Friday, October 30, 2015

I Know It! I Hear It! I Got It! – The Three Halves of Life Growth

It is my belief there are three phases of life we progress through. I often refer to myself being in the third half of my life. I don't recall where I picked up that odd idea of a third half. I did actually pass elementary school arithmetic and know a whole is divided into thirds and there is no such things as 3 halves in a whole, but bear with me.

Let's do some “new math” (remember that craziness from back in the 50's and 60's) and say that a life span is 90 years (more and more people are living into their 90's). Let's further say that the major portion of our growing and productive life is 60 of those 90 years. So, let's call that our “whole life” which means that the first half is 30 years and the second half is the other 30 years equaling 60 years. Are you keeping up with me?

But, I said the lifespan is 90 years. There is an additional 30 years to account for. That's what I'm calling the third half of our lives. I know that may not make sense in basic, simple, elementary school arithmetic, but remember, I'm calling this “new math.” Hey! I'm in that third half of life. So, I'm a little squirrelly. Humor me!

If you're not as old as me, I probably know a lot more than you about a lot of things. I also know a lot more about what I don't know a lot about. There is a word in the dictionary for this state of being. The word is wisdom. Most of us become wiser as we become older, thus, we have accumulated much wisdom.

My father used to say to me when I was a youngster and I, of course, thought he knew everything about everything, “Everyday I learn more and more about less and less until one day I'll know everything about nothing.” It confused me as that youngster. But, now that I'm in the third half of my life, it makes perfect sense to me and contains within those words some great basic wisdom.

The Three Halves of Life Growth

More than 60 years have passed during my lifespan. It took all those years to learn just how much I didn't know. Knowledge, defined as things one knows or to still know, is expanding exponentially. That means, no matter how smart an individual is, it is impossible know everything. There is currently more information published in one day than we could absorb in an entire 90 year lifespan. That's a lot of stuff to know, wouldn't you agree?

So, calling upon the wisdom I've accumulated over the productive 60 year lifespan I've already surpassed, I've identified three halves of growth in the average human who is fortunate enough to live beyond 60 years. They are:

  1. I Know It!
  2. I Hear It!
  3. I Got It!

I know it” encompasses the first half (30 years, give or take a couple) of our lives.

I hear it” encompasses the second half (another 30 years, give or take a couple) of our lives.

I got it” encompasses the third half (the bonus 30 years, give or take a couple) of our lives.

Each of these stages of growth has distinguishing characteristics and, if we survive the first two halves of our lives, we get to the third half which is when the wisdom part finally settles in.

I Know It!

This first stage is identifiable from birth until about age 30 because, in addition to being like sponges and soaking up everything going on around us, we also believe we know it all. Have you ever been called a “know it all” or called someone else a “know it all.” Believe me, I knew it all when I was 17 years old. I had a drivers license, was going into my senior year in high school, had learned enough to pass the exam and earn my General Class Amateur Radio License at age 14 . . . believe me, I knew it all. All you had to do was ask me or tell me something. My typical reply was, “I know! I know.”

Sure, I continued learning new stuff all the way through college, graduate school, the Air Force years and my early years in business. What I didn't know was what I really didn't know. This was both positive and negative. What I actually did know, I applied to my life and businesses.

What I didn't know is what became the trial by fire. I was willing and able to take risks thinking I knew what the outcome would be. But, it was trial and error. Sometimes the risks paid off well. Other times, well, let's just say, I learned stuff from the “school of hard knocks.” Can you identify with what I'm saying?

I remember a seasoned, retired business executive coming into my business, observing our operations, looking at our business plan and going over our books. He then sat down with me in my office and disclosed his findings and the plans of action I should be taking. Like I am now, he was in the third half of his life and passing on and giving back from his accumulated knowledge from the 60 years of his productive lifespan.

I vividly remember telling him, “Yeah! Yeah! But, you don't understand our business. It's different than everyone else's business.” Boy! Do I now know how off base I was at that time.

