How old would you be if you didn't know your age? We complain about being over the hill at 40, being half way through life at 50, nearing retirement at 60, or being mature at 70. By the time we're in our 80's or 90's, the general population most likely thinks of us as old. And while almost no one likes to be thought of as old, if we have our health, it still beats the alternative.
According to the dictionary, old technically means having been in use or existence for a long time. But for me, being "old" reflects an attitude, not a number. I believe you're only as old as you feel. I would rather be 50 and feel like I'm 30, than be 30 and feel like I'm 50.
As a teenager, I thought 40 was ancient. Just today, a 27 year old was talking with me about "older people, "Ya know, people over 40". I smiled, knowing that in 13 years he'll realize that 40 isn't old to him any more. Funny how that works. No matter what our definition of old might be, it's usually at least 20 years older than we are at the moment.
The more people I meet, I'm convinced there is no age that's young or old, but rather, people that choose to be young or old. Age is nothing more than an attitude that we get to choose.
A few years ago, while taking a break during a ski day in Park City, Utah, I shared a lunch table with a woman on the top of the mountain. As we enjoyed our lunch, she boasted that she'd never paid for a ski pass in her life. Thinking I was smart, I surmised that she'd either married the man who owned the resort, or she was the daughter of the resort developer. Turned out I was wrong on both guesses.
She smiled and went on to share that at most resorts, you don't need to purchase a ski pass if you're over 70 years of age- and she didn't learn to ski until she was 72! When most people are saying, "I'm 50, so I don't ski any more", this woman didn't ski for the first time until she was 72! She had an attitude that defied any number that anyone assigned to her. More importantly, she didn't place that number on herself! In that moment, she became my instant hero.
I've met "old" 20 year-olds as well as "young" 90 year-olds. Today's Luminary, Werner Berger, is one of the youngest people I've ever met. While attending a seminar at the age of 52, Werner was asked to list three more things he'd like to do in his lifetime. His answer was to climb Kilimanjaro, climb the Matterhorn and see Everest Base Camp. The most interesting part of this story is that Werner was not a climber!
Yet, he's always had the right attitude, in business or on the mountain.
"Climbing high in life results from bold dreams or brilliant ideas translated into courageous action, with an emphasis on action."
On May 22, 2007, Werner was at 29,035 feet in elevation on the top of Mt. Everest, the world's tallest mountain. Aside from two Japanese men, he's the oldest person in the world to do so. Since 2002 he's stood on the highest point on each of the seven (7) continents, completing this just two weeks shy of his 70th birthday.
According to Werner,
"Aren't the only limitations, the ones we place on ourselves? If I follow my passion and stay in action, my perceived limitations are not limitations at all. Instead they are motivators to excellence, and not only in climbing. Most everything I have attempted in life has been to make a difference, to leave a mark."
Werner and my ski buddy in Park City proved to me that age is nothing more than a number. How old would you be if you didn't know your age? What things are you holding back from doing because you're "too old"? What things are you afraid to try because you might be "too young"? What if we let go of all of those labels and excuses and just lived our lives to the fullest in every moment?
No matter our age, we all need to honor ourselves more, appreciate our individual strengths and seek and approach life with maximum passion and potential.
Life is short. If you don't start to fully experience life today, when will you start? Tomorrow won't always be there. Each day as we wake up, another day goes by...another chance to start the project we've been delaying...another day to create a reason why we're too old, too young or too whatever to make a difference.
Instead, make today the day when numbers and excuses don't matter. Take a stand for your life and in your heart, be whatever age you need to be to make a difference. The fountain of youth is an attitude and it lies within you.