Came across this article:
on SFGate the other day, relating the difficulties of older workers finding employment in Silicon Valley. 40 is the new 60 down there. I would usually file this under “Stating the Obvious”, but then one quote caught my eye;
“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Facebook’s CEO (now 28) told a Y Combinator Startup event at Stanford University in 2007. “Young people are just smarter.”
Yes, this is Mark Zuckerberg. He went on to say:
“Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”
First I will say up front, that although difficult, I am going to ignore the inclusion of a six year old quote in a story which apparently thinks it is exposing a new trend.
As for the quote however, I am almost at a loss as to where to begin with this collection of sentences. They seem to have been assembled following one of those instruction sheets written by someone who doesn’t know the English language.
Stressing the importance of being young seems innocent enough; not that there is really any great accomplishment to this. I would guess that a fair majority of the human race has, at one time or another, been young. In fact I myself have occasionally touted the importance of being young; sometimes even in a positive manner.
The sentence that follows is the one that really that really jumps off the page. It’s a heck of a sound-bite! Before you know it your posterior is perched on the edge of the chair as you read on seeking amplification, justification, gratification. But then, like the old geezer who discovers the viagra bottle is empty, the whole thing collapses under its own weight and sags to the ground.
Most chess masters, he tells us, are under 30, and he explains why. Oops, sorry, no he doesn’t. Turns out he doesn’t know why, so he asks us. This seems something of a failure on two counts. First on his knowledge of the subject itself, and second, on the wisdom of bringing up your own lack of knowledge in a speech about the superiority of your mental abilities.
Soldiering on, somewhat deflated but still hopeful, we discover that young people have simpler lives. No car? No Kids? Awesome! You’re free to focus on what’s important! And I guess, through inference, he’s talking about work.
I have to give credit to Mr. Zuckerberg here. He has made me think, and I am a house divided; 50% laugh, 50% throw up.
Jesus, if you so believe, was a simple man, who saved the world. Ghandi simplified his life in order to lead people to freedom. Buddha decamped to the wilderness, as did Moses. Mandela lived an enforced simple life for 27 years in prison because of the importance of his ideas. That is Importance. Those are concepts, beliefs, visions, that require a life of simplicity. Pulling an all-nighter to run a debugger in your cubicle just doesn’t seem the same somehow.
Well enough of this silliness. I admit that I may be going a little over the top here about what may well have been nothing more than some extemporaneous remarks. We should also remember that Mr. Zuckerberg was somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 when he made these remarks. Oops, but then again, maybe we shouldn’t. He’s trying to convince us he’s smarter because he’s younger, and I’m saying the exact opposite. Maybe we’re both age-ists.
I would like to ask him a few questions though; present day.
1. Is he still a member of the smarter set? Or has he aged out? If not, what is the cut off?
2. Has he noticed that he is getting dumber over the last few years? If you were to extend that decline on a graph, how old will he be when we have to buy him a drool cup?
3. Has he learned anything new in the last 6 years? Or have they been a waste?
4. Has he found any value in older folks yet? Or are they (along with him, at some point) write-offs?
I like the word Callow, it is seen too infrequently nowadays in print, but it is seen quite often in action. Definitions include: inexperienced, immature, and lacking adult sophistication.
Young people do possess certain attributes which are of great value in certain applications. Attributes that many older folk either don’t have, or just don’t give a shit enough any more to exhibit.
Fast-paced, high stress environments, long hours, low pay, overnighters, rapidly changing job requirements, little if any job security, scanty benefits; all these things and more are much better suited to the 21 year old with wide eyes and diploma in hand than the 40 year old.
The difference is, all those 40 year olds have been through that 21 year old stage and know it well. They have learned how to be more focused, more efficient, more productive in less time so they can actually devote time to the things that really are important, like those kids.
These are the people who can teach you how to build a happy, sustainable, productive, and satisfying life while still getting a job done.
Take a stroll through the nearest cemetery some day. Look at the gravestones. Read the inscriptions. These are whole lives pared down to one phrase. Search for the ones that say CEO, or Chairman, or Acting Vice President, or President’s Club for Sales. Go ahead I’ll wait.
Oh really? Well what do they say? Hmm, Loving Father, Devoted Mother, yes, that sounds about right. They all speak of love, family, the home, the heart.
Take a tip from those who have moved beyond age. These are the important things in our lives, whether you are
old smart enough to know it or not.