Everyone has heard of the midlife crisis: that embarrassing thing that happens to middle-age men when they wake up one day and realize they don't like how their life turned out and then start behaving younger than their years, buying sports cars, leaving their wives for younger women and taking irrational risks. There is a female version as well, that involves the pool boy and expensive clothes.
This is a meme that has been around since the sixties. But memes not only reflect our culture, they also create it; because we know about midlife crises, we are much more likely to have one. It exists as a possibility for our brains. Well, it is time for a new meme that I will call the Midlife Leap. It is both something I have observed in people I know (myself included), as well as something I would like to encourage by putting it in people's minds. Hopefully, by knowing it exists, you can set one up for yourself.
The midlife crisis is an idea that arose in an era where people were expected to find their way in life early on and then stick to it, even in the face of obvious evidence that they were on the wrong path. You finished school, got a job, got married and then ideally stuck with both through thick and thin. If you jumped jobs often, it was considered a sign you lacked focus or dependability and was bad for your resume. Passion for your work, or even just not hating it, was not a consideration. Of course this set one up for later misery, as you can only toil at something you hate for so long before it becomes intolerable. You try to keep the lid on the pressure pot, but occasionally the pressure has to relieve itself, and out comes the irrational behavior.
Things are different now. Practically everyone (at least in the younger generations, starting with my own Generation X) is looking for their passion. This results in lots of job-hopping for many people, especially in the early years, which makes perfect sense. How will you find your passion if you don't try lots of things? But this can also lead to a lot of angst. Worry that you are on the wrong path and that the grass is greener in another field. This also makes it hard to build momentum. You have to start over with new organizations, new skills, and new networks. But along they way you get to develop a much more diverse set of skills, a broader and more diverse network, and the ability to adapt to new situations.
The MidLife Leap is the alternative to the midlife crisis. It is something that happens when you wake up one day and realize that everything that you have done up to this point has poised you for a huge leap in your life. It is where you wake up and realize that everything in your unique history has led you to a place where you can create a hockey stick curve in your trajectory, either in your career, in your personal life, or both. It is the result of an awakening to the potential that your past has given you.
I have seen this time and again with my peers, where after years of struggle, they suddenly hit their stride and then their success skyrockets. It almost always coincides with finding and embracing their passion. It almost always is the result of finding a way to leverage seemingly disparate skills in a unique way that is only possible for someone with your unique history.
The thing is, the set up for the Midlife Leap is not all that different from the midlife crisis. You wake up one day and realize things get to change, either because you are unsatisfied with where you've gotten or circumstances force you. (for a great example of this, read about lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes's Midlife Leap triggered by the end of his professional football career.)
The difference isn't in what you experienced up to that point, rather it's in the way you interpret your history and what it means to your future. In the crises version of events, you look at your past as wasted opportunities, dead-end paths and crushed dreams. With that viewpoint, you decide that you need to start over, return in spirit to an earlier age and do things differently, often alienating your friends and family because rejecting your past is rejecting them by proxy.
The Midlife Leaper looks at their past and sees learning opportunities, accumulated wisdom from the school of hard knocks and dreams still alive with possibility. It's the same history, just viewed through a positive light. You may have jumped from job to job, failing to find your path early, but now that you've tried 10 or 20 jobs, you have an amazing diversity of skills and have learned what you really like. Or you may have been unable to breakthrough in your job or business for years, but now you have deep experience that you can leverage, and the nuanced understanding of your field that only years of toil can generate.
The Leaper wakes up and suddenly finds themselves in the middle of success bigger than their past predicted, as they finally put together a formula that works. And it's not that they were slow or late to the party, it's just that it took the particular set of experiences to set them up for the Leap.
It doesn't have to happen by accident. Now that you have this idea bouncing around in your head, you can purposefully generate one in your own life. How? By actively seeking diverse experiences. By understanding that even dead-end paths will ultimately contribute to your ultimate success. By allowing yourself the time to piece together your own personal path to victory, and not getting disheartened when it doesn't come right away.
So there you have it, the Midlife Leap. It's available to you if you want it.