Mon 12 Aug 2013
Thinking about your future career?
Consider tips from this artist, at 92.
When I’m contemplating yet another phase of my career, I tend to look around everywhere for examples of success. I’ve found it pays to identify people who are doing things well. I ask myself, “What’s helping them succeed? What are they doing that’s better than what I do?”
These days I’m learning a lot from people far younger than I am. I’m working to pick up their ease with technology, social media and entrepreneurship.
Yet at the same time, I’m gathering pointers on graceful aging from folks who are ahead of me on the path. And I’m lucky. At 92, my mother, Lorna Jones, is a tiny dynamo. She is energetic, independent and thriving as a painter. And she models how we can enjoy work, and life, for decades to come.
A stay-at-home mom when we were kids, in her 50s Lorna enjoyed working in the communications office of a community college. But she didn’t hit her professional stride until she turned 60 and launched her career as a painter.
She started painting watercolors then gradually shifted to oil paints. She began taking classes about 1980 and is still at it. Today, at age 92, Lorna is selling her paintings as quickly as she can produce them. And she’s still finding new strength as an artist. She says that in many ways she has actually had more fun during the last 20 years than at any other period of her life.
Today millions of Americans in their 40s and beyond are thinking about their next careers. Instead of looking ahead to retirement, they want to follow their current jobs with a different kind of professional phase. They hope to create a job/leisure balance that will provide meaning, bring in some money, and allow plenty of flexibility.
As you think about the kind of life you want down the road, consider the examples of people who have struck an appealing balance in structuring their careers. And whatever your age, I hope you find some good ideas among these lessons from my mother:
- Keep learning. Lorna has been a student throughout her years as an artist. By taking lessons and classes, as well as studying on her own, she has continued to grow as a painter. She also has tried new styles ranging from nudes drawn in pencil or charcoal, to chalk pastel drawings, calligraphy and on-line designs. Work can be exciting for just as long as you challenge yourself to explore new ideas and avenues.
- Enjoy the arts. In addition to her work-related study, Lorna likes to know what other creative people are doing. She reads widely, methodically explores classical music, enjoys writing frequent movie reviews for Netflix, and finds new Apps for her iPad.
- Have younger friends. A great way to keep learning is to continue to make new friends of all ages. Many of Lorna’s friends today are younger than her own children. She says you have to make the effort to create social events and be willing to get out and do things with people younger than you.
- Exercise. Lorna is an avid lifelong gardener and in good weather she works outside for several hours a day. In the winter, she picks up her pace of painting, which may also involve physical activity, particularly when she works with large canvasses. And she walks regularly. She says there’s no getting around it: you have to keep using your body if you want it to serve you for the long haul.
- Don’t let your ailments become hobbies. Like any woman of a certain age, Lorna has her aches and pains. Sometimes they slow her down, but she deals with them, then refocuses on her art, or her garden, or a party. Lorna doesn’t want to obsess about her own health issues, and tries not to hang out with people who just talk about their medical problems.
- Be positive. Lorna chooses to have an upbeat, tolerant attitude, but I think it comes easier to her than to most of us. She says, “I am fairly good natured. Also, I often think that life has many funny moments. Perhaps that helps a bit. And I am not very class conscious because I feel that society has to be made up of all kinds of people. It’s kind of silly to fume about stuff we can’t change.”