How your 70’s could be your best decade ever
Jared Diamond became my hero recently. Not only did he have twins at the age of 49 (I had mine at 45), he also says his 70’s was his best decade of life.
Moreover, after an entire scientific career studying the gallbladder (seriously), he switched to writing popular books in his 50’s. All of his great books… they have been part of a second (or third!) act.
What do we know about second acts, and how can you make this current decade—even if you are in your 70’s—the best decade yet?
Why Jared Diamond Says His 70’s Was His Best Decade
I know Jared from reading his books.
Guns, Germs, and Steel is truly a paradigm shifting book. It describes why, through luck of geography, certain populations have come to concur other populations.
Next, Collapse is also an important book about why civilizations fail. Yup, they use up all their recourses and wreck their environment.
Sounds almost prescient? Not really, since a concern for his newborn boy’s (when he was 49) spurred his writing career. The climate challenge and resource depletion motivated him beyond gallbladders to study the end of the modern world due to environmental collapse.
He remains “cautiously optimistic” about the future. “Why have children if you are not optimistic?”
That is, he gives us a 51% chance for pulling through our current challenges.
While he is a great and popular author, the amazing thing to note is that he started writing in his 50’s. And his heyday, in his 70’s, was the best decade of his life.
How can we make the current decade we are in, regardless of our age, the best decade of our life?
How to Make Your 70’s the Best Decade of your Life
So, how did Jared make his 70’s the best decade of his life?
When asked what period of life he enjoyed the most… he said his 70’s. Now (at age 84), he wants to continue on with his work for another decade or two.
He credits his youth and curiosity. His youth was full of interests he didn’t pursue until late in life. Geography. Languages. Ecology. What were you interested in as a child that you can call on to make your 70’s your best decade yet?
And he knew he had to work for something greater than himself. In fact, he was literally trying to save the world for his twin sons. We all must find work for something greater than ourselves.
Find new passions and challenges and have your 70’s be your best decade yet!
Reflections on Youth
Jared knew he was going to be a scientist so he took Greek instead of science in high school. In college, he took non-science classes because, again, he knew he was going to spend the rest of his life doing science. What non-traditional classes did you take that aren’t part of your career?
His interests in his youth were multitudinous; he spent 40 years on one interest before moving on to others. A true polymath because he had interests, curiosity and time.
It is fascinating to understand that he studied the gallbladder because it was the simplest organ he could think of. He studied gallbladders in his own lab at UCLA, before closing it down and moving to the geography department. Meanwhile, he became a leading expert in ornithology because it was interesting to him.
Then he started writing.
How to Make This Decade Your Best Decade Ever
So how can you make this decade your best decade ever?
I described the happiness U-shaped curve in my bit about Investing During Mid-Life.
Happiness, in general, decreases from your teens until about 40, and then increases. That’s right! On average, you are going to be happier the older you get! Why not make this decade your best decade ever?
I’m not great on how-to lists, but using Jared as a reference. How to make this decade your best decade yet:
- Explore what made you curious in your youth
- What classes came easiest to you in high school that you didn’t pursue as a career?
- What electives did you take in college?
- Leave your career early to pursue your passion
- Use the above link and discover Ikigai
- Do something because it pleases you but helps others
- Find your passion in Retirement
Conclusion: My 70’s Are My Best Decade Yet
Jared left birds and gallbladders behind to explore topics that span all of human knowledge. He is an amazing synthesizer and a polymath genius. None of us will be able to do what Jared did, but he provides inspiration that you can make your 70’s your best decade yet.
I’m at the cusp of 50. Retired from medicine (soon) to stay at home with my kids, run this blog, and provide Advice-only retirement planning for DIY physicians.
Sounds like a good transition for a decade, after spending the last 40 years pursuing a career. What would I be if I didn’t go into medicine? In answering that question, I hope, I will find my best decade yet.
Jared Diamond says “the atmosphere is mixed just as microbes are mixed.” The implication is that the environmental crisis we all face is a larger issue than the covid one, and one we must figure out together as a world.
He had kids at the age of 49, and it spurred him to change his life, to remember his youth. Two decade later, he was having the best decade of his life. Yet he admits that he cannot use the remote control for his TV because technology.
What will you learn right now that will make this next decade the best decade of your life?