The Sunscreen Song

The Sunscreen Song

by Gary Fisher

It was known as ‘The Sunscreen Song’. A hit song in 1999. by Baz Luhrman , it offered sage advice to the ‘Class of 1999’. The tune went to #10 in the states, and was #1 in the UK. To this day it stands as one of the most unusually catchy songs of a generation. The lyrics are the key, and they present a dramatic, yet understated line of thinking for the last class of the 20th century.

As I move through my 50th year on earth, and work with clients yet to know the joys of hitting the half century mark, and many who have long since passed that point, I am reminded of the song and it’s advice, and how spot on it was. In fact, I recently ran across a similarly conceived set of instructions purportedly written by 60 year olds. The comments essentially dovetail with the Sunscreen song which I found to be rather intriguing.

Quality advice can be particularly valuable when it comes to envisioning a life that includes business and personal success, raising a family, taking care of ailing parents, fluffy kitties, happy dogs, yourself, your spouse, and then planning for something called ‘retirement’ which might span 20, 30, and even 40 years.

So if you are near a computer, or you have the song on your ipod load it up and take a listen. You may find it moving, or fun, but its hard to imagine it won’t resonate.

Among the gems of advice are:

  • Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worry is as effective as trying to solve an algebra problem by chewing gum.
  • Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, and don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
  • Don’t waste time on jealously. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself.
  • Floss.
  • Stretch.
  • Don’t feel guilty if you don’t’ know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know, didn’t know what they wanted to do at 22, and some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.
  • Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss those when they’re gone.
  • Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else’s.
  • Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.
  • The older you get the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
  • Travel.
  • Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund or a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either will run out.
  • And of course….wear sunscreen!

And…in my opinion…here are some recommendations from the ‘Over 60’ crowd:

  • Eat and exercise like a diabetic heart patient with a stroke, and you’ll never actually become one.
  • Pay your bills and ‘stay the hell’ out of debt.
  • The joints you damage today will get their revenge later.
  • Stuff is just stuff. Don’t hold on to material objects. Hold on to time and relationships.
  • The most important person in your life is the one who agreed to share their life with you. Treat them as such.
  • No matter how long or how short you live, you’ll wish you took better care of your body when you were young.
  • A true friend will come running at 2am. Everyone else are just acquaintances.
  • Don’t take life so seriously. Even if things seem dark and hopeless, try to laugh at how ridiculous life is.

When it comes time for you to wrap up one phase of your life, and move in to the retirement phase you’ll find that this advice will be particularly resonant.

The formula for my Happy Retirement “Sunscreen” is based on countless studies, personal observation of nearly a quarter of a century in practice working with clients, and the words of those same clients it seems clear that your happiness in this phase of life will include four critical components:

  1. How healthy you are physically and mentally.
  2. The fun you have with your hobbies and most importantly, your passions.
  3. The depth and quality of your personal relationships.
  4. The level of contribution to others you are able and willing to make.
  5. The monthly income you have that facilitates the previous four points.

Interestingly the advice to the graduating class of ‘99, the wisdom of the 60 + crowd, all blend in to one neat package that serves as a nifty guide to what we should all focus on as we make our plans for the BEST of our life. Heed it well!



Attitude of a Champion

by Gary Fisher

mountain-climber-899055.jpgAttitude is an intriguing concept. What exactly does it mean? Moreover what makes a good one–or a bad one for that matter? Perhaps most critically of all, what kind of an attitude is required to be a champion? I don’t particularly mean a champion in trems of athletics, although that certainly fits the bill. A champion can be a parent, coach, teacher, student, worker, business owner, entertainer, or just about anyone. The topic is broad, and deep. But let’s take a swing at it.

According to Dr. Carol S. Dweck, Phd, and author of Mindset, attitudes or mental orientations come in two broad flavors. One is what she refers to as the ‘growth’ mindset, and the other is the ‘fixed’ mindset.  People with the growth mindset are characterized by personal accountability, and a willingness to fail and take risks that might lead to failure. One can be a growth mindset person in one area and fixed in another. In the main, people with the fixed mindset believe things like “I’m a certain kind of person and there isn’t much I can do to change that”. They might say things like “You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.” Conversely, growth mindset folks think “You can always substantially change how intelligent you are,” and “You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.”

In the book, Dweck cites Michael Jordan and his comment that he’s “never really failed” because every time he wasn’t successful “He learned something valuable.” Jordan had an iconic commercial in the 90’s in which his voiceover said “ I’ve missed more than 9000 shots, I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to make the game winning shot and missed.” Then he looks at the camera and winks and says “That’s why I’m so successful!”  That ad sort of sums up the growth mind set.

Next up on the list of attitude ingredients is optimism. The belief that you can be successful is paramount for winning. Optimism, like attitude is hard to pin down in terms of definition, but we know it when we see it, and when we feel it. Dr. Martin Seligman, Phd states in his seminal book Learned Optimism, that  “One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.” 

Seligman found that people who skewed depressive handled set backs and disappointments very differently than Michael Jordan, and other optimists, did. Depressives, and by extension pessimistic people, believe that set backs tend to be unchangeable, pervasive and general (the ‘everything sucks’ mentality), and personal.  Optimists tend to believe setbacks are a chance to learn, improve, and move forward- the growth mindset Dweck speaks of. They believe that bad things always have specific causes that can be known. They don’t take it personally, don’t presume it’s pervasive, and they used it as leverage for future success.  Seligman makes a strong case for the benefits of optimism over pessimism.

The Pessimistic Attitude
Pessimism promotes depression.Pessimism produces inertia rather than activity in the face of setback.Pessimism feels bad subjectively: blue, down, worried, anxious.

Pessimism is self-fulfilling.

Pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges, and therefore fail more frequently and quit–even when success is attainable. (This should be separated from the Jordan form of failing where it’s used to catapult one to greater achievements).

Pessimism is associated with poor physical health.

Even when pessimists are right, and things work out badly, they still feel worse. Their explanatory style now converts the predicted setback in to a disaster, a disaster in to a catastrophe.

He goes on to say, “The optimistic moments of our lives contain the great plans, the dreams, and the hopes. Reality is benignly distorted to give the dreams room to flourish. Without these times we would never accomplish anything difficult and intimidating, we would never even attempt the just barely possible. Mt. Everst would remain unscaled, the four minute mile unrun, the jet plane and the computer would just be blueprints sitting in some financial vice presidents wastebasket.”

The plot thickens considerably when the work of professor and author Daniel Goleman, PhD is factored in. Goleman rightly suggested that there are various types of intelligence in his book Emotional Intelligence. He posits that emotional intelligence or EI, as he refers to it, is just as important, if not far more so than what we call IQ. He presents an equally  compelling case for optimism. “Consider the role of positive motivation- the marshalling of feelings of enthusiasm, zeal, and confidence- in achievement. Studies of Olympic athletes, world class musicians, and chess grand masters find their unifying trait is the ability to motivate themselves to pursue relentless training routines….and that doggedness depends on emotional traits – enthusiasm and persistence in the face of setbacks above all else.”

Dweck’s research concurs with Goleman, saying that “Finding #1 about success” is that those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions.”  Finding #2 was that those with the “growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake up call.  Finding #3 was that “People with the growth mindset in sports (and in pretty much everything else) took charge of the processes that bring success–and that maintain it.”

The science is in. And it’s good news!  Once we know how we have to begin, we can focus on precisely those processes that make or break success. And that’s exactly what we’ll tackle in the next issue of THE MENTOR!•

That Old-Fashioned Work Ethic

Flint Journal BagI still remember the first time I earned money. I was 7 years old. My dad was working in the yard and had me come over to assist. I had always helped before, but this time I was going to be in charge of something. Namely, all of those grass clippings, and the clumps from the front yard where he was edging. He told me it was my job to rake and sweep it all up, pick it up, bag it, and take the bags out to the road. He showed me the right way to do it all, gave me some tools, and told me to ‘get after it’. And I did, with great gusto in fact. I recall it being a particularly hot day. I took my shirt off and was left with only my cool aqua 70’s pants, and a jean style floppy hat.

A few short hours later I had that yard clean and green. Next came the inspection. Dad looked everything over carefully. He asked some questions, I gave some answers. He seemed satisfied. Then he reached in to his pocket and produced two shiny quarters, and handed them to me. “Here’s your pay son.” Whoah..what? PAY? I am getting PAID for this? Yes sir. It was true. Compensation. Sweat equity. Equal pay for equal work. The righteous might of the mighty broom. Whatever. I had COLD HARD CASH in my hand! I hopped on my bike and tore off for Paul and Dotties store on the corner of Franklin and Ohio Avenues! Wacky Packages and some candy…wait….not enough money to get everything I wanted? What to do?!

I raced home with my goodies..and asked Dad if there wasn’t something else that maybe needed some sweeping up or moving around.  And so it began. This work thing really had a hold on me. But I soon learned that there was something to be said for creating something on your own when no work existed.

So I set up a kind of carnival in my backyard. Had some ‘acts’. Hired a security team, charged kids a nickel to get in. Not enough to pay the security team though, and believe me when your security team consists of 11 year olds, and you are eight, you better find a way to pay them–and with the quickness!  So we added some attractions, expanded our team. But when a parent complained after their kid raided his piggy bank to take in our evening performance of the  Osmond’s big hit One Bad Apple, Dad shut the whole thing down.

So then I started the Neighborhood News. Pretty much just me writing some stuff on paper…complete with pictures. Initially, only Ralph Lane, my next door neighbor, and my mom, subscribed. But when I broke the story about the neighborhood Peeping Tom…subscribership soared to TEN people!  But still economies of scale being what they are, the business became challenging. Then it occurred to me…if only I could line up a gig where someone else mass produced a paper, and I would just sell them. OF COURSE! A paperboy! That had to be the ticket. And when my buddy, Ernie Gilbert, offered up his route so he could move in to the lucrative ice cream sales business, I greedily accepted his paper route.  (Regrettably, ice cream sales plummeted that summer…or maybe Ernie ate all of his inventory…I can’t remember.  Either way, I got the better end of the deal.)

That began a multi-year odyssey that only a much longer story  (or a short book) could possibly do justice to. However, suffice to say that it held me over. At least until my buddy could get me in to Mcdonald’s, where I parlayed a lifetime of Big Mac eating, in to a job making them.  As a McNugget master, I learned two things 1) The food service industry would not be where I’d make a career, and 2) No one looks good in polyester bell bottoms…and I mean no one.

In truth, all of those experiences prepared me for the work I would come to do later in my life. Entreprenuerial skills, cooperation, taking orders, giving orders, dealing with clients and customers, and working when there are things you would really rather be doing (like going to the beach, hanging with my friends, or sleeping in), and what I was good at, and not so good at.  Coupled with organizing neighborhood sports  and teams, I learned far more that was applicable later from these activities than any other form of education I ever engaged in.

These seem to be skills and talents that kids today are having a harder time developing. I don’t have a paper boy or girl. Many of the low wage entry level workers seem to be adults, and the rising costs of hiring kids is undoubtedly removing lots of opportunities to get started. For me, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. However, I could have done without cleaning the toilets at TJ Maxx….but they said that would ‘build character’….that part was a lie.