What if your best years are still ahead of you?
If your best years are ahead of you, what would they look like?
When you’re in the retirement zone—planning for or in retirement—there’s a tendency to look back at life. To reminisce about the past. Reflect.
But what if your best years are ahead of you? And that’s not about having failed in the past. Not at all. It’s about recognising that you can still have an impact in your later years.
The John Goodenough story helps make the point. He’s a 95-year-old who may be on the verge of an incredible scientific breakthrough.
Meet John Goodenough
In 1946, at the age of 23, Goodenough was fresh out of the army and applied to the University of Chicago to study physics. A professor told him that he was already too old to succeed in physics.
At the age of 94, he filed a patent on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, will revolutionise electric cars to the point of pushing petrol and diesel cars off the road. That’s his goal.
In his words, ‘If we could make an electric car that would be as convenient and as cheap as an internal-combustion engine, we’d get CO2 emissions off the road’.
Big claims, but Goodenough has credibility on his side. In the 1970s, at the age of 57, he began to think about how to store electric power in small packages. He helped co-invented the lithium-ion battery. That battery now drives mobile phones, laptops, and electric cars.
He believes that a breakthrough in technology a couple of years ago has opened the door to a better battery. The one he has now patented. It’s another battery that could change our world.
What about you?
Life doesn’t end at retirement age. Goodenough is an example of someone who decided to keep working in his field. That’s his choice and he’s making a difference. Good for him.
You don’t have to be a scientist or an inventor to make a difference. It can be an extension of your life’s work, yet it doesn’t have to be. And the difference doesn’t have to be on the world stage. It might be in your community, in your street or even in your home.
Goodenough is working on the world stage.
The organiser and members of a group that lobbies politicians to change unfair practices can impact a national scene.
The grandmother who makes sure there’s cut oranges for the kids’ football team on match day is a community hero.
The husband who nurses his incapacitated wife at home makes a huge difference in one life.
These situations bring out the best in people and that can help make this time the best years of their life—at least in satisfaction of doing something worthwhile.
Or it can be something completely out of the box. Here’s some advice from a 95-year-old (Goodenough): ‘I’m old enough to know you can’t close your mind to new ideas.’
5 people who achieved late in life
There are many inspiring stories of people who, in their later years, achieved amazing things. Here are five people who achieved something significant late in life. They’re sourced from here.
Smoky Dawson: The Australian country music icon released his final album—Homestead of My Dreams, a collection of original songs—at the age of 92. He’s the oldest person to have released a new album.
Gladys Burrill: Also known as ‘Gladyator’ by her local newspaper. She’s in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest female marathon finisher—at 92.
Yuichiro Miura: The oldest man to climb Mount Everest at the age of 70 in 2003. This record was broken, but he climbed Everest again in 2008—at the age of 75—and became the oldest person to reach Everest’s peak again after a successful climb in 2013, at the age of 80.
Jessica Tandy: At the age of 80, she became the oldest woman to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress. This was in 1989 for her role in Driving Miss Daisy.
James C Warren: During World War 2, Warren served as a navigator in the United States Air Force. At the age of 87, he became the oldest person in the world to receive a pilot’s license.
Your name may never be listed next to any of these. That’s not important. What’s important is what you will do. What choices you will make.
Back to the question: Are your best years still ahead of you? What would that look like for you? Are you ready to go for it?