Living Your Golden Age | Inspirational Podcasts

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Now, on to today’s reading, which was edited and adapted from Turn Back the Years by Harry J. Gardener, published in 1937.

In ancient history, the time when Pericles lived was called The Golden Age. But in in today’s talk, I am referring to something far different. I am applying the term Golden Age to that state in life (which can be any age), where you have reached complete control of your personality. In order to remain young, it is essential that you be young. And by that I mean, you must be adaptable.

You should be able to pick up and dash off to a concert or party at a moment’s notice, not hem and haw about how you’re going to arrive late or that you’re really too tired to go, or what you’ll wear. You should have the capability to go away for a weekend the moment you get a sudden, unexpected invitation, or you should be able to adapt yourself immediately in event of a surprise meeting with some old friend.

Spontaneity is one of the prime points in being youthful. The minute you settle permanently into the same easy chair to watch the same TV show, wearing the same pajamas and pair of slippers, the same lamp over your shoulder, from that moment on you are doomed to old age just as surely as if all your friends had uttered the sentence themselves and as if Time were your executioner.

So be alive, be joyful, and if you can’t be happy, at least never show your unhappiness, or wear it like a bleeding heart on your sleeve. People don’t want to hear your troubles any more than you want to hear theirs. Change your events in your social calendar from week to week. Try to see lots of different people, and never go the same places with the same faces week after week if you can possibly avoid it.

Routine can soon get a strangle hold on your youth and is certain death for youngness. I know an elderly gentleman who is retired, but only in the technical sense of the word. He has a moderate income, and at a time in life when most people have given up the ghost and settled into a petrified state of unchanging dullness, he’s up and about, dignified and charming, interesting and delightful.

And why? Because he knows the importance of change and spontaneous living. I called him up one afternoon, on a moment’s notice, and asked him if he could come to dinner that evening. I started to apologize for giving him short notice, as it was a rather formal dinner and most people who attend formal dinner parties like to be warned several days in advance.

But he cut me short in the middle of my apology saying: “Oh, don’t apologize! I like short notice — it keeps me on my toes!” And it does. He can react to any situation with unlimited poise and assurance. Where most people would have arrived feeling sloppy and unprepared, he got there two hours later faultlessly dressed and radiant.

Adaptability is one of the least difficult qualities to achieve and one of the most important to possess. Success of any sort is so often dependent upon it that I wonder more people aren’t prepared for sudden change. I myself have always believed in it thoroughly. I’m constantly changing objects about in my house. I believe firmly in changes of all types.

There are three distinguished qualities of youth — inquisitiveness, alertness, and anticipation. These characteristics are always identified with youth, they are almost inseparable, one might say. So if you want to be young, you must face youth with an active expression of these qualities.

Where youth bubbles with questions, you must be calmly quizzical, just enough so to permit yourself dignity and at the same time lend you the effect of interest. Where youth is alert to the point of standing on its toes, ready to spring into the air or dart out of a room, you must give the impression of intellectual alertness.

It wouldn’t be sensible or wise to dance about and fling yourself in and out of rooms at seventy, but it is a stunning and positive attribute to be able to impress people favorably with your mental alertness, your alive interest, your abundant vitality.

One of the reasons youth succeeds as admirably as it does with as little practical experience as it has (while age has the experience and usually does nothing with it) is because youth is always filled with anticipation. It expects so many things to come to it, that it absolutely radiates the impression of anticipating experience. That anticipation is a thing natural to youth. In later years, it must be sought after.

By your keenness of mind, your enthusiastic pursuit of information, your intelligent realization that a good many fine things are going to happen to you — by all these, anticipation is yours. It manifests itself in charm, in vitality, in radiant personality. Strive for it, and for all three of the qualities of youth. They are of priceless value to you, and they will send you into the thick of things, prepared and ready for life.

If you want to be a glorious example of the golden age of youth, then never take people for granted. Make them feel that they are new and interesting to you, even though you’re sometimes so bored with them that you want to scream just to break the monotony of their talk. People will almost always like you and be drawn to you if you make them feel that they are even slightly important, and if not important, then interesting to you.

I know an old lady who is close to eighty. She’s a semi-invalid, she hasn’t been able to leave her house for almost ten years. Yet every day, every afternoon at teatime, there is an almost constant stream of people, young and old, who come to visit her. She’s one of the most vital people it has ever been my privilege to know.

