The Midlife Economy Emerges
When Q3 Builds Momentum
It’s getting busy in Q3. This week, I felt like I was watching the Longevity Economy, and more specifically, the midlife slice of it, visibly emerging before my eyes. I was speaking at a variety of Q3-related events every day of the week. From the Postcards From Midlife conference, to the Chartered Management Institute’s Women’s Conference, to a morning with one of my favourite non-profits, Leaders Plus (for leaders with babies) the focus was on women at midlife. What it was, what it meant, and how to navigate it.
There is a lot of discussion about why the focus is on women - and what about men at midlife? Partly because of the words themselves I suspect. It seems the word ‘midlife’ itself doesn’t resonate with men. And that women are much readier for any kind of foray into coaching, self-questioning and self-improvement (not to mention simply going to the doctor when they don’t feel well). So it might seem logical that women will lead the way on thinking and planning for longevity.
It may also be that they face greater ageism in the workplace, are staring at a depressingly large gender pension gap (3 x the wage gap, ladies!), and from what I heard this week, are still more likely to be made redundant when they pass 50. Women will need to mightily lean in to Q3 to redefine it and claim it as some of their best personal and professional decades. It’s doable, but will take both will and skill.
Although I’m not entirely convinced by the current gender slant that is mainstreaming everything from midlife to menopause for women. I think many men struggle mightily in Q3, but they just don’t have the kinds of places and events to discuss it - yet. Given their generally more linear and unbroken career paths, the turbulence of Q3 professional paths (what I call the 3 R’s: redundancy, retirement, relevance) hit men harder. But they are too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it. I suspect they will need brands (like business schools or corporate programs) to make them feel welcome.
But for the moment, let’s see what the ladies are up to. A lot!
Postcards From Midlife
This was the first event I saw specifically focused on Q3 women - and it was impressive to see thousands of midlife women streaming through London’s Business Design Centre. Hundreds of products and services on display, and two days worth of speakers on everything from careers and nutrition to health and relationships. Launched by the women who created the podcast of the same name, Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin, it brought together top name insights from Tim Spector to Julia Samuel and Dr. Louise Newsom. It was huge, impressive and, I suspect, an unexpectedly roaring success.
And only the beginning. Judging by the crowds flooding in, we will see this become an annual perennial spring happening. Most of the first run at midlife women came from a pretty stereotypical reading of the Q3 female market - lots of clothes, cosmetics and incontinence underwear (one brand had printed a mini-newspaper with the astonishing headline that ‘A Third of Women Leak’ (sic!)). In future years, you can bet your bottom dollar that some other sectors will cotton on to the fact that Q3 women make most of the buying decisions in almost every big purchase - from cars and computers to homes and health policies. Amazingly, almost none of those players were there - yet.
CMI Women’s Conference - Our Inclusive Future
Need proof that longevity impacts people at every age and stage? This CMI (Chartered Management Institute) conference’s attendees were generationally balanced. I asked how many were over and under 50, and a roughly even number raised their hands. From the enthusiastic feedback I got in sharing the idea of 4-Quarter Lives, it was obvious that this new map of life impacts different ages differently but equally powerfully. For Q2ers, it lessens the urgency and pressure. For Q3ers, it lengthens the runway ahead and builds hope. For everyone, it helps context where they are.
The next step will be to equip managers and leaders on how to build generationally balanced organisations and teams. CMI is a perfect partner.
Is Age All in Your Head?
Jennifer Senior writes THE PUZZLING GAP BETWEEN HOW OLD YOU ARE AND HOW OLD YOU THINK YOU ARE. It’s a delightful waltz by Pulitzer-winning author Senior on why people under 25 feel like they are older than they are, and people over 40 feel younger.
“There are good reasons you always feel 20 percent younger than your actual age.”
She brings together two seemingly contradictory views thrown up by the latest research: that you can feel younger than you actually are while also have an optimistic view of ageing.
“If you mentally view yourself as younger—if you believe you have a few pivots left—you still see yourself as useful; if you believe that aging itself is valuable, an added good, then you also see yourself as useful. In a better world, older people would feel more treasured, certainly. But even now, a good many of us seem capable of combining the two ideas, merging acceptance of our age with a sense of hope.”
How old do you feel? My husband insists he feels 6 inside. My newly 27-year-old daughter feels hopelessly older than her just-launched Q2. I’m with her. I’ve always felt older than I am - and feel I will have little struggle with being older yet. But then, I love to read and write, two passions that last (see below!). Now, I’m comfortably ensconced at 61 (with the funny footnote that I was born in 1961, so am familiar with the number). The feedback is more from others, surprised at the number attached to me, thinking I look or behave or seem a younger age. But that is only because of our existing mental models of what these numbers mean, and how ready we are to adjust our own behaviour to what society says about them.
One woman at one conference admitted she had started editing herself. She’d been made redundant at 53, and was working to admit that perhaps this was the ‘natural’ end of her career. Luckily, an hour of me ranting on about Q3 and how she was just getting started on mature adulthood seemed to have helped. Attitudes about ageing are powerfully predictive, as Becca Levy at Yale has proven. We ain’t done yet. And we’re likely to live a lot longer than we think. The faster we integrate these two realities, the better off we’ll all be.
That’s why I like my 4 Quarters model. I think it’s time to drop the words ‘older’ and ‘younger.’ Instead, we’re simply Q2 or Q3 or Q4. Unless, of course, you’re Henry Kissinger. Because then you are sailing off into the mathematical impossibility of Q5.
Henry Kissinger Still At It At 100
This week’s Economist interviews the 100-year old Kissinger, who’s been advising everyone on the planet for the past half century as his second career. There is a summary of eight hours of conversation entitled Averting World War III. Don’t miss it.
What I most loved about this interview is the note that he is busy preparing his next (wait for it)… two books! If ever you are looking for role models of what the new ageing might look like, Kissinger makes a wonderful model. Physically stooped, but mentally “sharp as a needle” in The Economist’s telling, and busy saving the world from itself. “My theme,” he says, “is the need for balance and moderation. Institutionalise that. That’s the aim.”
He says China and the US have a decade to sort out their relationship. I can’t help metaphorising this 2-partner confrontation as a frustrated ageing couple. China, the frustrated older wife who feels she hasn’t had her time in the sun, nor appropriate attention from her husband, who she feels has been clipping her wings and limiting her rise, now getting her resentful revenge. The US, the younger, full-of-himself husband, used to easy dominance and the limelight, competitively focused on not getting upstaged by a late-evolving spouse. Now both entering later marriage, where the roles need updating but the mindsets are baked in old fears and grievances. The trouble is the kids (all the rest of us) are going to suffer if the parents don’t get their shit together - together. I hope Kissinger lives long enough to provide some hands on marriage counselling. His interview makes for some compelling reading.
On a not-very-related, dual career couple note, I’ve been watching The Diplomat on Netflix. It has developed two of the most modern, delightful dual career couple dialogues I’ve ever seen. They are competitive, catty, adoring and conflicted.
A lot like the US and China.
The ‘Open’ Midlife Rethink - 3 Monday evenings in June (12, 19 and 26).
Sign-up on Eventbrite and join us in exploring: where you’re headed next, how to manage multiple transitions by becoming a skilled transitionist, and the skills we all urgently need to build to navigate longer careers.
June 22nd Global Drucker Forum Breakfast
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