This “I know it” half of our life is actually the preparatory phase for the second half of the lifespan, the productive part I call the “I Hear You” phase. It's during this first half when you gain “book learning,” “street smarts” and “trial and error” knowledge and education. It's the necessary precursor to the productivity phase.

I Hear It!

About age 30, we enter the second half of life. This is the phase when we actually become serious and seriously productive. If we're going to be married, we either already are or we're looking to get married and settle down and have a family, if that's the plan.

A few generations ago, marriage and family began earlier in chronological age. Of course, since the overall lifespan was shorter the first half of life was about 23 years, the second half was the next 23 years and by that point, many people were already beginning their bonus third half of life. Overall lifespans were shorter at that time.

The “I hear it” phase is when an individual finally realizes they don't know it all and begin listening to those who are older, wiser and more experienced. Life goals start becoming more realistic and career and family plans are more grounded. Because, instead of being the “know it all,” we're now observing and listening to the individuals who are achieving or have achieved what we've finally set out a goal to achieve in our own lives.

A good doctor learns what he needs to know to diagnose and help you because he hears what you're telling him. A good financial planner learns what he needs to know to assist you in creating an effective financial plan because he hears what you're telling him about where you want to be in the future financially. And, we listen to career counselors to hear what we need to know to progress toward our goals.

We hear wisdom being passed down from the achievers we respect in whatever areas of endeavor we have interests in. We read self-help books. We read inspiring biographies. We listen to inspiring and critical thinking speakers. We hear what our superiors, clients, colleagues, subordinates, religious leaders, friends, etc. are passing on to us. At some point, hopefully, we've learned to use our ears and our mouth in the proportions they were given to us. “We Hear It.”

I Got It!

We are fortunate. We make it through the second half of life and reach age 60. Now, remember, these are somewhat arbitrary numbers based on my “new math” concept. These delineations may come a little earlier or a little later than the arbitrary points I'm using for my model. Continue bearing with me and simply adjust the number process for your individual life.

We now enter the third half of life. This is the phase when you begin winding down from the productive phase, the second half of life. This doesn't mean you or I or anyone else, necessarily, “hangs it up.” We don't, instantly, stop being productive and just play golf, fish, plant in the garden all day or anything like that. However, we may begin to start changing our focus from primarily being a “workhorse” to pursuing more of the other activities we enjoy.

In the past, we may have had or allowed only limited time to pursue them during the second half of life. Very few people can make an instant adjustment from being an active, productive member of a work oriented society to that of a leisure loving person.

I don't know how many times I've heard so-called “retired” individuals say to me, I'm busier now than I was when I was working full-time. You may have heard that statement, too. You may have even made it yourself, if you're of the age. Actually, most people don't want to just sit back and do little or nothing. Inactivity is one sure way for the mind and body to deteriorate very quickly.

Have you ever passed a closed and abandoned gas station, restaurant, giant box store, hotel/motel or the old downtown Main Street of a town or city where all the shopping and activity has moved to new shopping malls on the outskirts of the community? Have you noticed how rapidly the buildings begin deteriorating and the paved parking lots are being reclaimed by nature? I hate to tell you this, but if you haven't already discovered it for yourself, the same will happen to you and me if we just stop being active.

Hey! This is the third half of life, “the I got it” phase. This is the bonus time you've earned. Now is when we get to pass on the wisdom we've accumulated during the first two halves of our lives to those following behind us. This is the “give back” time or, as Abraham Maslow called it, the time of “self-actualization.” We've got it. We've met the physiological, safety, love & belonging and esteem needs on Maslow's “Hierarchy of Needs.” It's our turn to give back to our society so it can continue to grow and flourish into a future beyond our allotted time on the planet.

Interestingly, for most people, it doesn't matter how much material wealth or assets they've accumulated. It doesn't matter what their position is in the pecking order of society (status). What matters is “I've Got It!” And what is “It?” “It” is wisdom, experience, achievement and a desire to help those coming up the ranks of life behind us. They have to carry on and make the future better based on our contributions as simple or grandiose as they may be.

