Sunday, September 16, 2012

Turning 50 doesn't mean you are past your prime

Extracts and with courtesy of Sunday Times, 16th Sept 2012

It's never too late to achieve success, turning 50 plus doesn't mean you are past your prime - many successful entrepreneurs were late bloomers.

The corporate world is no exception. We tend to idolise the extraordinary achievements of entrepreneurs such as Apple's Mr Steve Jobs and Facebook's Mr Mark Zuckerberg when they peak early in their businesses. But this leaves the impression that if we fail to achieve success by a certain age, we will never make it.

There are many success stories involving late bloomers. Fast-food chains that dot our island Kentucky Fried Chicken was started by entrepreneur Harlan Sanders, the "Colonel Sanders" whose picture featuring his distinctive trademark goatee and white suit still appears on the company logo.
After spending nearly a lifetime trying out various jobs without much success - working as a farmer, a steamboat pilot and an insurance salesman - he finally hit the big time when he was 66, promoting his style of frying chicken. Then there is the ubiquitous McDonald's which is usually located side by side with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Milkshake mixer salesman Ray Kroc was 52 when he came across a small, thriving hamburger shop in southern California. He offered to be the shop's agent and later bought out its owners. The business prospered in his hands and was transformed into the world's biggest fast-food empire, as its restaurants with their familiar bright yellow arches planted themselves all over the globe.

In the financial world, few traders are aware of the remarkable story of Mr Roy Thomson, the man behind financial data provider Thomson Reuters.
Mr Thomson was a moderately successful radio station owner in Canada when he moved to Scotland after he turned 60, when his wife died and his business partner left to enter public life. He went on to create a media empire, buying up newspapers such as The Scotsman and The Times of London and numerous book publishers. In 2008, Thomson Corporation, the company he created, took over Reuters Group to form Thomson Reuters.

Even in our own backyard, there are examples of businessmen who achieved extraordinary success after reaching an age many regard as past their prime.

One good example is banker Wee Cho Yaw, who, when he was in his 70s, led his bank United Overseas Bank (UOB) to successfully out-bid DBS Bank for Overseas Union Bank in 2001.
It turned out to be a transformational deal which cemented UOB's position as a leading lender in South-east Asia.

There is also the example set by 68-year old Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the owner of Thai Beverage, who is currently engaged in a fierce tussle with Dutch brewing giant Heineken for control of Asia Pacific Breweries, the iconic maker of Tiger Beer. At an age when most people are supposed to be playing with their grandchildren, Mr Charoen is giving this European giant a run for its money, as he presses ahead with an audacious bid to become a leading brewer in Asia's fast-growing but fractured beer market.

It promises to be a battle of epic proportions which gets even a hard-bitten newsman like me all fired up with excitement over the outcome of the fight.

So, rather than succumb to the de-motivating belief that it is too late for any of us to do anything after a certain age, we should tell ourselves: It is never too late. Not even if we have turned 90.

We need to change our mindset - and believe that any deterioration a person may encounter past the age of 50 is really all in the mind.

Many people find that life is a lot easier after turning 50 years old. Suddenly you know who you are and what it is you want out of life; there isn’t anymore having to find yourself. It also seems as if you have a lot more control over your life than you once did. When we are young we seemed to be taken along by the tide and may be pushed into directions that we didn’t intend on going, but once you are older you have enough wisdom to know how to go against the tide and be exactly who you want to be.

Just because you are turning 50 years old doesn’t mean you have to look and feel like you are 50. If you eat right and get plenty of exercise you will probably look and feel years younger than what you are. There is no doubt that you are likely to have a few more aches and pains than you did 10 or 20 years ago, but all things considering, 50 should be a time you are looking forward and enjoy life as you wish to and do what you had wanted but did not get a chance due to your work life and see what you missed out in the past.

Self-worth quotables :-

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”

“Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn't have the time to sit around and talk about you. What's important to me is not others' opinions of me, but what's important to me is my opinion of myself.”

“Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is believing you're worthy of the trip.”

“If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development.”

“Most lives are not distinguished by great achievements. They are measured by an infinite number of small ones. Each time you do a kindness for someone or bring a smile to his face, it gives your life meaning. Never doubt your value, little friend. The world would be a dismal place without you in it. (tweaked version of a passage from Scandal in Spring)”

“A diamond doesn't start out polished and shining. It once was nothing special, but with enough pressure and time, becomes spectacular. I'm that diamond.”

