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Saturday, February 02, 2008

You're too young to be (acting) so old

Ckart Many of my colleagues and friends lament to me that they "Don't possibly have the time to learn about social media." (and oddly, many of my colleagues are in Web 1.0 work). They almost say it annoyed, like learning is a tremendous chore.

Hey, I get that the 2.0 world is overwhelming. And I get that it's a lot to understand on top of a full day.

And I really get that it's hard to understand why "All these people just chatting away" can seem, well, ridiculous.

But that's not the point.

Because these people chatting are our markets talking (so we need to be listening to them). And these tools are the latest technologies (so we need to be learning them).

But, more to the point, "I don't have the time to learn anything new," actually equates to "I'm OK getting old."

old is the opposite of new, no?)

Hey, change is tough for many. I'm an oddball here. I was raised moving to vastly different cities every few years and I'm as content as can be hopping from project to project and knowing not what the future holds... except for more change and more challenge. In fact, I get (really) freaked when things are too stagnant. It makes me sort of edgy as that's just not the way I was raised or the way I was taught to look at the world (there's just too much to see, too much to do and too many people to meet).

But when I hear the line that "I just don't have the time to learn anything new," I now just retort--"Oh my gosh, so this is the time you decided to get old."

And they quip, "What does that mean?"

So I explain, "Remember how we laughed at older generations when we were younger because they were so out-of-touch with the latest technologies?"

And they say, "Of course."

Then I continue, "And you know how we said they just didn't get it?"

And they say, "Yeah."

That's when I finish with, "Well now we've become just like them...oh, wait, we haven't become like them, but YOU now have. And hey, that's cool because it's your choice."

It's just not my choice.

Yep, they get really annoyed with me. And then they email or call me a few days later asking me more questions about these "new" technologies and some places to start. It works like a charm. It's hard to argue with rationale :-).

(Because no one wants to get old...or worse, act old.)

But, the fact is, age really isn't a number. It's a mindset of "I've learned enough, I don't need to learn anything new to get through my day/career/work/life." (ergo, it's a choice, just like most everything else in our days, careers, work and lives).

I find learning to be the best part of life and our choices to be what define our lives. So the "I've learned enough" mindset is not one that I'm ready to pay any mind to. And I'll take new over old any day of the week.

I better, as I have far, far more to learn in front of me than behind me. And I'm still too young to be gettin' so old. Aren't we all?

Note: A post I've written--on my father teaching me the best business advice I've ever learned on "fearing obsolescence"--complements this one. It is right here.


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I agree, and I find myself saying it a lot lately -- in many ways, age is more of a mindset than a number.

I'd guess that the vast majority of leading-edge boomers (ie., 55 - 62 years old) are regular users of email. Fewer are on Facebook, even fewer on Twitter and even less blog. But we are out there trying these technologies. We are NOT like our parents in that we grew up with stereos, Walkmen and other tech gadgets.

We are not there in the number of the younger generations, but we are there. Many of us are not old. Remember the Dennis Hopper ad you wrote about?


I'm old enough chronologically to be your Dad. However, I "ain't" dead. When I get too old to learn, someone just toss my out with the trash, please.

A parallel fact ... most people only buy NEW music until the age of 30. Thereafter they buy a small amount of what they already have.

Just ask a few friends and see what they say. I have a feeling that there is a link between curiosity, music and innovation ... just dont know what it is yet.

I am not sure if it has to do with getting old or just "old school" mentality. I have good friends who work for more traditional companies; they tell me they don't have time to read blogs or work with new media. In the meantime, a whole world is passing them by, right under their noses.

I hope you can help reach them through your new writing gig, CK! :)

testing testing

When you say things like "no one wants to get old...or worse, act old" and ".. age really isn't a number. It's a mindset" you are feeding right into the ageism that is so prevalent in our culture.
Everyone is getting older, every second. Age is NOT a mindset, it is a mathematical statement about how many years we have lived on this planet. Being old and being reluctant to try new things might often correlate but that doesn't mean you have to equate one with the other. Lots of people are conservative their whole lives. This whole anti-aging thing, and making 'old' into a pejorative word pisses me right off. There's absolutely nothing wrong with getting old and anyone who doesn't end up old is going to be dead already. I am almost 72 and I am OLD. I have grey hair and wrinkles. I LIKE being old. I am thoroughly enjoying my 'third age' and so are a lot of other people I know.
I am not afraid of new things. For example, as well as creating and maintaining umpteen websites I just started a social networking site for elderwomen - women who joyfully embrace old age and all that goes with it. I did it because there are a lot of people out there like me. And when you use 'old' as something to be avoided (as if anyone could) and something to be reviled and laughed at, you make us all very angry.