Not everyone is going to be a Henry Ford or Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs or Sam Walton or Mother Teresa or Eleanor Roosevelt, etc. Regardless of who we are or what position we filled in society, in some way, we contributed and left a mark. Albeit, in most cases a positive mark, but, even those who leave negative marks, have in some manner, contributed.

I Lived It and, Hopefully, Lived it Free!

So, one day, we will approach the final day of the third half of our lives. Regardless of whether we make it to the 90 mark, maybe even beyond it . . . or not, hopefully, we'll each feel we lived a life fulfilled. If you're reading this article, I'm sure you don't want to be included in the people Thoreau described in his famous quote, “The mass of men (women) lead lives of quiet desperation.”

If you're in the first half, “I know it” phase of your life, prepare yourself for an exciting, productive and fulfilling second half, “I hear it” phase, of your life. If you're in the second half, “I hear it” phase, of your life, realize that everything you're doing counts and is contributing to the amassed wisdom you'll have to share when you reach the third half, “I got it” phase, of your life. Prepare to share, volunteer, help others, pass on and give back to society the best of yourself. Approach the final phase, “I lived it,” feeling fulfilled with few regrets.

And, realize this, we'll all die with unfinished business if we've lived our lives well. The dreams, the hopes, the goals, the plans, should never stop right up until the moment each of us reaches the terminus of our lives.

As far as regrets go, if you don't have any, you'll have lived a perfect life. I've not met one person during my life who has not had some regrets. I used to kid myself and say I didn't have any, but . . . I do. What you want to do between now and that final day is attempt to have as few as possible. If this means there are people you need to make amends with or forgive, git-er-dun! If it means there is some activity you wanted to experience, some place you always wanted to visit, something you always wanted for yourself, find a way and go for it.

If you don't have a “life list” (many call it a “bucket list,” but I think that's negative), regardless of your age, start one today. Your goal for the rest of your life is to cross things off that “life list” as you achieve them and continually add new things as you think of them. This is a one way trip. There are no do-overs. There are no dress rehearsals in this play called “Your Life.” You have to stretch and reach for the brass ring or you'll never possess it.

Live your life freely and fully. Make the choices and decisions you need to make, develop goals, create a plan and then go for it.

Share this article with others you know who need to know, understand and take action in their lives. Comment below on this blog. Leave a brief one line description of what half of your life you're in. Share your thoughts and ideas with other readers so we can all gain insights and ideas from each other.

Live free and be happy. EH 


Lois said...

Good words, Ed. It's interesting getting to the final third half and realizing that all those things I thought were so danged important aren't really important after all. I didn't have older people around me as I was growing up and never had an opportunity to experience first-hand form others the wisdom that comes with getting older. Now I *am* one of those older people and I am loving it, liking it, enjoying it fully.

I've always been a huge list-maker and I, too, think that the term "bucket list" is negative and won't use it. I prefer using the term "to do list" because the things on the list are things I'm going to do :D

-- Lois

Ed Helvey said...

Thanks, Lois --

I didn't have any parents through most of my middle years and certainly not in my senior years. I was fortunate to attract a significant number of people 15 to 20+ years older than me as friends. a few of them became mentors, "father figures" and very good friends. Some were also clients and colleagues. I have learned a lot from them, though many have now passed away. But, I still have a few who are there and I communicate with them periodically to fairly frequently. I've seen how they have lived their lives active and productive and happy right to the end. They are my role models. Of course, now that I'm reaching into that age bracket myself, they are passing the baton to me and it's my turn to do the same for those coming along behind.

Yes! While there are some aches and some pains and sometimes the old rememberer isn't as fast in recovering "data," this is still, so far, a pretty good part of life. The best part is, I really don't give a damn what other people think about me, my opinions, my attitudes, my dreams or anything else. What they see is me - all the facades of youth peeled away. If they don't like what they see, no skin off my nose, I won't miss them. Get healed quick now that you're becoming "bionic."


BM said...

Ed’s thoughts are too important to not get a wide audience.