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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Midlife achievement

Here is a recent post by Seth Godin:

Accepting false limits

I will never be able to dunk a basketball.
This is beyond discussion.
Imagine, though, a co-worker who says, "I'll never be able to use a knife and fork. No, I have to use my hands."
Or a colleague who says, "I can't possibly learn Chinese. I'm not smart enough."
This is a mystery to me. A billion people have learned Chinese, and the failure rate for new kids is close to zero. If a well functioning adult puts in sufficient time and the effort, she''ll succeed.
The key to this disconnect is the unspoken part about time and effort and fear. I agree that you will never ship that product or close that sale or invent that device unless you put in the time and put in the effort and overcome the fear. But I don't accept for a minute that there's some sort of natural limit on your ability to do just about anything that involves creating and selling ideas.
This attitude gets me in trouble sometimes. Perhaps I shouldn't be pushing people who want something but have been taught not to push themselves. Somewhere along the way, it seems, I forgot that it's none of my business if people choose to accept what they've got, to forget their dreams and to not seek to help those around them achieve what matters to them.
Not sure if you'll forgive me, but no, I'm not going to believe that only a few people are permitted to be gatekeepers or creators or generous leaders. I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us.
To do anything less than that is a crime.

This excellent observation from Seth is particularly appropriate to people in midlife. How often have we heard colleagues say 'I can't, because of my age/experience/lack of experience/etc.' How often have we said similar things ourselves?

Yes, it takes effort and no, you won't always succeed, but push your midlife self to try!

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Midlife Survey Results

The Mid Life Survey has been running for a year now so here are the headline annual results. Where comparisons are given, these relate to the previous results in June 2010.

Survey Respondents’ Profile:

Male: 38%,  Female: 62%

Age: 30-40: 11%, 40-50: 39%, 50-60 39%, other: 11%

Location: UK 44%, USA 39%, Europe 7%, Canada 3%, Australia 3%, Other 4%

Q1 - Happiness with Life:
46% of respondents were either happy or very happy with their lives at the moment, down from 55% previously. A further 32% were ‘OK.’ The remainder were either unhappy or very unhappy

Q2 - How is your Relationship?
26% of respondents said that they were happy and 27% said that they were in love (down from 32%). Perhaps more worryingly, 15% said that ‘they don’t do relationships’. 23% were just ‘OK’.

Comments in this section included:

'I am going to therapy to learn how to be less dependent on my wife to feel happy.'

'It's complicated!'

'Going thru financial hardships has made a huge impact on our marriage. Ever since we had our daughter almost 10 years ago, we have just been gonig thru the motions rather than being an affectionate married couple.'

‘31 years of marriage both now have a PHD in marriage

‘I feel fortunate to have a partnership that works. Not that there are not disagreements, there are. We just know how to solve them.

Q3 – Will your Pension provide for you?
A worryingly high 23% of respondents don’t have a pension (down from 26%), while 26% felt that their pension would cover their needs in later life (up from 22%). 27% regretted not saving more during their earlier years. 21% had other investments, either instead of, or as well as, a pension.

Comment in this section included:

‘We are never retiring but hope to get refired!’ (love it!)

‘I'm hopeful that my financial situation will change. However, I know it is up to me to make it change

‘I am still saving and investing

'I'll get by. But I'm not sure how my wife and I both will deal with having to down size.'

'You must be kidding!'

'I got half of our retirement savings, but the stock market ate half of that. We'd planned to do most of our savings as his career took full swing. The problem is that it took full swing and then we divorced.'

‘I am working on passive income and believe it will cover expenses plus more.

Q4- How Healthy are you?
42% said that they were OK for their age and 26% felt they were Pretty Fit. 23% were overweight, to some extent. 2% said that they could ‘Run a Marathon’.

One respondent had a problem this question, as they felt that someone who is overweight could still run a marathon. I completely accept that this is quite true and I wasn’t trying to mislead when I wrote the questions.

Q5-Is your life better or worse than your parents lives?
This question caused confusion for several people and when I rerun the survey I will reword it. Some respondents felt that there should be a distinction between the financial side of their lives and the emotional/satisfaction side of things.

Overall 86% felt that their lives were better than their parents’ lives.

Comments in this section included:

‘There should be "about the same" choice here. My parents had a nice life, and mine is nice too. Not really better or worse. I did not have children, and they raised myself and my siblings - so their young life might have been worse than mine.

‘My dad made enough for my mom to stay home w/the 2 kids, but they went without a lot of stuff. Both my husband and I work (I'm in my own business, coming up on year 2) so the money's not always there, and that adds a lot of stress to him.

