December 19th, 2023
I was fourteen. I loved playing basketball and I had great hopes for my future as a top player. I made a bet with a friend that by age 20 I’d make the Israeli national team.
Needless to say, it never happened. I didn’t even make it into the starting lineup of the junior league. I wasn’t bad at it, but clearly not good enough. Now that I’m thinking about it, I never paid my lost bet (sorry, Danny. I owe you).
Fast forward about 20 years. I haven’t been playing basketball for over a decade. I was teaching at the Vienna Conservatory. After more than ten years of a rather sedentary life in Vienna, I found out that the University of Vienna had a huge sports department that offered all kinds of sports opportunities to students and faculty in the city.
I mean, ALL kinds: from martial arts to football, from Frisbee Ultimate to belly dancing. Everything you can imagine, and lots of stuff you couldn’t. A huge catalogue of activities. You had to choose your level, sign up, pay a few Schilling a month (that was before the Euro era) and join a group.
A whole new world opened up for me. I took a semester of karate (I’m yellow belt, yey); I learned to play Frisbee Ultimate; I took a yoga class; and… I joined a basketball group. We’d meet once a week and just play.
By then, at 30+, I was probably the oldest guy on the court. I still wasn’t fantastic at it, but not too bad either. I loved it; I enjoyed it; I was becoming more fit again, and it felt good.
A couple of years ago I started playing padel. I was over 60 when I started. Loved it, got better, made some friends. I was, again, the most senior player. So what?
My point is:
If you’re 50 and you want to become a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi, you’re probably deluding yourself. But if what you want is to dance, who stops you?
If you’re 60 and your dream is to win an olympic gold medal, it will most likely never happen. But you can start running!
If you’re 70, never played the piano, and your secret desire is to play a Rachmaninoff concert at the Berlin Philharmonie, accompanied by the Berliner Philharmoniker… Well, you may want to see a mental health specialist.
But you can, by all means, start taking piano lessons.
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If you measure yourself by external standards, comparing yourself to others, in the best of cases you may have a moment of glory. In most cases, expect frustration. But if your criterion is your own journey, you can always move forward; you can always get better; you can always learn something new, at any age. You can follow your love, and love doing it.
You may not become a world star, but you can dance. You may not win medals, but you can become an athlete, starting now. You may not fill concert halls, but you can play music, even if you’ve never done it before.
“I’m too old for this” is an excuse for not trying. And if your motivation is your fear of failure, you’ll never try.
Follow your dreams. It’s not too late.