In the past two weeks I heard the question “Am I too old to make a career change” from four different people in my personal and professional circle!

And then on the heels of these comments, I happened to catch an intriguing interview about Johnny Cash, about the poignancy of his musical work in the last 10 years of his life.

It made me ponder, Are we ever too old for career change, transition, development, evolution and big leaps?

My opinion: That’s NOT the question to ask . . .

The average age of physicians has been creeping up in the past ten years, and some futurists are predicting a shortage of physicians, in part a consequence of many physicians reaching retirement.

And yet there are some of you out there who are wondering, “Is there something left for me to do before I retire or call it a career?”

Maybe you’ve been tinkering with an avocation, or incubating an idea for an invention, or harboring a desire to mix it up or just speak your mind for once.

What Age is Too Old?

Is there an age limit to when you can start spreading your wings as a doctor?

    • Is 50 “too old”?
    • Is 62 “way done”?
    • Is 43 getting to be “old meat”?
    • Did you “blow it” at 35?

Those aren’t my phrases – just the very words I’ve heard from doctors at those precise ages over the past few years. And ironically, spoken by physicians that were poised to enter a dramatic and exciting next chapter in their life.

So, ARE you too old?

In a word: Heck NO! (ok, that was two words — but I just had a birthday last week.)

What are the Real Questions?

I submit that the question to be asking yourself is NOT “Am I too old?” But rather, ask yourself these two questions:

    • “What is holding me back from living a life that is more meaningful?”
    • “What wisdom do I have that I want to share?”

And perhaps another important question is: How can I open myself up for the next chapter?

That last question came to mind as I listened recently to an NPR interview with music producer, Rich Rubin, the creative force who worked with the late, great Johnny Cash during the last ten years of Cash’s life — many say it was the most musically meaningful decade of Johnny Cash’s amazing career.

In the interview, Rubin shares his observation that in our society “We discard good things before their time” just because they are old. “Even though the voice gets old, we have the power to convey emotion in a deeper way. There is so much wisdom.”


Don’t Discard What is Valuable

I would say the same holds true for physicians in clinical practice, in leadership and in business. Our technical skills may decline with age, but our intuitive and creative abilities remain, and our power to connect with and convey the core of human experience becomes even greater.

Johnny Cash was fortunate to have a Rich Rubin who could co-create the next creative chapter with him. Do you have a muse and co-creator? If not, find a family member, buddy, or mentor to co-strategize with you. Or do some journaling to get underneath the “Real” questions I posed above.

Keep in mind, your next chapter doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. A recent client thought his next chapter would be a complete transition out of clinical practice. In our early phase of working together, however, it was clear that a less dramatic restructuring was the most appropriate fit.

He went from being in a solo practice to now working in an academic institution in a town that is a much better fit for his family. He’s sharing his wisdom and loving it.

 Are you wondering about your own “readiness” for career upgrade and change?  Email me and request my “Physician Career Adventure Readiness Assessment.”  It’s a quick 10-point assessment that will help you answer that question for yourself.

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