The Maturity Gap

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Does your age make you any smarter?

I know some pretty stupid people who are cranking past 60, and I know some pretty impressive minds of people who are not even 25 yet. Still, I think maturity and experience does count for something. Many years ago, I sat in a corporate meeting with a brand manager who was in their mid-twenties. They were young, they were on the corporate track, they had a few small wins under their belt, and they were puffing out their chest in their new role. I watched this individual be condescending to an agency partner. That happens. You see it all of the time (sadly). The problem – from my perspective – it that the individual they were putting down (in front of everyone) is someone who is both highly-regarded in the industry, and has the resume and awards to back it up (a legend, if you will). This brand manager was new, and didn’t even know the people in the room (because they were too busy posturing). I’d prefer to blame the individual (and their insecurity) over their age, but it’s something that creeps back into my personal zeitgeist more often than I would like.

Experience takes times. Knowledge takes time. Wisdom takes longer.

We live in a 140 character world. We live in a world where the atomization of content is a reality. We click on links and float from content to content without a second thought as to the value that it might be able to impart on us, if we just took a moment to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Because this works at scale, it enables everyone to have a platform. Everyone to have thousand upon thousands of followers (whether there is merit to it or not). Attention gets more attention in this world. Book publishers are scrambling for the next big thing and that next big thing may be on Twitter pr Pinterest or Secret or…. And, even if they’re wrong, someone with a big following should still be able to pimp their own book to make it worth the investment from these book publishers. This doesn’t make the authors experienced.

A tale of two business books.

I am going to disappoint you right now, because I am not going to name names (sorry). I recently read two very different books from two very different authors in the non-fiction space. While these two authors come from very different backgrounds and attract two very disparate types of audiences (with little crossover), I kept getting a nagging, annoyed feeling while reading these books (which, for the record, have received tons of positive accolades in the media, etc…). I got worried that I was quickly floundering into the "get off of my lawn" twilight of my professional life. The point when you look at the world from a very skewed and jaded perspective of ones own dogma. I dug a little deeper into the bios of both authors and guess what? They were both in the 25 year old age range (or younger). Don’t get me wrong, I take no issue with that age. I remember being that age – full of energy and an "I can do anything" gusto (I would like to think that I still have it). Still, they were using a lot of phrases like, "in my experience…" or "if I have learned anything in life" or "I have made enough mistakes to know…" and what followed didn’t seem to match those words. The ideology, the thinking the advice was… flat… hollow… lacking depth… and more.

On maturity and wisdom.

It’s awesome that people like this have a platform, an audience and a book. It’s a wonderful and connected world that allows for this to happen. I just wish that we could (in some way) better be able to sort the wheat from the chaff in scenarios like this. Like I said, there are some super smart young people that are changing the world. They have something to say. We should listen. They are building the next great companies. They will solve the next series of global challenges. Still, all of that intellect, ideas and pontification will only get better with maturity and experience. All of that will culminate in true wisdom if nurtured in the best way possible. The challenge is that a lot of the current flow from these people is distributed in this strange absolute way. It’s sad (or maybe it’s just sad to me). Life is long. Being able to teach through experience takes time. Being able to reflect on ones experience to augment those initial thoughts takes time. We live in a real time marketing world, where if it didn’t happen right now, it may as well have never happened. That’s cool, but let’s not confuse something that just happened with experience. And, while we’re at it, I’m starting to get a little leery of life advice and advocacy from so-called experts who have yet to put the time, effort and more into their respective trades and lives to be truly deserving of public accolades.

OK, so now, do I just scream "get off my lawn!"?