Don’t Label A Boomer

The Marketer’s Problem

It is time to think differently about age. The reason for this change may not be noble, but are you willing to take a gift in whatever form it happens?

The story begins with a new problem in the market place. There is mounting frustration about how to deal with Boomers. Apparently we are rebelling against being labeled “old”. Boomers don’t want to be called older, seniors, the elderly, or older adults. Marketers don’t know how to address us. Ms Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a research marketing firm in New York, said, “For heavens sake don’t call them anything. You can talk about their interests their values or what they do but don’t label them.” She meant don’t put them in an age block.

You see this is serious. The marketers probably know that 50% of the countries wealth is controlled by boomers. This means Boomers are responsible for over half of all consumer spending. (See Baby Boomer Statistics on Google if you want to check it out.) We are an economic force that is difficult to ignore. They want to do anything but alienate us as a group.

But there is an odd twist in all this concern about how to address us. They are really stuck, because they don’t realize the depth of the problem. How do they let go of using age to distinguish us? Thinking in terms of age is so deep and habitual. For over 100 years our culture has used age as a convenient way to categorize the population. The downside of this is that people have become hyper-focused and identified themselves as an age. An older age means, who we are has become negative, bad, old and worthless.

Thomas Cole, director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston wrote: “The culture’s problem is that we split aging into good and bad. We’re unable to sustain images of growing older that handle the tension between spiritual growth, the good, and physical decline, the bad. In the Hebrew Bible, aging is both a blessing and a curse. But our culture can’t achieve this kind of synthesis.” Are we being too black and white? Is our thinking too simplistic, as a culture?

Open Your Mind and Think Again

I think it is possible for Boomers to change this story. If you can’t call a Boomer anything related to being older, why not forget about using age as a criteria for talking about them at all. Ms Fishman is right but for different reasons. She is calling attention to it to avoid irritating Boomers. Why not take a lesson from colonial times in America. People were labeled by what they did. Can’t a retired golfer be a golfer? Can’t a student, old or young, be a student? Can’t a grandmother be a childcare provider, if that is what she does? My hope is it will loosen, if not dissolve, our habit of thinking about how old we are. Who we are is different from what we do. It should help to separate age from how we identify ourselves. I could identify myself as a vital and passionate person who is interested in modern art without even referencing my age.

The marketers will help us out here, just because avoiding age references pays them in the long run. This works for me. I’ll take whatever help I can get. I love the idea of not being put in an age box. How do you imagine it would be to take the focus off how old or young we are. For me, it gives room to breathe and be myself instead of my age.

Change And Grow

The Challenge of Change

Rumor has it that change is difficult. How many times have you promised yourself you would change something and never done it?  See how creative you are with those reasons? You can even take a moment, now, to make a list. How many things are on your list?

In one case, Joe, a successful local printer, said he would quit the business when the internet took over too much of the advertising market. Even though it put lots printers out of business, he never did quit. He got bitter and angry that the market collapsed. And he would tell anyone that would listen, how impossible it was for him to do anything different. He used these reasons to build a wall of impossibility.  He said: “I ‘m too old. (He was 59). I don’t know what to do. I don’t have time to support myself because I have to scrounge for new, low paying, work.” It’s easy to see the vicious circle he was building that lowered his energy and kept him frozen. He was creative in finding the reasons why not! I almost felt sorry for him.

Being Miserable

Joe failed to see how to change. He just knew things weren’t like they used to be. Sound familiar? He didn’t know what direction to take or how to find a way to discover it. He was caught in his own judgments. Yet, behind those reasons, he was paralyzed with his fear of moving on, at all.  All core fears are fed by old beliefs and questions we hold about ourselves. For Joe, there was no chance he could survive. He was terrified that, if he tried, he’d fail. This was too great a risk. It was easier to complain and feel miserable. He was so committed to his old beliefs, that money became a source of constant arguments with his wife. Life was miserable.

After So Many Years, How do you change?

