Want to be content for the rest of your life?
It may be harder than you realize. In college, I studied David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory. McClelland said that we each have one dominant motivator that drives us. He thought there were three of those motivators: achievement, affiliation, and power. Achievement is the one that fits me then and still does now.
Other wonderful people, like my wife and my best male friend, are great people whose inner drive to change their corner of the world is not their main motivation. Both are decent, wholesome, loving, generous folks, but they have nothing to prove. Both do more than their fair share of supportive actions that uphold and simplify life for others, including strivers like me. We can all be grateful that there are millions like them.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a striver. More than 90% of our clients are strivers, and nearly all my competitors are, too. Most of my business and professional allies are strivers. Regardless of whether you are a striver or not, your performance will peak, probably sooner than you want to admit.
My dad died days before my 50th birthday. Since then, I’ve been thinking about how to produce long-lasting, beneficial impacts with my gifts. From Strength to Strength, written by a fellow striver, Arthur Brooks, is among the better works I’ve enjoyed.
The book is based on decades of research and scores of interviews. The first three chapters report on the brain. The rest of the book discusses how you can accomplish different, maybe more impactful, things in the second part of your life.
In the opening chapters, Brooks introduces us to two kinds of intelligence, fluid and crystallized. Fluid intelligence is “the ability to reason, think flexibly, and solve novel problems.” Your fluid intelligence peaks about 20 years into your career. Crystallized intelligence is “the ability to use a stock of knowledge learned in the past.” It’s about using knowledge. Fluid intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Crystallized intelligence is about wisdom. Don’t put tomatoes in a fruit salad. Crystallized intelligence peaks much later than fluid intelligence.
Brooks calls the phase of life that rewards fluid intelligence the “first curve.” The message of the book is that you should get on the “second curve.” Use your wisdom by switching to activities that reward crystallized intelligence.
Brooks has several prescriptions for living a fulfilled life, even though you have passed one of your peaks. Overall, his prescriptions fall into three groups. They are improving your relationships and your spiritual life and embracing your weaknesses.
The first step is to kick your success addiction. Yes, success, like drugs or alcohol can be addictive. There’s a short “workaholism test” in the book that will give you something to think about. I was reminded of a question posed during the HalfTime program: “What has your success cost you?”
If you’re a stiver like Arthur Brooks and myself, especially if you’re over 40, From Strength to Strength will help you make sense of where you are in life. Even better, it can help you make the most of the years still in front of you.
Whether you’re a striver or not, what insight have you had, or what book have you read, in the last decade or so which has made you or will make you more of the person you hope to be?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”