Here’s the question. At what age should you stop celebrating birthdays? Perhaps when the candles cost more than the cake? In May, I was 60 and went a bit crazy. Golfing outings in Wicklow with the regular 4-ball. Followed by 3 days with 9 musicians on 2 boats, navigating the Shannon, testing the outer limits of sleep deprivation and alcohol poisoning (confirmation: there’s no ‘closing time’ in Roscommon). Family trips to Canada and Portugal. Both official and surprise birthday parties. More new shirts than in a Penney’s Winter sale. A Travel guitar added to the collection. And on and on and on in what began to feel uncomfortably numb — a contradictory pull between gratefulness for the effort invested (by everyone else) and a feeling that there was too much fuss and materialism.
Vote Hedonism? So where does celebration end and indulgence kick in? How many musical instruments do you need, before thoughts turn to homelessness or some other social issue? At what point do you stop wanting new stuff and start enjoying old stuff? The root of the question is easy enough to trace. It’s Catholicism and the liberal sprinkling of guilt that underpins this particular religion. Growing up, we were informed that ‘It’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.’ From memory, we heard that line about 42,337 times. As children, we took these stories literally, and honestly believed that it was somehow ‘wrong’ to be successful (I definitely should have been a Protestant). The irony that the institutional Catholic Church was itself massively wealthy, somehow got lost in the debate. I’ve now come to the view that my ‘indulgence’ does not steal from others. It’s a false dichotomy. On a political level, I subscribe to the Gary McGann school of thought. He argued (IBEC conference, 2016) that before wealth can be distributed, it first has to be created. But is this just a rationalization for selfishness? A thin veneer of justification to overcome guilt and make me feel good?
Creating Boundaries: In navigating this contradiction (coming to terms with modest success versus feeling a need to contribute), my personal recipe is as follows. Tandem Consulting offers a fixed amount of unpaid time to not-for-profit organizations. I also do some individual coaching outside of my immediate (middle-class) circle and give a fixed amount of money each year to specific charities. With that system firmly in place, I then buy as many golf shirts and guitars as I want. The good news is that they arrive with a special ‘guilt free’ packaging.
Useless Emotion: Guilt is the most useless of all emotions. It’s drains energy. It evaporates the feel-good factor when you do something for yourself or your immediate family. In the worst-case scenarios, it can create mental torment. And, here’s the kicker. It adds zero value. G is for giving, not guilt. Consider the following 2-step process. First, draw a boundary line around what, if anything, you want to contribute (time/money), something that feels comfortable and you can live with. Second, assuming that you deliver on the commitments made, consign guilt to the wastebasket of history. It should become something that ‘used’ to bother you. Past tense.
Now, be careful with that cork. Opening champagne can be dangerous.
Ps Lighter Notes
Vet Visit: Guy goes to the doctor carrying a Rottweiler and says: “He got sick this morning. I just gave him his normal feed and he’s been like this, completely lethargic all day.”
The vet takes the dog in his arms and says:
“I’ll have to put him down.”
“He’s too heavy.”
Doctor Visit: Guy goes to the doctor and says: “This is a bit embarrassing.” The doctor replies that he’s seen all sorts and there is no need to be embarrassed.
“Well, I don’t quite know what it is, but I seem to have a terrible smell all of the time. I shower twice a day and I’ve used every personal hygiene product on the market. Nothing’s working.”
Doc says: “Hymm. Tell me what you do for a living.”
Patient Says: “I’m an Elephant Bunger.”
Doc: “I don’t really know what that job entails.”
Patient: “I’ve worked for Duffy’s Circus for 5 years. It’s not widely known that elephants have a ‘loose bowel.’ So, before each show I have to ‘insert a bung’ to stop them destroying the arena. Then, immediately after each show, I have to remove the bung. It can all get a bit messy.”
Doc: “Well, this is hardly a complex diagnosis. It’s simple. That’s where the smell is coming from. You will just have to leave that job.”
Patient: “WHAT! And give up show business”
From Ger Coey: “Watched a program last night on how ships were built. It was riveting.”
On Getting Old….
“One of the hardest decisions to make in life is when to start your sixties.” Zsa Zsa Gabor
“I recently turned 60. Practically, a third of my life is over.” Woody Allen
“One day when I was 45, I went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. When I came out, I was 68.” Thora Hird
“The greatest advantage of having babies in your 60’s is that you can both be in nappies at the same time.” Sue Kolinsky
“I’m at an age where my back goes out more than I do.” Phyllis Diller
“My mother is over 60 but she still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right from the bottle.” Zero Mostel
“When you get to 60, you lose interest in sex, your friends drift away and your children ignore you. There are other advantages too.” Richard Needham
Check our website http://www.tandemconsulting.ie or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.