and pressures. But my wife Rita’s practical balance to my work pursuits always brought things back to an even keel.
And now I suddenly find myself well into my sixties. I have been in my second half for for at least ten years. I like it. I have enough to do, but I get to stay out of public view. If you are older you might know the appeal this holds.
As children and employees now perform more and more of the daily operations of the business I am redefining my work, who I am and what friends I am seeking. I am ready to do my best work—helping my clients find more meaning in their lives.
This best work emerges out of my core competencies: Visiting with my friends, my clients; managing our investment programs, and writing the scripts for our company culture. These things allow travel and mental and social engagement, translating to a potentially good second half of life.
Actually, it’s better than that. It adds meaning to my life! I get to focus on three core things I excel in. My daughter, Liz Hand, puts it best. She says, “That which seemed unsettling (getting older) is becoming ever-freeing.” And I accept that.
In the second half, while we may occasionally glance over our shoulder at our youth, we would never go back. We enjoy the benefits of age: contemplation, nuance, patience, self-understanding, presence, acceptance, gratitude, and perspective.
Much to be thankful for!