In all honesty, I didn't plan the timing of this post. It's such a coincidence, though, that I have to share it with all of you.
Fred got a whole bunch of people up in a tizzy recently when he asked about age and its impact on entrepreneurial talent. Included in the backlash were Dave Winer, Scott Karp, Steven Hodson, and a host of others who commented.
I didn't have much to say about the topic so I commented lightly. I appreciate a diverse workplace where both youth and experience are present. Younger people tend to pay less attention to boundaries so their fresh look and lack of fear lends itself well to taking risks and coming up with some great solutions. Ironically, I like to think about myself as a young 39 and am often outspoken and looking for some great alternatives to the norm. Experience, on the other hand, tends to balance risk with results – often times thwarting disaster.
As a Product Manager, the risk that I present isn't only with my company. Risk that I assume is passed on to the 6,000 clients who utilize the software and beyond to their companies. That's a pretty hefty piano hanging from the roof, so I want to make sure the ropes are secure and the knots are all tied before we decide to move it into place.
Today was different. When I set some boundaries today on resources and a project, I was faced with someone sarcastically saying, “Okay, Dad!”. Though it was meant to insult, I actually shrugged it off quite calmly. If there's a single thing I'm most proud of in my life, it's been being a great Dad.
I have two kids who are happy, don't get in trouble.. with one accepted into college with a scholarship and the other that most recently won the “Ghandi Award” in her school. Both are talented musically – one singing, composing, and mixing music… the other a fantastic actress and singer.
So, my younger colleague at work should probably have come up with something different than “Dad”. I like the term “Dad”. If I sounded like a “Dad”, it was probably because I was handling a situation that was reminiscent of having to discipline a child. Ironically enough, I seldom have these situations with my own kids.
Age and Work
Does this change my opinion on age, business, and entrepreneurialism? Absolutely not. I still believe that we need the fearlessness of youth to push the limits of what we can achieve. I do believe that many professionals become a little more tolerant with age and tend to coast within the boundaries that are set. I admire dissent, though I still believe in respect, responsibility, and boundaries.
The lessons I teach my children are that I've been where they are before, I've made the mistakes, and I look forward to passing on the wisdom I've learned. That doesn't mean they have to follow in my footsteps, though. I love the fact that my daughter is on the stage when it took me years to gain that confidence. I love the fact that my son is heading off to College when I headed off aimlessly to join the Navy. They surprise me every day! Part of it is because they recognize the boundaries, they respect me, and they know they have the freedom to do what they would love (as long as it doesn't hurt them or someone else).
I hope my “kid” at work can learn the same thing! I have no doubt that he'll be able to surprise the company and have a huge impact, but first things first… recognize and respect the experience that's there and understand the boundaries. After you've done that, surprise everyone by blazing a new trail in a direction nobody has ever thought about. I'll help you get there! After all, what's a “Dad” for?
PS: Next year, I'd like a Father's Day card… and perhaps a tie.