Don't break your arm congratulating yourself for being so wonderful. Old is not the opposite of new; it's the opposite of stupid.

Every time someone like you takes a swipe at old people for being out of it, they reveal their own prejudice and bigotry.

Would you make the same kinds of statements about blacks or women? Ageism is as evil as racism and sexism. But maybe you need to grow up and grow older to know that.

@Marian: "For example, as well as creating and maintaining umpteen websites I just started a social networking site for elderwomen - women who joyfully embrace old age and all that goes with it. I did it because there are a lot of people out there like me. And when you use 'old' as something to be avoided (as if anyone could) and something to be reviled and laughed at, you make us all very angry."

But, Marian, with the above statement--and social-networking initiative that I'd VERY much like to look into—you actually prove my very point. (thank you for that ;-)

You needn't agree with my point...and I'm glad you commented...but you indeed prove it. (and in a very good way). Hear me out, OK? You’ll see it’s in line with the very points from the above post.

Do we chronologically age? Of course we do. That is not a choice.

But age is not what I’m speaking to, nowhere near. I’m speaking to MINDSETS. And mindsets are absolutely a choice.

Further, I’m speaking to these mindsets occurring in the age ranges of 30s, 40s and 50s. The mindset of “I don’t need to learn anything new’ is, in fact a mindset and a choice (and I argue a very poor one since learning new things avoids obsolescence and keeps us not only top of our game, but fresh, renewed and, I posit, much happier in life).

By the way, I don't hope to avoid aging--I look at the length of years that we're on this earth to be a privilege, and a huge opportunity to do much, see much and, above all, learn much. I certainly want to accomplish a whole lot and I hope I’m afforded many years to accomplish those dreams. But the number of years I'm given are not up to me. What is up to me is the mindset I practice during those years.

Thus, throughout my entire life, I absolutely will avoid taking on a mindset of "I've learned enough to get me through this lifetime/career/etc." That might not be what you’re experiencing with your friends and colleagues…but it is something that I am VERY much experiencing with plenty of mine. It confounds me. It’s like they just decided to they’d learned enough.

What can I do about it? Well, I could say, “they just don’t get it”. Or, I could urge them to take another viewpoint. And how can I best accomplish that? By providing a strong argument to my viewpoint. You see, they say humans are creatures of habit…and they say that for a reason…sometimes it takes a strong argument to shake them from those very habits (because the payoff is indeed valuable ;-).

Please do leave the URL of the social networking site that you’ve created. It might be a great one for me to profile in an upcoming article that speaks to how social networking is not just for 20 year olds.

PS: And when all these marketers are so focused on social media for the “younger demographics”? I tell them that they’re missing the real opportunities to engage with older, savvier demographics (older demos NOT old mindsets, see?).

PPS: I can tell you, insofar as age, I've enjoyed my 30s far more than my 20s...and I expect my 40s to be even more rewarding--because I get to learn and do even more.

Marian and Ronni, I don't think CK is saying old is bad. We all get old, or hope to. But there is a difference between being old and feeling old. I'm 60 and I'm happy where I'm at -- wisdom, experience, no more college tuition, a grandchld, etc. Life is good.

CK is wondering why some young people seem to take the stereotyped "old" mindset when it comes to new technologies. Her prodding a year ago got me to experiment with social media and I love it.

I can't speak for the 20-somethings CK is wondering about. I can talk about how we boomers (and, at 72, Marian, you're not a boomer) have thrived on social change and challenging the establishment. Now, as we become seniors, we are challenging our parents' notion of what is old. You can't change the numbers -- they are what they are. But we can still be active (if health allows), curious and willing to play with new things, including technologies and social media.

Previous generations, always with exceptions, seemed content to leave the newfangled stuff to the young folks. That's no longer the case with us older folk, and CK seemed to be wondering why some young people are resisting change the way older people of the past had been known to do.

@Ronni: I think I addressed your questions in the above comment to Marian (fyi: my comment to Marian is right below your comment up there).

I'm not taking a swipe at anyone...I'm urging more to keep a "stay open to new" mindset. Why? Because many--in my own age group and younger--are very closed to new trends and technologies ...and they're missing out on a lot of opportunities, both professionally and personally, as a result of that choice.

