If we’re fighting Ageism: Youth is NOT the standard to aspire to or compare those of us who are older to it.
Being old is only skin deep. That is if you don’t give in o the assumptions, presumptions, and stereotypes of being “older.”
Don’t buy into ageism. Don’t buy into the false belief that youth is the standard. Don’t be ageist yourself, even against yourself.
In this New Way Forward video, John Tarnoff and Paul Long discuss the different ways people view appearance and age and John puts forth a way to embrace our wrinkles and overcome the false belief that youth is more virtuous than age. If anything, it’s the opposite. John Tarnoff is a former tech and entertainment industry executive. He now focuses on teaching, training, and coaching.
Connect with John at www.johntarnoff.com.
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Podcast Transcript: Fighting Ageism: Youth is NOT the standard
Helping you find your new way forward to the best years of your life. This is a new way forward podcast with Paul Long. I still feel like this. I still feel the way that I did, largely when this TV news publicity picture was taken of me. I still have the desire to innovate, to try new things, to make a difference, to signify, to be relevant, to go after something. The only difference is the way that I look, and that’s a big deal, how we perceive ourselves. And it all comes down to the way that we look. Sometimes because we look in the mirror, we’ve got this stereotypical presumption and assumption that will because I’m older, I should be like this or it’s going to be like this. And I think that some people age in the negative context of the term because they think they’re supposed to. Some of us and all of us can stay in touch with what we’ve had in our life, and I don’t want to just describe it to, you know, bringing up our 30 year old self. I’m not 30 years old anymore, but those things were in me for a reason. Those things were in me because that’s the way I fundamentally am. I was that way when I was 20. I was that way when I was 30. I was that way 40. And and now with new way forward, I am still doing it. This is how I’m doing my new way forward.
This is how I’m manifesting those basic things. And I think that’s a really important point because I do look in the mirror and I’m like, Who the hell is that? What happened to this? Ok? Yeah, that’s some vanity that’s, you know, whatever. And certainly other people, when they look at me, are going to have those presumptions and assumptions and stereotypes that will because he looks like that, he’s got to be like this. And then they’re surprised when they say, Oh, no, he’s not like that. But is that age? Is that about wrinkles and face? Here’s a really important thing that I’m coming to back when I launched Pro Boomer, which was the precursor to new way forward. You know, I did that ready fire game and said, It’s not just boomers, it’s everybody. And it’s all of us who are older and so on and so forth. So new way forward. I got to know from one of my colleagues, John Turn-off, who is the author of Boomer Reinvention How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50, and by the way, it’s not just boomers, it’s anybody, period, let alone people who are older. And John ripped me one. He took serious issue to this post. And for those of you who can’t see the graphic because you’re listening to the podcast, it’s an image of the face of a woman who’s obviously in her late fifties, maybe sixties, you know, with wrinkles and such but attractive woman.
But going from like above her ear and across her nose and down to her cheek is a zipper like you would find on clothing. And it’s partially open. And it’s revealing that behind this older skin is youthful skin, youthful eyes, no wrinkles. And what I wrote on this graphic and posted on social media was don’t judge my abilities by the lines on my skin. Now this post spoke to me because I thought, Oh, this is kind of tying into, you know, I’ve always been this way. But he didn’t see it that way at all. And he sent me a note and he said, quote the idea that underneath an old wrinkled exterior is an unblemished, smooth skinned younger person is just false. It reinforces the idea that young is what is really hidden under our old exteriors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our old exteriors display the wisdom, experience, triumphs and failures that makes us valuable. Young is not the same as vital, engaged, resourceful, focused, wise or any number of age positive attributes that we acquire as we get older. We should not conflate these attributes as youthful. Ok, well, you know what? John had a point. It was a different angle, a different interpretation than I had. But he had a heck of a point and I got him on Zoom to let him expand on it.
Very simply put, it’s an age graphic. And it’s just because it. What it’s saying is that underneath this wrinkled exterior, there is a youthful interior that’s that’s that’s supple and elastic and pretty, and it’s ages because we’re buying into the idea that that’s good, but that is the standard that youth is the standard. And I think we have to think more broadly than that. There’s tremendous value to youth, young people, innovation, all that love it. I love working with younger people. I have nothing against millennials. But we, as older people have to stand tall and who we actually are and who we are becoming. Right, we’re going to get more wrinkled. Right, as time goes on, I think we have to live with that and we have to find the value in that, which is the experience, the wisdom, the equanimity, hopefully that we are arriving at with, with age and with experience and with putting all of these life challenges behind us and family growing up and all of this stuff. Not to say we don’t have challenges ahead of us and retirement and, you know, economics and all that. Big deal for our generation. But I just think we need to twist the paradigm around what it means to be older. And I think any time we try to hold up youthfulness. As an ideal, we are. Pulling ourselves back, shooting ourselves in the foot.
So you mentioned a moment ago
Not ageless, but age full, so we need ageless a lot, right? Oh, you look great. I mean, I get this. I mean, I’m about to be sixty eight. I was at a party over the over the holidays talking to a guy and we were having a long conversation about all these issues, whatever. And I said something about, Look, I’m about to turn sixty eight. And he said, No, no, no, no, wait a minute. You know, you’re kidding. You can’t be sixty eight. And I’m very fortunate I get this a lot of aged pretty well. And but I think. Part of what he was responding to was not the way this looks, but what I’m saying and my attitude, right? And we tend to think, Oh, you’re ageless, right? Like you don’t have an age. I never know. I have an age. It’s sixty eight and I wear it proudly. So I think the term is age full, right? I am full of my age. I am not less than my age, right? I think we have to celebrate the fact that we’re getting older and all of that entails.
