Doors of Opportunity
I was once given some advice by a dear friend as he reflected back on his twenty-five plus year career. He told me...
“When you’re young, you see doors of opportunity opening all around you, as you get older, you shift towards seeing them all begin to close.”
It was an interesting sentiment with inherent logic and sense. Yet, somehow it felt too difficult to accept. His words brought me back to something my father had told me about aging, years earlier. He had said that as he got older he had to make a concerted effort to remain mentally young.
Growing up in India and working his entire life in the fields of crisis management and environmental sustainability, he’d seen a lot of bleak and difficult problems and places. These experiences taught him that...
...you can’t let your past be the sole determinant of your present.
If you do, you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You fail to see with fresh eyes.
With this in mind, I reexamined my friend’s reflection. From one perspective, his statement seemed accurate and justifiable. His freedom to change his path felt limited by the time he had already committed to his previous work. By the standards of his younger self, many doors had closed.
However, in that moment, he wasn’t accounting for the fact that as certain doors from his past closed, others opened. He was counting his “open doors” by looking down a hallway that he built as a 25-year-old, not observing the other hallways, buildings, and entire cities that had continuously developed around him through the years. The closing of doors is a product of our mentality, which, while linked to age, is not exactly the same. Since our age increases automatically and constantly, our mentalities must remain agile to keep pace.
We must continue to see the world in new ways so that we can avoid becoming jaded. Such tiresome and negative mentalities are a needless punishment we inflict upon ourselves for aging. With a mindset focused on growth and rooted in presence, new doors will continue to open. The world’s infinite opportunity will remain at hand.
So let's consider the ways in which these metaphorical buildings are constructed outside our hallway of closing doors...
1) Firstly, our opportunities shift in orientation from "doing" to "being".
When we’re young, our view of opportunity is focused on things we can physically do or accomplish. It exists in terms of jobs we may hold, schools we may attend, and places we may go. Those types of opportunities comprise the doors we see as open to us.
As we get older, priorities may shift, allowing us to focus more on the things we can be.
We begin to see new doors and concerns such as being a loving family member, a responsible citizen, or an expressive artist.
If our first hallway of doors was in the building of “doing”, the solidified sense of identity that comes with age builds us a second hallway in the building of “being”. This is one way in which our opportunities may expand.
2) As we gain experience we begin to understand the complexity of the world. This presents us with opportunities we may not have known to exist. We discover technical specialties that address niche fields and needs that were not presented in college career fairs. These could be considered “hidden doors” of opportunity.
3) We develop discipline and patience; two important qualities for success in any field. When we are young, we rarely have enough discipline or patience to be truly impactful. Approaching the doors to being great leaders, professionals, and change-makers requires these qualities, meaning despite the freedom of youth, many doors to success are not unlocked until later in life.
We tend think of youth as a time of boundless opportunity, when in reality, it’s strongest advantage is time. But what can we do with that time when we don’t have the knowledge to see our options, the priorities to choose them, the discipline to pursue them, the resources to invest in ourselves, or the reputation and respect to mobilize others? Youth is wonderful, however old age is also wonderful.
Doors will always be closing and opening. In fact, we need some doors to close to allow others to open.
It’s only when we stare too closely at the closed doors, that we fail to see the new ones.