Too Late Smart

Many of us approaching elder status can be excused for saying, “I wish I knew then what I know now!”  I have a few insights I’d like to transplant into young people (re: anyone 40 or younger).  Here are three:

  • The essential value of delayed gratification
  • The magical wonders of compound interest
  • Smell the roses but save, save, save

I don’t begrudge exotic vacations or luxurious purchases.  But with the perspective of 63 years, I sometimes wish I had now what I spent then – plus the magical reward of compound interest!  The old curmudgeons were absolutely right: it happens faster than you think!

In an “ask me anything” question and answer session on Reddit, Bill Gates shared some of what he’d do differently given what he’s experienced and learned during his 58 years:

  • Get ahead of the game
  • Start giving back earlier
  • Spend more time away from the office

Gates’ first point was made in reference to his chosen profession, computer science.  Obviously, he intends for each of us to apply the principle of imagining the unthinkable in the context of our unique gifts, passions and dreams.

Gates was pressed for advice on how entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow should go about balancing business and philanthropy… or do they have to succeed first in order to give later? Gates noted that “just creating an innovative company is a huge contribution to the world.  During my 20′s and 30′s that was all I focused on.”  From his current vantage he adds, “Ideally people can start to mix in some philanthropy like [29 year old] Mark Zuckerberg has early in his career. I have enjoyed talking to … entrepreneurs about this and I am impressed by how early they are thinking about giving back – much earlier than I did.”

When asked how he’s changed over the past 20 years, Gates acknowledged that “age has taken off some of his edge in a positive way… Twenty years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it—so I had energy and naiveté on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom.”

People have written books on the adage: “Too soon old, too late smart.”  Thanks for indulging the musing of this aspiring elder.  I hope you have learned something!



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