UPDATE: The paperback of THE OLD GUY RULES was released on July 30th. The book can be purchased at SmallDogma.com, which is the publisher's website. The first chapter of the book can be read on the author's website, www.theoldguyrules.com. The price of the book is $13.95 plus shipping.
Jim Rodgers, a SparkPeople member known as CONAN76 (above, with his son), learned the hard way that life doesn't work out the way you planned. Now 44, with a great marriage, a wonderful teaching job and a loving family, he is far removed from the heart-breaking divorce that left him a struggling single dad.
Through it all, Jim kept his chin up, even when life seemed unbearable. When he turned 43, he decided to share his life lessons, writing a book called The Old Guy Rules. Jim believes in the power of fitness and wants to prove that life--for guys and gals--doesn't begin or end at a certain age. In our youth-inspired culture, he discusses how he feels simultaneously wise and naive. He shared his inspiring story with the dailySpark.
By Jim Rodgers
What does it mean to be “old”? I began writing my book, The Old Guy Rules, on my 43rd birthday. As I write this article for SparkPeople.com, I am 44. Do I feel old? Absolutely not. I feel like I’m a baby, just getting started. That could have something to do with the fact that I’m a teacher and most of my friends are retired teachers, ranging in age from 55-75 years old. I’ve been at my current school, Glenbard North High School in the Chicago suburbs, for more than 15 years now, and many of the guys with whom I taught when I first came here are now retired, much to their delight and my dismay. But not a single one of those guys thinks he’s old or acts old.
In the summer, I work out at a gym with six of those retired teachers every morning and have a ball. I can’t help feeling young around those guys. They never fail to remind me how old they are, but they act like they’re still in high school, and even that might be stretching the level of maturity at times.
My kids and my students think I’m positively ancient. My daughter, who is almost 18, calls me “Pa” and “Old Man” when I fall asleep on the sofa watching House with her at 8 p.m. But I get up at 4 every morning to work out before school, and I feel pretty darned young when I do that. I can still outrun my kids, though the margin of victory isn’t quite what it once was.
Recently, I’ve started thinking about my mortality. I’m not going to live forever; I know that. I’d like to hang around another 40 or 50 years--God willin’ and the creek don’t rise--and there are a lot of things I hope to accomplish in those years. Still, I know they will go fast, and I do have to admit that even though I know that I’m not 21 anymore, I honestly feel like I am. I work out twice a day, practice martial arts, have tons of energy, have kept myself in great shape, and honestly can’t wait to wake up in the morning. I have so many friends and colleagues who ask me how I do it, so I thought I’d write a book. After all, I’m an English teacher. I ought to be able to write a book about myself and how I’ve chosen to live my life now that, according to my daughter, I’m screaming headlong into my “twilight years.”
I decided to call my book The Old Guy Rules as sort of an ambiguous paradox. My kids say I’m old, so in one sense this will be a set of rules by which I, an “Old Guy,” have chosen to live each day. But I also wanted the title to express a confidence, almost a cockiness, about being an “Old Guy,” kind of like when a kid says, “Metallica Rules!” We live in a society that worships and rewards youth, and I think it’s about time that someone stuck up for the Old Guys out there who still have a lot to bring to the table. And just to clarify, by “Old Guys” I mean both male and female, like when someone says to a room of men and women, “you guys.” Our club doesn’t discriminate against women. We seek out women. By including them, we become much smarter and better looking as a group. Being 44, I may not be the most qualified to call myself an "Old Guy," but my kids and my students call me old, and that’s good enough for me. Besides, I am one of the last of the baby boomers, so I think that qualifies me as well.
I don't have unrealistic expectations--like becoming a millionaire in two months or looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in just a few minutes a day--but The Old Guy Rules is an honest attempt at helping people improve their lives and perspective as they head into the latter stages of those lives. I’ve been able to live a truly blessed life, and I wanted to pass on some things that I’ve learned to others so they could be blessed as well. I’ve put those lessons in the form of a list of rules in my book, some of which I would like to share now with the members of SparkPeople.com.
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those that he has.” (Epictetus)
Many people look at my life now and think I’ve got it made, and I guess, in a lot ways, I do. But much of my life today has been forged in the heat of some tough times. My first wife left me with two small children (ages 5 and 2) to raise on my own. My son contracted spinal meningitis at 18 months and nearly died, going through years of physical therapy, suffering seizures, and enduring endless neurological evaluations while growing up. Those two experiences shaped many of my attitudes and strengthened my resolve to make the most of my life.
Get Your Attitude Right
“There is nothing either bad or good, except thinking makes it so.”
So many people talk about having a good attitude, but how many people actually work at it? You must diligently, painstakingly work on your attitude every single day. Only through filling your mind with positive, uplifting thoughts can you change your life significantly.
Use Your Time Wisely
“Time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all our possessions.” (John Randolph)
Time truly is our most precious commodity. Think about your biggest fear in life: losing it. When you lose your life, you’re losing time. It stands to reason that you should make the most of every piece of time you have. As a single parent, I had no choice but to make the most of the little free time I had every day. I got my master’s degree by going to night school while kids from my high-school classes would baby sit my kids.
I was getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night most nights after returning from class, grading papers until after midnight, and then getting up at 4 to get in a quick workout before getting the kids ready, taking them to the sitter, and heading off to teach. I learned through necessity different ways to manage and make the most of my time, and, although I have more free time now that my children are older, I still use those techniques to get the most out of every day.
While space prevents me from sharing all the “Old Guy Rules,” (there are 15), I hope this inspires you to create your own list of rules. I think Ben Franklin had it right when he worked hard to perfect his list of virtues, which forced him to work toward making himself a better man each day of his adult life. For me, that’s the only way to be truly successful and make the most of the time we have.
For more information about The Old Guy Rules, visit www.theoldguyrules.com.
How do you feel about age? Is it just a number? What lessons have you learned as you've aged?
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