Why Nancy Pelosi and I are A Lot Alike

A couple weeks ago, young Luke Russert brought up the idea to Nancy Pelosi that perhaps she’s too old for her continued position of House Minority Leader.

Whether Russert is the “poster boy of media nepotism,” to which he’s sometimes referred, is not something I’m going to debate. But one does have to wonder of his level of sadomasochism that he would ask such a question in the presence of Pelosi’s 40 female colleagues, many of whom were among the record number of women recently elected to the U.S. Congress.

Pelosi handled Russert’s twerpy question with class. While every other woman pounded him with boos, she, in all manner of calm, sweetness and smackdown, responded, “Let’s for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it’s quite offensive. You don’t realize that, I guess.”

No matter which way you lean politically, you have to admire Pelosi. Or, at least, you have to give her credit. A woman holding some of the highest political offices in our nation is guaranteed to be two things: 1) über intelligent, and 2) comeback queen to a lot of crap.

In those two respects, it’s best to say Pelosi and I are not alike. In fact, we’re not even sort of alike.

But in other ways, we are. Like how she was a stay-at-home mom for her children (yes, I can attest that managing a house full of kids requires diplomacy and interpersonal skills). And how she didn’t start her Congressional career until her youngest was ready for college (for me, a treasured motherhood memory is my youngest son’s “hi mom!” every day in passing at the university we both attended). And how she’s discriminated against because of her age (uh, I work in graphic design…I say no more).

This rather inimical incident (for Russert, that is) brings to mind the discussion of the eras of our lives. And ageism. And productivity. Because we’re living longer and because, comparatively speaking, the years of raising children have become a smaller portion of our total life, we have much more time to ourselves. Since I’m one of those career late bloomers who enthusiastically hopes to work forever, this topic really interests me. Hey, it should interest all of us. If we’re living longer, we need to provide for ourselves longer. As good ol’ Seth Godin says “Fifty is the new thirty.”

So what are your thoughts on this?

What about questions like “Am I too old to be a designer?” Or an engineer? Or a teacher? Or the House Minority Leader? Most people who responded to this question insisted creative thinking does, in fact, increase with age and, no, we’re not too old to produce great work.

Do our life experiences, as Pelosi says, contribute to—and even add to—our productivity as we age? Of course it does. Steve Jobs agreed back in the 1990s when he said, “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Of course, design isn’t the only world in which we connect dots. There are dots in every aspect of life.

And then there are the Olderpreneurs. Or the Nevertirees. Whatever we call them, they’re the middle-age people and older who, like Dick Pyle, feel they still have much to contribute and “can’t really conceive doing nothing,” as he says on page 8 of Barclays Wealth. At age 60 he moved to France and started a truffle farm and wine retail/wholesale business.

What are your thoughts? Do you dream of being an Olderpreneur? What are your strategies for keeping the Russert biases at bay?

1 thought on “Why Nancy Pelosi and I are A Lot Alike”

  1. Decades from now Russert may well refer back to this incident as one of his big moments of learning. I should hope he does anyway. We all have them, some are just more public than others.

    As for dealing with ageism, as the ol’ cliche says: Age is a state of mind. I think there’s no better time to be aging than now. Baby boomers are paving the way for everyone following them. The opportunities are huge for those who are ambitious and innovative enough to grab hold of them. Sure, the economics are a bit of a drag right now, but working longer will keep us all younger!


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