Negative core beliefs can be changed. And I hope Joe is willing to go to a therapist, if he needs it. There is no way to get around the nature of change itself.  It can feel like jumping off a cliff, but it’s at the heart of doing something different. It might take being afraid for a while. Try to remember, changing means you have the courage to admit you don’t know everything. It’s the opportunity of doing and learning something new. This can be confronting, especially after being the owner of a business, or the head of a department for a long time. In the old job, you knew exactly what to do. In fact, you may have been the authority, the person everyone came to for help.

Have you ever seen yourself in this position? Uncomfortable isn’t it? But as you know that’s not where the story has to end. Let me know how your story is changing.

Three Rules Of How To “Be” In The Opening Of A New Life

Rule #1 Pay Attention Baby Boomers

New Openings show up in many ways. But if we aren’t paying attention to what the world is giving or taking away from us, we can miss those possibilities of starting over again. In other words, if we don’t notice the lessons of daily life something is lost. We don’t see the opportunity. We don’t allow the new awareness and experience. Often, we don’t know until later, after the time of choice has passed.

One example, includes discovering DNA by accident in a lab experiment.  Scientists were finished with an experiment and someone noticed what they had found. In another example, Robert Van De Castle, in his book Our Dreaming Mind, talked about Elias Howe. Howe was working on a way to thread the shank of an electric sewing machine needle. He found his answer in a dream.  Later, by studying his dream, Elias was able to realize the message.   He saw he had to move the thread from the middle of the shank to near the tip. It pays to be aware of what is going on in our lives.

Rule #2 Let It Pass

We can try things but at the same time we have to let things pass.  There is a parable Ekhart Tolle uses in The New Earth that illustrates this nicely. It goes something like this: There was a Chinese monk who won a convertible car. His friends and relatives said, “How wonderful. How lucky you are.” The monk said, “Maybe.” He drove around with the top down, having a great time. But a car hit him and he went to the hospital with a broken leg. His friends and relatives came to the hospital to visit and said, “How unfortunate.” He said, “Maybe.” While he was in the hospital, there was a storm that washed his house down a hill. It occurred in the middle of the night, crushing his house completely. His friends and relatives came to the hospital and said, “How fortunate you are, to be in the hospital.  You would have been killed.” He could let the “good” and “bad” happen and just keep on going, accepting that things can change at any moment.

For example, I didn’t let It pass when I tried jewelry making. I didn’t recognize that I had to wait to see how I felt as I was doing it. I forced myself to choose this path. I tried to convince myself it was the best Idea. My real motivation was to find an answer to my dilemma. I was uncomfortable and frantic about finding some resolution. On the other hand, Tolle’s Monk was at ease and awake in the flow of life.

Rule #3 Beware Of Addiction,  

We can be addicted to anything. All that’s necessary, is to over-value feeling the intense emotions that result from something external. We believe that some external thing, whether it be doing jewelry, drinking, eating or whatever, will make us happy and give us pleasure.  This addiction gains a compelling life of it’s own. The trouble is, that when we reach that pleasurable goal, there is no lasting emotional satisfaction. What’s worse is that there are the negative consequences. For me, in jewelry making, I would have settled for a direction based on a store owner’s enthusiasm about my work, not because I really wanted to spend the time doing it each day. I would have done it for approval, not because of an inner fire, drive, and curiosity at discovering and engaging in a true passion.

I had the order backwards. I needed to be happy first. I needed to be happy being empty and curious: Curious so I could pay attention to what attracts me now in my life. What is here today that calls me to focus and engage me? It can be in some employment seniors might like, or anything else? It could be an activity or idea from the past. The difference is that I am more interested and stimulated by the action now, than I was then. This internal pull is the motivator that shows the way, that provides midlife meaning. The Monk had the right attitude. He’s a great model. He doesn’t fight the outside changes as they happen. He stays fundamentally calm and grounded, as he waits.  Yet, he is alert about what evolves from his life experience, both its breakdowns and gifts.