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.


Kylie said...

My least favorite feeling in the world is when everyone is doing something and I am doing nothing. I don't want to be doing nothing, I want to be doing something, no matter who small it is.

I like your idea of the plateau. I think that Hudson it a good example of someone that thinks of it as a plateau and not a hill.

I think from now on I am going to think if it as a plateau rather than a hill. Why should the middle of your life be seen as the best time of your life? Shouldn't it be what you think as the best time of your life? Shouldn't you live your whole life like it is the best time of your life?

I guess that I will be pondering this for the week.

Have a great week everyone!


Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Thanks, Kylie. Pondering is good! I will continue to do so, too!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Yes, pondering. There are flaws in my analogy. It's not that I want to plateau on knowledge. It's the physical well being I'm trying to stretch out. Don't want to be "the mind is willing but the body's not able," if I can help it.

Kylie said...

For the past few months I have watched my dads 50's and over league softball games and those games are some of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. When you hear 50's and older most people think it is a bunch a 50 year olds, a dozen or so 60 year olds, and a few 70 year olds. In my dad's league majoring of the players are older than 70 and there a few in their lower 50s. The older player is 87 and when he hits that ball he flies off the base. I love these games because the guys don't call it quits after a certain age. They keep playing because they love the game and they aren't going to let a thing like age stop them.

Caradith Craven said...

Wendelin, you could never plateau on knowledge with that razor-sharp mind of yours that you constantly exercise (along with your body) to write, create, inform, and challenge those around you to reach their full potential.

Jessica said...

I like the idea of the plateau. I've found that those who just accept "normal" aging and don't do anything to take care of themselves seem to age much faster. I get so inspired at local races to see the "80+" age category winners, or all the older adults at my parents' gym. Sometimes you can't help getting injured or sick, but if you're as healthy as you can be, your prognosis will be better. And you'll be able to enjoy life more. I guess I should be glad I enjoy so many types of exercise.

Marjorie said...

Another awesome blog to keep us on our toes and in this case not trying to see the end of the line but to follow it ..wherever it leads us. I have been to the top and was looking down but thanks to your analogy, I have the ability to keep looking and discovering. Thanks sweetie and as always

Rayyan Latif said...

I have finally worked up the courage to post on this blog. First of all, I loved the Killer Cruise (i mean, aren't crazy billionaires awesome?). Second of all, did the show decorating just suddenly come up, or did I miss something in the earlier books? Last of all, I can't wait till the Kiss Goodbye, but it makes me sad that such an awesome series is ending... :( Will there be some follow-up books after the Kiss Goodbye? I can't bear the thought of living without a new Sammy Keyes.....