‘My dad was a happy person and my mother was very unhappy. It was a big division they could never figure out.

‘Much more emotionally healthy but not better financially yet.

'this is a little too absolute. It's different - better in some contexts, worse in others.'

'I think I'm happier, but they are wealthier'

'Unemployed at 57'

'My parents had the perfect marriage. My father died a few years ago (at 59 way too young), so trying to live up to that type of happiness has also been a strain (this is ME comparing our marriage to theirs, not my husband comparing)'

Q6- How do you feel about your Life in General?
57% are looking forward to the rest of their lives (down from 63%) and 27% feel that ‘the best is yet to come’ (many of these will be the same people). 16% wish they’d studied harder when they were young (up from 7%) and 26% are worried about the rest of their lives (up from 18%). A strong theme was a worry about the world that their children will live in with 20% indicating this.

Comments in this section included:

‘I can't keep worrying about "what had happened", because it's in the past - so it can't be changed. It can be learned from, however, so hopefully I'll continue to grow as I ripen with age. I do worry about the world my kids are inheriting, but hopefully we'll give them the tools they'll need to make a difference :)

‘I am concerned about the problems my kids and grand kids run up against, but I am not worried. I actively work to make it better.

'The best is really right now and it's all been so good--this said with my advanced transformation hat on--and what's to come will be juicy and delicious, no modifiers need apply.'

'I am looking forward for the rest of my life, but I am worried that my wife and I may not be happy together. We've been married 24 years and have 1 daughter in college. We've been through a lot together, Good and Bad, but I'm not sure how we can fall back in love. That is important to me, but I don't think it is with her.'

So what do we conclude from this survey? Overall, there was a broad spectrum of responses with the majority of midlifers feeling that their lives are going 'OK to Well', although this has declined since last June, when the previous survey results were published. A worrying number continue to feel that their financial provision could be better. Given the state of the world economy, that’s not a huge surprise.

Relationships are a very mixed bag, probably reflecting the fact that many midlifers will have ended a long term relationship (either willingly or unwillingly). I was surprised to see that almost a fifth of respondents ‘don’t do relationships’. It would be interesting to probe deeper into those responses.

It’s encouraging that the majority of midlifers are looking forward to the rest of their lives. Equally encouraging is the concern over the world that our children and grandchildren will live in and the hope is that some of us will actively try to make this better.

I will shortly be setting up the new Mid Life Survey so if you have any questions that you would like me to include, please let me know.

Rob Horlock
The Mid Life Opportunity

Now here is this week's 'sexist' joke:

A husband and wife are shopping in their local Wal-Mart. 
The husband picks up a case of Budweiser and puts it in their cart. 
'What do you think you're doing?' asks the wife. 
'They're on sale, only $10 for 24 cans he replies. 
'Put them back, we can't afford them demands the wife, and so they carry on shopping. 
A few aisles further on along the woman picks up a $20 jar of face cream and puts it in the basket. 
What do you think you're doing?' asks the husband. 
'It’s my face cream. It makes me look beautiful,' replies the wife. 
Her husband retorts: 'So does 24 cans of Budweiser and it's half the price.'

He never knew what hit him....

Friday, March 11, 2011

I'm too busy ...

Rhubarb Cottage, The Custards, Lyndhurst
We have a holiday cottage in The New Forest which we rent out to people to use for their holidays. The New Forest is a popular all round destination so the cottage is booked throughout the year. Twice in the last week we have had enquiries for weeks that are already booked and the reply from the disappointed enquirer was almost the same in both cases – along the lines of ‘Oh dear, I’m too late again because I’m so busy. I always seem to miss out.’

After I’d spoken to the second disappointed enquirer, I pondered on whether they actually had very busy lives (don’t we all?) or whether they were just hopelessly disorganised. I suspect it’s the latter.
Are you too busy or are you disorganised? (or even worse, both).

So what’s to do?

1. Make a List – write down the tasks that you need to complete. My wife always laughs when she sees me writing my list, but it works for me. If you write it down, you don’t have to rely on your memory – you can keep your brain free for more important activity!
2. Prioritise – identify which tasks are more important than others and make sure that you complete these.
3. Urgent versus Important – is the task urgent (you need to get it done quickly) or important (it must be done)? If you find yourself with lots of urgent tasks, what does that tell you about the way you work? There’s a lesson there somewhere …
4. Delegate – what must you do yourself and what can you delegate? Nobody to delegate to? What about using a Virtual Assistant? In these difficult times, there are plenty of good VAs who will be able to assist you.
5. Push Back – Do you say ‘Yes’ to every request that comes your way? Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ sometimes and suggest an alternative way of doing the task.
6. Concentrate and Focus – do you find yourself taking 4 hours to complete a task that takes someone else half the time? Why is this? Do you get side tracked (by email, Twitter, chatting?). Focus!
7. Don’t dabble in too many things at once – it’s tempting to think that you can do several tasks at once. Of course, we can multi task (even us men…) but don’t spread yourself too thinly.

