White Hair, White Beard - He Must Be Past It .....or White Hair, White Beard - He Must Be Wise
On a recent hike into remote back country in the Canadian Rockies we were intrigued to meet our guide, protector from bears and wolves, outback expert - a delightful and diminutive Japanese man called Korai
After initial introductions and a bit of getting to know each other I asked (apologising in case it seemed impertinent) - how old he was as this clearly wasn't his first rodeo!
He chuckled and said he was a teenager - 13 in fact! I was confused. He then explained the concept of "Kenreki" - a Japanese tradition that when one reaches 60 - it's not just a milestone birthday - it's a "rebirth". Effectively it's a celebration of tenacity, of longevity and permission to enjoy being a young person again but this time with the wisdom of years. In essence one starts again!
He was in fact 73! He had knowledge, energy and a passion for what he did unlike any I have seen or met before and I reflected on that for a long time after our wilderness hike.
Having turned 60 this year - It made me reflect on our world of work and how - whilst my white and white beard give me some authority when coaching and developing people or teams (especially senior team members) - I am also aware from the many people I support of how at 60+ some people - especially if they aren't leaders or founders or captains of industry - they can get stereotyped as being less adaptable, less energetic, possibly with limited technological competence, less trainable and more resistant to change. Less likely to be promoted they find it harder to find work and often are excluded from social activity on the premise that "it isn't really for them or they wouldn't enjoy it."
And the ageist agenda can impact performance and mental health as some will simply resign themselves to expect less or to be more stoic and quietly press on so as not to rock the boat.
In a world of ageing communities, where 4 or even 5 generations could be working alongside each other it is imperative that we seek the value that each generation brings ... and yes with us youngsters (I am now in the world of Kenreki a very young person (1 in fact) .... with age does come some wisdom!
My suggestion ...... take time to really understand what motivates older colleagues - what depth of experiences they have and never underestimate what they can do.
If I ever find myself again in a back country wilderness - I'd want 73 year old Korai - standing right beside me (or possibly in front if bears are involved!)