Avoiding Displacement

Getting older doesn't mean becoming less relevant. (Excerpt from Have Fun, Get Paid: How to Make a Living With Your Creativity)

Age is a double-edged sword. As it increases, we gain experience, wisdom, and expertise. In the youth-oriented culture of the creative arts, however, it’s also a liability. Industry moguls are often looking for the next new thing. They assume that this can only come from the young and thus dismiss anyone who isn’t that. Advantage: youth.

That’s not the end of the story, however. Ask any young person who’s just starting out about the difficulties that they encounter and you’ll hear a common refrain. The room is always crowded, filled with the existing players who have established themselves and thus get all the really good-gigs. The young have no track record, no connections, and more often than not, no street smarts when it comes to how things work. You’ll hear constant grumbling about how tough it is to break into the business. They’re being pushed aside by the older players who have learned how to protect their turf. Advantage: age.

The average career curve based on youth is common, but it’s not an immutable law. Stan Lee is still working at ninety years of age. The Rolling Stones began life as twenty-something kids immersed in the rebellious, youth-oriented culture of 1960s rock-and-roll. Mick Jagger is seventy. He doesn’t care if you think rock is for the young. He’s too busy performing to huge auditoriums of fans.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to enjoy success your entire life. Consider what life looks like when you’ve spent decades going out of your way to help people, asking for nothing in return other than the fun of seeing others learn, grow, and do well.

It’s likely that the people who benefitted from your actions and advice are on the curve behind you, still on their way up. Additionally, if you’re still living the way you always have, you’re reaching as far behind you as possible to give someone else a leg up. If your art suddenly falls out of favor and jobs become scarce, what sort of reaction do you think your friends will have?

In some cases, the people you helped will have no power to return the favor. That won’t stop them from talking about you, and word gets around. A gig that came about through the friend of a friend of a friend is a gig nonetheless.

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