Reflections from a “crazy boomer”
This crazy boomer sometimes wonders if we’re living in a society where mediocrity is being rewarded – a society that is getting softer and weaker. I use the term “Crazy Boomer” on Instagram and Facebook because I think it’s spot-on; I’m crazy, and I’m a Boomer. But also because younger generations use the expression to make fun of us. I embrace the term and love it, however. While sitting at home during the Covid-19 pandemic reflecting on the state of the world, an old motivational slogan came to mind. “Do what others won’t today, so you can do what others can’t tomorrow!” I’ve touched on some of these ideas in various blog posts but have never tried to tie them together before. One, of course, is the importance of grit and resilience, and the other is aging. When it comes to grit and resilience, instructors in special ops training for different branches of the US military all have the same observation. Young people coming through the special ops training pipeline today give up too quickly. “We have the fittest quitters in the world,” one told me. It’s not that they couldn’t make it physically, they self-eliminated themselves. They just said, “I’m done! I can’t do this anymore!” They couldn’t stay in the game or the fight, no matter how you want to phrase it.
Building grit and resilience
Nearly 50% of the young men who quit did not have a male model in the home or elsewhere. That’s kind of scary. Young boys and men need at least one male model in their lives. “When you push them, they just give up,” another instructor said. “They didn’t have a sports coach who pushed them in school and got in their face.” Grit and resilience are two of my favorite subjects, and I like to get out and talk about this (can’t do it now, unfortunately), especially at my age (73). If developed early in life, grit and resilience will serve you throughout your life, especially when older. In many cultures, when you get into your 70s, you’re supposed to have gray hair or little hair. I’ve got those two nailed. You’re also supposed to have something to say of value. And what you say is supposed to have substance and be worth something to the younger generations. I have those two nailed, too. Unfortunately, in the West, we don’t have a culture of “wise elders” to pass on through storytelling what they experienced and learned.
Placed on the shelf
Society seems to feel that once you reached your 70s and beyond, you should be put on the shelf or put you out to pasture. You’re considered irrelevant. No one seeks you out for your knowledge and expertise. You don’t get asked questions anymore. The only way to prevent that is to fight to stay relevant – fight to stay in the game, which requires grit and resilience. The younger generations will come along, thinking they know everything. I made the same mistakes when I was young, of course. I was lucky enough to have my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents alive when I was young, but not smart enough to take advantage of their life experience. When I think of all the knowledge they possessed, I’m ashamed that I didn’t ask them more questions.
We boomers have won our experience through six-seven decades of life. The “Internet generations,” on the other hand, will read a few books, take a couple of courses and begin marketing themselves as “experts” or “life coaches” without the depth gained through life experience. Instead of trying to be a guru of some sort, they should their 20s and 30s exploring, having fun, making mistakes, falling down, getting back up and learning from your failures. It’s when you learn what you are and what you aren’t. This is not the time to start writing your memoirs. I’m generalizing, of course. Not every young person is like that, but this behavior does seem to be “trending.” Why is it like this? I’m not sure. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the younger generations seem to be sidelining older people instead of being seen as valuable assets and sources of advice.
Much to share
We “oldies” have much to share, but very few people ask us to share our experiences anymore. We’d like to give back, but we’re not considered to be in the game anymore. We’re not considered relevant anymore. In my case, I do the crazy things I do and undertake the adventures I do because I want to stay relevant and remain in the game for as long as possible. The challenge and struggle to stay in the game gets harder with every decade, but I intend to keep at it. I’m not going to sit down, kick my shoes off and pull the plug. I just don’t want to do that. I just want to keep growing, testing myself and learning.
A second chance?
I’m going to watch the final episode of this season’s Robinson (Survivor) tonight. And that’s going to remind me that I have “unfinished business” there. I’d like to get another chance at this since I wasn’t voted off in my season (2018). After struggling through the competitions at the age of 70 and with18 knee operations under my belt, my left knee finally gave out completely me and the medical staff said I could no longer compete. In fact, the doctor who examined me said I would need a complete knee replacement (and she was spot on). I remember the host (Anders) saying to me (after the cameras were off, unfortunately), “Rick, you are welcome back with a new knee.” Well, Anders, I’m 73 now, have a brand-new knee and it’s working well. However, it’s pretty unlikely that TV4 or the production company will give me a second chance. I guess I didn’t generate the “good TV” they had hoped for by going in and creating havoc or acting like a nutcase – or possibly both. Whatever the case, it feels like I’ve been placed on the shelf without a second chance! But that’s life when you’re in your 70s. You don’t gotta like, you just gotta keep at it! And you can be sure that this crazy boomer will! “Do what others won’t today, so you can do what others can’t tomorrow!”