Friday, August 03, 2012

David Brooks on the Joys of Middle Age

The most common question I have been asked lately is, "Why the hell did you agree to become department chairman?"  It is a bullet I have been dodging for some years, but I finally capitulated when the dean asked me this time. Why, at the age of 54, did I change my mind? David Brooks's wonderful column today offers as good an answer as any I have come up with.
Then in your 50s and 60s, you will become a sociologist, understanding that relationships are more powerful than individuals. The higher up a person gets, the more time that person devotes to scheduling and personnel. As a manager, you will find yourself in the coaching phase of life, enjoying the dreams of your underlings. Ambition, like promiscuity, is most pleasant when experienced vicariously.
You’ll find yourself thinking back to your own mentors, newly aware of how much they shaped your path. Even though the emotions of middle-aged people are kind of ridiculous, you’ll get sentimental about the relationships you benefited from and the ones you are building. Steve Jobs said his greatest accomplishment was building a company, not a product.