When I was in my 20’s and knew everything I would wonder why anyone would listen to ANYONE with grey hair. They wrote books instead of blogs. They still listened to CDs instead of downloading music from Napster. They wore suits not hoodies. They were OLD. What real value could I get from them in this new Internet era. Business was different. They were just…old.
Well, it turns out that everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — gets old, even the bloggers.
I realized soon after my first company failed that I needed to understand the world of business much better. I needed to fill in the knowledge gap that was between me and the successful business owners that were 10 or 15 years older than me. The grey hairs.
You see, there are two types of grey hairs. There are those that get them and those that earn them. Let me explain.
Getting grey hair
If you live long enough, most of us will gradually get grey hair. You can be a passenger in this life and you will eventually lose your natural hair colour and go grey. It happens to us all. No amount of wisdom or hair die can hide the fact that hair turns grey. Getting grey means you’ve simply lived a life.
Earning grey hair
There are a few people that you already know with a partial or full head of stunning grey hair. This hair is different for some reason. It’s like they earned each and every one of those hairs. Each strand is like a blade of infinite wisdom. They’ve risen through the ranks, built empires and lived long enough to tell the tales. They are probably 50 but seem much wiser.
I didn’t realize the difference between the two types of grey hair — I would simply lump them all together and wonder why we hadn’t set them afloat on icebergs yet.
Then I started listening to the right grey hairs and began earning my own.
When I played team sports, coaches would also talk about finding the shortest path the ball/defender/puck. Think about an outfielder that makes a seemingly impossible catch. They didn’t follow the arc of the ball they ran towards where it should land. In a straight line. The straight line is the shortest path. It works in sports and it works in business. Grey hairs are the shortest path to understanding business.
Without a doubt there are over indexing younger people that are smarter than grey hairs. I’ve worked with many people half my current age and am blown away by their ingenuity and brilliance. Some of the smartest people I know are in their 20’s right now. Way smarter than I was at that age.
Grey hairs bring a level of calmness into the equation. Most of business is cyclical in nature. Ups and downs. New new NEW innovations that disrupt the world in one moment and then fall to the next new new new NEW thing. The underlying factor is that it is still business. The mechanisms may change but the fundamentals are the same. The techniques get refined but the outcomes are the same. The reach can be greater but the logistics are the same. Business is business no matter what the era.
Along with a high level of patience (not to be confused with being laid back), most of us have also learned how to control our ego. There is a time and place for ego to rise up but the same can be said for when to put it away and get down to work. Grey hairs are not around to inflate egos — theirs or others. I know when I speak with a younger entrepreneur that the help I offer is a voice of reason in the wilderness and just that. My words are not gospel they are a perspective from someone who has sat in that very seat and faced that very issue. Business is cyclical.
The right grey hairs act as the straight line between you and the ball. So before we all retire somewhere down in Florida and spend our days playing shuffleboard, find someone that has earned their greys and pick their brain. Remember, one day that grey hair will be you…