There are many other ways to organise yourself and cut down on your daily grind. What suggestions do you have to add to the list (we can’t leave this as a list of 7, it’s an odd number!)

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"I'm in Midlife and Worried About Losing My Job"

Worried about losing your job? Take some lessons from nature:

Many parts of the world regularly suffer from drought and famine and the local people and wildlife adopt well rehearsed strategies in order to survive:

  • They use their resources sparingly
  • They may migrate to regions which have more abundance. The annual migration of the wildebeest in Africa is one of best known examples of this.
  • They understand and anticipate the side effects. These may range from an increase in disease or plagues of mosquitoes and locusts, to a rise in food prices (exacerbating the situation) and on to land degradation, bush fires and ultimately,  social conflict and widespread death and destruction
  • They adapt, as best they can, to their new, temporary environment
  • They take advantage of unexpected opportunities – crocodiles and lions wait in ambush for the migrating wildebeest
  • Outside agencies attempt to alleviate the problems or at least, reduce the effects – Aid Agencies and other NGOs offer food and shelter in the worst effected regions.
In these difficult economic time, what lessons can we learn from the natural world?

  • They use their resources sparingly – This lesson has obviously been learned by most of us. Spending is down (which is, of course, prolongs the recession), many people are overpaying their mortgages every month and credit card debt is being paid off faster than before. ‘Eating In’ is the new ‘Going Out’ and the large supermarkets and take away chains are the main beneficiaries. In the workplace, budgets are being cut and we are all asked to ‘do more with less’.
  • They may migrate to regions which have more abundance – Many people will look around for a new job, either at home or abroad. Whilst vacancies are more limited at the moment, if you have strong transferable skills, you are better placed than most to take advantage of new opportunities.
  • They understand and anticipate the side effects – The side effects, of course, include redundancies, and longer working hours for those who survive the cull. Personal relationships may suffer as a result of this and you must recognise if this is becoming an issue in your own relationship, both at work and (more importantly) at home.
  • They adapt, as best they can, to their new, temporary environment – this point is absolutely key to your survival during this recession. Here are some thoughts for your consideration:
1. Network
Make sure you get to know as many managers as possible in your organisation and make sure they know who you are. This means getting outside of you own department!
2. Operate above your payscale
Offer suggestions to your boss, offer to make presentations at departmental meetings. Take the initiative and start (or carry on) doing things that your boss should be doing but for which you can take responsibility.
3. Make yourself indispensable
Help your line manager as much as you can. If you’ve moved around in the department, help those who are currently working in an area where you’ve worked previously (without annoying them, of course).

4. Go the extra mile
If your line manager asks you to help him/her prepare for a board meeting, for example, go the extra mile and prepare some presentation slides too. They may not be the finished article but it’s much easier to finesse something that already exists than to start with a blank piece of paper.
5. Socialise with your colleagues
Integrate with your colleagues. Go for a drink after work. Get involved in societies and clubs. You never know who you might meet and the deeper you dig yourself into the fabric of the organisation, the more difficult it becomes to do without you.
·         They take advantage of unexpected opportunities – If your line manager leaves, for whatever reason, you may find yourself running the team in a ‘holding capacity’. Take the initiative and do more than just ‘hold the fort’. Make your own decisions and add your own stamp to the team. In times of recession, it is more likely that you will be offered the job permanently, if you show promise, rather than recruiting externally.
Budget cuts may also offer opportunities for you to develop skills which are currently under-utilised.
  • Outside agencies attempt to alleviate the problems or at least, reduce the effects – In the business world, the government(s) is responsible for tackling the recession. They do this in a number of ways. Currently, interest rates are extremely low. If you have a mortgage that’s not on a fixed rate, overpay your monthly payments. You will be pleasantly surprised how this affects the length of your mortgage term. If you are on a fixed rate mortgage, check out how much you will pay in redemption fees to move to a Tracker mortgage. This may be worth your while. 
Haggle! If you’re buying something over and above the usual weekly shopping, ask for a deal. You’ll often get something off the price – it all helps!

There are many survival lessons to be learned from the natural world and a whole lot more that apply in our world. The most important lesson of all is that in YOUR life, it’s up to YOU – nobody’s going to do it for you!
Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here