Monday, May 21, 2012

On Turning 50

On Wednesday I turn 50.

Ive been a son for 50 years, a husband for 28 years, and a father for 19 years.

I've been a doctor for 20 years, a CIO for 15 years, and a blogger for 5 years.

What have I learned in all my roles over the half a century I've been on the planet?

 I've started to understand what really matters.

Is it fame or fortune?  No, although it is important to have an income that matches your lifestyle burn rate in a sustainable way.

Is it your work life and the trajectory of your career?  No, but it is important to spend your day doing something that is intellectually challenging and offers you the potential for personal growth.

Is it the awards and accolades you accumulate through strength of will and persistence against adversity?  No, but it is important to feel recognized for your successes.

In my multiple roles living, working, and playing over 50 years, I've spent time with  Presidents, Nobel Laureates, and tycoons.   Some have risen and some have fallen.  I've watched my mentors in life triumph and I've watched them fail.

So after 50 years what really matters?

I've said that the difference between an expert and novice is not the detail they notice, but what they choose to ignore.   For example, when I do a toxicology consult, I focus less on the exact subspecies of mushroom the patient has ingested, and more on ensuring it is not one of the few that kill humans.  

I ignore the day to day frustrations, bureaucratic hassles, and conflicts in my work life.  People leave, projects end, and no one remembers the details of last year's urgencies.

What really matters is happiness at home.

Jobs may change but family is forever.    The life events surrounding your parents, your spouse, and your children are the palette that color the stages of life.

If your relationships with those who are important to you are positive and supportive, you will feel a sense of optimism and life energy that empowers all the other aspects of your life.

You'll be able to share all your life joys, be supported through your sorrows, and look forward to the sanctuary that is your home life.

When my mentors have stumbled in the workplace, they've generally been forgiven.   However, when they've had challenges in their home lives (affairs, violence, or public conflict), they've been judged harshly.

As I've approached 50, I've worked hard to build a haven at home.   I married the first person I dated in college and we've created homes together since 1980.   Our relationship has always been based on loyalty.  I call my parents every week and we have an open loving relationship.   My 19 year daughter still believes her parents are reasonable people.   Tonight and for much of the summer, our household will be multi-generational since my daughter will be home from college, and my father in law recently moved in with us.   My wife is cancer free and our new farm is bursting with healthy young animals, fresh hay in our meadow, and the spring vegetables we planted.

Yes, I will be engaged and passionate in my work life as I begin my 50th year, but my reputation, integrity, and sense of equanimity derive from my happiness at home.  

Happy Birthday to my colleagues Micky Tripathi and Meg Aranow - all three of us were born on the same day and we share the very similar values of what matters and what does not as we age another year.

11 comments:

David said...

Super good post, John. While we often hear of "work-life balance" yours is one of the few that spoke of the positive effects of a healthy home life upon your work. Thank you for articulating that point so clearly. "If your relationships with those who are important to you are positive and supportive, you will feel a sense of optimism and life energy that empowers all the other aspects of your life." I don't think the converse (good work life leads to good home life) is necessarily true, at least not to the same degree.
David

Sandie Kimball said...

Happy birthday, John. As a former clergy person, and now a project manager and IT professional, I continually search for mentors with a foot in each of those worlds. You have become one of those mentors in my life. Thank you for sharing your insights with us in your blog for the last five years. I always post comments anonymously as "a faithful reader", but today I am inspired by your blog to come out of the closet. Best wishes for your next 50 years!

Akshay Kapur said...

Thanks John. You've articulated all the good reasons why being an "old soul" keeps you young. I hope to have such personal victories and epithets to share once I've gained another 20 years of life experience.

Anonymous said...

Happy 50th, John. I also hear a lot about "work-life balance" but your post was more convincing that anything else I've read about this topic. Written from the heart to be sure. I suspect that you will be even wiser once you celebrate your 50th :)

May you and your family savor the celebration.

Lukas Zawilski said...

Happy birthday John. My birthday was yesterday and I found myself thinking about those very things - what's really important and what does 'success' look like for me. Your thinking has both challenged mine and validated it - thank you!

Mozmi said...

Happy Birthday to you. Hoep you have a nice day.

-Mozmi.

BGF said...

Thank you-that is beautifully written and conceived.
Bruce Freeman

Sachi said...

Happy Birthday John!! Please keep us inspired as always!

Doug said...

John,

I came across your blog by googling "turning 50" as I begin coming to terms with that milestone myself. I also happen to be a physician (Radiologist), husband and father.

Great piece. Appreciate your insight and perspective and very much agree with you on what is truly important.

- Doug

Anonymous said...

I too googled "turning 50" as my milestone approaches in September.

Thanks for the insight. I have the same thoughts but it is good to see them written.

I also saw the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,.....I'm sruggling with this milestone....

Thanks again.....

Boon said...

That's a very nice post. Puts life into perspective and reminds us that work is just work.

Interesting that you mentioned about "When my mentors have stumbled in the workplace, they've generally been forgiven. However, when they've had challenges in their home lives (affairs, violence, or public conflict), they've been judged harshly.".

Keen to hear your experiences and thoughts of how that have influenced you.