Old Brains, New Thoughts …

“… older people’s perceptions of their own ability to contribute become powerful predictors of what they can and cannot achieve.  

“What you think, you become,” she quotes Buddha.”

Reflection from Debra Dunn, an associate professor at the d.school. and former senior executive at Hewlett-Packard for 22 years.

From The Aging Brain: Why Getting Older Just Might Be Awesome  by Amanda Enayati

This whole article is fascinating as it delves into some current research on how our brains work, particularly in relationship to aging.   As I see it, we both lose and we gain as we grow up and grow old:

We lose some abilities and some speed  …  

We cannot multi-task as well as we used to.  Of course, in light of other research which continually debunks the idea that multi-tasking is effective, I see this as no great loss.

There was something about a slight memory loss, but I forget what they said …

We also take a little longer to do things.  Having spent a good part of my life walking and talking fast, this may be a blessing in disguise.   Slowing down lets you notice things, gives you time to think, and in general is probably a healthier way to live.

We gain in empathy and ability to see the bigger picture …

As we grow, the experiences just pile up, whether our lives are spent doing adventurous and exciting things, or  whether we have lived a more sedate life.

Experience, when used as part of reflective practice, makes us somewhat more tolerant of the world.   We realize that the really important things are not the events, but the longer journey.  We feel more aligned with other people and sympathetic to the reality that everyone struggles and most of us are just trying to live with some dignity and some joy.   Politics becomes less important and family much, much more.

Youthful idealism provides energy, but the perspective of age helps us understand that while some change, such as technology, will move at ever-increasing speed and scope, while other change, such as human development, is a more repetitive process.

Best Take-Away:  As the quote at the lead indicates, a lot of how we age is up to us.  As is often the case, attitude is important.

At least that’s my take:)

Thinking about the good parts of getting a little older in the Heartland …


Old Is As Old Does …

We are not particularly nice to old people in our society … the current social and organizational climate appears biased in favor of youth.  Ageism is routinely denied and just as routinely appears to be practiced in the offices of many corporations and organizations.

Strange, especially when you consider that most of the people in our society expect to join the ranks of the aged.  Nobody I know talks in the “Live fast, die young, beautiful corpse” mode – everyone wants to enjoy their later years with travel, grandchildren, and relaxation.

Given this  presumed climate, I was particularly pleased to see this article earlier this week:


Some nice examples of how people can and do show leadership later in life.  I recommend clicking on the link and reading these stories that offer a different image of aging than the helpless and clueless oldsters so often seen in the popular culture.

Several questions:

1)  Do we really “learn” leadership or do we just engage in leadership?

Some would say that leadership is inherent or based on interpersonal skills which are either used or not within a particular context.  

We can learn ABOUT leadership, but can we learn to lead in the same way we learn other skills?

2)  Is leader in later life reflective of lessons learned?  

If we can learn about leadership, can the cumulative effect of our learning result in us becoming better able to show leadership? 

I know I’m more astute about people issues now than when I held my first leadership position.  What goes into the maturing of a leader?

3)  Why do some people engage in leadership at an early age?

Thank goodness, we are finally moving beyond the idea of leadership as  socio-economically determined and as an innate trait of a favored few. 

Besides the somewhat random collision of events that sometimes propel an individual into a position of authority, power, and leadership, what might influence leadership in a relatively young person?

Well, something to think about as we all prepare for Game Day in the Heartland ….