When I was half my age, I used to believe that idea from Robert Frost.
Now, I’m more into the “in length” part of life’s cycle.
But I was reminded twice yesterday how the world can change long before it enters us.
I was on the phone with an old friend Dr. Joe MacInnis, and we were talking about what everyone talks about these days.
It’s easy to think Joe has spent most of his 30,000 days and half a billion heartbeats underwater. He was the first person to explore the ocean beneath the North Pole and among the first to dive to the Titanic. He was the medical adviser for James Cameron’s National Geographic science dive seven miles down into the Mariana Trench.
I mentioned to Joe that at noon I was hosting Jared Diamond for our first RamsayTalk Online – and that I wanted to make sure Diamond was up for speaking 45 minutes to a screen. After all, he’s 84.
“Bob, I’m 83.”
With that, our conversation shifted gears entirely. We talked about being old and living in the middle of a huge sadness, about having to avoid other people because you’re old.
He has a theory that the pandemic is changing the rules around leadership. True leaders these days display three qualities: deep empathy, deep eloquence and deep endurance.
Deep empathy is a molecular feeling for the team, the task, the technology and the terrain. “Whether you’re in a submarine or an ER, these people understand themselves and what they need to do. It’s often unspoken and in the tightest spots, unconscious.
Deep eloquence is the ability to persuade others that your version of reality is worth creating. To do this, especially in a crisis, you need to be articulate, brief, humble and clear.
In order to command the moment these days, you have to command the language. Not in the old empire kind of way. But a new kind of command. Think Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Cuomo, not Boris Johnson.
Deep endurance is not just plodding on despite all odds, though that’s part of it. It’s honoring the truth of what you learned to believe and value long ago. And at age 83, you have a very different view of how far that endurance can take you than when you’re 43. So it’s no surprise that Joe is working on a new book, planning to join future National Geographic expeditions, and kayaking for a couple of hours each day just to stay fit.
Joe MacInnis was likely infected with the optimism virus at birth. But you don’t get to 83 without the tragedies and disasters that afflict us all.
He’s sad for the world, and especially for the climate.
But there’s a quality to Joe.
He’s not only still “in the game”.
In many wise and wonderful ways, he is the game.