It is never too late to become what you might have been
– George Eliot
For some people, the beginning of a new year (and their birthday), is a sad day. When everyone around talks about goals, motivation and New Year resolutions, it is hard to avoid measuring our achievements from the previous year and those we have not achieved stand out like a sore thumb. “There you have it – another proof you have not achieved your goals and time is ticking. If you don’t get your act together, it’s going to be too late”.
The ticking of time as it runs out is an illusion we adopt as soon as we learn to tell the time. Together with the sense of the achievement (that we can tell the time), the loss of freedom and hope starts creeping in as time starts to control us. This is the birth of the notion that something can be “late”, which sits in our mind together with frustration, helplessness and giving up. From there, the road to “too late” is short.
Every morning, we have the opportunity to strengthen this “late” mentality when we rush in to get the kids to school and ourselves to work. We imagine horrible endings for not making it on time. For some people, the pressure is so high it results in screams and tears on the way to their destination.
In my book In the Outback with Jasmine Banks (now available in soft cover), I wrote about this pressure. Katherine Johnson, a world famous author, teaches a young journalist how to beat the “too late” mentality and start living freely. A young woman who read the book wrote this to me:
I just wanted to tell you … this morning my university class was cancelled. Normally, I would have gone straight to work, but I had a doctor’s appointment at 10, so I decided to sleep in a little, then I got to city and decided I didn’t want to go to work until after the doctor’s appointment – I wanted to sit in a café and have a mocha and read some more of your story…
I was thinking to myself as I walked to the café that a year ago, I would not have done this, because I would have felt bad not going to work, but today, I felt good for deciding to do what I felt like doing, so it was very funny indeed when I was reading up to the bit where Katherine asks ‘What will happen if you don’t go to work?’ and what did happen? Nothing! Other than I got to sit in a café with a warm lovely drink and read your wonderful story!
You will be surprised to know that when she went back to work the following day, her boss offered her a promotion.
Over the years, we learn to create a monster out of lost opportunities and miss out on all the new ones staring right at us.
Have you ever heard yourself saying, “I must finish this”, “I cannot afford a day off” or “I don’t have a second to spare” and then suddenly you were standing at a funeral of someone close or lying in bed sick and realized you had actually had lots of seconds to spare? It is not the time that is missing but the priority. We have the exact same time we had a second before we had an accident or heard about a funeral we must attend. We just used it differently.
The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
If you meet a person who has faced death and gotten out alive, you will notice they have their priorities right, because that incident served as a strong wakeup call for them. Before their traumatic event (cancer, accident, etc), they heard the clock ticking every day as they rushed to work and stressed about every little thing, but since facing death, they have learned to ignore the ticking and do the things that need to be done. They are never too late, because they are already on “borrowed time”.
“Too late” on trial
Whenever I met such people, I realized they all treated this wakeup call as the best thing that had happened to them in life. “Strange!” I thought at first, but when I examined my own life, I realized I thought the same about the most traumatic events that had happened to me. If you use the learning from an event to turn your life around, it is no longer traumatic.
When people face death, they are forced to choose between put their “too late” mentality on trial. Some give up and lose. Those who decide it is never too late fight, win and gain their life back. You see, it is never too late to do your best to stay alive.
Luckily for us, most of life is not choosing between life and death, but in a similar way, giving up on the small, fun, happy bits is like losing the trial against “too late”. How many times have you said, “It’s too late for me to study”, “It’s too late to start saving/investing now” or “It’s too late for me to find love”?
Well, as I looked around me, I realized there are people very close to me who have proved it is never too late to do things. Here are their stories.
My mom (in the photo) finished primary school at the age of 50. Moving to a new country at the age of 9 and never going through proper formal education had put her in a delicate position. She had chosen to become a chef as a way of dealing with her inability to write properly and do math calculations.
My mom has an amazing kinesthetic memory. If she cooks or bakes something once, she remembers it forever. Her hands are her scales and her intuition is her cooking method.
When she was 50, she finally got over her “too late” mentality and went to an adult education institute to complete her primary school. We all admired her.
At the age of 55, she said she wanted to get a driver’s license. Whenever she tried and failed the written test, I thought it might be too late for her, but she persisted. She got her license after several written tests and a few practical ones. She is now 70 years old and still drives.
My dad (also in the photo) started his working life as a postman. Later on, he became an accountant and managed an office, but he got his first personal computer at the age of 60. His English was (and still is) limited and we were worried he would not use the computer because he was “too old” and lacked the “fresh, young, technical mindset of his grandchildren”. When he retired, he taught himself, with the help of Gal and one of his grandsons, to install programs on his computer. He is now 77 years old and the computer gives him a lot of joy and pleasure, along with challenges and intellectual stimulation. Imagine the happiness in my parents’ house when they can connect with their children and grandchildren living overseas through the computer.
