By Mark Schaefer
This is going to be a bit weird and bit personal but it has been some time since I did something like that so here we go.
I was recently a keynote speaker at an international marketing conference. The event featured more than 100 speakers and thousands of attendees. As I looked around, I tried to size up the demographics — Who was there? What did they do? Where were they from?
And I had a chilling revelation. I was the oldest person there. By a lot.
I was the oldest speaker in attendance by at least 10 years and I began to wonder about my future and my destiny in a job category — digital marketing — that is a young person’s game.
BTW, I was also the highest-rated speaker at the event. So there. OG still brings the thunder baby.
In fact, I’m at the height of my intellectual powers. My blog has never been stronger. My business opportunities have never been greater, and my last book (“KNOWN”) was the best professional work of my life (until my next one!).
Still … I am probably the oldest well-known marketing blogger on earth, which means I will always own that status as along as I keep at it. What does that mean? I am in uncharted territory. There has never been a group of old bloggers before and I feel a bit alone. What does the end game look like? How long will I remain relevant? How will I know it is the end?
What happens to this blog and community and all this content … when I get old?
The current state
This is my birthday week, so naturally “age” and the end game are on my mind.
I want to assure you that I have no plans to retire. I don’t even know what that looks like.
Some people say when they retire they want to travel the world and write a book but I already do that. So, there is a legitimate theory that I am already retired and just don’t know it!
The main reason I don’t have any plans to stop is that I am having so much fun. Creating relevant content is an incredible intellectual challenge and I seem to have an endless wellspring of ideas. The very act of living is a process of idea creation.
I also believe that because of my age and experience, I occupy an unusual niche in the marketing world.
- I see patterns others don’t see.
- I connect dots in a unique manner that creates new ways of thinking about the business world.
- I can call up a nearly endless personal library of marketing experiences from an extraordinary career and use those tales to teach and mentor others.
- I am in a blessed position to inspire others and help them get clear about their lives and careers, which is more rewarding than money.
Literally, all of these things that I enjoy — all of the ways I am contributing to the world right now — could ONLY be obtained because of the years of experience I’ve accrued. In a weird way, my age has become part of my niche.
I’m the cool dad of marketing.
I do experience ageism. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes not.
A person who disagreed with me recently told me that I had a case of “the olds.” Arrrgh.
I come from stoic German stock so I’m not one to whine about such things. I’ve been looked down upon much of my life for one reason or another (long story for another time) and my style is to take the shot and keep going. Overcome and get it done.
Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes being older in our society isn’t fair. What’s the difference? You can’t dwell on this stuff.
Obviously the biggest challenge I face … and everybody faces … is obsolescence.
I had my first true old man moment last week. My son was showing me how he connected a lot of devices in his home to an app on his phone. That was so cool. And I thought to myself “Could you teach me how to do that?”
NOOOOOOO!!! That is an old man thought. That is a grandpa thought. “Teach me how to turn on my computer sonny.”
Is this the beginning of the end or relevance? Who knows.
At least at this moment I still feel vital and on top of things. Teaching helps a lot. The experienced grad-level student I teach at Rutgers University are incredibly sharp. I have to bring my A-Game as an educator at that level. So I think teaching will help me stay in the game and stay relevant … but time will tell.
The blogger’s end game
I have set no arbitrary timeline for the end game. As long as I’m having fun and people still think I add something to the conversation, I’ll keep on going I suppose. I think I’ll have the courage to know when to call it quits. Or, perhaps all of you will let me know when I’m irrelevant.
Alternatively, I wonder if people will like to have me around like an aging rock star because I have meant something to them in their lives. Maybe I will be the Keith Richards of bloggers.
The Rolling Stones have been together as a band since the dawn of the rock genre — 1962. Rock was just turning into a music form that could fill arenas and so the members of that band have seen a lot of firsts. Now, they are the world’s first old rock and rollers, just I am the world’s first old marketing blogger. I can relate.
They haven’t had a fresh hit record in decades but they’re truly beloved because they’ve been part of the fabric our lives for so very long.
I read an interview with Keith Richards and he was asked how long he could keep going. Now 74 years old, he replied, “Hell, if I were a blues musician I would just be getting started.”
And maybe so am I.
Mark Schaefer is the world’s oldest living marketing blogger but is remarkably well-preserved. He’s the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
Image courtesy Flickr CC and Raph_PH
Originally published at www.businessesgrow.com on June 4, 2018.