…which believe it or not, does not make me sad.
I admit that thinking about all of the greats of direct marketing who we have lost makes me reflective and sometimes a little melancholy…but I wouldn’t trade the experience of having the best mentors in the world over the last 40 years (despite outliving many of them).
This phenomenon was inevitable.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I gravitated to folks in the direct marketing business who were, I thought, “old” at the time—most were in their 60’s and 70’s—and of course my perspective on “old” is a lot different today.
Why did I gravitate to them over folks my own age?
Maybe because they knew a lot of stuff?
The benefits are obvious when you learn from the best practitioners who have much more experience than yourself…but the downside is obvious too since you won’t have them at your disposal forever.
Or maybe you will…if you pay very close attention to everything you learn from them while they are alive…and continue to apply everything you learned from them long after they are gone.
The benefits of being educated well by your elders will far exceed the eventual losses.
You can never put a price on that education…and we all owe it to ourselves to keep our mentors alive for as long as we are alive (and long after they are dead)…and pass everything on to keep the train moving.
And I hope that what goes around comes around.
That is, 40 years from now, someone might be reflective, melancholy (and maybe just a little bit grateful) as they think about me not being around anymore either.
And hopefully I can leave a footprint that can be applied long after I am gone.
It’s all about math, this “losing of mentors thing” –especially if you refuse to hang out with people your own age.
I turn 60 today, which would have been the age of my “younger mentors” when I was 20.
And since none of my senior mentors from the days when I was a lad lived to be 100, you can see why I am a little reflective and melancholy today…but mostly grateful on my 60th birthday.
I want to continue to share as much as I can—everything I have learned from the legends who shaped my career (and the careers of thousands in direct marketing) who are no longer with us.
But I promised this post was not going to be sad…and I am here to tell you that after six decades “above ground,” getting old(er) doesn’t suck.
One of my mentors, Marty Edelston, often said to me, in order to be sure that I had the right idea about aging:
“I love getting older since it means I am only getting smarter.”
And if he was still alive today to have this conversation with me (which I know he would!), he would once again explain the difference between “60 years of experience” vs. “one year of experience for 60 years.”
What that means:
Knowledge and wisdom are cumulative assuming you are a lifelong learner.
Marty was a lifelong learner and he taught me to think that way too, which at its core means always having insatiable curiosity, always hanging out with people smarter (and often older) than yourself and never letting your ego get in the way of learning.
If you are a lifelong learner too, I am preaching to the converted; however, I think some of the insights below might add to your thinking on this important subject.
Trust me…I really do love getting old(er)…read my post “Living to be 156” which talks about why living longer matters to everyone…and not just you.
“Getting old doesn’t suck” is another way of saying how my first 60 years of experience will enable me to make even a bigger difference for my next 43 years (I’m not the one who will get to 156…that was entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan’s number…my number is only 103).
And no matter how immortal you think you are, and that you think you have lots of time to make your mark, you probably also lament that you could have launched something “bigger” at a younger age even if you have had lots of success in the past or present.
However, I don’t think that is a useful way to think about it.
The time was right when it was right.
And it will be right again in the present or future when it’s right.
There are two times:
“Now” and “not now.”
In my case, since I’ve got those 60 years of life experience (and almost 40 years of direct marketing) under my belt, I always think the best is yet to come.
I hope you can think that way too no matter what you’ve done (and haven’t done) in the past.
As long as you continue to learn and grow and make all of your knowledge cumulative, I am confident about your bigger future.
When I launched Titans Marketing, I thought through four pillars to my new business that would make it most rewarding…and how each one would build on and/or honor the mentors who shaped the world of direct marketing…mentors I owed so much to.
1. Titans Mastermind (followed by Titans Master Class and eventually Titans Xcelerator): Learning that “competition is coexistence” and that all boats rise when we each share our genius with each other, made this a no brainer for pillar #1 for Titans Marketing.
All of these mastermind groups are about sharing state-of-the-art multi-channel marketing ideas and creating an environment for all members to grow their businesses…together….with the help of each other.
Had I not learned how to be a contributing member and student to Mastermind groups throughout my career (at considerable personal cost and time), there is no way I could have ever dreamed of forming three of my own.
I thank many mentors…alive and dead…for instilling this need to fully share and contribute.
2. Consulting: When people ask me, “What have you been doing the last three years since leaving your day job?” I hate saying that I am a “consultant.”
Most think “consultant” is a euphemism for being unemployed or unemployable.
In many cases it is.
Don’t tell me you have never thought when you hear that someone has become a consultant that, “they don’t have a job anymore so they will just work with whoever will write them a check.”
However, I believe that if you actually do consult, you should become much more of a difference maker…not just someone who goes into companies to pontificate and make trouble.
The kind of consulting I refuse to do, based on lessons from my mentors, is what I call “grandparent’s syndrome”:
This is where as a consultant (“grandparent”) you work with a client (“the grandkids”) and get them all ginned up (if they were really kids it would be with a lot of sugar but as employees the “sugar” is “too many new ideas”)…and then you let the company leadership (“the parents”) figure out how to clean up the mess you just made.
On a similar theme, I love this quote about consulting:
If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.
But if you are consulting from a place of true expertise and experience, there are so many more exciting ways to make a bigger impact at a much deeper level with your clients.
The ability to be paid on performance or even to become an equity partner in the businesses you consult to (because you are coming from this place of deeper knowledge and multiple perspectives from past experience) seems far more rewarding than simply being paid for your time.
