I'll never forget asking my grandmother what her favorite decade was. She was in her eighties at the time and had had a really good life overall, but would occasionally make comments about how she hopes the world is moving in the right direction because it sure seems...
Her answer came quickly and without reservation. Now was the best, she said. I figured that she would surely say the seventies or eighties, as her family struggled before that but had a comfortable life by then. I asked what made now so good.
She said that she had more wisdom than ever, more life experiences, and the biggest family. She didn't seem all that concerned with aging and health problems and also didn't seem to mind that most of her life was behind her.
I was never particularly preoccupied with aging before then, but hearing her response erased any lingering concerns I had. My life had certainly gotten better with each of the three decades I'd lived, and someone I trust and respect told me that the same would continue to happen.
I remember when parents turned forty and I was just shocked at how old they were. It was weird, I thought, to have parents whose lives were basically all over. Now I'm a couple years away from forty myself and I still feel young, though I do often think about how I'm nearing the halfway point.
So far the aging process has been mostly good. I've spent my time well and gotten better at everything that's important to me (although I certainly have a long way to go on tons of things). Every year my bonds and history with my family and friends grow deeper and more important. My Financial situation gets better every year. I understand myself and the world a little better.
I have a scar on my foot where I scraped it on a rock and it doesn't seem to have healed as quickly as it may have when I was younger. My eyes don't focus as well late at night. Other than that, I feel exactly the same as I did twenty years ago.
When you're twenty you can basically do whatever you want and the effects won't be seen or felt. Same with your thirties, to some degree. But by the time you're in your eighties, your life decisions, habits, and outlook have caught up to you. I'm on a cruise right now and boy is there a difference between how older people act and look. Some of them are dancing long past my bedtime, and others are pushing around motorized scooters with a glazed look in their eyes.
There are, of course, a lot of factors outside of one's control, but my takeaway is that aging is an active process, not a passive one. I've met eighty year olds who are inspiring and living amazing lives, and I've met eighty year olds who have given up and want to complain about everything. I don't worry about aging because I've seen people do it well before and I think I can probably do the same.
Photo is a fjord in Alaska. Maybe in Juneau?
A bunch of people e-mailed me about the Drop Out and Grow Rich article I posted yesterday. A friend of mine pointed out a few things, most importantly that I failed to give the college grad interest on his money. Fixing that (and making him pay interest if he was negative, but only after the first 4 years of college) put him very close to the high school grad with private school money. Never charging him interest for being negative got him slightly above that same person.
Then it was pointed out that the difference in earnings wasn't 900k as the college-mongers claimed. It was more like 1.3mil. I had no good data on salary increases, so I assumed the inflation rate. I guess it stands to reason that after a while job experience means more than the degree, so the gap gets smaller.
If I fudged the grad's income to equal a 900k lifetime earnings difference, the Dropout with Private School money is again the winner, but is still followed closely by the grad. If I fudge the dropout's starting income (to $29,692) to get the 900k difference, the grad still beats the dropout with public level money, but only by 300k. Also, the dropout would be beating him until age 58.
Recently I shared the benefits of smiling which include living longer, having happier marriages, and being perceived as more likable. These things all sounded great and I wanted to put them to the test, to smile at people and get a smile in return.
My first challenge was our youngest daughter. We were sitting down to a family dinner and she was pouting about either having to eat something she didn't want or not eat something she did want. That's how most of our food discussions at home go - not being served enough food from the marshmallow/chocolate food group. She sat there pouting and instead of explaining to her the virtues of micronutrients and why she couldn't have all the sugar she wanted, I smiled. I talked to the other members of our family and kept smiling - and it worked. Eventually she smiled back and began eating the peas she was refusing. Plus one for the power of smiling.
The next day I was picking her up from preschool and thought I would try to bring a bit of joy to her teacher. Being around 18 four-year-olds cant' be the most relaxing job one could have so she might need some of the endorphins I was inspiring. I waited in the line of parents to collect my daughter and when it was my turn I stepped to the door wearing a big smile like it was an "I Voted Today" button. It worked again! Though she is a cheery teacher and probably smiles alot, she wasn't smiling before I arrived and she was smiling after she met me. I think scientist call this a natural experiment, I'm calling it further proof that I can bring smiles to people. At this point I feel my power building.
Riding this high of success, a thought occurs to me. Maybe I'm playing in the minor leagues. What if my daughter and her plucky teachers are easy smilers. What if they smile all the time and they're already getting the benefits? I need to find people who need these smiles more. Luckily our little town has just the place.
We pull up to Taco Bell as a family the next day. Here I'll test my chops. Only the happiest people are going to be smiling working at Taco Bell during the lunch shift. I worked at Wendys during the lunch shift and the only time I smiled was when I was eating free food. This would be a blank slate attempt. I could safely assume there were no smiles there before me and I could test how many smiles were there when we left.