Once I hit my mid-thirties, I started losing track of my age. Sometimes I have to pause and think, and calculate the number of my rotations around the sun. Time passes by deceptively quickly. The months and days blend in with each other, and sporadically I have these startling realizations where I feel like I’ve been asleep and just woken up.
Like when, after spending 4 years abroad, I start reading the news and every article’s headline looks like it could be from the Onion. I swear to you, my Feedly at some point started looking like April Fools’ Day, every day.
Or when you start not being able to comprehend pop culture or music. And when the music you grew up listening to, becomes ‘old school’. Sigh.
Or like when I go to the gym, and everyone is younger than me. And I end up wrestling with high school kids.
Or when people who I think are not that younger than me, keep calling me sir. That happens, by the way, when you’re in your mid-to-late twenties. When it first happened, I was pleasantly surprised. Now I’m more disgruntled.
Or when you lose touch with some friends for a few years, and that new job or project they were working on whose name no one knew, ends up being on the headlines of major newspapers. And they become startup founders with huge exits, fund managers with billions under management, managing directors, directors, and start becoming the grizzled old guard. This is astounding and inspiring at the same time.
Einstein called the power of compounding the 8th wonder of the world, and it truly is. When you’re in school, everyone is kind of equal. You have standouts and geniuses, but you drink together, study together, sleep together. Shortly after graduating, you start seeing peoples’ paths diverge. Ten to fifteen years out, and you see people on opposite ends of the spectrum.
People who haven’t taken care of themselves end up with serious health problems. Some end up in jail. Others make fortunes. Others have almost fully grown kids. Still others completely turn their lives around from drug addicts or violent juveniles to successful businesspeople. It takes time, but the tiniest bit of compounding plays out.
I don’t know if it’s universal, but in my twenties I couldn’t even imagine being thirty. Now I’m in my late thirties but I definitely can imagine 40, 50. I wish when I was younger, I had fully appreciated this power of compounding. And believed in it. I would have made plans in 5- to 10-year increments. Because although they might have taken nearly a decade, the things that my friends and colleagues said they would become, they truly became.
What’s your next 5 to 10 years look like? It goes by in a flash.