I had so many mentors who would only “consult” this way and they were quick to say no to new consulting assignments that didn’t have a longer game attached.
I did an interview a couple of years ago with my good friend Joe Polish called “How to Hire a Marketing Consultant” and in it we talk in detail what you should look for in a marketing consultant…and the different win-win models you can consult under.
And we also talked about this from the client side (i.e. those who hire consultants).
How you choose your partners to help you grow your business (and not just prolong problems) must come from that same win-win construct that can grow your business exponentially.
And back to my thesis today about my dead mentors:
I’m not saying all of your consultants should be old(er)…but I am saying that you have to make sure they have encountered issues and problems in their lifetime that will directly apply to the ones you are facing today.
In most cases, older does mean wiser.
Being wise takes time (and experience)…so I will go out on a limb and say that most top consultants who can command more than just a cash payment on a one off project are not Millennials.
This reminds me of one of the great moments in U.S. presidential debates: Ronald Reagan was asked whether his advanced age would be an issue in his second term as President–he was running against the more youthful Walter Mondale in 1984–and Reagan was 73 at the time.
His response to that question:
“I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience”
3. Writing: In the academic world, we often hear you must “publish or perish.”
While too many of my mentors are dead, they all left much more than some insightful advice over the phone (and in some instances, a nice inheritance for their heirs).
Most left their best thinking for us to immerse ourselves in…if we are aggressive enough to look for it.
Most of my mentors wrote or created a legacy with books, reports, memos, promotions, letters, videos…they not only taught it but they documented it.
Thank goodness for that.
And #4 below explains further why it’s so important to keep all of this genius alive.
4. Products and courses: The fourth pillar of my new business is to carry on the legacy of my mentors.
Fortunately, I took a lot of notes which has enabled me to constantly go back to the “original source” and then put my own spin on everything—eventually creating products (courses) that will teach all that I have experienced and learned over my career and extending what they experienced and learned in their careers.
In fact, in my new book (to be published next year) I have an entire chapter on the importance of “original source.”
I also believe that it is our moral responsibility to look for “lost classics” or “lost files” and bring them back to life to that future generations can share in the wisdom of the past.
Re-publishing Gene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising and The Brilliance Breakthrough was only a starting point…the Bill Jayme collection is next…then publishing the work of Jim Rutz comes after that.
And if you haven’t heard of Schwartz or Jayme or Rutz, you just proved my point and why we all should find these gems that will become foundational to everything we do in marketing today.
So I would ask you:
Who (what) can you bring back to life for a next generation?
I’ll stop beating this drum for today…but I hope I made the case that getting older doesn’t suck.
And while there are prodigies who can make huge differences for thousands by the time they attend their first prom, most mortals like you and I need some age (and wisdom) to get there…and not just doing the same thing year after year.
The fact that I am often the oldest person (by chronological age) in many of the rooms I hang out in these days—hanging out with some of the most phenomenal marketers in the world—is something I am proud of and I no longer make jokes about everyone in the room being young enough to be one of my kids.
A better perspective: I am getting my Ph.D. in areas of marketing from others who may not have not put in the hours (yet)… but they have achieved expertise way beyond what I know.
And maybe some context from my past could give them some new insights too.
At least that is what I try to do.
I attended my daughter’s graduate school graduation last weekend and it warmed my heart that there was a healthy mix of 25 year olds and 65 year olds receiving advanced diplomas in all areas of study.
And they, like everyone in our world of marketing working in the trenches today, are best served when they are sponges for learning every step of the way, at every age, throughout their entire lives.
That’s the road to mastery.
Education and learning is everywhere…and whether it’s in a classroom, a boardroom, a book or in a memory…pass it on.
P.S. As my birthday gift to you, I would like to honor one of my mentors, Jay Abraham, with a gift from him (that he recently gave to me).
Thankfully, Jay is alive and well (and he is currently writing the foreword to my aforementioned new book which shows the power of “mentors for life”).
I’ve been working with him in some capacity since my mid-20’s (and “the math” works here since he’s only a few years older than me!)—and he would like to give you unlimited free access to his most powerful material at:
Yes…”50 Shades of Jay!”
On this free site there are 800 hours of unimaginable videos, audios, problem solving clinics, keynotes, interviews with the likes of Tony Robbins and Daymond John, along with 130 business world view essays.
The site sells absolutely nothing. No opt in required.
There is also 9 hours of audio /video/ written material in the strategy of preeminence…and also four full length books.
Because Jay is so committed to sharing his accumulated wisdom with anyone who will listen, he told me to share all of this with you and then said:
“I will be in their debt. Big time.”
Seemed to fit nicely with today’s theme regarding the best mentors leaving clues (and documentation) to their success.
www.Abraham.com/50shades is impressive and I hope you will check it out…and yes, pass it on to everyone in your world.
Happy birthday, Brian!
I agree wholeheartedly with you that getting old does NOT suck.
This post eloquently and insightfully demonstrates that.
Have a fine day and keep sharing your wisdom and insatiable curiosity with us.
Best wishes on making it to 103!
My grandmother made it to 104–my goal….
Happy 60th, Brian! I would love to see the works of Clyde Bedell brought back to life. Jay Abraham relaunched one of his training courses a few years back which speaks to the gravity of his method and ideas. On a side-note, my first print copy of “Breakthrough Advertising” came from Clyde Bedell’s estate sale. It’s signed by Clyde and some of his thoughts on Gene’s classic penned along the margins of the pages. I would consider both these men to be “mentors from afar”
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