I've had this discussion many times 'offline' and--as I wrote in my post above--it's served to open minds. It's also served to get others to 'join the conversation' so to speak (and those that have become open to new technologies, as a result, range in ages from 30s - 60s). Change is good, staying open to new ways even better, but these can be very, very hard to initiate. It takes providing both the opportunities and the risks.

"Her prodding a year ago got me to experiment with social media and I love it."

@David: We're better for you being a part of the community and I'm glad my prodding (nagging?) paid off! Now if only more of my friends and colleagues would open up and have the same mindset as you...they'd be amazed at what they'd find.

@Becky: It might be an "old school" mentality or it might be inertia. Hey, business people are busy people and, many times, it can feel like a burden to have to learn all new.

But the world is changing--thank goodness!--and our customers have a voice. So we need to be listening and we need to be learning. It not only equates to success but job insurance (and, I posit, a lot of joy).

@Lew: Having not only read your blog since I started my own but met you, you're one hip guy (and you have more energy than me, ha!). Yep, I can't imagine being closed to new things, opps and tech. So if I do that, throw me in the trash, too ;-).

@Gav: Very interesting. I find I buy more new music NOW that we have (NEW) MP3 technology. Yep, I just find a song I fancy through a TV show...head right to the computer and, in a quick click, buy it--boom! So I'm actually the opposite of that fact now that it's so much easier for me to consume more music and, moreover, more new music genres and groups.


I received a similar comment from Marian, and I also replied that she made my point. She wants to think in numbers, which we have no control over. When you and I say "old," it has little to do with numbers. In fact, I know more than a few teenagers who are much older than I and a lot more boring.

@Lew: Agree fully. It's an important discussion and it's about mindsets.

We are marketers. We work to change viewpoints, preferences and opinions all the time. If I feel this strongly about keeping a new and open mindset, then I must produce a strong reason as to why. That can be rational (new opps) and it can be emotional (why are you OK with learning nothing new?).

The objective is to open minds and always keep learning, the intention is to grow us professionally and personally. That's my focus and I'm at peace with it. I'm also glad that Marian and Ronnie weighed-in--because listening is another key way to learn.

Well, I have to weigh in here on the side of Marian and Ronnie. I want to do this anonymously because I think the world of CK. And Lewis too. But I have to say that I don't think you're getting it. At all.

Sorry, but regardless of the term "age is not a number, it's a mindset", age is still a number. And, as Marian pointed out, being 72 is generally considered by many to be "old". That's just the way it is. If you're denying that, you're denying reality.

I notice that the ad industry treats people over 50 (or sometimes 40) as if they're "old". Within the industry, they get ousted for younger types. In ads, they don't appear that much unless its for pharmaceuticals, financial retirement, etc.

Bottom line is that "old" is often considered to be a bad thing in our society and, in this case, 72 is old. It's drilled into us via marketing and other societal messages. Example: prominent actresses over 40 stuggle to find great roles because they're often considered to be too old. So regardless of how one means it, old (even in your example here CK) can come off as being a slight.

I'm not necessarily "old" myself, but I have to say that since I'm not, I'll weigh Marian's and Ronnie's viewpoints a bit more heavier here because they probably go through things (like subtle prejudices) that I don't. The assumptions of others that can nevertheless limit a person's ability to do what they want.

Sure there will always be stick-in-the-muds who refuse to try anything new, and a larger proportion of them will tend to be older. Part of that is cultural. But part of that is understandable. Younger people have a greater need to be 'social'. Older people less so.

As far as much of the Web 2.o stuff. I look at someone's quick video on utterz (because I saw them Twitter about it) and wonder why I just wasted the past 1:28 hearing them tell me of their trip to the supermarket to buy mangoes.

Guess I'm getting old, eh? ;)

"Sure there will always be stick-in-the-muds who refuse to try anything new, and a larger proportion of them will tend to be older."

@Anon Fan: What I'm confounded by--and the reason for THIS post--is because I'm talking about professionals in their 20s and 30s that are not open to trying these new technologies. In fact they're closed-off to learning these new trends and other lessons. I'm talking about a majority of the so-called "younger set" that I'm in contact with being, well, stick-in-the-muds.

Granted, I choose to be open to new tech/new methodologies, I can't imagine how we otherwise grow in our profession. But I'm confounded that I'm having these discussions with so many of my "younger" friends and colleagues (I say 'younger friends' because at least 35-40% of my friends are in their late 40s, 50s and 60s. I don't only hang with 20s and 30s).