Her charm is not a physical thing, yet she has charm, a great charm. People come to see her not out of pity; they’d stop coming after very long if they only came for that reason. They come to see her because she is always vitally interested in what they have to say.

Her condition, keeping her in as it does, nullifies her chance to get out among people. Long ago she told me in confidence that unless she had learned to draw people to her, she would have no doubt ended her life. Now whosoever visits with her comes away bubbling with her praises. They never think of her as eighty and an invalid. To them she is a friend ready to listen to them and charmingly grateful for their friendship.

To be one of the “Golden Agers” you’ve got to be malleable. You have to be as fresh in your viewpoints as youth. You’ve got to keep your opinions modernized. It’s up to you to keep in touch with what goes “on in the world” and, particularly, what goes on in the mind of youth.

If you haven’t changed a major opinion in the last five years, then you’re surely growing old. A young man in his late twenties came into my office the other day for some advice. I’m sure he hadn’t changed a single idea of his since he was eighteen, and although his skin was fresh and his body young, he was old. He was settled and dead, even deader than if he were fifty.

I dislike thinking about how aged he’ll seem when he does get to be fifty unless he brightens up and moves with the times. If he remains as he is now, or gets even more solidified, he’ll be a pretty sorry sight. Elderly folks are always saying (you hear it on every hand and side) “Young people were different when I was young”. That’s a very damaging piece of evidence that they’re no longer young and haven’t the least intention of trying to be.

I tell you, you’re not old unless you want to be. Today is your day, just as much as it is the day of young people. You’re breathing, eating, and sleeping, aren’t you? Well then, you’re alive, and it’s your day!

When people retire from business and an active daily life, they usually relax their entire attitude. They fall into comfortable old age without a struggle; they drift into old age habits and senile behavior. And worst of all, they generally shut off the power of their minds. They say to themselves: “I’ve worked hard for fifty years. I’ve amassed a neat little sum. I’m tired of thinking and acting — I’m going to sit around and watch the rest of the world work.”

That’s fatal. And what’s more, it isn’t intelligent. The elderly people who retire and who get right to work on some pleasurable hobby — travel, write, paint, or something like that, even collect stamps — those are the folks who have the secret of remaining young near and dear to them.

Scientists tell us that the most productive and fertile time in a person’s spiritual and mental life is the time when the passions, the hatreds, and the ecstasies of earthly life are at an end. It is then that the brain is powerful, potent, and ready to perform wonderful feats, to electrify the world by its brilliance.

Look at the great men and women who have done their best work — often the work that has made them immortal — when they were past fifty. People such as Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin, William Gladstone, the statesman, and Sir Isaac Newton. All of these were past what we commonly call the “prime of life” when they did their best work.

Edison developed motion pictures after most people have stopped living and are merely existing. Luther Burbank was an old man in years when he performed some wonderful work in plant experimentation. One of the most sensational novels of the 1800s, Europa, was written by Robert Briffault, at the age of sixty. He then published another book that met with similar success.

Sarah Bernhardt and Eleanora Base, two of the greatest actresses who ever lived, both achieved their greatest and most immortal triumphs when they were far past the prime of their lives. George Bernard Shaw was an example of elderly genius. His literary output steadily increased from the age of fifty-five.

Old age’s magnificent and wonderful reward is a greatly enlarged stimulation of the intellect. I tell you truthfully, you have unlimited vistas before you. This marvelous assurance is something very definitely worth working for. While people hoard and save up money against the time when they will be too old to work actively, I always wonder why they don’t save up their youthfulness as a security against the onslaughts of old age. It’s the best investment in all the world.

Today is a Golden Age of opportunity. You can just about do anything you want to with your life. So why not make the Golden Age your Age of Gold? Make your years a glorious asset instead of a negative liability. Make your quest for youthfulness a successful one.

You’ll never achieve it, of course, if you sit around and do a lot of wishful thinking, saying to yourself: “Tomorrow’s another day. I’ll begin then to think about all the things I should do to make my life what I want it to be.” That’s almost tragically absurd.

You have all the potentialities for youthfulness within yourself. You have the mistakes and successes of past years behind you. All you need to do is to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Most of the sources of youth will begin to flow freely within you then, and radiate from you in all you say and do. It is up to you to draw them forth, to court them, to put them to work for you in making you into an individual who truly is young and creative.

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All transcripts from our self-help podcasts are edited adaptations of the original work and copyrighted by LivingHour.org.