Inspired by old(er) men

So here I am almost 65; my doctor tells me the time has come for colonoscopies, prostrate exams and other essential routines for the aging.    I ended my CEO role at iDE this year, and it was said that I was retiring, along with the implicit expectation that useful life is drawing to a close.  Not sure that I am prepared to accept that; and to bolster the argument,  I find plenty of inspiration from men somewhat older than I am!cohen

I will start with 78 year old Leonard Cohen.  We paid a fair amount of money to sit in the second row at a recent concert.  It was worth every cent to hear and see him perform – a concert which lasted over three hours!  I doubt there was a song which I had not heard often before; he moved around the stage with ease, bowing to the audience, dropping to his knees at times and generally giving the audience the impression that we were the most special and important audience he had ever performed for.

We were both a lot younger when I first began to listen to Cohen; his assertion that “there’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in” has always been comforting when not every endeavor went according to plan.  (Not sure what it means to “first we take Manhattan, and then Berlin” but it was fun to live in Germany and to contemplate the latter).  I find his recent exploration of impending mortality in his album “Old Ideas” to be both cathartic and inspiring.

I also listened to 79 year old Willie Nelson this year.  Loved his album “Heroes”.  In “Come On Up to the House” he invites us to “come down off the cross – we can use the wood…”  No room for self-pity in his paradigm – only the dedication to producing beautiful poetry and music as he approaches 80.  There is a longing for salvation as sings “Come back Jesus and pick up John Wayne on the way.”

And then there was the Neil Young concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  Neil is only 68 but still plays his guitar as though he was 20, and still is committed to “Waging Heavy Peace”.  I might be a little biased because of Neil’s Winnipeg roots (at least for a while), but mostly I am impressed that his commitment to inspiration just doesn’t stop.

It isn’t just aging rock stars who have inspired me.  The iDE board has a number of near octogenarians, including Jack Keller, Lester Woodward, Paul Polak, Norm Fiske and Bill Fast.  Jack Keller is the most senior, but his mind is sharp and his professional engagement is awesome.  Lester Woodward has an amazing combination of good humor and solid wisdom.  Paul Polak reckons to still establish four multinationals each with 100 million poor customers and $10 bn in sales.  Norm Fiske has the ability to comprehend even the messiest financial statements in but a few minutes.  Bill Fast has an indefatigable curiosity that keeps him involved in venture after venture.    I don’t think that any of these five own rocking chairs; if they did, they wouldn’t know what to do with them.  Each of them inspire me.

So no retirement for me – just the space to do interesting things.  A little more exploration of markets.  A partnership with my camera lens.  The company of other old(er) men.

Al Doerksen

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About Al Doerksen

I'm sort of a vocational tramp; my working career divides about evenly between non-profit and the business worlds. I have lived in Mexico, India, Germany and Canada, and now USA. I've had the good fortune to travel to 90 countries of which at least half are developing countries. The last 25 years of my "career" have involved significant (and enjoyable) international management challenges: travel industry, furniture manufacturing, food (aid) programming and ultraviolet water treatment among others. I'm now leading a development enterprise called IDE.
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3 Responses to Inspired by old(er) men

  1. doradueck says:

    Good reminder, Al! I’m inspired by some of your examples as well and have also been mentally compiling a list of older women whom I admire for their vitality and ongoing contribution. Hillary Clinton comes to mind (not that she’s that much older) and older writers like Alice Munro, P.D. James, and Mavis Gallant.

  2. Viola says:

    Hmm, and I’m musing over turning 50 this year – something which has also set me up for some intentional looking at what I’m doing with my life. Not a bad thing, I’m grateful for what I have today and have already experienced to this point, and want to make the most of my tomorrows, with eternity in mind. One needs to live with purpose and intentionality. So, cheers to 2013 Al!
    Your “little” sis, Viola
    P.S. You are the inspiration to those that are coming behind you…

  3. Martha Harder says:

    Thanks for the blog. We have been at this “retirement” thing for a few years now and find ourselves more busy than ever. A good thing that helps us is to laugh lots and expand our lives with more friends outside our usual church culture.

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