Fifty Beyond and Counting
I was moved by the recent interview with Professor Dame Carol Black sharing her views leadership and on turning fifty and how this was the age where she felt most confident and comfortable to take risks.
This morning on my way back in from my morning walk I turned on the radio in the car to hear Kirsty Young interviewing Professor Dame Carol Black on Desert Island Discs. A smile came over my face as I love listening to Kirtsy’s interviews with her cast away’s and always, always no matter who she is interviewing I leave the conversation with something of value.
Today was no different. Minutes before I had spent an hour sitting in Gail’s Bakery writing in my journal and had finished my morning entry with a question to myself: What is the healing thing for me to right now given the situation I am faced with? Questions can be a provocative way of growing and developing through journaling and no sooner had I asked myself the question, ideas and solutions came tumbling down on the page.
So by the time I got to the radio interview with Dr Carol Black I was already feeling juicy but was struck when in the first few minutes or so of the conversation Kirsty asks Professor Dame Carol Black about her ability to take risks to which she replies, “The most satisfying risks have been about my career. I was very bad at doing it in perhaps the first fifty years of my life and then I got very much better as I got older I realized I could take risks and the world wouldn’t fall apart.” I felt she was speaking directly to me.
I am in my mid fifties. I have seen and done a great deal but recently it feels like I am at another crossroads in my own life and career. I commented to a friend recently that I felt very underused, on some levels over looked and it was beginning to tell on me. The question in my journal was on some levels getting at this nagging feeling. So when I heard her say the above my ears pricked up.
So I was delighted when Kirsty Young the presenter (which makes her such an exquisite listener and interviewer) picked up on Black’s earlier comments at the start of the interview and probed more to find out what Black meant by “those first fifty years?” Here’s what Black has to say,
“I was probably fifty years old in this earth before I really got started. It too me an awfully log time to realize my capabilities and that I could lead organizations. I could really innovate within these organizations. And I suppose it was when I became medical director of the Royal Free, which took me out of my absolute medical role even though I’d built a successful world renowned until for connective tissue diseases. I suddenly realized there was a world out there that I could also participate in and I’ve just really gone on developing as I got older. I think that happens to many women and as long as I’m well enough to do it and people want me to do it, I will continue. I still feel like I have a lot to give.”
Her words echoed around my inner world. I wrote the quote out in full in my journal. I felt the words were worth reflecting on and returning to. I turned over in my mind that for this well accomplished medic, academic whose President of the Royal College of Physicians (the second only president), who is currently the principal of Newnham College, who fell deeply in love in her sixties and re-married and who in her mid seventies runs three miles, several times a week. So if it took her well into her fifties to become even more comfortable in her own skin, to really gain the confidence and become more comfortable with taking risks, then I was not alone? Her words felt like I had been thrown a lifeline. A reframe of the story I had been telling myself about the inevitable, approaching sell by day I had been talking myself into.
I wonder how her words sit with you whatever age or stage you are at in life or your career doesn’t really matter. I think in her words there are universal lessons for us whatever stage we’re at. Writing down your thoughts can help make sense of what her words mean to you. Explore in writing your thoughts about what Professor Dame Carol Black has to say to make the connections? Unpack questions like: What’s your relationship like with risk? What risks could you take today over the next few weeks or months that would stretch you beyond what you believe you are currently capable? What do you still have left to give? Set aside some time over the weekend to explore your thoughts and reflections in your notebook, journal or on your laptop or digital device. Have a listen to the full audio interview on BBC iplayer here