Last month, during my solo trip to see my new nephews (did I mention they were gorgeous?), I had another reminder of how rewarding the battle against the “too late” mentality can be. My sister found a partner when she was 37. Until then, every family encounter, people nagged about it being too late for her. At one stage, some family members tried to convince her she should have a baby on her own “or it will be too late”. When she met her partner, everyone around nagged she should rush him to have a child “or it will be too late”. Along the way, when her fertility treatment failed, everyone said she might have “missed the boat”.
When she got to the hospital, bleeding, on the 24th week of pregnancy from her second IVF treatment, everyone was in despair. “If only she took my advice before”, they thought, “Now, it’s too late”. But it was not.
She battled in the hospital for 2 months, unable to even go the toilet for fear of losing her previous baby. Even when the doctors said no woman had ever managed to keep a pregnancy in her condition long enough, she kept talking to her baby and saying, “We can do it. Stay with me”.
At the age of 41, in the 32nd week of pregnancy, my sister was rushed to the operating room with heavy bleeding. Her baby was born prematurely, weighing 1.8kg (4lbs). He was tiny and had to be connected to hospital equipment. When I first held him in my hands (and smelled, kissed and hugged him), he was 8 months old and a gorgeous (yes, that’s him in the photo above) and it scared me to think what would have happened if my sister had chosen the “too late” path and given up.
It takes courage to fight the “too late” mindset and as I came back from my holiday, my New Year resolution was to find my “too late” statements and find a way to do them anyway. What do you know? When you look, you find.
My New Year Resolution
All my life, I was surrounded by musically talented people. My older sister played the guitar and sang beautifully. My older brother taught himself to play the guitar as a kid and he can play any instrument in a second. My younger sister played the keyboard. My youngest sister played the keyboard and in later years (while are talking about being late), she went to study high-level piano. Gal played the accordion for 8 years and has lots of musical knowledge, which is great because he always helps the kids with their music. My daughter Eden plays the piano. My son Tsoof is a musical genius. Even my youngest daughter Noff plays the piano and wants to start the flute in 3 weeks.
And me? I used to say, “I do not have a musical bone in me”. I said it jokingly to survive the feeling of inferiority. Every time I thought of learning to play an instrument, I said, “Nah, it’s too late” and piled up excuses to prevent me from trying.
Well, my New Year resolution was to learn to play the piano. I have a keyboard at home and 4 teachers – easy! So far, I have done two lessons and learned to play with my right hand. It was wonderful to hear the kids encouraging me. “Mom, you are very good”, “Well done”, “You’re doing very well for two lessons” (I could hear myself…) and this is what has happened since:
- I admire people who play any music instrument, because if I thought it was tough, now I know it is.
- I am proud of myself for doing something that was hard for me to do, because it helps me build the courage I need and stay away from being “too late”.
- I am happy to be an inspiration for my own kids like my mom inspired me by doing such hard things when she was 50 and 55.
- I have learned some of the theory and names of notes, so now I feel I can participate in the kids’ and Gal’s conversations about music.
- I am happy I have found a way to stimulate my brain (playing involves right-brain/left-brain coordination) and expand my horizon in a challenging yet fun way.
- I have a great story to tell my clients when they say to me “too late” (actually, I have another story, because I already have plenty of them).
- My progress has motivated Noff to spend more time on her piano lessons so she can keep teaching me.
To help myself progress, I look at this quote, “Little by little one walks far”. I already proved myself it was true during the toughest times of my life. I have made myself a promise I will play the piano for at least 5 minutes every day and I have been doing it.
So, if you are a bit frustrated with what you have not achieved last year and find yourself saying in despair “it’s too late”, I hope you understand by now that happiness does not live on the “too late” dead-end street.
How to win the “too late” trial
- As a New Year resolution, find your “too late” statements and write them down.
- Look around you and pick people who have won the battle. You may find, just like me, they are very close to you.
- Examine your life and find times when you beat “too late” and managed to do things that others thought they you could no longer do.
- For your New Year resolution, pick one to change. When you examine your “too late” statements, find one that will be the easiest to strengthen the opposite belief – “It’s never too late” or, better yet, “I can always do things”.
- Just like any other goal, make a statement of your New Year resolution to everyone around you. It will help you stay committed and help others support you.
I am happy to announce that my second book, In the Outback with Jasmine Banks, has been printed and is now available for sale. As a reader of Family Matters, you are entitled to free shipping anywhere in the world when you purchase the book with this special coupon code: FAMILYMATTERS-JB. There are only 250 copies available with this special discount and the coupon is good for as many copies as you want to buy, so hurry up and purchase today.
Happy New Year to you. I wish you happiness, love, health and wealth for the New Year.