See, I'm baffled by the resistance to learning at such a younger age. And many are in marketing and Web. Which makes me ask them...do ya think it just stopped at 1.0?

I am looking at the ad industry and they seem to hail as many 50+ thought leaders (Ries, Ogilvy) as they do under 50. TV? Leno, Letterman and Fergusson are much more popular than Carson Daly. Larry King is as popular as Ryan Seacrest. I actually see a lot of older and younger talent in a lot of media. Dancing with the Stars is giving the younger "American Idol" a huge run for its money. U2 and Sting still sell-out within hours not just Maroon5 or Coldplay.

Why do the 50+ entertainers--and shows like Dancing w/Stars--do well? Because they try new and/or fresh content and new formats.

PS: Feel free to comment anonymously. But also know that you are free (and safe ;-) to disagree with me as you. See, I've actually met as many friends through disagreements as I have through agreements. Why? Because, being open to other sides, new tech and, yes, other viewpoints is how we grow...and how we learn 'new' ways.

As one who met CK via a disagreement on Jaffe Juice I can vouch for her ability to get past disagreements.

But I can sympathize with the point of her post. I get the same reaction from friends when I tell them I write a blog, twitter, make use of Facebook. It's as if I told them I was going down to the skateboard park to hang with the kids and go to a Hannah Montana concert. As if somehow there was an age limit on learning new things and using new technology. But as you pointed out, it's not just about technology -it's about music, movies, books-- there are so many things people feel that they need to remain stuck in time about.

And you're right CK, that part is baffling. Especially for people in our business.

And I've said sooo many times not to look to MySpace (social networking targeted to 20s) but to Eons.com -- social networking targeted to 50+. I think the market growth is in the older demos and the COUNTERtrends (I love countertrends and I love the savvy of adults vs. kids ;-).

And anyone who's done their market research in the past 10 years knows full well that this nation (U.S. speaking here) is going to be much more 55+ than 14-24 for years and years to come.

But, again, that's not my point. My points is that I'm absolutely baffled that many of my colleagues and friends --in their 20s and 30s--have just, um, 'stopped'. I was with so many of my colleagues in "Web 1.0" when we were in our 20s. We burned the midnight oil learning new trends, new html, new cool features. And it was so exhilarating (if exhausting).

What the heck changed when we got to our 30s? Why did so many stop? Especially when 1.0 ain't got nothin' on 2.0. I'm confounded by it, they literally say to me "I've no time to learn this new stuff." I just don't understand how we grow if we don't learn new stuff. The answer is that we don't grow--yet learning curves last our entire professional lives (personal lives, too).

"But I can sympathize with the point of her post. I get the same reaction from friends when I tell them I write a blog, twitter, make use of Facebook. It's as if I told them I was going down to the skateboard park to hang with the kids and go to a Hannah Montana concert."

@Toad: Yup! Many of my friends and colleagues think I have just lost my way...that I've just given up and only "talk to online friends" now. They're like "You have a lot going for you, um, why are you wasting your time on this silly stuff?"

Easier I just say, "Yes, I've lost my way. I'm a loser now." But instead, I work to have the rational and emotional convo (for the zillionth time!)because there are so many opps and because I do believe in reaching out to those that just don't know this space yet. It's an uphill climb; I just didn't expect it from my colleagues in their 20s and 30s.

Could it be that they just don't have an interest in all of this? Are they married or in relationships that take their up a lot of their time? Do they have young children?

While I agree that anyone in the overall marketing arena should be up to speed on new media, could it be that we're all to hung up on much of this?

I know what I'll do...I ask to my friends on Twitter. Then on Pownce and Jaiku. I'll pose that question to 63 groups I belong to on Facebook. Send out an query on my message board on MySpace. The five groups I'm on on Ning. Oh, and of course blog about it on the two blogs I blog on. Then I can post a video question on my Seesmic, utterz, and oovoo accounts.

@Jonathan: "Could it be that they just don't have an interest in all of this? Are they married or in relationships that take their up a lot of their time? Do they have young children?"

I'm specifically speaking of marketing colleagues--and many in Web 1.0, so they would need to better know this. Several have lamented to me that "so many prospects and clients are asking about this, but I just don't have the time to learn anything new." Others have said that it's a bubble that will burst (how does a bubble fueled by consumers blogging on their free time, with free tools, burst? I get the crazy valuations...I'm talking the consumer-empowered trends).

