I'm Sixty and Compounding
by Dr John C. Maxwell
When I celebrated my sixtieth birthday, I found myself thinking about aging. It seems the older you get, the more life comes into focus. As leaders, aging allows us to separate the important from the unimportant, to appreciate more and reach for less, and to allow those who are younger to step up to the plate and learn their lessons. I look at my life and realize that I’m slowing down. I don’t have the energy I once had, and I simply can’t do as much as I once could. However, I also find that I’m entering a "compounding stage" in my life. I’m profiting from the investments I made when I was younger, and I’m reaping the benefits of decisions I made early in life and continue to manage to this day.
What Is Compounding in My Life?
Through the years, I’ve tried to see the best side of people. Looking closely, we can find flaws and defects in every person, but our relationships have a richer quality when we search for strength and beauty in the lives around us. I’ve sought to relate on a heart-to-heart level with those around me. The dreams and passions stored within hearts are powerful keys that can unlock a wealth of potential. To understand the mind of a person, look at what he has already achieved; but to understand the heart of a person, look at what he aspires yet to do. I’ve built bridges with those around me. I’ve stayed connected with others, linked my friends with helpful contacts from my network, and refused to allow conflicts to sabotage my friendships. Opening ourselves to others yields a satisfaction that’s missed when we surround our-selves with defenses. I’ve consistently strived to give more than I receive. Keeping score is for games, not friendships. Avoid feeling entitled when you give, and don’t be too proud to accept when another person acts generously toward you. I’ve tried to live for others. One is a little number, and when we live only for ourselves, we lead small and shallow lives. Selfishness is a destructive disease with unpleasant symptoms.
Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. My focus has been to influence those who are the influ-encers in religion, economics, government, family, media, education and sports. In my early years as a pastor, I had significant influence within church circles, but little else-where. As I’ve grown as a leader, I’ve learned to branch out and add value in additional areas.
At sixty, life begins to resemble a roll of toilet paper—the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. At fifty-one, a heart attack helped me to understand the precious value of time. Lying in the hospital, I remember thinking I had so much more to do, so much I wanted to give, but I didn’t know how much time I had remaining. Today matters more than we’ll ever know. Each second is a gift, and every day a treasured opportunity.
As you get older, time speeds up but life slows down. For example, in football, the decisions of the quarterback determine the effectiveness of the offense. When a quar-terback transitions from college to the pros, he will likely go through a rough stretch as he adjusts to the faster pace of play. However, after a few years of experience, the game "slows down" for him because he is able to speed up his decision making. Aging is similar. Even though everything around you appears to pick up speed, you can process experiences and prioritize what’s important more easily than ever before.
George Burns said it well: "When you stop giving and offering something to the rest of the world, it’s time to turn out the lights." The worth of our lives comes by what we give. What we keep, we squander. Look for ways to impart value, be generous with encouragement, and hand out hope to those you lead.
LegacyAnd most importantly, when you hit sixty, you start to see your legacy being formed. People will summarize your life in one sentence—pick it now! Don’t make your friends and family guess your life’s purpose at your funeral. Start living today the legacy you want to leave. Life is short, history is long. It is up to you to spend your time on pursuits that will outlive you.