It was really shocking to hear that a transformation manager in my company thinks that one can achieve his/her career peak only at the age of 50. In a hazy meeting room while showing me an outdated PowerPoint presentation, she dragged our conversation to a point where I was asked to describe myself at the age of 50 as my final peak in my career. According to her I must forget getting better before or after 50. Not only shocked but also bewildered I could not have a direct answer for this question. Because first of all I do not think that one can separate the career from life and secondly I do not think that there is a certain age that everybody flourishes or peaks as a standard maturity outlet.
While she was insisting on the “50-year-old” me, I pushed her to a jungle of surprises. It was one of the rare moments which I had to be assertive against a coach or senior. I usually listen to the experienced ones with respect and pure attention. But this time my perspective was totally different than the manager’s. Perhaps she was reading off from some sort of booklet which summarizes conversation or interview hints for the ones who talk to younger ones in the company. Basically the wrong starts just there. The companies must stop labeling employees with generations. As we have multiple intelligence channels, therefore we do not have the same model numbers like car manufacturing practices. Meaning: The Millennial Generation is a fake labeling which serves to the purpose of keeping some professionals busier. Even though you tend to see people like herds, it is an unshakable fact that there will be always black sheep within the herd. The next thing is that all managers ought to know that you cannot limit or slow down a potential champion with known patterns.
Back to the question that I was asked, when it was my round to describe myself at the age of 50 as an invincible conqueror of the business, unmatched king of the corporate, and sociable protector of the profits, I simply did not answer the way her template demanded. I stroke through the “50” and made it down to “40” which can be anyway very easily “20” for somebody else. I gave her the taste of new possibilities which emerge with the new technologies. I erased the word “peak” from her question and replaced it with a vision for life. This is how I think these days. We are on the edge of a revolution which urges us to quit all transformation efforts which are anyway like swimming in a muddy lake. Real revolutionists do not follow the same patterns. So kindly forget your 10 year plans for a hopeless career or torturing development. Engineers and makers do always shake the main pillars of economics and book-keeping. So do the “younger” enthusiasts. Unlocking goals is just a matter and craft of a powerful vision rather than unconscious moves towards anything sounds cooler.
The conversation went off with similar catches and releases while I learnt quite a few lessons. There will be always many people who appreciate the standard patterns for their career. They will be happy to pick some fights which will not make them an “A player” but put them on the same stage with the executives. Others however will always pursue new things, unzip the tent and take off for the unknown things to create a more colorful pattern. That is where the first group will ask for clear steps from the second group. Or that is when the first group will give the last breath to the dying traditions and the latter ones will create the new. This is very simple and lean. You can be either of these but for a life-altering and life-compelling career you have to choose the hard path. If of course you are not obsessed with minor wins and fatigue for a big fight…