Not all have kids/married but, I gotta say, if I had a family and were the breadwinner, I'd have less free time for sure...but I'd be more prone to bulk up my skill set being I had my kids' college and grad school to pay for. Hey, thanks for posting on every platform (ha, ha)

I'm assuming that most of these colleagues are working for someone else. An agency, large or small. Maybe not, but that's my guess.

What I find interesting about your point is that, if my above hypothesis is correct, none of their employees seem to be pushing them or enabling them to learn. Maybe I'm wrong,but it sounds as if it's a case of the unwilling being led by the blind.

@Jonathan: It's a mixed bag -- some work for (trad'l) agencies, other work for interactive agencies (which really baffles me) and others work for themselves.

But, I'm not talking about "strategic planning" consultants that might never touch this stuff as they're more focused on how business units are organized/etc.

I'm really talking 'bout folks who need to have a working knowledge of this medium. It confounds me...the resistance to it, I mean. We all had so much fun learning Web 1.0, but that's not what defines my career, ya know?

What a great article! It is so important for people to make learning a priority throughout their lives. My dad is a young 71 year old because of his desire to learn, read and continuously grow (well, that, and his many kids also help keep him young).

I publish an e-newsletter for the employees at the company I work at, and I am referencing your article in it. So thank you for bringing light to this important subject, and reminding a company that they are "too young to be acting so old."

@Jennifer: Thank you for reading and for commenting at the end of this VERY long discussion thread. You rock!

Mindsets are a choice. Age is not. But, I tell you this, some very old companies have been tremendously great innovators (IBM for one) because they are not scared to try new technologies, methodologies and strategies.

Same with people. And my Dad is the same way...he taught me to "fear obsolescence" at a very young age and that post is here: http://www.ck-blog.com/cks_blog/2007/10/fear-obsolesenc.html

Net/net: I'm thankful that it's actually very easy to always stay new and a young student of life, all we need to do is be open to it ;-). It's an honor to be referenced in your e-newsletter and I would LOVE to get a copy when you send it out (please cc me if you could/would!). Thanks for making my day, truly.

This wasn't the response I would have expected, which makes the comments more interesting :)

I can't speak much to being older. But as I have been working with business faculty and MBA students on the topic of social media (web 2.0), I thought I would throw an observation in.

Thinking about the excuse of not having enough time to learn about it, I wonder if it really is not enough time, or if it's being mis-characterized as a fear (I really don't know, this is just conjecture). That is, social media moves really fast. This fast moving environment is part of the 'wall' or aversion I have seen people build up against learning it. You just got onto LinkedIn, and now everyone else is also on Facebook. There's blogs, then twitter. Etc. That makes the time sync involved a lot less worth it. Maybe they aren't so against learning it, but they're against learning how to Blog for fear by the time they do, it will become out dated (and they'll feel they did as well). Again, this is all thinking aloud. But I do agree with what CK has said.

You have to have the mindset to dive in. But after that, there's still a jump. I think we need to think about interacting with social media as a separate mental framework, not as learning a single tool.

Woops. Sink, not sync. Too much iphone playing for me :-x

Maybe they're just afraid of not being good at these new things. It's never too late to learn and there's absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes here and there. In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I offer an ancient Chinese proverb. He who asks is a fool for give minutes but he who doesn't is a fool forever.

@Jay: Nice to ‘meet’ you and thank you for your great (!) comment. I have a file I keep for quotes that truly resonate with me and I’d not heard of this one before: “He who asks is a fool for give minutes but he who doesn’t is a fool for forever.”

Very powerful. That’s a keeper. Thank you!

I agree and it can be the fear of mistakes that holds people back. I’ve written on fear a lot before and I can tell you this, when people talk regret they hardly ever regret trying, they merely regret fearing to do so since it holds them back (and in my argument, keeps them from a lot of challenge, excitement and ‘new’ opportunities ;-).

@Nathan: I hear you on 'fear' and I've written a lot on it. Because while fear is a very real emotion, many times--if not most times--the fear of the 'thing' is far, far greater than the actual 'thing'.

Hey, not all need to get into these tools--though I do encourage all to get into the "open and new" mindset being I find it makes life far more rewarding, exciting and, yes, renewed. But I'm just amazed that many of my friends and colleagues within interactive and marketing professions have been so adamant about not having (read: not making) time to learn anything new. While the mindset applies in general, I just find this specific example to be on point.

And thanks for chiming in and I'll just keep pushing my colleagues to make the time...maybe I'll succeed. I've found the old vs. new rational to succeed in several cases to date.

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