Sunday, October 20, 2013
The Incredible Human Plateau
I've been busy helping out a friend in need. At first I thought I'd be doing one thing, but it turned out there were lots of additional things to do and ways to help, so I dove in and became a full-service friend.
I love feeling useful.
At one point my friend's mother asked, "Is there anything you don't do?" and in response I talked about my parents. How their immigrant position on Things-Needing-Doing was if you could figure out a way to do it yourself, you did it yourself.
Their approach was very "Nike", too, (and way before there was a Nike): Don't complain--just do it.
What I pondered on the long drive home from my stint as a full-service-friend was the lifespan trajectories of knowledge, ability, and means. When we're young, we're soaking up knowledge, we're gaining in ability, and we're figuring out how to pay for what we want. Our goals are all ahead of us.
As we get older, we (hopefully) get smarter, more skillful, and acquire financial balance, but at some point the benefits of what we've gained become compromised by what we're starting to lose.
They call middle age "over the hill" for a reason.
And once we're well over the hill--when we're achy and old, with wobbly legs and bad eyes--how do we apply all we've gained in life? People won't even listen to your wisdoms, and you can't really enjoy your money. Money's role becomes to make you as comfortable as an achy oldie with wobbly legs and bad eyes can be.
So where is the sweet spot? That hilltop where the view is great? That point on the graph where you've acquired skill and knowledge, and are comfortable enough financially to enjoy some of the perks of all your hard work?
My breakthrough with this mental graphing was to switch from hill to plateau. Instead of being a point, I mused, why not stretch the "spot" into a "line"? Maximize the time you're on top before you lose the ability to do the things you love to do. I started seeing that the trick in all this is to stretch that plateau out for as long as you possibly can.
So how do you do that?
Well, there are a lot of variables, of course, and everyone's situation is different, but I think the length of that plateau is largely tied to one's physical well-being. It's what allows us to still do when we finally have.
I'm not a fitness fanatic. People assume I am because of The Running Dream, but running (and now weight training) is something I do for my health (both mental and physical). I do need tricks to keep me sweating. I need encouragement, just like most people. Exercise is work. But graphing the trajectories of knowledge, ability, and means on my drive home encouraged me. Especially when I visualized stretching the plateau.
I am so gonna stretch my plateau!
They'll call me the Incredible Human Plateau!
Yeah, that's me!
I don't mind getting old. I just want to be able to put all the knowledge and skills I've worked so hard to gain to good use for as long as I can.
It really feels nice to be useful.