In our society, we value the young, even better if you’re young and beautiful. The massive irony in that value system, however, is that you really don’t understand the short-sightedness of those superficial markers of importance until you get to be older and wiser – the very definitions of being a boomer. I like to think of that as some big cosmic humor. God sitting out there somewhere having a good chuckle to Himself: that only through achieving the wisdom gleaned through years and experiences can you understand the insanity of placing primary importance on things so fleeting as looks and youthfulness.
Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with being young and beautiful, and in fact, those traits have values as well. The vigor and sheer wild determination of being young… The nothing-can-stop-me-now feeling of knowing you look absolutely fabulous today… Can’t knock ‘em. Great qualities and experiences to have. I don’t have anything against the young and beautiful. Go get ‘em, is what I say!
But I do have an opinion about what we determine is valuable in our society, and it’s not just an opinion of someone who happens to be a boomer nor one that exists simply because I am a boomer. I’ve looked beyond the stereotypes, an action which we’re compelled to take in order not to be lulled into complacency about the value of any group of people.
Stereotypes allow us to minimize the value of entire groups of people. We exaggerate certain traits common within the group. Stereotypes can prevent us from truly acknowledging the relevancy of not only entire groups but all of the individual traits, accomplishments, and value of the individuals within.
It’s so easy for us all to allow ourselves to buy into our own stereotypes. But the simple fact is that we can create the extraordinary, we can BE extraordinary at any age! Fueled by passion, by dedication, we can be anything we choose to be, do anything we really set our minds to whether we’re at the very beginning of our lives or well into our golden years.
Imagine. Consider. Embrace these examples of extraordinary individuals who are newly arrived in our world as well as those who are well-seasoned!
- Michael Kearney became the world’s youngest college graduate at the age of 10, having finished high school at age 6.
- Fabiano Caruana became the world’s youngest chess grandmaster at the age of 14.
- Aelita Andre from Australia has extraordinary artistic abilities, with some comparing her to Picasso and Jackson Pollock. At the age of 2 her paintings were included in an art exhibit and she’s still painting today.
- India’s Akrit Jaswal performed his first surgery at age 7 and is now diligently working to find a cure to cancer.
- Korea’s Kim Ung-Yong is listed as having the highest IQ on record (210) and received his Ph.D. age 15.
- Gregory Smith is not only a genius but also a tremendous humanitarian who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 12.
- British Elaina Smith became an on-air talent giving advice to callers at a radio station in West Midlands at the age of 7.
- From Moldova, three year old Cleopatra Stratan became the world’s youngest commercial singer, complete with her own album, an MTV award and a two-hour live performance.
- General Douglas MacArthur was given command of the United Nations’ army in the Korean War when he was 70.
- Julia Child didn’t truly learn how to cook or develop a passion that went on to inspire others worldwide until she was nearly 40.
- Coco Chanel was the head of a fashion design firm at 85.
- Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence when he was 70.
- Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa at age 76.
- Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for work he was doing on a hydrofoil boat at the age of 75.
- Mother Theresa established the “Missions of Charity” order that ultimately became a world-wide organization helping millions at the age of 40 and was 76 when she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Olga Kotelko started training in track and field at age 77 and by the time she was 92 held 20 world records.
- Noah Webster didn’t publish his first dictionary until he was 69 years old while Mark Roget published the first thesaurus at age 73.
- Mahatma Gandhi was 61 years old when he led the Salt March to Dandi weighing just 99 pounds and walking nearly 200 miles.
- Larry Macon, a 63-year old runner, ran 549 marathons over a four year period.
- Ray Kroc was 52 years old when he began to build the brand of McDonald’s.
- Samuel Morse invented the Morse Code when he was 47.
- Lew Hollander was still competing Ironman triathlons at age 81.
- Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 75 years old. She was still painting at 100 and received her last commission for her work when she was 99.
- Bill Wilson teamed up with Dr. Robert Smith to lay the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous at age 40.
- Winston Churchill was 79 when he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Mary Baker Eddy was directing the Church of Christian Science at 89.
- Susan B. Anthony was over 80 years old when she founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance.
- Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel at 70.
- Sean Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 70.
- Fauja Singh ran his first marathon at age 89 and decided he’d run his last at the age of 101.
The only real limits we have in life exist solely in our minds. Choose to challenge yourself not only to look beyond our stereotypes but most importantly to challenge whatever limits you’ve created for yourself within your own mind. As evidenced by all of the extraordinary individuals above, we all have this greatness within us, regardless of our age!