Age is a funny thing, right?
Sometimes it is celebrated and sometimes it is met with anger and frustration, usually in the discomforts of our own minds.
I grew up in a great town in New Jersey called South Orange. It is the proud home of the Seton Hall Pirates, Sonny’s Bagels, Reservoir Pizza and Bunny’s Bar & Grill. I list those institutions because nearly 45 years later they all are still standing, just like me. Some are shades of their former selves, but most have gotten better with age. The town of South Orange is one of the most diverse in the country and is still one of the best places to live. Over the years, South Orange has had its up and downs as it ages, but it continues to be a great reflection of our great country and life in America. I look back on my time there and feel blessed. And because of social media I still get to connect with great frequency with people from my hometown. So many folks, so many memories. My life is all the richer because of those that have journeyed with me, crossed my path or vice versa throughout the years– each year filled with best and worst moments that have made me stronger, and who am I kidding, a little more tired than I was the day before. South Orange has aged over time and the reality is, so have I.
But as a woman, I am just so confused – confused about how to feel about the aging process both personally and professionally. To be quite honest, I even asked a few people (men I trust) whether I should even touch the topic of age as a woman in business. It’s true that even the fearless like me know that the wrong “overshare” could be disastrous. But what I have been thinking about is the importance of age and the challenges of age. For instance, my wife and I are serial entrepreneurs. We own a few companies and each one takes both caring nurture and brute force to run. On the best days they all don’t need us with the same intensity at the same time. Thank goodness, because the energy simply does not come as boundlessly to us as it once did. However, what does come more easily than ever is the experience; knowing when I am looking at risk and when I see reward. There is an enlightenment, a calm that comes with knowing things will get better if you navigate away from danger or challenge. You sense trouble far faster and maybe even trust a little less. But on the opposite side I have learned to forgive faster, resolve issues with a level of fortitude I never knew possible and I look for the bright side in every moment. In fact, I now know everything does has a bright side, so I move quickly to see it.
As a female business owner, I am fortunate I have some great folks to talk to. Early on during the start of Marketsmith, Inc. (a Martech and advertising firm in its 19th year) I used to feel so alone. However, over time, I found or nurtured good people to talk and to trust (my brothers for instance, and they started to suggest others). Those that not only gave advice, but also picked me up and dusted me off and encouraged me to keep it moving. One of those friends, most know her as Elizabeth, I call her “Sweaty Betty”, is like my own personal hot line, and I am hers. Every morning or so, like clockwork, one of us will call the other and start with a rant, move on to the opportunity and then end with a laugh. That’s because we know how hard the day ahead, the moments, the opportunities, the payroll, the pitch, the parent, the brother or the child is going to be. We laugh at how old we have become. We discuss how sad it is that so many people in the world cause harm to others, we discuss our own actions good, bad or indifferent – with little to no judging; because this call is not for that. We are both each other’s fiercest protectors and our greatest realists. Naturally, there is also the unspoken competition as we both own our businesses, like who is in less pain and who needs more attention. We celebrate for each other, we forget to say the right things sometimes, we get tired of each other and we get jealous when one looks better than the other but at the same time we love to see each other and our respect businesses healthy, thriving and happy. More importantly we talk about it all with great hopes and aspirations but also a strong sense of reality because we know how old we are. We talk about aging without fear of repercussion or the anxiety of being judged and to be frank, we don’t even care. We talk about our maturing businesses and we talk about strengths, wisdom and all the good and the bad that comes with aging. Aging businesses, aging bodies, aging marriages, aging children, aging clients and, thank goodness, an aging friendship that came from like-mindedness.
When we spoke today, we both had a challenging week. Hers was personal, mine professional, (we tend to alternate) but both of us tired and clearly a little worried. Our 25-minute chat focused on her, as my story this week is more a sign of changing times, the constant need for innovation and market values, etc. Her story more about a journey, the circle of life, economic conditions for family members and her role as it to relates to leadership and responsibility as the eldest in a small family. So, we opted to focus on hers and ultimately tears win over fears as it usually does with us. We end like we always do with a laugh, with a good, good, belly laugh. This is always welcomed, especially when it’s just the two of us. In fact, we revert to school girls and all the big challenges, just for a few minutes, they melt away. When they come back they usually have less teeth and we are both able to face them on our own. Because when that phone call ends, we both become the warriors we are, and need to be. Not just for us, but for all those that rely on us day in, day out.
When I got off the phone, I realized there was more oxygen in my lungs. I felt stronger, ready and knowing that not only can I scale, but I can compete and win. When you have been in business for almost twenty years, you are a woman, and you have children, it’s just tougher because getting older is harder, physically. However, what I realized today is that over time I have gotten wiser. Wise enough not to go it alone, wise enough not to overshare, wise enough to find like-minded people and to also stay close to those that have different opinions. I have learned that reading helps me keep current but sharing my story, my advice and my business knowledge helps others yet keeps me current as well. I have learned that over time, like a great town, change is good. And that institutions—whether a park or a pizza parlor, or places where people, families and friends gather to create memories, talk and even participate in the economy are all good and are blessings—especially a phone call that goes off like clockwork.
Here is what I know: I am not as young as I use to be… and at sometimes that is hard and somedays even downright sad. I know now that diversity is even more important to me, as is demonstrating growth and knowing that maturity comes with empathy, understanding and a sense of humor.
But because I have gained wisdom, and I get wiser as I get older, my mistakes are less, my choices are better, my investments are having great returns and my kids, my businesses, my colleagues and my friends just keep getting better and better. Now, here is the overshare—some days really suck, and I pray those days don’t turn into weeks, but to be truthful sometimes they do. But I also know with every day I get smarter: smart enough to have a friend hotline in the morning with a savvy loving business woman, smart enough to know my marriage and kids are far more important than my businesses, smart enough now to know that my businesses are built on solid foundations of goodness, innovation and great people – and that they will survive those tough days and celebrate the great ones with me as long as I never give up on them. Smart enough to know that this blog was meant for two reasons—one is to ensure I stayed grounded in fortitude (especially gals like Sweaty Betty) and, second to say that if you are reading this and you need a hotline and want to talk about things that you think you should “never talk about” or you are alone you can call me anytime – 201.665.8147. Because as we change we shouldn’t have to do it alone, and we will all at some point have to go through it and as I have been given the gift of a Sweaty Betty let me be a gift to you (if needed). Be strong and happy always.