The Secret to Staying Competitive…..

Lately, we have become enamored with the television series, “Yellowstone” starring Kevin Costner as the patriarch of a beautifully dysfunctional ranch family in Montana. This is the latest offering on Amazon and is captivating in far more ways than the twisted and fascinating story line, the least of which is Kevin Costner’s ability to manage a galloping horse at the age of 64. We are horse lovers and have managed to own a couple over the years and I can assure you that staying mounted on a horse, or anything for that matter, is much easier at 24 than 64, (or 69 in my case)! (For those of you with wicked minds, I was thinking motorcycles…😉). Let’s have a look at the consequences of aging and the magic formula needed to counter the advantages of youth.

Professional athletes hit their peak at about 25. That is when the balance between physical stamina and tactical skill is most apparent. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but they are rare. In most sports, atheletes are no longer competitive as they enter their 40’s, with obvious exceptions being such sports as competitive shooting. sailing and fencing. To illustrate this point, there are only two NFL players currently playing football in their 40’s, Sav Rocca of the Redskins and Adam Vinatieri of the Colts. Both are kickers, protected from physical decimation by a page or two of rules that generally prevent them from being hit. For those into water sports, swimmers hit their peak somewhere around 19 or 20 before hanging up their speedos and towels. What we, as spectators, don’t see is the absolute dominance of older athletes on the training tables and in the whirlpools after a competition. Owners in the NFL expend large sums of money on ice in the name of numbing the so called “twitch muscles” of their older players after a game. Some of the old guys have more time reposing in ice water than aged polar bears in the Arctic. Again, it is important to note that freaks of nature do exist, thankfully, as in the case of Nolan Ryan, who pitched for 27 years and recorded a paltry 5,714 strikeouts. ( I met a ServPro employee after one of my monumental lapses of consciousness who played a little minor league ball. The high point of his short baseball career was standing in against Nolan Ryan in the grapefruit league, which he deemed as a wildly successful appearance. He said he looked at 4 pitches, three of which he didn’t even see and one of which he swung at wildly and fouled off. Imagine that, he said. I put wood on a Nolan Ryan pitch!). As a final illustration of the inevitable decline in physical ability, think a minute about the great duffer, Tiger Woods. The kids in the PGA these days can slap a golf ball in to the next county and there are a number of them. I wish Tiger the best, but he needs to relax a bit and start spending his fortune. Okay, we have now determined that we lose our “fastball” at around 40, give or take, and are subject to being humiliated by younger folks at the peak of their games, so what is the answer? Do we give up, become a shrinking violet, destined to stand in the crowd muttering at the prowess of the younger set? Hell no. We have two tools left, age and treachery.

When the Master crafted human beings, with our intrinsic qualities, he knew that we would eventually time out. Rather than design us to simply fold mid-swing, he engineered us to emulate all things in nature, that is we fade physically but benefit from wisdom gained through living. Age is comprised of expended time and experience. There is little we can do about time, however; experience is a commodity that can be put to use to offset the prowess of youth.

It doesn’t really matter what your career path is as it relates to the concept of experience. I once worked with a professional carry out “boy” at a large military grocery store. He easily doubled the earnings of most of us through his experience in that environment. He recognized the good tippers, could manage to find himself on their lanes and was charming when handling the groceries of the lonely military wives whose husbands were off defending our country. He was cunning, worked hard and exacted every advantage in the pursuit of profitability. This man was 50 years old, could not lift as much as the rest of us, and was not as fast, but through experience, could out earn any two of us on a given day. He was skillful in maneuvering the rest of us to lanes that were far less productive and even arranged signals with the big tippers to alert him to their approach to the check out. He was treacherous, in a friendly sort of way, and I studied him carefully. I had no idea at the time that his skill set would be advantageous to emulate as I began to decline physically. Age and treachery is at work in every occupation known to man, with those who employ it masterfully often referred to as ruthless.

Here is the take away. Age (experience) and treachery trump youth and enthusiasm every day of the week. The sooner you learn this lesson, the sooner you can hone the skills necessary to compete at this level. I may not mount things (horses and motorcycles…you folks are so bad) as gracefully or as often, but I ride more slowly and am easier on the horse. Still doubt the validity of this hypothesis?

Watch the action and commentary in this political season.

Have a great weekend!


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