A couple of years ago I sat down with a bloke for coffee at Mario’s cafe in Brunswick Street,
Fitzroy. Mario’s has been an institution for a long time and still serves one of the best coffees in Melbourne – and is one of those cafes that is still traditional in the sense that it doesn’t serve large coffees and NEVER serves it piping hot! Soy!? You have to be joking.
All this has nothing to do with my meeting! My companion was a thumping big man with a heart of gold. His big paw engulfed mine and before we got down to business he stared down at me and said, “Have you done your best work yet?” This pinned my ears back a bit as it came at me unexpectedly – and it was challenging. I stumbled out with a couple of lame positives – “good footy career, well-balanced and loving children” and I think my general answer was “Yeah.”
But he eyeballed me again and said, “Have you done your best work yet?” This time I stumbled through “successful business career, loyal friends” and thought I was over the line. And then he issued the coup de grâce: “Have you done your best work yet?” and finished with: “This is a Yes or No question.” It was then that I realised I was answering NO. I hadn’t done my best work yet. Indeed the fact that I hadn’t done it, had eaten away at me for many years and was the cause of much of my malaise in earlier times. LifeAgain was a way of redressing this, of filling that gap in my heart.
I immediately started asking others the same question and, by and large, my male friends said “No.” Many, if not most, had careers – past or ongoing – which by any measure could be interpreted as successful. They were often achievers and outwardly seemed to have great works in all aspects of their lives. Interestingly, women were more likely to respond with a positive and that makes perfect sense. They have been the bearers and nurturers of children and that in itself can be interpreted as ones “Best Work”. And so it is.
But whether it is the male ego or whether it is in the depths of our souls, there is often emptiness in men’s lives. In an article that appeared in a Harvard Business Review Special Issue in 2005, Peter Drucker said most work today is knowledge work and knowledge workers are not “finished” after 20-odd years on the job; they are merely bored. Midlife crisis is mostly boredom. One of the key activities is to develop a parallel career, usually in a non-profit organisation that takes another 10 hours a week. One prerequisite for managing the second half of your life: you must begin long before you enter it. Now many readers may think this advice comes too late for them, but – it’s never too late. In giving ourselves to others and to the community as a whole without financial reward we will discover the missing piece in our lives. We have so much to give.