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Finding The Fountain Of Youth

Keeping a young perspective in business

This article is Part 2 of  “Why I Was A Whole Lot Older Than I Am Today.”

The Fountain of Youth has captivated and eluded explorers since the fifth century B.C. It was said that drinking or bathing in its waters would lead to extraordinary longevity, perhaps even immortality. In the 16th century, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon spent years searching for the Fountain of Youth, ending his expedition in what is now Florida in 1513. [1] 

Though its existence has long been accepted as disproven, the truth is that the promise inherent in a fountain of youth resides all around us. Its benefits derive not from one source, but from countless sources.

Here are two alternative sources to the Fountain of Youth that I’ve found somewhat later in life:

Take a Semester to Teach. Several years ago, I accepted an offer to teach a Business Law course for the Johns Hopkins MBA program. I thought it would be easy, given the fact that I’ve been practicing business law for quite some time. It was not.

Learning is one thing. Learning well enough to be able to teach and answer questions is quite another.

By teaching a course to those largely unfamiliar with business law, I was forced to explain things at a basic level that lay at the heart of my craft. More important, I had the opportunity to see the world from my clients’ perspective. If I couldn’t teach them, I couldn’t help them.

By teaching others – not just in a lunch and learn, but throughout a semester – I became more patient and I became a better listener.

You’d be surprised, I think, to find how many opportunities there are to teach for those who have real world expertise in a certain subject. We are blessed to live in an area and an age with limitless possibilities for learning. With that comes limitless possibilities for sharing one’s knowledge.

All you need to do is open your eyes, widen your focus and look.

This coming semester, I’ll be teaching an undergraduate course in Public Speaking at Towson University. I think I’ll leave there younger still.

Seize the Opportunity to Learn Widely. Most people take the time to study narrowly. They take a course here or attend a workshop there. Most of their time is spent delving further into their own field. They brush up on their skills and listen to industry experts.

I know. I’ve taught and taken more courses like this than I could count – and the result is a narrowing of vision.

Call it “professional cataracts.” You see what you expect and are expected to see. As time becomes more limited, only the courses that teach material in our straight-ahead paths are considered as options.

Time is spent and vision is narrowed further still.

Unfortunately, what lies unseen on the fringes is another vestige of the Fountain of Youth. It lies in areas that largely go unexplored, or at least have since college.

Remember when you would thumb through the course book and take a flier on that one class that looks interesting and had absolutely nothing to do with your charted course in life?

You were young then. And you need to go back.

Take a course – not a class, but an actual course – in something completely divorced from how you earn your paycheck.

For me, it was and continues to be improv comedy. For others it could be Renaissance poetry, the wines of Thomas Jefferson, smooth jazz or learning to fly a single-engine Cessna.

It may not happen for everyone, but for me, I’ve been amazed at how much something totally unrelated to my field can enrich and inform my approach to what I do every day.

We learn to hear better when we hear more. We learn to see better when we see more.

Exploration is the activity of youth. So explore.

[1] I’m confident that the irony of searching for the Fountain of Youth in Florida has escaped none of my readers.

 

Since I posted the first piece, about growing younger, I’ve had a lot of people email to tell me how much they enjoyed the article. Several told me their thoughts about how they, too, have become younger.

I love those emails and wish I saw more of them.

So, let me know what you do, not just to recapture youth, but to actually do youth better.

Not only would I love to hear from you, but I bet others would too.

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