How we become more impatient as we enter our sixties.
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My daughter came home for a visit recently. During the course of our conversations, she made the observation, “Dad, you’re not as patient as you used to be.” This caught me off guard, and in reflection, she was right. Whereas I was more tolerant years ago, now I am more black and white. At first, I dismissed the subject until I happened to consider the state of some of my friends locally who are also displaying the same characteristics, and we’re all in our early sixties…
I have a doctor friend who has been practicing internal medicine for a number of years. He has always been a kind and professional doctor who genuinely cares about the patients he treats. In the last few years though he has been overwhelmed by government bureaucracy which is preventing him from practicing medicine. New government regulations pertaining to the maintenance of patient records, Medicare/Medicaid, and now the Affordable Care Act is frustrating and causing him to dislike the profession he used to love, thereby making it a tremendous burden. It has gotten so bad, he is considering taking an early retirement, as are many other doctors like him who are fed up by obnoxious government regulations.
I have another friend who is a restauranteur and is also burning out due to government regulations. In addition, he has problems with personnel, particularly between cooks where a rift is brewing. Even though my friend has tried to iron out the differences, a change is likely in the offing forcing one of them to leave. This will cause my friend to hire yet another person and teach him the proper way of cooking according to his standards. Feeling harassed and frustrated, my friend constantly laments it is time to “pack it in.”
Another friend, a salesman, has been with his company for over thirty years. He has been the top salesman for many years and until recently sincerely enjoyed his job and company. His trademark for success was a professional attitude, customer service, and a line of top rated products at reasonable costs. However, the company began to change its corporate culture a couple of years ago and a line of new young managers were put into authority. Suddenly, things like professionalism and customer service were considered passe and replaced by a “bean counter” approach to management. He too is ready to move on to new pastures.
As for me, I have been a management consultant in the area of information systems for nearly forty years. I am proud of our company’s accomplishments, but the Information Technology field has changed. It is no longer a matter of doing what is right, but what is expedient. They also tend to think small, not big. As someone who is hired to tell people what is wrong with their business, and offer a solution, I grow weary watching people commit the same mistakes over and over again. I see this in both commercial enterprises as well as nonprofit organizations which are run by some well meaning people who haven’t a clue as to how to run a business. I am often asked why I keep beating my head against a wall.
More than anything, the frustration factor is caused by repetition. Think about it, over the course of our professional lives we have knocked on many doors, met and talked to hundreds of people, made a few thousand pots of coffee, traveled thousands of miles, wrote a ton of letters and e-mails, and always got up at the crack of dawn even when are bodies yearned for more sleep.
We have experienced great joys in our lifetimes, such as anniversaries, watching the birth of our children and how they grew into adulthood, with graduations and weddings along the way. We’ve been pleased to win a new contract, make a sale, or solve a problem that nobody else could. However, we’ve also experienced tragedies as well, such as a firing or demotion, losing a sale, accidents, and the death of family and friends. Due to repetition, holidays have lost their novelty and are viewed as burdens as opposed to joy.
Experience teaches us what works and what doesn’t. Our strong sense of history makes it frustrating to watch others commit the same mistakes you made. Consequently, we do not like what we see in business, in politics, and society in general. From this, we are all too willing to speak out, and offer our opinion, good or bad, and whether or not it was solicited.
Some would argue we resist change as we get older. I would argue, we readily accept changes that obviously help us, but resist what appears to be change for the sake of change. In business, many such changes are implemented based on naivete or ignorance of the past, and this is what my age group stubbornly resists. We also have trouble digesting unnecessarily complicated changes. For example, producing a system of medicine whereby the doctor spends more time completing patient records as opposed to practicing medicine, restaurants which are forced to reorganize kitchens over a minor health infraction, or using an order processing system that extends delivery as opposed to shortening it.
Over time, frustration builds up. Even though you bit your tongue for many years in order to maintain harmony, you can no longer help yourself in complaining about a situation, large or small. You feel entitled to complain based on your years of experience. There is only one problem though, you tend to turn people off and label yourself a dinosaur when you begin by saying something like, “Back in the day…”
Many of the changes we are getting are due to someone else’s complaint or registered grievance. Yet, when you complain, you are considered the problem in the way of change.
You also find you have to vent your frustrations, be it with a person or an inanimate object. The sad thing is, the inanimate object always wins the argument.
Such frustration is causing people of my age group to scream, “Enough is enough!”, which explains why a lot of people are ready to pack it in. However, in our eyes, we see ourselves as the child who exclaims, “The emperor has no clothes!” We deliver advice in the hopes people will not commit a mistake, or to point out techniques and tools that have been proven effective, and are frustrated when it falls on deaf ears. Our choice is simple, register a bitch or back off which is something we dislike immensely.
Yet, I suspect this phenomenon is not unique, that it has been going on since time immemorial. Being in our early sixties, we still have a dance or two left in us. It is not that we are physically tired, all my friends are still capable of performing their jobs. Instead, we grow mentally exhausted watching the world commit the same mistakes. Maybe this is nothing more than the passing of the torch.
So, yes, my peers are tired of the BS and are willing to tell people so. This leads me back to my daughter’s original observation; Yes, I am not as patient as I used to be, and for good reason!
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain
Keep the Faith!