Jennifer Tucker
consultant, author

Jennifer Tucker

Consulting director, Otto Kroeger Associates. PhD in science and technology studies from Virginia Tech. Author of "Type and Project Management."


The grace of age

Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?

There are certain journeys we learn alone; growing older gracefully is one of them. Thankfully, most do not forge this path under the watchful eye of the Wall Street Journal. Bob Dylan, by being the legend that he is, is now under the microscope as he continues to share his gifts.

In the past few years, I've watched parents, mentors, and friends approach retirement, and there are lessons that emerge. The people who have navigated growing older most gracefully share two common characteristics.

First, they have a strong sense of self-awareness and the ability to see possibilities as they progress through life. Many have had successful careers that they are extending into new areas. A computer scientist now does web development for non-profits. A teacher continues service through causes like Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House. Their work today builds on the experiences of the past, but also opens new doors and relationships that bring both challenge and joy.

Second, they are able to regularly recalibrate their skills and interests with the needs of the world around them. Just as buggy whips became obsolete, we all have skills and approaches that grow less relevant to our trade as collective knowledge grows. Successful people are self-critical: Are our gifts still valued, or do we now appear out of touch to those that once hung on our every word? Are we pushing the envelope, or are we still selling the 32-cent stamp? Growing older and staying connected asks us to be wise to the difference.

I was raised with the sound of my parents playing their guitars and singing Bob Dylan songs. It is music that has touched generations, and is woven into the tapestry of time. His is a legacy to admire, not cut short.

We must each decide in our own place and in our own time when it is time to take that final bow. Let's give Bob Dylan the same grace.

By Jennifer Tucker  |  December 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and age Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Age is what you make it | Next: Chasing the dream


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Beautifully said- and understood.
Now can you please go give Virginia what's her name a clue?

Posted by: ohmercy | December 24, 2010 1:06 PM
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All these commentaries on the aging Bob Dylan are so upbeat, I thought I'd post a slightly divergent view. My wife dislikes attending "oldies" music concerts. Her logic is that she'd rather keep her fond memories of songs as they sounded when they first became popular. I'm a little more forgiving, but to a limit. We attend a fair number of "boomer-friendly" musical events including Aretha Franklin at Wolf Trap in the summer of 2010. God bless her, I wish her well with her current health problems. But she was seriously past her prime for that show. I certainly don't begrudge these older music artists the right to perform, but I think choosing modest venues, perhaps teaming up with additional acts, and promoting the performances as a lower key event would be appropriate for many shows.

Posted by: JJK33 | December 20, 2010 8:28 AM
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