Turning Sixty

Every 10 years or so, I devote this commentary to my reflections on reaching a significant milestone on life’s journey.


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In 1983, I wrote a piece called “Turning Thirty” for my monthly column. I commented then that, for the first time in my life, I had “perspective,” a sense that I had much to look back on, and much to look forward to.

The following 10 years were, indeed, a bright period of growth, discovery and joy. I notedsome of the key experiences when I wrote “Turning Forty” in 1993. These included becoming a dad, embracing new hobbies and maturing in my editorial career. I acknowledged a few shadows as well—friends passing, dreams fading, a body aging.

A decade later, I focused not on turning fifty, but on celebrating my quarter century as an editor on the staff of this magazine. I called the piece, “Still New at 25.” It reflects on the power of technological change to renew and refresh our industry, while asserting that creativity is the strongest force in U.S. manufacturing. Of course, I was also saying something about my perception of life at that point. In a very real sense, I still felt “new” at 50. I ended by writing, “I look forward with optimism and good cheer.”

So what’s my outlook at 60? To start, I am surprised and pleased by the continuity in my life. I’m still writing about metalworking technology for the same magazine, although it has a bigger, better format than when I started. Since writing that first column in 1983, I’ve lived in the same house (an empty nest now) with the same dear spouse. I’m wearing clothes of the same size (well, mostly). The hair I comb is grayer now. My eyeglasses are smaller these days, but the prescription is stronger.

What’s more to the point is that I have a clear sense of how I want to face the world and the living of life. This is the advice I have set for myself:

The past is the past. Dabble in it, but don’t dwell on it. Indulge in what-ifs and if-onlyssparingly—just enough to remember it is better to have missed many disasters than a few opportunities. Don’t let regrets eat at the heart. Be proud of accomplishments, but bravely try for more and greater ones.

Savor the senses more in each present moment. Some of the most satisfying subtleties, I find, can only be detected and enjoyed in stillness and calm. Take time, but never waste it. The best present in the present is the presence of friends and loved ones.

Be less alarmed about the inevitable endings and closings that lie ahead, and more grateful for the new beginnings and unexpected openings that will surely come my way. (I hope to have grandkids someday!) Don’t miss chances to start something new, and never be tempted to ask, “What’s the point at this age?” Treat young people with respect, just as it was once important for me to respect the folks “this age.”

Be wise enough to know that foolishness knows no age limit, but that a little foolishness now and then makes aging more fun. Finally, remember that good fun keeps you young.