Courtesy of Straits Times, Sunday, 18 November 2012 

Don't call me old...      

Being over 50 does not mean being over the hill, with many of the over-50 set defying ageist stereotypes

In his last job, resident technical officer Lee Joo Mong cycled to and from work every day for six months. It was about 14.5km or an hour each way from his three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio to his worksite at the Pan Pacific hotel.

His current worksite, Credo Residences, opposite the Ang Mo Kio MRT station, is just a 15-minute walk away. So Mr Lee cycles 32km, goes home for a shower and then walks to work.

On Sundays, he puts in an extra 112km on his bike around the island.The 59-year-old, who is single, says older people should not slow down.

"In fact, we should put in more effort to maintain the same level of fitness we had when we were younger," says Mr Lee, adding that in his physically demanding job, "I can do anything my younger colleagues can do".

Members of the over-50 set SundayLife! spoke to decry the notion that people past a certain age should prepare for life in a rocking chair.

Ageist attitudes persist in Singapore, says Mr Dennis Heath, a Singapore permanent resident of 10 years, who wrote to The Straits Times Forum page. The executive coach observed in his letter, published on Nov 5, that employers think that workers who are over 50 are past their sell-by date.

The 58-year-old Briton notices four ways that the "over-the-hill thinking" manifests itself: "They think older people are not as fit, not as tech-savvy, that we demand huge salaries because of experience and that we are set in our ways and refuse to learn new skills."  The owner of his own coaching company since 2006 puts paid to such ageist notions with a busy work, sports and social life.

He cycles or walks most mornings and trains with a dragon boat team twice a week. He also works out with weights in his Bedok condominium's gymnasium at least once a week.

Evenings find him at a concert or a movie with his Singapore girlfriend, aged 42, a voice-over artist.
He also started two part-time careers at 55 - as a television actor and voice-over artist.
A telecommunications industry veteran of 30 years, he had come to Singapore about 12 years ago to do international sales for a software company. It was just before the dotcom bust of 2001.

"Within 18 months, I had stock options worth nothing, no job and one month's redundancy pay," recalls Mr Heath, then 47. He went job-hunting for about one year. "There were no responses and I don't even remember having interviews," he says.  Finally, a headhunter friend persuaded an outplacement company to give him a chance. "Even then, it took the headhunter some persuasion to get the company to see me," he says.  But he got the business development manager job: His years of global sales experience were a match, despite his age.

Ms Annie Yap, group managing director of human resource company AYP Asia Group, says that employers' assumptions of veteran workers' sell-by dates are "not entirely accurate".
Ms Yap, 41, adds: "We have come across senior employees who want to continue their careers while taking as much as half their previous salary but they are overlooked by employers because of their age."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser sees no reason that "50 is deemed to be old, given that current convention considers aged 65 and above as old".

Also, the "soft" retirement age of 62 is scheduled to be raised in the future.

In any case, age should not be the only consideration. He cites a running group, with whom he has jogged on Sunday evenings for close to 26 years. "The oldest member is close to 80 and he is still going strong, while someone in his early 50s has quit as he suffers from a serious knee problem," says Prof Tan.

At soyabean chain Super Bean International, where a quarter of its 550 employees in Singapore are older than 50, work has been streamlined so that each task - whether it is making pancakes or preparing soya milk - can be handled by anyone regardless of age.  Its managing director Kang Puay Seng, 52, sets an example - his younger colleagues often complain that he "walks too fast", he says, when they go to mega tradeshows abroad that are held in sprawling complexes.

Seniors SundayLife! spoke to say learning is important - at any age.

Ms Peggy Tan, a nurse of 25 years, received a World Health Organization scholarship to do a nursing degree at Curtin University at 42.  At 51, she received a scholarship from Nanyang Polytechnic, where she was lecturing, to do her master's in nursing at King's College London.

Now retired, the 68-year-old grandmother of three keeps busy planning monthly activities for the Australian Alumni Singapore as its vice-president.

Last Thursday, she organised a closed-door sales event for alumni members at a designer boutique.
The well-groomed Ms Tan has a piece of advice for seniors fighting ageist stereotypes. Sloppy dressing does not command respect.

She says: "I'm not the sort to go to the market in pyjamas."

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