We’re all obviously to one degree or another and in practical terms, sensitive to the way that we’re perceived, which was more the way
That I regarded that graphic. What do we do with it to both own it and, quite frankly, benefit from it? I mean, there’s there’s no there’s no snap of the fingers, right? There’s no there’s no easy answer. I would say that the first step in any of this is to be aware of it, right? And that’s why we’re having this conversation because I think. In that awareness is the ability to say, hmm, I’m not buying into this because I think for every person who says, Oh, I like that graphic or I see where that graphic is going, I would bet that most people have this little tinge of comparison where they’re saying, Hmm. I don’t know if underneath the wrinkles I have that and oh, I’m not that I’m not young anymore. And immediately we get drawn into this downward spiral around, Oh, I’m getting older, I’m getting less valuable. So the first step for me would be to say just stop any time you see one of these images. Or here, one of these expressions, and you feel less than you start to feel caved in inside. Stop right there. Reframe that moment
Around. Wait a minute. I have.
X number of decades on the planet, I have done this, I’ve raised a family, I’ve done these jobs, I’ve accomplished all of these things. Let me sit in that for a minute. And let that carry my train of thought into how I’m going to live the rest of the day or the week. Maybe there’s some plans around there. Maybe there are some opportunities. Maybe there’s some renewed energy around that that you can muster just by interfering and interrupting that negative train of thought.
So my point is this it’s viewing ourselves, and it’s viewing this phase of life entirely different than the presumptions and the assumptions and the ill formed notions of what this phase of life is supposed to be like and what we’re supposed to be like at any given age. I mean, ask yourself if you when you were 20, 30 years younger, did you perceive that you would be anything like you are now or even if you didn’t? And I didn’t really do that. I’m sitting here going this. This can’t be anywhere close to what I would have thought. I physically don’t feel that way. I still feel youthful. I’ve still got energy. I take decent care of myself. I’m not maniacal about it, but I I do some of the right things. But that spirit that I had and that I’ve had my whole life, I am still in touch with and I am still exerting it because I know that this is what I need for my whole life. And especially when you consider the fact just as a validation that when I’ve got 20, 30, maybe even 40 years of life left ahead of me and not just more years, but being healthy and vibrant, it’s like, what the hell am I going to do with it? You throw in, it’s my turn. I’m going to do what I want to do. And all of a sudden, this makes the potential for this being one of, if not the best phase of life for me.
So check yourself, think about those things that’s always charged you, those fundamental things that maybe you had in your youth and after a career of raising kids and all that other kind of stuff. And then this notion of, well, I’m older now, and maybe you lost touch with I’ve heard about people doing that with relationships after the kids leave and saying, Oh, I don’t have anything left anymore. We’ve just been co-parenting and cohabitating, and they start thinking about and getting back in touch with some of those things in the relationship that, yeah, while a lot of them are different because you’re not in that phase of life anymore, you’ve gone through everything that you’ve gone through together, but you start reconnecting with it in almost like automatically and magically. You start rekindling that passion that you have for each other and you can do the same with yourself. And then in terms of the way that other people look at us, well, there’s a certain inevitability to that, and I just love making them realize they couldn’t be more wrong. Here’s here’s a quick story in my other business content creation business for all sorts of corporations and everything, you know, the last few years, like right before COVID, I had a couple of instances, a couple of different projects in which we had a couple of meetings that it was a conference, calls and cameras weren’t on and stuff like that. And they were content, creative calls. And you know, most of the people on the call knew me, but a few people did, including from from like agencies.
And then we had an all hands in person meeting, and in both instances, the same thing happened. You know, we’re there before the meeting and you know, somebody comes up to me or I went up to the person in one of the meetings and said, Hi, I’m Paul long. And they’re like, Oh, hi, I’m Sarah. You know, after the meeting, in both cases, I approached the people and I’ll use the woman made up name Sarah, you know, as an example. And I said, I got to ask you, you know, it was a funny reaction when I introduced myself and she was forthcoming, you know, she was like, Yeah, you know, I’m really sorry about that. I just. And I said, Let me guess you didn’t think I’d be this age and appearance. And she’s like, Yeah, to be honest with you, I thought that you were like my age. What does that tell you? That tells you all sorts of things to to John’s point. And in fact, you know, that’s what I wanted to say. It’s like, Well, you know, I’ve still got the same thing. And hopefully when you get to be my age, you’ll still have the same thing. Except I know a hell of a lot more now about how to make things work. I want to end with the second half of what John wrote real quickly in that note to me, the second paragraph, he said, there is nothing under that zipper.
Remember the graphic? There’s nothing under that zipper, except more depth. Our wrinkles are emblematic of our inherent leadership earned and applied through our experience, our attitude as we age and our ability and willingness to accept our age. Now 60, not new 40 60 is the new 60. It’s my take on it, by the way. Our aging process and our eventual death is where true liberation lies, we have to be willing to look forward, not backward, we may not know what’s ahead. But that is where we’re going to hold onto or buy into physical trappings of youth is to live in denial. It only serves to validate the myopia of the young and their own unexpressed fear of aging and death. So as you go on your new way forward, for me, it’s looking at this phase of life in my years ahead as being totally different than any of the dadgum stereotypes that have come to exist in terms of what you’re supposed to do in this phase of life or retirement, because we’ve got all those years of healthy life ahead of us, and that’s what’s engrained in my new way forward because I’m this same guy deep down inside when it comes to wanting to invent and be relevant and make a difference and have challenges and successes. Except now I’ve got decades of experience to make it even more successful with my new way forward.
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