Friday, May 6, 2016

Sixteen and already over the hill?

Grandma Moses, Morgan Freeman, Danny Aiello, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen King, Vincent Van Gogh, J.K. Rowling, Harrison Ford, Ang Lee, Julia Child, Vera Wang, and Stan Lee, among others. Each is a creative in their field. Each found success. All defined their prime by something other than a number. But by today's standards of marketplace viability . . .
each would be considered a wash out, a non-starter, and a drain on society.

I know a man I shall not name in an industry I shall not identify, who is brilliant and inspirational at what he does. He is in his 40s. For someone with his level of talent and expertise, you'd think investors would be lining up outside his door, begging to get on his team.
But they don't line up because, and I'm quoting here, "He's too old. He doesn't have enough of an earnings time period left to him." Yes, he's so ancient they think he has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Yet in his field, he has well over 20 years of prime earning space of which he can take advantage.
All of those listed in the first paragraph above did not see their prime earning potential until they were in their 40’s or above. When in their early years, most of them could have been termed degenerate losers, entitled slackers, mindless stay-at-home moms/dads, wastrel dreamers, and muck-about time wasters.
I personally know several people who are in their 50’s and 60’s who are just now finding their stride -- and what a stride it is. Certainly never strides they thought they would end up in, but ones that will and are making a difference in a variety of ways. But there is more to fueling this reluctance than age-related bias: those with investor dollars see a grown person who isn't stupid enough to fall for their tricks in signing unfriendly contracts, so they focus their efforts on the gullible, innocent, and uneducated.
Not a new ploy, to be sure; so, why am I bringing this up?

Because of the many conversations I've been having of late with folks in the music industry. Folks in their early 20’s who are being told they've missed their window for marketplace viability and market-segment relevance and -- oh, you'll love this -- "If you'd only got started when you were somewhere around 10 so you could be earning at 14...but, hey, you're just too old now. Over the hill. Can't keep up. Nobody cares to watch an old person sing or dance." 
I wish I was so old. But it's not just in the music industry I saw this silly mindset. Recently I was horrified to see signs that said . . .
"Are you between 16 and 24 years of age? IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO GET JOB TRAINING!" 

Are you as horrified as I am? That such a sign as this could even strike a chord in the general populace means that the whole idea of when a person can find or make opportunity for themselves and be a productive member of society is so narrow and so early in life that we are all doomed if we miss it.
Are they kidding? Obviously not. By this definition anyone over 16 is aging in place, should be fitted for a walker, and issued a button to hang around their neck. 
"Help! I'm old and I can't get a job!"
This all started back in the 60s with Madison Avenue's focus on selling things to the youth of a newly prosperous middle class. Comedian Sam Kinison did a stand-up routine many years ago that was on point. (I will not link to it here because it is way too bawdy for this venue.) 
Suffice it to say Sam was right. Sam lived to be ancient, dying at 38.

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