Boundless Potential was the perfect book for me to read eight months into this crazy challenge to read a book a day and blog about it. I really had no idea what I would accomplish, aside from dodging unpleasant reality for several hours a day, catching up on my sadly-neglected reading and doing something I have always loved to do. I suppose I hoped reading so much would make me a better writer or expose me to brilliant prose stylists or introduce me to literary wonders I might otherwise have missed. All true–and not true–I’ve consumed a fair amount of mediocrity with the brilliance, forfeited a serious amount of time, and the jury is out about my own writing. But one thing I can claim is regular collisions with invigorating wisdom. Mark S. Walton has put into words what I knew in my gut and sometimes in my multitasking brain as well.
Reinvention is the word-of-choice in this nonfiction look at people who have created new opportunities for themselves later in life. Walton believes, and sets out to prove, that our old idea of career and retirement is ridiculous. We live longer, for one thing. There isn’t enough accumulated wealth to bankroll multi-decade retirements, for another. Our economy no longer offers sufficient for-pay work for everyone and the older unemployed are unlikely to find jobs. Americans harbor a distinct prejudice against older workers and don’t hire them or even accept their talents for free.
But neuroscience and evolution expose the fallacy in that kind of thinking. Workers at fifty, sixty, seventy and well beyond are turning out some of our most important art, scientific breakthroughs, social and health innovations, and significant work in every measurable area. Nonagenarians are just as vital as their twenty-year-old great grandchildren. And remaining vital by pursuing employment in a valuable activity (not just chipping divots on a golf course) and engaging in work that contributes to the world. Real work is a prescription for a longer, healthier and more satisfying life.
Boundless Potential isn’t just a reassuring book–it’s an important book. It chronicles the mindshift we foot-drag toward and shows how reinventing yourself for the last half, third or quarter of your life is the only smart strategy. I can attest that skill, experience, talent and a track record of prestigious positions and awards count for squat in the age game. But I loved reading about people with solid resumes tossing them overboard to create new realities–and succeeding beyond anything they imagined.
Reading this book will give you new respect for granny and the groundbreaking company she is about to start. It will guide your strategizing, at any age, about your own longterm career goals–certainly a different game board than the one we all used to play on. It will introduce you to some spectacular people who reinvented themselves and produced spectacular results. And the research will have your back as you are starting your own new venture–pretty much your only choice in an age-phobic and shortsighted society which may end up benefitting hugely from the efforts of its elders, despite itself.
Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond Mark S. Walton | McGraw-Hill 2012