I’m not a creature of routine, but I do frequent a particular coffee shop in my neighborhood, partly because the five-minute walk there and back is such a perfect length for getting out of my own head and feeling refreshed. But I decided to try out a different coffee shop this morning because I felt like it would be healthy and inspiring to work with a fresh perspective.
Sipping my espresso and typing away, I overheard some nearby creative-sounding young entrepreneurs chatting, and one of them brought up the name of someone in their industry whom I’d consider a contemporary — and someone who’s very well established in his field — to the other, and the response was a sincere “who’s that?”
It made me smile. It was a reality check that was humbling, motivating… and healthy.
It’s easy to forget, as we progress in our professional lives, to get to know the talent that’s coming up. It’s easy to get complacent and feel comfortable with a network of people your own age and your own experience level.
After all, there’s a lot to be said for getting older. Coincidentally, I just shared an article on LinkedIn this morning about how middle-aged entrepreneurs are going to be important in the next trillion-dollar business, citing among its examples that Steve Jobs was 52 when he announced the iPhone in 2007.
With the average life expectancy in the USA for women at 81 years, biologically my 41 years qualify me as middle-aged. But in spite of my comfort with getting older, that’s not really how I think of myself. I think of myself as a person with a playful, curious, open mind.
Still, there’s no substitute for hearing new ideas, new perspectives, new ponderings, new challenges to the status quo from younger minds to whom it’s all fresh and it’s all fair game.
Anyway, I finished my coffee and as I got up to leave, I told the entrepreneurs at the next table that I couldn’t help overhearing a little about their project and it sounded intriguing, and asked if they minded saying what they were working on. They showed me some of what they were doing, which was indeed interesting. I mentioned a project that seemed related; they hadn’t heard of it, so they wrote it down. I wished them luck and walked away. I was grateful that I could offer them some kind of value; after all, I came away inspired, so it was only fair to give something back.
And now I’m back at my desk, ready to look at my next project with fresher eyes.