Ageism is Getting Old

Enough already with ageism.

I may be insensitive. But I’m not young. And ageism is just another card played from the ever-growing deck of victimhood. It’s another special interest. It’s childish and irresponsible because this is its underlying message:

It’s not my fault I’m (incapable of accepting the fact that I’m) getting older. It’s your fault for not hiring me.

Bullshit. You know what you, the world, and every employer in it owes me because of my advancing age, my hard-won experience, and my ostensible wisdom? Nothing.

Cry Me a River

I’ve been stewing on this subject for a while. But this did me in: “‘I was invisible’: How agency ageism affects those 50-plus“. And despite the agency-specificity of the article, the whining it manifests isn’t limited to advertising or any other industry.

SPOILER ALERT: Grab a box of tissues for what follows. You may want to keep a violin handy, too:

John Greiner-Ferris was at work in a Boston-based agency when a co-worker came around with a wagon of beer and Solo cups full of ice. The wagon stopped at every cubicle on the floor except his. Greiner-Ferris was 53. His co-workers were all under 27. “I ran through all the reasons in my head why I was singled out. There could be a lot to it. But then I realized there wasn’t, and it was just the most obvious one: I was old, and so I was invisible.”

What? No. At 53, you’re no longer one of the kids, Dude. Aside from what you see in the mirror, you know how you can tell they’re kids and you’re not? They put ice in their beer.

If you could have gotten your youth-envious mitts on one of those beers, you know what you should have done with it? You should have used it to chase this bitter pill: Life doesn’t owe you a living or perpetual youth.

Get over yourself. Get out. And get on with your life, not the life of the someone else you wish you still were.

You’re Driving

Unless you’ve somehow managed to manifest and be consciously aware of Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence in your existence, you’re going to take this test precisely one time. Unless your birth certificate came with guarantees of an ageless life with Peter Pan in Never-Never Land and endless fulfillment, your performance on this test is entirely up to you. And it’s pass/fail. So, here are your choices: Get on with it, or stay home.

If you choose to get on with it, I have three suggestions:

  1. Read this.
  2. Read this.
  3. If those don’t help, write to me.

The only differences between many other people and me are that I’ve been lucky enough to live past 50 and not yet lucky enough to live to 100. Other than that, if I can do it, you can do it — no matter how you define it. And as my maternal grandmother loved to say, “The first 100 years are the hardest.”

Nobody ever got ahead by looking back. And no ism in the world is going to preclude you from having to do the work required to get ahead.

So, let’s get on with this thing.

We have a test to pass.

Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brienhttps://obriencg.com/
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.
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John Dunia
John Dunia

You’ve laid out a fair case, Mark. Nevertheless, I can’t say that it is generally agree. Just like employers in the past didn’t want to hire women of childbearing age, employers have also chosen not to hire people because of the possibility of retirement.
Yes, the over-fifty person in your story certainly appeared to be “crying that river,” and that detracts from the awareness of this issue; but as long as the business mindset puts profit above the people who are earning it for them, there will be all kinds of “isms.”

Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.
Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.

Well, now that I’ve cleaned my keyboard up from the coffee I spit out with laughter, I can share my thoughts about this one, Mark. SPOT ON!!!!! Since I am now the old person that I once made fun of (back in the day), I can say without hesitation, there are two kinds of people in this world: the “life happens to me” folks and the “I make life happen” folks. The former will get by and do what they need to survive, but they won’t leave much of a mark.

The “I make life happen” folks take risks, make mistakes, grow, evolve, and make their presence known.
We all have a choice. We can let life happen to us or we can create the life we want to live.

Bravo, my friend!

Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett

Hi Mark, I wrote about this topic a few times. I agree. We must look forward no matter what is left in front of us. I feel most blessed to live at a time and a place where I can and will continue to find purpose and meaning. I appreciate you raising this thought-provoking issue in a direct but entertaining way.💖

Laura Staley
Laura Staley

Inspired by the lead of Dr. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Maya Angelou, Betty White, Julie Andrews, Mr. Fred Rogers, the Dalai Lama, and many ordinary people who continue to create and contribute until their last breath, I plan to follow suit. For me the party is just getting started. Found my voice. Found my passion. Found alignment. Got my sea legs and my surf board. Living in the Bonus Round. Utterly grateful for every single day I get to create and contribute to our world.

Thanks for this article, Mark.

David B. Grinberg
David B. Grinberg

Good points here, Mark. I think that’s the right attitude to take. I would just add that savvy companies make decisions about recruitment, hiring and advancement based on merit, talent and ability—rather than on superficial or discriminatory factors such as age or anything else. Companies that discriminate for any reason will just lose overlooked talent to the competition, not to mention being subjected to potential legal repercussions and bad PR.

Jeff Ikler
Jeff Ikler

Mark — As someone who got the handshake and a box of chocolates – I’m not kidding here – after working for the same corporation for almost 40 years, the proverbial puck went in the net when I read your excellent piece. This “stuff” is going to happen, and it’s going to happen for a variety of reasons: I was older, and I was expensive. But it could also happen for a variety of other reasons. My suggestion is to keep your eyes and ears open at any age. I saw what was happening in the ranks with other older, expensive folks, so I went back to school and got my coaching certificate. When my boss flew all the way in from London for a 5-minute meeting and an embarrassed handshake, I said “No problem.” I wasn’t happy about the way I was treated, but I was prepared.

So well written, Mark, as usual.

People First
People First

Your bio opens with “I’m a business owner.” that right there sets you apart from the majority of Americans … there is roughly one business in America for every 20 people … the other 19 have to either do what you did – but in all truth and honesty – they are ill-equipped – OR convince somebody in your position that they aren’t ‘done’ yet …. to overcome that requires those people to have an open mind – and they generally don’t.

I don’t disagree with your position that we do indeed need to get on with it … but that doesn’t necessarily get you a job.

Larry Tyler
Larry Tyler

Mark a very thought provoking article. Thank you for sharing. I made some of the most dynamic changes to the company this last year I worked there. At 67 I changed a big part of how they did business. I retired because I wanted to not because I couldn’t keep up. I say if you go out, go out in a blaze of glory and if your life is mundane or your candles is flickering. Stand up . be bold and be a dragon slayer. No one owes you anything. It is totally up to you how you engage life.

Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis

LOL! I love it when you have a strong opinion, Mark! You are very entertaining in your tirades. I want to shake the guy and tell him to chase the beer-guy down. Whining accomplishes nothing! 53 is NOT old (says the woman in her early 50’s). Good God… I feel like I’m just hitting my stride! It’s all in how you look at it, isn’t it friend!

Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks

Interesting, Mark … as an over-70 woman — two strikes against me, right? — I guess I could get caught up in that ageism thing. But I choose not to. I plan to be the youngest person in the room in many ways for many years to come, and if others don’t see it … yeah, so? Their loss.

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