Overcoming personal stagnation
The first principles of personal renewal
Pope John XXIII, was a man full of surprises and wit. Also called “the good pope” (Papa Buono in Italian), he spent a lifetime in Vatican bureaucracy, entering priesthood at the age of 24. Fifty two years later, at the age of 76 he was elected Pope. Despite this, the spark of his spirit and imagination had remained undimmed. When he reached the top, although for a short time before his illness and death, he launched the most vigorous renewal that the Church has known in a century. He was a serious man who found a lot to laugh about. The son of farmers, he once said, “In Italy there are three roads to poverty — drinking, gambling and farming. My family chose the slowest of the three.” When someone asked him how many people worked in the Vatican he said “Oh, about half.”
At the other end of the spectrum is Shyam [name changed]. A shy eighteen year old, who occasionally helps me wash my car as a cover for his father. He’s failed to clear his 10th year school board exams twice now. He’s seems to have lost hope that he can get a decent education and by extension, a decent life. While Shyam does not come from privilege, he does have a loving, supporting family that spends a lions share of its income to provide for him and his education. Only a few years ago, he was different – outgoing, athletically gifted, winning several school shields. He seems to have stagnated, even before getting started.
The contrast these stories paint is this – the assumption that the risk of personal stagnation with age is understating the problem. Age alone, does not cause stagnation. Mid-life crisis is a myth or a mirage at best, propagated by sampling bias among the privileged few, who were lucky to have a head start. A crisis of this sort can happen to any of us, anytime. Maybe it’s onset is already underway, but we don’t know it yet.
How does one stay ahead?